This letter comes to you from one who like yourself has shared in the life of the College of the Resurrection for a time, before ordination. I am now pensioned, although I cherish being licensed as Honorary Assistant Curate here in these parishes in the Diocese of Bradford. I am also Provincial Grand Chaplain to the Freemasons of Warwickshire, for until July of this year I worked in the Diocese of Coventry, for fifteen years as Secretary of the DAC, for two years as Rural Churches Officer, and for nearly eighteen as Vicar of Priors Hardwick, Priors Marston and Wormleighton.
You may therefore guess that this comes to express sadness at your recent comments on Freemasonry, which are I believe ill-informed, incorrect and unproductive. I say this with some sorrow, for I had hoped – and indeed still do – for much from your ministry. I returned from Birmingham last night, whence I had been on a now rare visit, ostensibly to share in a Banner Dedication, and having been with a considerable number of masons who were to say the least upset by what they had heard. Among them were churchwardens, PCC Secretaries, Treasurers, choirmen and ordinary Christians of all degrees of churchmanship. All asked questions like “Does the Archbishop want to rid the church of us?” Many put it into words the fact that they are Christians first, and Freemasons second: though having said that they care greatly for what they believe is a good organisation, in which is taught and practiced virtues like honesty, integrity, brotherly love, relief and truth. It also is open to other faiths, and I am proud to be Chaplain equally to Jews, Sikhs, Hindus and others, as well as Christians.
Some weeks ago you yourself were the subject of some controversy in the press when you were made a Bard – or some such thing. I readily acknowledge that I have probably, and almost deliberately, got that wrong: but then I am not well informed in such matters. May I gently suggest to you that a similar situation pertains here? I offer this without any axe to grind at all, for I have no ambition, being a pensioner and therefore could not be accused of wanting to get advancement or power, or indeed anything else out of Freemasonry: I now live and at any rate do a little work in another Province, and I know well the value of Freemasonry for myself.
My friend Rodney Pitham will probably shortly be writing from the Province of Warwickshire, pointing out for instance that in 1999 the British Government and in July 2001 the European Court of Human Rights declared that Freemasonry is not a secret society. For my own part I write because although collectively they may be called Freemasons, I know them personally, as men who are in many many cases working very hard for the Kingdom. They do not deserve to be hurt in this way.
“The Archbishop expressed his personal views in a private letter and his position is that there are difficulties in reconciling some of the expressions of belief and practice of Freemasonry with those of Christianity. He recognises, however, that there are a variety of opinions within the Anglican Church.”