Sunday, 15 May 2011

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.

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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Categorised as: Church of England

Should certainly impress the pope.

Posted by: Lapinbizarre on Sunday, 15 May 2011 at 4:59pm BST

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.

Posted by: Philip Taylor on Sunday, 15 May 2011 at 6:39pm BST

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

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 15 May 2011 at 11:41pm BST

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 Masons was held in St Mary's Roman Catholic Cathedral in Sydney. Some of the extensive good-hearted Masonic charities in Australia put some insular Anglicans here to shame. Their work accords with what I for one see as the heart of the matter for Christian, Jew, Mason or Calathumpian alike, set out with clarity but with a profound challenge to all of us and to our Churches in St Matthew 25.40, St Luke 10.28 and Micah 6.8.

Posted by: John Bunyan on Monday, 16 May 2011 at 10:11am BST

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 you form a Working Group for this, in the first place, if you didn't think there were 'very fundamental' reasons to question Freemasonry-Christianity compatibility?

I get it now, since General Synod endorsed and commended this 'report' for discussion by the Church, the Report was a discussion paper.

Okay, can somebody tell me where this discussion would take place at a formal, national level? Oh, General Synod, you say. Yet, there have been no formal developments since 1987.

Sir Humphrey Appleby clearly has a counterpart in ecclesiastical circles. 'Yes Minister', indeed!

Posted by: David Shepherd on Monday, 16 May 2011 at 10:21am BST

"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...

Posted by: Fr James on Monday, 16 May 2011 at 10:27am BST

I imagine fewer bishops and clergy are freemasons now than, say, 50 years 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"?
Jonathan Wynne-Jones, of course always likes to make the most of a story.. as we saw with his offerings on the Ordinariate. He knows, as sadly do some other religious correspondents, that editors just love stories of conflict /decline etc in the Church of England! Its practically the only sort of stories we get...Still a change from "outing" homosexuals........

Posted by: Perry Butler on Monday, 16 May 2011 at 1:09pm BST

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!

Posted by: Fr Levi on Monday, 16 May 2011 at 1:15pm BST

@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!

Posted by: Justin Brett on Monday, 16 May 2011 at 2:13pm BST

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 Oratorians and Aidan Nichols OP. Despite his resignation, it is unlikely that the parishes under his charge will come to trust him. From now onwards he is a gravely compromised man not least in his integrity. It was said of him that the reason why he did not become a Catholic after 1992 was because of his marriage. Clearly it was due to his membership of the Craft.

Posted by: John Bowles on Monday, 16 May 2011 at 9:08pm BST

Justin Brett has blogged about this, see The Dodgy Liberal Comes Out Part 1 at

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 16 May 2011 at 10:14pm BST

'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.

Posted by: A Dix on Monday, 16 May 2011 at 10:25pm BST

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?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 17 May 2011 at 1:50am BST

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.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 17 May 2011 at 4:18am BST

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

Posted by: Spideog on Tuesday, 17 May 2011 at 7:31am BST

"It sounds like a very bad Dan Brown novel..."

As opposed to . . . ?

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Tuesday, 17 May 2011 at 9:22am BST

@ 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, being a 'Member of the Lodge' isn't really that bad, is it?

Posted by: Lister Tonge on Tuesday, 17 May 2011 at 9:56am BST

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 the residual Anglo-Catholic mind as made evident from Mr Dix's comment and perhaps it is now more 'tolerant' of such aberrations than previously. In which case, God help it.

Posted by: John Bowles on Tuesday, 17 May 2011 at 9:59am BST

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'!

Posted by: Steven Hawkins on Tuesday, 17 May 2011 at 11:31am BST

Just in case anyone was wondering:

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.

Posted by: Justin Brett on Tuesday, 17 May 2011 at 12:11pm BST

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 the communal bread and wine supper to a mystical union with sacrificial grace.

In spite of Dan Brown conspiracies, perhaps, like the Lord's Supper, there's a lot more to any ritual than its participants will immediately explain.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Tuesday, 17 May 2011 at 12:24pm BST

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.

Posted by: Gerry Lynch on Tuesday, 17 May 2011 at 12:25pm BST

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 active welcome of all as equal with no regard to sect, color or national origin; engagement in charitable projects, and admonitions to be more ethical, kind and respectful of others.

No wonder the churches fear the lodge: because the comparison should embarrass all lovers of the church.

Posted by: Dennis Roberts on Tuesday, 17 May 2011 at 3:49pm BST

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 roster of good Anglicans and Episcopalians who have been masons is exceedingly long. Because they recognize that membership in the two is not incompatible, and they heed the teachings of masonry to be active in their faith.

I’ve often thought that those men who are suspicious of masonry are worried that they couldn’t become a member if they tried. Which is nonsense. Everywhere lodges are looking for good men who want to join in the fraternity. But you have to ask. Don't wait to be recruited because no one was ever recruited. No man is ever asked to be a mason. No one will approach you and ask you to join. It is a founding idea that you must start the process.

But do it. If you want the chance to improve yourself, increase your own faith and become a better Christian and a better citizen, the lodge stands ready to welcome you.

I am proud to be a mason. I can’t always say that about being an Anglican. But I have high hopes that what is amiss in Anglicanism can be repaired by some of those very teachings that I have heard so well taught in my lodge. Charity, respect, fellowship, concord.

Posted by: Dennis Roberts on Tuesday, 17 May 2011 at 3:53pm BST

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!

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Tuesday, 17 May 2011 at 4:27pm BST

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

Posted by: Old Father William on Tuesday, 17 May 2011 at 5:47pm BST

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.

Posted by: Andrew on Tuesday, 17 May 2011 at 7:50pm BST

"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.

Posted by: Geoff on Tuesday, 17 May 2011 at 8:14pm BST

"....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.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Wednesday, 18 May 2011 at 2:26am BST


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.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Wednesday, 18 May 2011 at 10:21am BST

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 cannot see that freemasonry and Christianity are compatible. 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.

One can only speculate on the blasphemous nature of their initiation rights - a friend of a friend promptly left whe he was moved up a level and the initiation ceremony involved being "born again" into the next level (seeking higher moral knowledge and the light), when he had the blind fold removed he discovered he was in a coffin. And in another ceremony what does it mean for a Christian to remove the "foundation stone" to let in more light, when Christ is our foundation stone.

Posted by: david wilson on Wednesday, 18 May 2011 at 12:56pm BST

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.

Posted by: toby forward on Wednesday, 18 May 2011 at 1:14pm BST

David Wilson:

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

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Wednesday, 18 May 2011 at 4:38pm BST

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 temple who congratulated himself on being saved without having to do anything about it.

As to your further comments, I can see why someone might find the 3rd degree ceremony disconcerting, (your first example) but then its entire purpose is to confront you with your own mortality, and the necessity therefore to live your life properly now, not just resolve to get round to it one day. That is an uncomfortable thought, and it's the same message that Jesus is trying to get across in Luke 12. Your second example is not one that I recognise. I think you might be mixing up two different ceremonies - can you be more specific about the context, please?

Posted by: Justin Brett on Wednesday, 18 May 2011 at 4:54pm BST

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 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.

He is confused in his loyalties and in his understandings. Unfortunately he has had a nervous breakdown because of doubt. His words are, can you trust Him.

He defends Freemasonry, as he is required to when the fallacies and blasphemies are pointed out.

It is all very sad.

Jesus is the Light if the World, the Way, The Truth and the Life.

The morality plays do not pay for one sin.

I would suggest that people like this Bishop really compound the problem by giving it a legitimacy it does not deserve.

Posted by: David WIlson on Wednesday, 18 May 2011 at 6:25pm BST

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 astonished that Jonathan Baker did not resign while he was a student at St Stephen's House. Until his recent resignation he has been leading a fundamentally inconsistent life.

Posted by: John Bowles on Wednesday, 18 May 2011 at 9:04pm BST

"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?

Posted by: Bill Dilworth on Wednesday, 18 May 2011 at 11:54pm BST

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 helped murder Hypatia, and the only thing that's changed is the institutional Old Scratch is too cowardly to actually get blood on its hands.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Thursday, 19 May 2011 at 5:18am BST

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 reasoning, and at worst a deliberate attempt to mislead. It is self evident that anyone who thinks a Christian church has been going for the last 12,000 years has some fundamental issues with his grasp of history and mathematics. To conclude that this confusion is a result of the Masons addling his brain is quite bizarre.

John Bowles said:
"Freemasons refer to God as Jahbulon, a syncretistic conflation of the Jewish and pagan gods."

John, this is not true. The word Jahbulon appears nowhere in Masonic ritual. Masons do not have a "special name for God". Freemasonry is not a religion. Can't put it any more simple terms than this.

Posted by: Justin Brett on Thursday, 19 May 2011 at 9:21am BST

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?

Posted by: Stuart, Devon on Thursday, 19 May 2011 at 9:28am BST

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 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...

Posted by: Perry Butler on Thursday, 19 May 2011 at 9:58am BST

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 shed clear light on Freemasonry and its absurd posturing and penetrate the wall of secrecy that surrounded their proceedings. It has taken a long time for the results to mature, but Archbishop Williams's policy towards Freemasonry is a consequence of the publication of these books fifty years ago. Remember, too, that this policy is now the official policy of the Church of England, hence Jonathan Baker's capitulation.

Posted by: John Bowles on Thursday, 19 May 2011 at 10:29am BST

@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. You can buy current ritual books quite easily from any of the online shops that sell Masonic regalia.

That's right - Freemasons have so little to hide that you can actually go into a shop and buy the same ritual book that is used in the Lodges.

Posted by: Justin Brett on Thursday, 19 May 2011 at 12:22pm BST


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 have no wish to praise Jesus. IF they are not proclaimimg the name of Jesus who are they giving the glory to? themselves? the freemasons? or some other god

Posted by: david wilson on Thursday, 19 May 2011 at 12:57pm BST

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 rituals is probably long out of date. Wd (non-Masons) might or might not know what went on at a certain lodge at a certain point in time. But we really can't talk about "Masonic ritual" the way that we talk about "the Book of Common Prayer."

And focusing on the episcopate doesn't make much sense to me. If it's wrong for a bishop, why wouldn't it be wrong for a priest, deacon, or layperson? The Church(es) should come out and say plainly whether or not being a Freemason and being a Christian are mutually exclusive.

Posted by: Bill Dilworth on Thursday, 19 May 2011 at 1:38pm BST

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.

Posted by: john on Thursday, 19 May 2011 at 2:09pm BST

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 by the Craft. Incidentally, while I am on the subject of reading matter, you might also consider taking a look at 'Belief and Brotherhood' by The Revd Neville Barker Cryer, who is a priest and a mason. He writes specifically in answer to Hannah's points, and also has much to say about the Christian origins of Masonic ritual.

"They [Freemasons] have no wish to praise Jesus. If they are not proclaimimg the name of Jesus who are they giving the glory to? themselves? the freemasons? or some other god"

This really cuts to the heart of our disagreement, I think. I can see that if you are going to take the position that as Christians we should do nothing that does not actively and explicitly praise Jesus then Freemasonry is not going to appeal. It presumes, as I said above, an acceptance that other people's beliefs might be valid as far as they are concerned. On the other hand it is difficult to see how such a position can allow one to exist in the world at all if applied with any degree of rigour. You seem to be ruling yourself out of almost any communal activity - no singing except songs of praise, for example, and much solitary activity as well - no films except for religious ones, no books but the Bible and even then staying well clear of the Song of Songs...

Funnily enough, I would personally agree with you about some of the things that are written by Freemasons about spirituality - not surprising given the wide variety of spiritual beliefs held by individual members of the Craft. However, the difference is that I regard them as the beliefs of that individual, rather than the beliefs of Freemasonry in general - since Freemasonry is not about encouraging particular beliefs. And this is the point at which the argument goes circular. My starting point is that Freemasonry is not a religion, whereas yours supposes that it must be. Until we can square that circle, I am not sure whether we can get any further.

Posted by: Justin Brett on Thursday, 19 May 2011 at 2:59pm BST

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 a work of darkness. However an organsation that promotes secrecy and hidden morality knowledge also attracts those that seek the hidden knowledge of the gnostic god.

Posted by: DAvid Wilson on Thursday, 19 May 2011 at 5:54pm BST

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).

Posted by: Paul on Thursday, 19 May 2011 at 9:18pm BST

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.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Thursday, 19 May 2011 at 9:48pm BST

Thank you John Bowles and Justin Brett:

I rest my case.

Superstitious mumbo-jumbo all around.

The only thing is, it isn't the Masons taking it seriously!

You know, you two would do just as well to read Harry Potter. I mean, you'd be giving your money to JK Rowling, who at least does charitable work, as opposed to this Hannah who I've never heard of, nor care to know more about. I'm in the U. S., so I've had quite enough of right-wing paranoid ravings, thanks.

I wonder if actual Masons spend as much on their "regalia" and rituals as you two do? I'm sure they appreciate your advertising so widely for them.

This is silly, and a completely shameful embarrassment to Our Lord Jesus to stand in public behaving this way. Shame on you!

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Friday, 20 May 2011 at 7:04am BST

I have always said, and continue to say - Some of the finest Christian men I have known were or continue to be Masons.

I do not think some use the Order well and the past is full of deep uncertainty and believable stories of graft and corruption. But the present use by some of the Church and its history are both much worse.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Friday, 20 May 2011 at 7:41am BST

I'm not a freemason, actually

Posted by: Robin Ward on Friday, 20 May 2011 at 9:31am BST

As Walton Hannah has featured in this discussion ( he ended his life as a RC priest in Canada) ,could I commend to anyone interested, the study of him ( based on his papers) by Judge Michael Yelton "The South India Controversy and the Converts of 1955-56" 80pp 2010 £8 Illus published by the Anglo-Catholic History Society ( of which I am Chair)

Posted by: Perry Butler on Friday, 20 May 2011 at 9:41am BST

Poor Fr Mark. All that mud, and none of it sticks! He asserts that the Principal of St Stephen’s House is a Freemason. He isn’t. He goes on to imply that the Bishop of Gibraltar might be a Freemason. He isn’t. He wonders if there is a Masonic mafia operating in certain Anglo-Catholic circles. And, of course, there isn’t. Still, why let the facts get in the way of a good conspiracy theory, eh?

Posted by: A Dix on Friday, 20 May 2011 at 10:16am BST

David Wilson:

A great many Christian theologians have also studied the Gnostic gospels. Were they wrong to do so?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Friday, 20 May 2011 at 11:50am BST


I would be keen to know what possibly guide to morality a heresy provides? They present it because some members hope it is true - again search for esoteric freemasonry. They do not discuss the canonical gospels. Unfortunately being blinded to the true nature of God and Jesus's love and the true gospel.The Christian should only study the gnostic gospels to determine what the heresy was, they dont use it to establish doctrine or provide guidance on the ways of God.

As the freemason can only really discuss the Great Architect of the Universe you will not see Jesus Christ proclaimed in the Freemason meeting. Yet how can you discuss the nature of God given morality and not discuss Jesus.

The morality plays concern Hiram Bif the master builder of Solomon's temple, of course some esoteric freemasons speculate on whether knowledge was passed feom the builders of the tower of Babel. They do not use the conventional bible stories but read things into other stories in the bible.

It is interesting the oaths that freemasons have to declare, inherited from their past - effectively pronoucing a curse over themselves. Yet Jesus makes it plain, let your yes be yes and your no be no. Everything else is from the devil.

The Freemason research centre does not study morality on orthodox religions but theosophy i.e. esoteric freemasonry.

Posted by: David Wilson on Friday, 20 May 2011 at 6:09pm BST

What possible guide to morality do the Vedas provide? Or the Confucian texts? Are you suggesting that moral guidance is only to be found in the canonical books of the Bible? In which case, whose canon?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Friday, 20 May 2011 at 7:01pm BST

Enough has emerged in these many comments to demonstrate that Freemasonry is inimical to Christianity. It is interesting to be told that the Craft has had some kind of Vatican II since the days of Walton Hannah. But in some ways that makes the situation worse. In the heyday of the 1950s, when Anglican bishops and clergymen in abundence were members, the rites were as he transcribed them. The Craft acknowledged his accuracy.

The period was one of greater faith than the present. Today we live in a secularist age and I wonder if the watered-down Masonic rites are partly a reflection of this phenomenon. Unless prospective Masons are entirely cynical about the rites (and I cannot believe that this was true in the past) what is the point of retaining them?They remain problematical for Christian Masons and, presumably, of indifference to the rest.

Which brings me to the question of personal advantage obtained by membership of the Craft. The business and professional advantages for Masons are sometimes considerable, depending on the superiority of the Lodge. A great deal of corruption and self-interest results with money running as a solvent through the transactions.

Take cathedrals. The Craft has been identified as a generous contributor towards repairs appeals. What is not mentioned is that this frequently means that untendered work is given to Masonic builders and architects at unquestioned prices. Freemasonry is endemic in most Anglican cathedrals and not just Liverpool. The result is that the work is generally more expensive than it would have been if it had gone to tender. A classic instance of this is the recent work at St Edmundsbury Cathedal in Suffolk, a county noted for the strength of the Masonic presence. Collings, the last Dean, was high in the Craft and the building work achieved in his time was largely give to Masonic contractors.

Apply the same pattern to the police force and the legal profession, business interest and the Church and a merry cauldron of mischief results. So mote it be, as Masons would say, but the results are frequently malign.

Posted by: John Bowles on Friday, 20 May 2011 at 7:45pm BST

John Bowles:

How is the "good old boy network" (as we in the States would call it) of the Masons different from the similar network of people graduated from the same colleges of Oxford or Cambridge? Or of alumni of Eton or St. Andrews?

Oh, and I fail to find anything "inimical" to Christianity in the Masons. Perhaps it is because the US is so rife with similar fraternal organizations--Moose, Shriners, Odd Fellows, Rotarians, Kiwanis--that I simply fail to see the "evil" that you do in the Masons.

Make it clear--I belong to none of these groups. But I know many who do (including the Masons) who are, I suspect, better Christians than I am.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Saturday, 21 May 2011 at 12:06pm BST

It's hard to understand all the fuss about Masons when I live in an American community where the local lodge has dwindled to a handful of old men.

Posted by: Old Father William on Sunday, 22 May 2011 at 12:38am BST

As in most things, the American experience of Freemasonry is, I suggest, entirely different from what prevails in these islands. In Britain and Ireland it forms a strong place in the Establishment in its broadest sense. That is why it is subject to occasional press attention, notably where it concerns the police. The Church comes up less often than it did because the Craft appears to have less attraction than before as a secure path to preferment. I do not doubt that British Freemasonry is top heavy as far as age is concerned but it still recruits the ambitious young who recognize its professional advantages. The problem that results is the maintenance of a closed shop that has deep tentacles in national life. The blasphemous syncretism of its initiation rites simply compound the problem for practising Christians. What amazes me from some of the comments in this thread is the presentation of the Craft as a latter-day garden of Eden untramelled by original sin. That is not how it, and its operations, are seen from outside. Such self-righteousness beggars belief.

Posted by: John Bowles on Sunday, 22 May 2011 at 11:04am BST

A Dix: "All that mud, and none of it sticks!"

On the contrary, it would only be mud if being a freemason were something covert and murky... As it is, Dr Ward has obligingly cleared up any misapprehensions by his openness.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Sunday, 22 May 2011 at 4:38pm BST

@John Bowles: the craft recruits no one. You have to ask to join. It is a founding idea of masonry that to be one, you must ask one. (It is worth the effort to ask, but you have to make the first step. You personally have to start the process.)

Masonry is a fraternal organization. Men join for friendship and fellowship, to learn more about themselves, and to become active in the community. It is a place where men learn leadership skills and become better men. I asked to join because my grandfather and great-grandfather had both been masons. It meant something to them so I thought I would try it. Once in the craft I discovered a great fellowship, strong friendships, and good lessons for the improvement of my life. And I found a place to be actively involved in making the lives of other people better, too.

If it is not for you, that's fine. But why attack something just because it isn't for you? I'm not a member of the Rotary Club, but I don't go spreading false claims about them. I'm happy for those who are members of the Rotary. I'm not an evangelical, either, but I don't spread false information about their movement or chapels. Please stop spreading what you have now been patiently told are falsehoods. Once a man has been shown that something is false, I think, he has a moral obligation to stop saying it. Masonry is a wonderful organization that has great meaning to many of us who are (I presume) your fellow Episcopalians and Anglicans.

I hope that any man who reads this, who is interested in Masonry, will take the next step & look up information online to find a local lodge (make sure that it is in a recognized Grand Lodge and not one of the fake spin-offs – that’s really important). Many lodges now have websites with a lot of information. If there is a man in your church parish who is a Mason you can also approach him. If you are interested take the next step. It is worth it and you will make new friends, find yourself actively helping other people, learn more about yourself, and become a better man. That is something that I think any Christian would actively support.

Posted by: Dennis Roberts on Sunday, 22 May 2011 at 5:41pm BST

It was disgraceful of 'Fr Mark' to accuse men as honourable as Canon Ward and the Bishop of Gibralter of being Freemasons in company with Jonathan Baker. What evidence did he have, beyond malice? But at least his comment and the resulting denial show how serious it is that Dr Baker was a Mason while flaunting himself as a flamboyant Anglo-Catholic of unimpeachable orthodoxy. This betrays a level of inconsistency and lack of integrity that I doubt he will ever live down. I pity the parishes under his jurisdiction.

Posted by: John Bowles on Sunday, 22 May 2011 at 6:06pm BST

A Dix says of Fr Mark: "He wonders if there is a Masonic mafia operating in certain Anglo-Catholic circles. And, of course, there isn’t."

I'm not one to agree with Fr Mark. Ever. But I wonder how many Masons there are on the Council of Forward in Faith. Perhaps "A Dix" might have first hand knowledge.

Posted by: Baxter on Sunday, 22 May 2011 at 6:49pm BST

"It's hard to understand all the fuss about Masons when I live in an American community where the local lodge has dwindled to a handful of old men."

I don't know how healthy the various lodges are up here in RI, although they do seem to have a pretty cool website. But I always thought that Freemasonry was for Protestant types who didn't get enough ritual at church and had to make up for it someplace else. I'm not shocked that a clergyman would be a Mason, but I am surprised that an Anglo-Catholic would be attracted to it.

Anyway, it's bizarre to hear to them spoken about as if they were some sort of dark cabal bent on the domination of the Church of England. Does this hostility to Christians joining "secret societies" extend to those in the Elks, the Odd Fellows, the Moose, the Foresters, and so on? Why pick on the Masons?

Posted by: Bill Dilworth on Monday, 23 May 2011 at 12:27am BST

Clearly some of the negative comments posted here about freemasonry are clear misrepresentations based on ignorance which have no factual substance to merit any serious debate or consideration. I am a Christian and a Mason and I am satisfied and at ease with both and that is all that matters to me.

Posted by: Phil Grainge on Monday, 3 October 2011 at 5:45pm BST

Interesting thread. As a Freemason belonging to a regularly constituted Lodge and a Christian, I can say that I can't fathom what could be incompatible. One is never asked to do anything that would conflict with their religious or moral belief, or with the laws of their government. Yes, we are expected to have a belief in a higher being, but that is about maintaining faith in the God that we individually know, not any version of a God prescribed by Freemasonry. An atheist is accountable to themselves only.

The purpose of this that men can come together in fraternity as equals. In fact, it is expressly taboo to discuss religion or politics in Lodge. There was a practical value to this back when Catholics and Protestants were in armed conflict - it created a space where people could come together in what was common amongst them, rather than what differentiated them.

The issue seems to confuse ritual and religion. Ritual is a way of doing things in a prescribed, traditional, and orderly fashion. A Masonic meeting is steeped in an orderly, tradition filled sequence of activities. While there may be philosophical information using the symbology of working tools of operative masons, and applying those symbols to allegories related to King Solomon's Temple, there is no religious belief or practice or profession of specific faith at these meetings.

If anything, becoming a Freemason has deepened my faith in the God of Christianity, and provided me with an additional set of tools to square my behavior, be on the level, and to circumscribe my passions with the compass.

I can do this and still believe that Jesus is the Son of God, was a man who walked the earth, and through his love died for my sins that I might have forgiveness and life eternal.

Posted by: Ken on Monday, 15 February 2016 at 7:01pm GMT
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