Church of England Newspaper
Freemasonry under fire in Irish and Scottish churches
Sunday, 20th August, 2006
The relationship between the Anglican Church and freemasonry has come under fresh scrutiny in Ireland and Scotland after suggestions that it is incompatible for clergy to be members of Masonic lodges.
The Church of Ireland’s standing committee said that: “The practice of freemasonry does not equate with the fullness of the Christian teaching of the Church of Ireland”.
Speaking at the Church’s General Synod, the Rev Peter Hanna expressed concern at the use of the Bible at Masonic meetings, Masonic prayers where references to Jesus have been removed and Masonic hymns which are sung with Christian tunes and have all mention of Jesus and the Holy Spirit omitted.
The Dean of Cork, the Very Rev Christopher Peters, called for more discussion in the light of the many concerns of the laity and the clergy of the Church of Ireland as well as the concerns of their ecumenical partners.
The Roman Catholic Church forbids its members from joining Masonic lodges. In November 1983, the Vatican announced: “The faithful who enroll in Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion.”
The Synod did not forbid membership, but said it was “a matter of personal conscience for churchmen”.
Dean Peters urged the Standing Committee to set in motion a process of investigation and reflection.
The Scottish Parliament will respond next week to a petition calling for Anglican priests to be barred from Masonic membership or affiliation with any society that has a secret oath-bound membership.
The quasi-public work of the clergy should be free from the taint of bias or favouritism, which the petitioners argued is implicit in Masonic membership.
Canon Joe Morrow, priest-in-charge of St Ninian’s Episcopal Church in Dundee and Grand Master of Scotland’s Freemasons, said accusations of “bias” were false.
In 2002, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams expressed unease about Freemasonry. He said: “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.
“Concerns like these have led to a number of debates within the church in recent years and it is clear that there are still widely differing views, held with sincerity and honesty, about the compatibility of certain aspects of Freemasonry with Christian belief, ministry and, service.”