[ACNS source: Anglican Media Sydney and the Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn]
Sydney Anglicans have sent a clear message to Freemasons across the state: your beliefs are “contrary to biblical Christianity.”
The strongly worded statement is part of a motion passed by Synod that describes the belief system as ‘fundamentally and irreconcilably incompatible’ with the Christian faith.
The motion calls on Christians who belong to a Masonic Lodge to resign their membership, as a demonstration of their commitment to Jesus Christ.
The Revd Bill Winthrop, rector of Lithgow Anglican Church, introduced the motion, cautioning that the problem of Freemasonry in Sydney congregations would not simply be solved with the passage of time.
He referred to plans by NSW Masonic Lodges to recruit younger members.
“We have an obligation to our church members to emphasise that Freemasonry holds and teaches beliefs that lead people away from Jesus Christ,” Mr Winthrop said.
Several speakers warned that the motion would be perceived as unloving, especially by older Christians with strong ties to local lodges. “How will this motion be heard by many people in our retirement villages?” asked Lesley Errington of Revesby. Others, like John Gormloy, a non-practising Freemason from Palm Beach, challenged the notion that the Masonic Lodges were leading people away from salvation. “I believe in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit and God - what are the differences between the teachings of the Freemasons?”
However, Professor Barry Newman talked of generations of his family lost to what he described as a works-based belief system. “My father was a mason, but it never showed him the gospel. In fact, it gave him an alternative faith, an alternative gospel.”
The motion encourages ministers to not participate in or allow church buildings to be used for services that encourage Freemasonry.
The Rt Revd George Browning, Bishop of the Diocese of Canberra & Goulburn, has released a statement in response to the resolution:
“A recent resolution adopted by the Sydney Synod was based on the concept that Freemasonry and Christianity are incompatible.
The resolution was tabled by Reverend Bill Winthrop of Lithgow and is based on his own perception of what Freemasonry represents.
My only gauge of Freemasonry and of Freemasons is my observation of the quality of their lives. In my 37 years of ministry I have generally found Freemasons to be people with integrity and with a heightened sense of commitment to the community.
The Anglican Church is a community in which there is scope for office holders to hold a range of opinions on a number of issues. The debates and resolutions in our synods are indicative of the tolerance and strength of the Church. Although differences in opinion may exist, our community is bound together by a commitment to the over-riding love of God in Christ, and compassion and tolerance that Christ taught us.
Personally, I have been more distressed by incidents where the compassion of the church has been withheld on the simple grounds that family members were Freemasons. It is very difficult to understand how these incidents portray the true Christian spirit.
The resolution is not binding on folk in the Diocese of Sydney and of little relevance to those outside. Therefore this issue is essentially a matter between a rector and members of his/her congregation.
I call on all clergy and lay people within the Church to meet Freemasons with respect and a listening ear, and for Anglican Freemasons to be alert to possible issues that may be a cause of conflict for them in living out their Christian faith.”