Dr Williams prompts new PEV to quit Freemasons

by Ed Beavan

Odd
order: a snuff box with a Freemasonry connection is expected to fetch
£12-18,000 at Bonhams on 5 July. Dating from c.1761-70, the porcelain
box is linked to the German “Order of the Pug”, a secret society for
Roman Catholics forbidden from entering the Masons. Adherents wore dog
collars, scratched at the lodge door to gain admittance, and barked at
each other

THE
Principal of Pusey House, Oxford, the Revd Jonathan Baker, is to resign
as a Freemason after being encouraged by the Archbishop of Canterbury
to reconsider his membership before his consecration as the next Bishop
of Ebbsfleet.
It was announced earlier this month (News, 13 May)
that Mr Baker would be one of the two new Provincial Episcopal
Visitors, to replace Mgr Andrew Burnham, a leader of the RC Ordinariate,
who seceded in January.

Mr Baker, who recently served as an Assistant Grand Chaplain to
the Freemasons, posted a statement on the Ebbsfleet website last Friday,
the day when he was contacted by a Sunday newspaper. He said that he
had joined as a lay undergraduate in Oxford, and had 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”.

He said: “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.”

Mr Baker said that he had reviewed his priorities. “Archbishop
Rowan had invited me in discussion to reconsider, amongst other
com­mitments, my membership of Freemasonry.” He had decided to resign
“because of the particular charism of episcopal ministry and the burden
that ministry bears”.

His “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.”

It is more than 20 years since the General Synod expressed a view
on Freemasonry. In July 1987, it debated Freemasonry and Christianity:
Are they compatible?, a report that found aspects of the Craft
blasphemous, and questioned its compatibility with Christianity. The
Synod en­dorsed the report by 394 votes to 52.

In 2003, it emerged that Dr Williams had blocked appointments of Freemasons as senior clerics when he was Bishop of Monmouth.

Giles Fraser

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