THURLBY, ENGLAND -- A Church of England study group has declared the philosophy of Freemasonry in conflict with Christian teaching. But the group's report, "Freemasonry and Christianity -- Are They Compatible?" stops short of calling for Anglicans to resign from Masonic lodges.
The report of the panel, two members of which are Masons, will form the basis for discussion at the church's General Synod, which meets at York, England, in July.
The report states there are "clear difficulties" faced by Christians who join the organization and that there are "a number of very fundamental reasons to question the compatibility of Freemasonry with Christianity."
The panel concluded that Masonic rituals contain elements of worship and promote the idea of salvation by works. The document says some Christians who are former Masons perceive Masonic rituals as blasphemous, disturbing or "positively evil."
Although lodge members deny that Freemasonry is a religion, the organization's activities center on "temples," its rituals refer to "altars" and each of its lodges has a chaplain, who is not necessarily a member of the ordained clergy, the report says.
The report was critical of the Freemasons' use of language similar to that of Christian ritual, including some prayers couched in words almost identical to those used in the Anglicans' Book of Common Prayer.
The church panel also objected to the secrecy surrounding Masonic rituals, asking, "Is it right to expect Christians to swear on the open Bible that they will not reveal the secrets of an organization whose rituals clearly state that they will only be revealed when the candidate has accepted the obligations of membership?"
In 1985, British Methodists told their members not to join the organization. Roman Catholics have traditionally banned membership in Masonic lodges.