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.
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