| |
daily news, uk weather, business news - online newspaper - The Telegraph
Save this page to your clipboard Email this page to a friend Print this page as text only
telegraph.co.uk
News home
City news
Crossword Society
Feedback
Law reports
Matt cartoon
Obituaries
Opinion
Weather
War on terrorism
Week at a glance
About us
Contact us

 

Rowan Williams apologises to Freemasons
By Chris Hastings and Elizabeth Day
(Filed: 20/04/2003)

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has been forced to apologise to Britain's 330,000 Freemasons after he said that their beliefs were incompatible with Christianity and that he had rejected them from senior posts in his diocese.

Dr Williams has written to Robert Morrow, the Grand Secretary of the United Grand Lodge of England, in an attempt to defuse the row prompted by comments he made last year. In his letter, the Archbishop apologises for the "distress" he caused and discloses that his own father was a member of the Craft.

Freemasons, many of whom are active members of the Church of England, reacted angrily to his disclosure that he "had real misgivings about the compatibility of Masonry and Christian profession" and by his admission that, as Bishop of Monmouth, he had blocked the appointment of Freemasons to senior appointments.

His comments about Freemasons were in a private letter leaked to the media shortly after Downing Street confirmed his appointment as head of the Church of England.

Subsequent attempts by his advisers to defuse the row only caused further offence. A spokesman said the Archbishop was worried about the ritual element of Freemasonry, which has been seen as "satanically inspired".

In his letter of apology, Dr Williams tries to distance himself from his own reported comments. He claims that his views were never meant to be public and were distorted by the media.

He wrote: "I have been sorry to learn of the distress of a considerable number of Freemasons . . . In replying to private correspondence, I had no intention of starting a public debate nor of questioning the good faith and generosity of individual Freemasons and I regret the tone and content of the media coverage."

He added: "The quoted statements about the 'satanic' character of the Masonic ceremonies and other matters did not come from me and do not represent my judgment. Since my late father was a member of the Craft for many years, I have had every opportunity of observing the probity of individual members."

Dr Williams does not, in his letter, deny that he has misgivings about the role of Freemasons within the Church.

He wrote: "Where anxieties exist, however, they are in relation not to Freemasonry but to Christian ministers subscribing to what could be and often is understood [or misunderstood] as a private system of profession and initiation, involving the taking of oaths of loyalty."

He ends his letter by stating that Freemasons' commitment to charity and the community is beyond question.

19 February 2003: 'Are you Masons?' challenge to judges
13 April 2002: Masons end their black tie affair

Previous story: Hospitals ban flowers from wards
Next story: After Tipping The Velvet . . . a big screen lesbian drama

External links  
 
Union Grand Lodge of England
 
Archbishop of Canterbury