Sunday, May 15, 2011

Masonic Bishops

There has been a bit of a fuss over the last few days about the announcement of a new Bishop who was known to be an "active and senior [free]mason". The Bishop in question is Rev Jonathan Baker, named as the new Bishop of Ebbsfleet. This is one of the posts for traditionalist Bishops who are available to parishes who seek oversight from a Bishop of that tradition.

There have long been concerns about the compatibility of Christianity and freemasonry. The Roman Catholic Church has strong prohibitions. However, only a few decades ago, many Anglican clergy and bishops would have been members. In the Church of England, a debate followed the publication of GS 784A in 1987, which endorsed the report and expressed a number of concerns. Among these were questions about the religious (and some would even suggest occult) nature of some of the language and rituals, the secrecy of the organisation and the oaths which demand primary loyalty. (A further criticism of freemasonry has been the male-only nature of lodges, but the Church has hardly got a clean record on gender equality!)

In this context, it was rather surprising that a known senior mason would be approved for appointment as a bishop. Since the fuss hit the press, Rev Baker has said that he will resign from his masonic commitments. Perhaps what is more surprising is that a clergyman, who is very committed to a traditionalist catholic position within Anglicanism, should be a member of an organisation that Catholicism prohibits. Presumably he doesn't see it as big an obstacle for eventual unity as ordaining a woman as priest.

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1 comment:

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

I think this is the Telegraph stirring it, but a rather fascinating story. It's a free country. Back in the days of Archbishop Fusher most bishops were freemasons. Indeed I had a friend who was a bishop in the 60's who told me about being buttonholed by Fisher to join during his night at Lambeth before the consecration service! back in the 30's, Hensley Henson was big in it, largely out of a deep sense of being socially inferior by not having gone to a public school. Me, I'm with Rowan on this one, if not Mervyn Stockwood, although the thought of Archbishop Fisher ritually disembowelling the butcher the baker and the candlestick maker on Tuesday nights does arouse curiosity...