Date: Sat, 01 Jan 2000 09:40:23 -0700
From: Hugh Young <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: OMTP Vol V #1
ONE MORE TIME, PLEASE! Vol V, No.1
Circulation --->1077 January 2000
A New Year and A New Volume of "One More Time, Please!". I trust you
enjoy this month's edition which was a booklet published by the Grand
Lodge of Alberta and the work of the Grand Master of Alberta in 1965.
All previous editions and the opportunity to subscribe to this ezine
can be found at: http://www.linshaw.com/omtp.html
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Best Fraternal Regards
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Freemasonry and the Church
W. J. Collett, C.D.
M.A. B.Ed. B.D. D.D.
Grand Lodge of Alberta, A.F. & A.M.
Mount Royal College
Freemasonry and the Church
From time to time Freemasonry has come under criticism from the
Christian Church both the Roman Catholic and Protestant branches. The
Roman Catholic opposition dates back to the Eighteenth Century when
Papal Bulls were issued by Clement XII in 1738 and Benedict XIV in 1751
denouncing Freemasonry and instructing the Roman Catholics to withdraw
from the Craft. Originally Freemasonry had both Roman Catholic clergy
and laymen in its membership in almost every country where it had been
established. The first Freemasons' Hall in London was erected in 1776
when Lord Petre, who was looked upon as the leading layman in the Roman
Catholic Community in England, was the Grand I~ff. aster of Masons.
Earlier than that in 1730, Thomas Howard, the Eighth Duke of Norfolk, a
Roman Catholic, was Grand Master and during his term presented to the
Grand Lodge its Sword of State, which is still in use. After the Papal
Bulls had been issued Roman Catholics gradually withdrew from membership
in Freemasonry. This process was accelerated when a number of edicts
were issued starting in the year 1821 and the result was almost a
complete separation of the Roman Catholic Church from the Freemasons
The opposition of the Roman Catholic Church does not differ greatly
from the criticism that arises from time to time in the Protestant
Church. In 1935 the Catholic Truth Society issued a pamphlet which sets
forth quite clearly the basis of the differences. The pamphlet admits
that Freemasonry is "beneficial to the country or, at any rate, quite
harmless" but that the great objection is that Freemasons are placed
under a solemn oath of secrecy. Even more serious than this is that
Freemasonry "tends to undermine belief in Catholic Christianity by
substituting for it what is practically a rival religion based on
deistic or naturalistic principles".
Through the years there have been criticisms of Freemasonry by
Protestant groups. At c, Methodist Conference in Great Britain in 1927,
Rev. C. Penney Hunt criticized the Craft in much the same manner as
did the Catholic Truth Society. While the Methodist Church refused to
pass a motion unfavourable to Freemasonry yet there were many
indications of support for Mr. Hunt. In January, 1951, the magazine
"Theology", a publication of the Society for Promoting Christian
Knowledge, carried an article by a Church of England clergyman, Rev.
Walton Hannah, entitled: "Should a Christian be a Freemason?" The
question, of course, is answered in the negative mainly because Mr.
Hannah claims that the oaths of secrecy and the penalties associated
with the oaths are pagan. He claims, in addition, that the Masonic
Order is a Gnostic Heresy. The article demands an inquiry into
Freemasonry by the Church of England especially since both the Methodist
and the Roman Catholic Churches questioned the validity of the Order.
At a Church Assembly in June 195I, Rev. R. Creed Meridith moved
that a Commission be established to study the Hannah article and a long
debate ensued. Freemasonry found supporters in many of the high
dignitaries of the Church including Dr. Garbett, the Archbishop of
York. Rev. C. E. Douglas made the following very penetrating
statement: "You cannot understand Freemasonry except in a Lodge. Its
real secret is fellowship." The motion was ultimately defeated.
In Scotland in 1754 the Associated Synod of Stirling considered the
propriety of the Masonic oath and in 1755 the Kirk Sessions were
requested to make enquiries into Masonic practices. In some places in
Scotland any person who admitted to being a member of a Freemason's
Lodge was required to do public penance and subjected to a rebuke from
the Kirk Session. The reasons for the opposition were the objections to
the Oath of Secrecy and the penalties associated with the obligations.
From the above account it may be concluded that the historic
objections to Freemasonry are:
The theological objections are based on the charges that Freemasonry
(1) Deistic -The Deist relies on reason to prove the
existence of God. They come to this position by conclusions drawn from
the observation of nature. The revelation of God through a person, such
as Jesus, is not necessary.
(2) Naturalistic -Naturalistic theology believes
that the world can get along all right by itself by obedience to the
natural law. God may have created the world but once it was set in
motion there is no further need for Divine intervention. Hence there is
no need to acknowledge that God once intervened in the natural order by
sending his Son as the Saviour of the World.
(3) Gnostic -The Gnostic heresy claims that truth is
revealed by God to specially selected individuals by means of special
secret rites and ceremonies. The mystic ceremony of initiation confers
on the initiate a special type of knowledge. Again the appearance of
Jesus in human form is not necessary in the Gnostic view.
The Christian Church finds error in these three theologies because
they exclude the need of Jesus Christ as Saviour of the world. This
accusation against the Masonic Lodges is not correct. A man before he
is admitted to the Masonic Order must profess a belief in God and in
Life Eternal. It follows, then, that the Christian who applies for
admission to the Masonic Lodge must confess a belief in God cfs revealed
in Jesus Christ. Hence Freemasonry cannot be Deistic, Naturalistic or
Gnostic. It is true that the Freemason's lodge endeavours to enrich a
member's belief in God by instructing him in the moral law and the
hidden secrets of nature and science. For the Christian this is a
further understanding of the nature of the God as revealed in Jesus
Christ in whom he has already admitted a belief.
The matter of secrecy has been greatly overrated as far as the
Freemason's Lodge is concerned. There are no mystic initiatory rites
which purport to give secret knowledge. There was a time in the early
Christian Church that the Christians were accused of cannibalism because
in their sacred meal they were reported to have eaten human flesh. This
was, of course, a complete misunderstanding of the Lord's Supper and
arose because the Christians were forced to meet for worship in secret.
The meeting of the Freemason's Lodge is limited to members and their
proceedings are in secret. It does not necessarily follow that secrecy
produces theological error or special knowledge. What it does indicate
is that a very close and warm fellowship is developed amongst the
The ethical accusations against Freemasonry in relation to the oaths
of secrecy and the penalty of the obligations are more difficult to
explain to those who are not members of the Order. The penalties when
considered with a historical imagination and with an understanding of
their origins are not as pagan as they may at first appear. Recently,
however, some Grand Lodges have undertaken to revise the penalties. In
Canada, the Grand Lodge of Quebec, has led the way in this matter. It
should be sufficient to note that the Masonic Order is conscious of the
need to study a revision of the penalties. This, in itself, should
indicate to the critics of this aspect of Freemasonry that the penalties
are not basic to the purpose of the Order.
Secrecy will have to remain because this is a fundamental concept but
it should be noted that secrecy implies a fellowship and not immorality,
irreligion or sedition.
Far more important than the issues discussed above is what may be
described as the practical situations which cause individual clergymen
to oppose Freemasonry. This practical conflict appears when the
Freemason's Lodge appears to compete with the Church for the time,
energy and talent of the men in any community. The validity of such
criticism is borne out when the Mason prefers to attend his Lodge rather
than go to a Church meeting. It is further aggravated when a
Freemason's Lodge plans events which conflict with Church activities.
Very regrettably some Lodges arrange practices on Sundays when the
members should be in church. Such inconsiderate action rightly brings
the Lodge into disrepute.
Another very valid point of criticism is 'when the Freemason's Lodge
presumes to usurp some of the historical prerogatives of the Church, for
example the so-called Masonic Funeral. The Church, as is its right,
commits the body to the ground and concludes the burial service with the
benediction. Then the Masonic Lodge takes over and conducts the
committal service again, often inexpertly and in a painfully long and
theologically unsound manner. It should be noted that the Freemason's
Lodges are themselves examining the validity of this practice and many
are substituting a Memorial Service for the Funeral Service. The
following is a quotation from the proceedings of the United Grand Lodge
of England dated September 12th, 1962:
(1) That Masonic Rites, Prayers and Ceremonies be confined to the
Lodge Room and that dispensation to wear Regalia (which term includes
White gloves) be granted only in exceptional cases;
(2) That there be no active participation by Masons, as such, in any
part of the burial service or cremation of a Brother and that there be
no Masonic prayers, readings or exhortations either then or at the grave
side subsequent to the interment, since the final obsequies of any human
being, Mason or not, are complete in themselves and do not call, in the
case of a Freemason, for any additional ministrations. That if it is
wished to recall and allude to his Masonic life and actions this can
appropriately be done at the next Lodge meeting in the presence of his
Brethren, or at a specially arranged Memorial Service;
(3) But that while no obstacle should be put in the way of Masons
wishing to take part in an act of corporate worship, only in rare and
exceptional cases should they be granted dispensation to do so wearing
regalia; moreover, that the order of service should in all cases be such
as the officiating minister, or his superior, consider to be appropriate
to the occasion."
The most serious criticism that clergymen have against Freemasonry is
that some Freemasons claim that their Lodge gives them all the religion
they need and that they feel no need of the Church. Any Freemason that
makes such a claim has completely misunderstood the teachings of the
craft and is doing a serious disservice both to the Church and the
Lodge. Freemasonry is a science of morality "founded on the purest
principles of piety and virtue" and can never claim to be a substitute
for the Church. Although its teachings are based on deeply spiritual
concepts based on a belief in the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood
of Man and although it looks forward to the ultimate unity of mankind in
the spirit of love, it can never aspire to supplant the Church as the
militant body of Christ manifest in the world. Nor can a Freemason's
Lodge hope to satisfy the spiritual life of man which is expressed in
the worship, ordinances and outreach of the Christian Church. The
Freemason's Lodge has no message of redemption for the sinner and no
hope of salvation to offer to those who have lost their foothold on
life. No message of forgiveness and atonement is offered to those who
are battered and broken by sin and wrongdoing. There is no ministry of
healing for those who, in life's struggle, have lost courage and hope.
Forgiveness, atonement, redemption and hope are all the prerogatives of
the Christian Gospel as expressed in the Church and it is presumptuous
for a Freemason to assert that they can be found elsewhere. A well
instructed Freemason will never treat lightly the divine ministries of
the Church nor wilt he absent himself from attendance at the house of
God. Indeed, if he lives as a Freemason should, he will be eager to be
a valued aid to the church life of his community.
Religion, morality and noble living find themselves seriously
challenged in this age of materialism and all the forces of high and
noble living must be rallied to meet the crisis. Both the Church and
the Freemason's Lodge are dedicated to such a cause and it would be to
their eternal shame if they dissipated their energies in a
non-productive criticism of each other. For the Mason it is essential
that he demonstrate to the Church his goodwill and support. This task
will be made easier if the Masonic Lodge takes steps to remove those
areas in which there has been misunderstanding especially by a critical
re-examination of its public ceremonies and re-interpretation of the
image of being a secret society bound by obligations to which are
attached pagan penalties. The Craft has in its membership many
clergymen of differing faiths who should accept the responsibility of
representing the Freemason's Lodge amongst their brother clergymen.
Then it may be possible for more of them to subscribe to the following
statement made by Dr. Daniel A. Poling, an outstanding Baptist
"I arrived at the decision that Masonry is a vital and dynamic force
in America, and in the world, for everything high and worthy to which my
life has long been committed. And there is something more, Masonry
occupies, in my opinion, a unique position of opportunity and obligation
in the human order today."
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