Thinking Anglicans

Freemasonry in the Church of England

Updated Tuesday

Jonathan Wynne-Jones has a news article in the Sunday Telegraph today, headlined Archbishop allows freemason to be bishop.

Dr Rowan Williams named the Rev Jonathan Baker as the next Bishop of Ebbsfleet despite knowing he was an active and senior mason.

The appointment, announced earlier this month, marked a significant U-turn by Dr Williams who had previously said that Freemasonry was “incompatible” with Christianity and had refused to promote Masons to senior posts.

Last week, as news of Fr Baker’s membership of the Masons began to circulate through the Church, it provoked growing concern and criticism from clergy and members of the General Synod.

When contacted by The Sunday Telegraph on Friday, Fr Baker defended his continued membership of the Masons and insisted it was compatible with his new role as a bishop.

Yet yesterday he said he had changed his mind was leaving the masons so he could concentrate on being a bishop, adding: “I wish nothing to distract from the inauguration of that ministry.”

The Church of England website has this page on Freemasonry.

July 1987 General Synod considered a report Freemasonry and Christianity: Are they compatible?

The following motion carried a margin of 8 to 1:

‘That this Synod endorses the Report of the Working Group (GS 784A), including its final paragraph, and commends it for discussion by the Church.’

At national level, there have been no formal developments since the 1987 debate.

The final paragraph of the report referred to in the motion reads as follows:

‘(122) This Report has identified a number of important issues on which, in the view of the Working Group, the General Synod will have to reflect as it considers ‘the compatibility or otherwise of Freemasonry with Christianity’. The reflections of the Working Group itself reveal understandable differences of opinion between those who are Freemasons and those who are not. Whilst the former fully agree that the Report shows that there are clear difficulties to be faced by Christians who are Freemasons, the latter are of the mind that the Report points to a number of very fundamental reasons to question the compatibility of Freemasonry and Christianity.’

In April 2003, the Telegraph carried this report: Rowan Williams apologises to Freemasons.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has been forced to apologise to Britain’s 330,000 Freemasons after he said that their beliefs were incompatible with Christianity and that he had rejected them from senior posts in his diocese…

…In his letter of apology, Dr Williams tries to distance himself from his own reported comments. He claims that his views were never meant to be public and were distorted by the media.

He wrote: “I have been sorry to learn of the distress of a considerable number of Freemasons . . . In replying to private correspondence, I had no intention of starting a public debate nor of questioning the good faith and generosity of individual Freemasons and I regret the tone and content of the media coverage.”

He added: “The quoted statements about the ‘satanic’ character of the Masonic ceremonies and other matters did not come from me and do not represent my judgment. Since my late father was a member of the Craft for many years, I have had every opportunity of observing the probity of individual members.”

Dr Williams does not, in his letter, deny that he has misgivings about the role of Freemasons within the Church.

He wrote: “Where anxieties exist, however, they are in relation not to Freemasonry but to Christian ministers subscribing to what could be and often is understood [or misunderstood] as a private system of profession and initiation, involving the taking of oaths of loyalty.”

He ends his letter by stating that Freemasons’ commitment to charity and the community is beyond question.

Updates
The Ebbsfleet website has: Personal statement by the Rev’d Jonathan Baker, bishop-designate of Ebbsfleet.

I joined freemasonry as an undergraduate in Oxford, before ordination. Over the years I have found it to be an organisation admirably committed to community life and involvement, with a record of charitable giving second to none, especially among, for example, unfashionable areas of medical research.

Had I ever encountered anything in freemasonry incompatible with my Christian faith I would, of course, have resigned at once. On the contrary, freemasonry is a secular organisation, wholly supportive of faith, and not an alternative to, or substitute for it. In terms of the Church of England, its support, for example, for cathedral fabric is well documented.

Last year HRH the Duke of Kent invited me to serve as an assistant Grand Chaplain, an invitation which I was pleased to accept. This appointment was for one year, and ceased in April.

To be a bishop requires one to review commitments across every area of life; indeed, Archbishop Rowan had invited me, in discussion, to re-consider, amongst other commitments, my membership of freemasonry. I had intended to discuss the issue more fully with friends and colleagues.

I have, however, decided to take the decision now. My absolute priority is the new ministry to which I have been called and to the people who will be in my care. I wish nothing to distract from the inauguration of that ministry.

I wish to pay tribute to the aims and objectives of freemasonry and the work which it carries out. I am thankful for the part it has played in my life and for the many friendships it has nurtured.

I have concluded that, because of the particular charism of episcopal ministry and the burden that ministry bears, I am resigning my membership of freemasonry.

The Church Mouse has The Church should update its policy on Freemasonry. He notes that Lambeth Palace does not know how many bishops are Freemasons.

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Lapinbizarre
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Lapinbizarre

Should certainly impress the pope.

Philip Taylor
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Philip Taylor

Sadly just another show that Rowan Williams, whilst trying to be a nice guy to all, has shown that he refuses to stand up for any absolutes, be they good or bad for the church. Just one woolly fudge after another, sadly.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Does this news just confirm the ‘hidden agenda’ of Jonathan Baker and F.i.F. to take over the C.of E.

John Bunyan
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John Bunyan

I am never been a Mason but many members of the Church of England have been, ranging from Archbishop Fisher of Canterbury to Bishop Hilliard and Bishop Hulme Moir of Sydney (and Nelson, N.Z.), and from our greatest Governor of New South Wales, Lachlan Macquarie, to present senior members of the Royal Family. We all surely know many good Anglicans today who are Freemasons. And looking outside our Church, I note, for example, the Roman Catholic priest chaplain at a recent Sydney Masonic Club Anzac Day service, and the fact that the last great anniversary celebration of New South Wales… Read more »

David Shepherd
Guest

So, what exactly did the General Synod endorse regarding 1987 Working Group Report on compatibility between Freemasonry and Christianity? 1. Did General Synod endorse the ‘number of important issues’ for General Synod to reflect on? 2. Did General Synod endorse the Working Group’s reflections that differences Freemasons and non-Freemasons were understandable. 3. Did General Synod endorse the Group’s conclusion that there were clear difficulties admitted by Freemasons, or 4. Did General Synod endorse the further belief among non-Freemasons that the ‘reasons to question the compatibility of Freemasonry and Christianity’ were very fundamental? Maybe, ‘all of the above’. Yet, why would… Read more »

Fr James
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Fr James

“Does this news just confirm the ‘hidden agenda’ of Jonathan Baker and F.i.F. to take over the C.of E.”

Paranoid, much? Freemasons and bishops and traditionalist clergy conspiring to take over the Church of England. It sounds like a very bad Dan Brown novel…

Perry Butler
Guest
Perry Butler

I imagine fewer bishops and clergy are freemasons now than, say, 50 years ago…at least in the Church of England ( I suspect the number is higher in the Church of Ireland…and the Kirk for that matter). More interesting perhaps is that Jonathan Baker is an anglo-catholic. Walton Hannah in the 1950’s, a very definite anglo-catholic, wrote “Darkness Visible” outlining his concerns about freemasonry and christianity esp among the clergy. You had the impression then that freemasonry was most common amongst the “low church” clergy. I wonder if this has changed and will any other episcopal freemasons will be “outed”?… Read more »

Fr Levi
Guest

Hmmn … if the ABC actually believes Freemasonry is incompatible with Christianity, perhaps he is sending a message of some sort by appointing one to a ‘Catholic’ post within the CofE? Only joking! But given that this appointment comes in the wake of the Ordinariate departures, perhaps it is meant to ensure that the CofE doesn’t lose another bishop to the RCC!

Justin Brett
Guest

@Perry, You’re right about numbers. To the best of my knowledge there are no episcopal freemasons currently. I could be wrong – since there’s no grand conspiracy I only know if someone is a Mason if either they tell me or I come across them at a Lodge meeting. As to high or low church affiliations among clergy, there are so few clergy who are members now that I don’t think you’d get a statistically valid sample!

John Bowles
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John Bowles

For Anglo-Catholics Jonathan Baker’s membership of the freemasons will come as a dismaying shock and surprise. He is a supposed ‘papalist’ but nothing could be more inconsistant with that position than freemasonry. But it explains his antipathy to clergymen who have left for Rome in 1992 and his woolliness about the Ordinariate. Although he has given room at Pusey House for the Oxford Ordinariate to hold Masses there one wonders if he was forced by logic to do so, rather than genuine desire. His masonic associations will come as a surprise to his Roman Catholic friends, not least the Oxford… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

Justin Brett has blogged about this, see The Dodgy Liberal Comes Out Part 1 at http://dodgyliberal.blogspot.com/2011/05/dodgy-liberal-comes-out-part-1.html

A Dix
Guest
A Dix

‘Dismaying shock’? ‘Surprise’? Hardly. Most of us have known for years, and couldn’t really give a toss.

The reason why he did not become a Catholic after 1992? Much more likely because he was still at Theological College.

‘Unlikely that the parishes under his charge will come to trust him’? Er, no.

‘Gravely compromised’? Dream on.

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

Maybe it’s because I’m on the left side of the pond and all…but does anybody really CARE about this stuff? Is there anyone (with any sanity) who really thinks the Masons are some kind of grand conspiratorial organization on the level of the fictional Illuminati? Have they all been reading too much Dan Brown and watching the “National Treasure” movies over and over again?

Father Ron Smith
Guest

How many ‘Thinking Anglicans’ nowadays worry about Anglicans participating in Masonic lodges. I know of at least 2 former hierarchs in N.Z. who were members of ‘Christian’ Lodges. The Church did not fall down, and many charitable works were performed in the local community by the Lodge membership. “By their fruits you shall know them”?

Regarding Roman Catholic views on such matters, I still remember, with a chuckle, the masonic-type activities in the Da Vinci Code stories.

Spideog
Guest
Spideog

Bishop David Galliford, a retired bishop, now an Assistant Bishop in York, was formerly a Provincial Grand Chaplain in the Masons.

MarkBrunson
Guest

“It sounds like a very bad Dan Brown novel…”

As opposed to . . . ?

Lister Tonge
Guest
Lister Tonge

@ John Bowles Clearly you are right in the element of shock/dismay amongst Anglo-Catholics over this matter. But won’t they surely just learn to get on with it? Anglo-Catholics aren’t shocked/dismayed when a priest turns our to be gay or have another priest as his boyfriend. Neither has that circumstance been a barrier to Crossing the Tiber or seeking Roman ordination in or out of the Ordinariate. It has been suggested that one of the most prominent features of the ‘Anglican Patrimony’ which members of the Ordinariate have taken with them is their acceptance of sexually active gay priests. Thus,… Read more »

John Bowles
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John Bowles

If the complacency of A Dix is representative of residual Anglo-Catholicism at large, as he infers, it explains why the remnant is so spineless and ineffective. During the reign of Geoffrey Fisher as Archbishop of Canterbury it was Anglo-Catholics like Walton Hannah who were at the spearhead of exposing the blasphemy of masonic initiation rites and their inconsistency with Christianity. If Jonathan Baker was a moderately high churchman his membership is more understandable but for an orchidacious, biretta-wearing ‘papalist’ to be involved with this insidious nonsense is entirely inconsistent with his position. However, principle is likely to be absent from… Read more »

Steven Hawkins
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Steven Hawkins

One old style Anglo-catholic lay man was once asked why he hadn’t joined the Lodge and replied that ‘it’s because it’s full of men wearing strange clothes and acting out arcane ceremonies and I get plenty of that at church thank you very much’!

Justin Brett
Guest

Just in case anyone was wondering:

or·chi·da·ceous/ˌôrkiˈdāSHəs/
Adjective: Of, relating to, or denoting plants of the orchid family (Orchidaceae).

So that’s that solved. Poor John, to choose to exist in a world without birettas and orchids. No chance of interesting you in a nice apron, then? It’s a lovely shade of blue.

David Shepherd
Guest

What then of Freemasonry rituals, oaths and invocations? Just harmless theatrics, eh? The whole craft is steeped in syncretism, secrecy and superstitious ceremony, but for fear of destroying an enviable career trajectory, the issue of divided allegiances is reduced to a matter of harmless personal discretion. We are also to gaze on the charity PR without a hint of doubt regarding motives. Since secret ceremonies are harmless, I wonder why Paul, who was no advocate of unnecessary segregation, took such a harsh line on the participation of  ‘enlightened’ Christians in pagan food rites (1 Cor. 10). In contrast, he elevates… Read more »

Gerry Lynch
Guest

A bit like pipe-smoking and beating your children, being a Freemason has gone from being almost compulsory for Church of England bishops to absolutely forbidden in a remarkably short space of time.

Dennis Roberts
Guest
Dennis Roberts

A comparison between the parishes and lodges that I have been a member of: In the parishes I’ve been a member of I have watched fights over liturgy, committee appointments, the next priest, how to get rid of the current priest, fights about where to put a piece of furniture, fights between supporters of the choir & the vestry, the budget, etc., etc. etc. Fights about whether or not to welcome gays and lesbians, over marriage equality, etc. etc. etc. Fights, always fights. In the lodges I have been a member of I have watched and better learned concord, an… Read more »

Dennis Roberts
Guest
Dennis Roberts

And another thought: There isn’t a mason alive who believes that the founding myths of masonry are objectively true (as in actually happened). The purpose is to teach moral lessons, and the morals taught are profound and should be those held by all Christians and by all religious people everywhere. Masonry also teaches tolerance, respect and brotherhood. Something the church dearly needs. What some people fear, I think, is that here is a brotherhood not mediated by priests or clergy. It teaches that status, whether bishop or bricklayer, is meaningless. How frightening that must be for some. And yet the… Read more »

Robert Ian Williams
Guest
Robert Ian Williams

Jonathan Baker authored the book , “Consecrated Women”..against women bishops and setting out the case for a third province. This book is full of historical inaccuracies.

I am sure he will not burn his Mason’s apron and rejoin once safely consecrated!

Old Father William
Guest
Old Father William

I remember when the Knights Templar (Freemasons) would hold services in the Episcopal cathedral. That would be unthinkable now.

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

For what it is worth in this discussion, the Masons in the USA today (called Freemasons in England), are a minor social group essentially open to all who wish to join, who do charitable work, including the Shriners’ Hospitals. They are no more a threat to Christianity, whether mainstream liberals like us Episcopalians, or fundamentalist Protestants, or Roman Catholics, that are Martians. The do have some odd rituals which are more an amusement than a challenge to Christian faith. It is a middle or perhaps lower middle class group, with no attraction to most elites.

Geoff
Guest

“How many ‘Thinking Anglicans’ nowadays worry about Anglicans participating in Masonic lodges.”

Well, two anyway with the ABC and myself. Like ++Rowan, I do not give credence to the Jack Chick fantasy of oaths to Baphomet, but certainly the very nature of esoteric initiatory mystery rubs up against the catholicity of baptism. I know plenty of Wiccans who bear “good fruit” and are eminently ethical persons (and no wonder, given the emphatic stature of their moral code) but that doesn’t of itself make the secrecy involved compatible with baptismal vocation.

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

“….that doesn’t of itself make the secrecy involved compatible with baptismal vocation.”

Here, in the US, a good many college fraternities and sororities have equally “secret” rites for initiation. (Google “Dekes” or “Skull and Bones” for examples.) Are these also incompatible with baptismal vocation? Or are they simply silly little things men and women do to promote camaraderie in small groups? Next thing you know, we’ll be banning membership in little kids’ “No Girls Allowed” tree houses.

David Shepherd
Guest

Pat,

I hope that the ‘no girls allowed’ tree house isn’t called Solomon’s Temple. Perhaps the secrecy and religious symbolism are the basis for concern.

david wilson
Guest
david wilson

All this talk of Dan Brown – ironically Michael Baigent – author of the The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, the blasphemous speculation that Mary Magdalene bore Jesus child – sued Dan Brown for breach of copyright for using his ideas in his books. He is now editor in chief of Free Masonry Today – which does explore spirituality but seems to prefer the gnostic sort in the form of theosophy. It is sad that people will be deceived into thinking this is the truth, rather than being led to the gospel and Jesus Christ Son of God. I… Read more »

toby forward
Guest

Pat, as far as I can make out, these two new bishops are appointed to look after the ‘No Girls Allowed’ tree houses, so no danger there.

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

David Wilson:

Are we now to ban any organization that uses the same metaphors that were used in the Bible?

Justin Brett
Guest

David said: “Freemasonry by their own admission seeks to make good men better, by means of self improvement; whereas Christianity would say you have to “recogize” that you are a sinner that the only Lord saves and that by the sacrifice of His son.” It seems rather odd to me that you are treating these two ideas as incompatible. Right through the gospels, Jesus’s advice is intensely practical – it involves going and doing things. To follow our Lord’s commandments is to improve yourself, to make yourself a better person by following His example. It was the Pharisee in the… Read more »

David WIlson
Guest
David WIlson

I am afraid that the morality plays of Free Masonry just confuse a Christian – How is he to get anything out of them if santification is by the Holy Spirit and can only be by the Holy Spirit. How can rote ritual have any benefit what-so ever. It is babeling – when what they need is the sacrifice of Jesus and the santifying power of the Holy Spirit. I have discussions with a “godly man” who is both in the freemasons and a professing Christian, both for 50 years. In one breath he professes to Believe in Jesus, but… Read more »

John Bowles
Guest
John Bowles

David Wilson Praise God for your contribution to this lamentably futile debate, You identify the blasphemous incompatibility between Freemasonry and Christianity. Freemasons refer to God as Jahbulon, a syncretistic conflation of the Jewish and pagan gods. It is the initiation rites that demonstrate the incompatibility and provide the reason for the Archbishop of Canterbury’s desire to rid the Church of England of Masonic associations. It is good that it is no longer in a Masonic stranglehold as it was in Archishop Fisher’s time. But I still maintain that a definite Anglo-Catholic could never conscientiously be a Freemason and I am… Read more »

Bill Dilworth
Guest
Bill Dilworth

“Freemasons refer to God as Jahbulon, a syncretistic conflation of the Jewish and pagan gods.”

Well, if Wikipedia is to be believed it’s a word that’s been used in *some* branches of Freemasonry, and Masons themselves don’t agree what it means.

Are you saying that if they do, in fact, have a special name for God that that fact alone would mean they were worshipping someone besides the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?

MarkBrunson
Guest

This whole conversation indicates quite clearly why the institution that has co-opted the name of Christianity is regarded by intelligent people as absurdly hypocritical, ridiculously self-absorbed, dangerously paranoid, and rightly excluded from public affairs. It’s a pity you can’t just throw these good churchmen into a room and force them to stay until they can answer all these airy-fairy theological maunderings from the nature of the Trinity to how many angels dance on the heads of pins. That might just keep “good christians” out of the way of people trying to do Christ’s work. Almost 2,000 years since “saint” Cyril… Read more »

Justin Brett
Guest

David said: “I have discussions with a “godly man” who is both in the freemasons and a professing Christian, both for 50 years. In one breath he professes to Believe in Jesus, but then denies the grace in the story of the prodical son (even attempted to teach the cell group this -he is infact a moralist) and then announces that the Russian Church at 12,000 years old is the earliest Christian Church, predating Abraham.” David, I think that to blame Freemasonry for one man’s confusion, and then to extrapolate from that confusion as you do is at best poor… Read more »

Stuart, Devon
Guest
Stuart, Devon

Andrew: “or Roman Catholics, that are Martians.”

Many in the history of the CofE have suggested the Papacy is an alien institution, but this news takes things further.

Given the frequent references to Dan Brown in the thread, maybe we should email him and suggest this could provide the plot for his next book?

Perry Butler
Guest
Perry Butler

A ban on freemasonry by the C of E would be about as effective re the laity as the RC prohibition of contraception. English lay people resent, by and large, interference from parsons.More interesting is the ban on masons being given preferment..how often has this happened? ( it would, of course deprived us of a much loved Bishop..Jim Thompson….and does it apply to Deans? I can think of one Dean who retired not long ago who had strong masonic connections…

John Bowles
Guest
John Bowles

Mark Brunson Try, if you can, to find Walton Hannah’s books ‘Darkness Visible’ and ‘Christian by Degrees’. They print the Masonic initiation rites and describe the ceremonies. You will be left in no doubt of the incompatibility of Freemasonry with Christianity. He provides a better definition of Jahbulon than the wanderings of Wikipedia. When these books were published Hannah received serious threats from clerical Masons and was subjected to a whispering campaign that denigrated his priestly life. Archbishop Fisher wanted to take legal action against him but was advised that there were no grounds. Hannah’s books were the first to… Read more »

Justin Brett
Guest

@Mark – yes, do try to get hold of Hannah’s books. ‘Darkness Visible’ is easily available on Amazon – as is ‘Christian by Degrees’ although it’s rather more expensive. However, you need to bear in mind that the rituals that Hannah describes are over 50 years old, and these days the ceremonies he describes – especially the Royal Arch Degree – are very different. Once you have read ‘Darkness Visible’, therefore, I suggest you get yourself a copy of the current rituals and compare the two. Then you can make your own decision as to whether his objections still stand.… Read more »

david wilson
Guest
david wilson

Justin My comments are not based just on my dealings with my friend. My own family’s past connection prompted me to investigate freemasonry. I dont simply mean the “exposes” that are written from time to time but what freemasons themselves write on spirituality. If you were to search esoteric freemasonry, you will find that it is of the “hidden knowledge” type, that was also a problem in the 1st century. Satan’s tactics have not changed. This is what is giving rise to the morality plays. I think Justin you mean that Jabulon now no longer appears in freemasonry ritual. They… Read more »

Bill Dilworth
Guest
Bill Dilworth

All this “Masonic ritual does such and such” seems problematic. Freemasonry is not, I am told, a monolithic organization, and there’s no Masonic Pope making everybody use the “right” ceremonies. Lodges are in fellowship with some lodges, but not others. Some Masons (primarily in continental Europe and Latin America) do not insist on recognition of the Supreme Being, and are not in fellowship with the Masons that make up the majority of US/British Freemasonry. Given the fact that each lodge can adapt its own ritual within certain bounds, and the fact that Masonic secrecy means that any published information about… Read more »

john
Guest
john

My personal view is that (Free)masonry is a load of mumbo-jumbo. (My main sources are Tolstoy and Kipling.) On the other hand, I know virtuous masons (including some who attend our church), the movement clearly does immense social good, and the notion that it is some sort of diabolical conspiracy is absurd. As for the vitriol directed at Jonathan Baker for his supposed duplicity, I do not understand this kind of hatred. As for the more important matter, I remain glad that Baker and the other chap continue to demonstrate their loyalty to the C of E.

Justin Brett
Guest

David said: “I think Justin you mean that Jabulon now no longer appears in freemasonry ritual.” Yes if you prefer – although for anyone who joined the Craft in the last twenty five years it amounts to the same thing. It’s the reason why I suggested above that people both read Hannah – because he argues cogently, and because his writings underpin much of the current theological objection to the Craft – but also check what the ritual looks like now, because his arguments depend to a large extent on a single piece of ritual that has explicitly been rejected… Read more »

DAvid Wilson
Guest
DAvid Wilson

Freemasonry are concerned with morality and as they have to profess in a higher being, the great architect of the universe, this also involves reponding to the spirituality. I notice that in the UK Freemasonry conference held in the UK a couple of years ago they presented a number of papers on Spirituality: The gospel of Matthew perhaps or the Gospel of John, or even one of the other books of the world religion Islam or Hinduism. No – they presented papers on the gnostic gospels. What light do these contain? absolutely none! They should be studying the gospel not… Read more »

Paul
Guest
Paul

If you want to read a comprehensive rebuttal of Walton Hannah and other Christian critics of Freemasonry from an Anglican perspective, I recommend Christopher Haffner’s book “Workman Unashamed, the Testimony of a Christian Freemason” (Second edition).

Fr Mark
Guest
Fr Mark

Justin Brett: “Freemasons have so little to hide…”

Well, that may be true, in which case it’s best if they’re all open about their membership. The current Principal of St Stephen’s House, Oxford, apparently belongs to the same lodge as Jonathan Baker, Principal of Pusey House, (they were both appointed to their posts by the current Bishop of Gibraltar), an odd coincidence, if coincidence it be, which leads many to ask questions about whether there is a masonic mafia operating in certain anti-women Anglo-Catholic circles. It would be best for such things to be clear and in the open.