Southern Baptists and Freemasonry
The Story Goes On...And On
By Ed Decker
While our Freemasonry Conference was in session, the talk was all about the ongoing study and eventual Southern Baptist Convention's denominational vote on Freemasonry. Called to do a fair study by the Convention a year earlier, the Home Missions Board appointed Dr. Gary Leazer to head up an unbiased review. It turned into a can of worms for everyone involved.
As things turned out, the report became somewhat tainted when it was discovered that Dr. Gary Leazer, the man in charge of the study, was getting "clandestine" help in its preparation from Masonic Friends.
A letter surfaced during the study, written by Leazer to one of the Masonic leaders, thanking him for all the help and making several depreciating remarks concerning those who were opposed to the Lodge. That letter had Leazer removed from his job as head of the study, but both Leazer and the report continued on at the HMB without correction. The report went to the floor of the convention as prepared by Leazer and his Masonic tutors.
Months after the vote was taken, in favor of the Masonic position, Dr. Leazer's obvious ties to the Lodge created a new stir within the denomination when a copy of a speech he had made at a Masonic gathering reached the wrong hands..
In the Columbus Dispatch, dated 11-6-93, Religious News Service writer, David Anderson reported,
"Larry Lewis, president of the Home Missions Board, said he requested Leazer's resignation for "Gross insubordination" following publication in October of a speech Leazer gave to a Masonic group.
Lewis said Leazer's Aug. 8 speech violated an order to "refrain from any and all involvement in the Freemasonry issue." Lewis told Baptist Press, the denomination's official news agency, he had accepted Leazer's resignation Oct. 22.
"He has clearly violated that directive and in doing so has demonstrated his unwillingness to submit to the authority of his supervisors, "Lewis said. Whether Baptists can also be members of a Masonic Lodge has been a volatile issue."
The Convention and the Vote: The afterglow
It's an amazing thing that after the smoke had all settled, the Freemasons declared a mighty victory at the SBC. In the August/93 Scottish Rite Journal, (pp. 3-6) The Grand Commander, C. Fred Kleinknecht, called the vote historic, saying, "this [vote was the] significant turning point for modern Freemasonry."
And well it might be. The Masonic Fraternity believes it has withstood its most severe challenge in more than a century.
To the shame of the SBC's commitment to Biblical standards, the Convention, by an overwhelming majority approved the report and recommendation on Freemasonry issued by the SBC Home Missions Board, which listed a number of things about Freemasonry that were compatible with Christianity and a number of things that were not. The report went on to say that membership in a Masonic order was the business of the individual, not the church.
The Masonic Grand Commander called it a great victory. He stated that by its vote, the SBC had "... joined Freemasonry in its elevation of individual conscience as the guide to personal beliefs and actions."
In a letter addressed to All Active Members, Deputies of the Supreme Council, Representatives and Secretaries, dated June 21, 1993, Kleinknecht again inferred that vote was a great victory for the craft. He stated,
"The Board's [Home Missions Board] report, based on a nearly year-long study by the SBC's Interfaith Witness Department, rejects the allegation that Freemasonry is incompatible with Christianity and Southern Baptist Doctrine."
It sure sounded like a victory for the craft so far, but he mentioned one problem a little further in his letter. He said, "Although the report contains 8 unjustified, we feel, specific criticisms of Freemasonry, it also includes several commendations of Freemasonry."
Let's back up just a hair. The Leazer affair proved without doubt that the Masons, themselves, were involved with the report and aided the man in charge of writing the report. Even then, they were unable to prevent the mention of some specific criticisms of Freemasonry.
Next, the Masons made an unprecedented push to get control of the Convention. The same Grand Commander wrote a letter to all those addressed above, plus the Editors of all Masonic Publications and said that "It is crucial that Masons who are Southern Baptists become messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention."
On the back of Kleinknecht's letter was a 12 step plan for every Baptist Mason to follow in getting to be a Messenger at the SBC. The Masons rallied as never before in their history. Only the Masons know what percent of the 17,800 Messengers were Masons.
Yet, in spite of the enormous efforts by the Masons, the report still listed a number of things so wrong with Freemasonry, that if they were reviewed in context of Biblical Christianity, no Christian could truly be a Mason. This is what they said:
The Eight Problems With Freemasonry
1. The prevalent use of offensive concepts, titles, and terms such as "Worshipful Master" for the leaders of the lodge; references to their buildings as "mosques," "shrines," or "temples"; and the use of such words as "Abaddon" and Jah-Bul-On," the so-called secret name of God. To many, these terms are not only offensive but sacrilegious.
2. The use of archaic, offensive rituals and so-called "bloody oaths" or "obligations," among those being that promised by the Entered Apprentice: [listed in original] or that of the Fellow Craft degree: [listed in original] Or that of the Master Mason: [listed in original] Or that of other advanced degrees with required rituals considered by many to be pagan and incompatible with Christian faith and practice.
Even though these oaths, obligations and rituals may or may not be taken seriously by the initiate, it is inappropriate for a Christian to "sincerely promise and swear," with a hand on the Holy Bible, any such promises or oaths, or to participate in any such pagan rituals.
3. The recommended readings in pursuance of advanced degrees, of religions and philosophies, which are undeniably pagan and/or occult, such as much of the writings of Albert Pike, Albert Mackey, Manly Hall, Rex Hutchins, W.L. Wilmhurst and other such authors; along with their works, such as Morals and Dogma, A Bridge to Light, An Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and The Meaning of Masonry.
4. The reference to the Bible placed on the altar of the lodge as the "furniture of the lodge," comparing it to the square and compass rather than giving it the supreme place in the lodge.
5. The prevalent use of the term "light" which some may understand as a reference to salvation rather than knowledge or truth.
6. The implication that salvation may be attained by one's good works, implicit in the statement found in some Masonic writings that "Masonry is continually reminded of that purity of life and conduct which is necessary to obtain admittance into the Celestial Lodge above where the Supreme Architect of the Universe presides." (LA Monitor, page 79)
Even though many Masons understand that the "purity of life and conduct" can only be achieved through faith in Jesus Christ, others may be led to believe they can earn salvation by living a pure life with good conduct.
7. The heresy of Universalism (the belief all people will eventually be saved), which permeates the writings of many Masonic authors, which is a doctrine inconsistent with New Testament teaching.
8. The refusal of most lodges (although not all) to admit for membership African Americans.
(As reported by the Home Missions Board, SBC, 1350 Spring Street NW, Atlanta, GA 30367-5601)
On the positive side, the report commended the Masons for its many charitable endeavors, hospitals, burn centers. It acknowledged that many outstanding Christians and Southern Baptists now and in the past have been Masons.
They recognized that many of the tenets and teachings of some Grand Lodges could be considered compatible and supportive of the Christian faith and practice, such as a strong emphasis on honesty, integrity, industry and character and the insistence that every member believe in [a] God. The report then quoted a number of Biblical quotes from the Texas Monitor to show that there are some explicit references to the Christian faith.
However, the report cautioned that "To be sure, not all Grand Lodges affirm Christian Doctrine, and many do not declare Jesus as the unique Son of God; but many do, and for this we commend them."(Ibid.)
Their final statement concludes with this:
"We exhort Southern Baptists to prayerfully and carefully evaluate Freemasonry in the light of the Lordship of Christ, the teachings of the Scripture, and the findings of this report, as led by the Holy Spirit of God" (Ibid.)
And we say that if a Christian Mason truly did that he would honestly have to leave the Lodge.
Dr. James Holly is the President of Mission and Ministry to Men, 550 N. 10th Street, Beaumont, TX 77702. He has been God's man of the hour for the Southern Baptists. He has taken a strong stand time and again both as an official Messenger to the Convention, and as an individual member of the denomination. He has almost single-handedly brought this issue to the place where Freemasonry is being exposed as the terrible threat it truly is to the church.
Dr. Holly has been cursed, slandered and defamed for his efforts, but continues to demand that the HMB admit that the report was slanted and that the Convention vote was skewed in favor of the many Baptist Masons. He has continued to ask the SBC leaders to re-evaluate their stand. In a recent letter to the Home Mission Executive Committee, dated 2/9/94, He responded to a HMB Resolution justifying their SBC report.
"The Executive Committee's affirmation of its own actions is disingenuous. It was Dr. Lewis himself who said that the HMB was in a 'no win situation' in regard to the study of Freemasonry. It was Dr. Lewis himself who said that if the HMB found for the Lodge or if they found against the Lodge the HMB would lose money. The Executive Committee's praise of its own work rings hollow in the face of the obvious deficiencies of the HMB' handling of the study of Freemasonry...... the HMB's A Study of Freemasonry is not objective, scholarly or thorough."
Until the Southern Baptists take on this issue from a Biblical position and not a political one, the denomination will wallow in self destructive cover-up after cover-up. Pray that the Holy Spirit of God will break through the darkness in high places and set the SBC free.