Safe or satanic? Church leaders argue over Freemasonry
Tuesday, November 4, 2003
By Damion Mitchell, Staff Reporter
ANGLICAN CHURCHMEN who are Freemasons have come out in firm defence against charges that they are involved in a 'secret and satanic' operation.
The charges were made by other church leaders who insisted yesterday at the Gleaner's Editors' Forum that "lodges of whatever sort are satanic and not sacred and that the Jamaican society should come out against the movement."
They said that the oaths taken by lodge members demand secrecy and exercise practices which are not consistent with Christian principles.
Membership in Masonic Lodges became an issue at the Sydney Anglican Synod in Australia last month. A motion was passed that said that Freemasonry and Christianity were "fundamentally and irreconcilably incompatible".
In defence of the organisations, the Anglican lodgemen said the movement is "decent and harmonious" and that the perceptions that it is satanic were a confusion with groups that it calls "speculative lodges."
The Rev. Dr. Alfred Reid, Lord Bishop of Jamaica, who many years ago abandoned membership of a service club to become a Freemason said, "I have never come across it (Masonry) as anything satanic."
"There are bodies which style themselves as lodges but we are not in amity with them," said Keith Scott, a Freemason and member of the St. Margaret's (Anglican) Church, Liguanea, in Kingston.
However, Beresford Keith Ashley, a former member of the Mechanic Lodge who is deacon of the Brown's Town Baptist Church in St. Ann was unapologetic in his charges. "The whole atmosphere of the lodge is built on fear hence this cloud of secrecy (exists within the group)" he said. Relating an ordeal that he said was compulsory before admission to the Mechanic Lodge, he explained,
"I was dying before I died... I was asked to repeat an oath and the words alone were so fearful."
For his part Rev. Dr. Donald Stewart, Pastor of the Portmore Lane Covenant Community Church said it was important that the society oppose Masonry because it was "a system deceiving young men in particular, drawing them into a network where they became closer to their Lodge brothers than even their own wives."
But Bishop Reid said the "the only secret that is not available to your wife or to the public is how to get into a Lodge meeting."
With over 5,000 members enrolled to the fraternity, the Freemasons present at the Gleaner's forum said that their membership included nearly all the 'upstanding' men in leadership positions in medicine, the judiciary, the police force and even parliament. They stressed the importance of unity, humility and charity among lodge members, as the brotherhood reaches across continents, racial and religious barriers.
Questioned whether the lodge managed to attain unity where the church has failed, Bishop Reid said "we are not trying to save sinners, that is the church's role and if the church continues to fight among itself then it is not going to be able to carry out that role.
He also said that there was nothing wrong with being a Christian and a Mason at the same time and Rev. Dr. Vivian Cohen agreed. "Many Anglicans and other denominations are members and find nothing incompatible with Freemasonry and Christianity," he said.