The Apostolic Episcopal Church and Freemasonry

The Apostolic Episcopal Church approaches the Christian Faith in a spirit of broad-minded spiritual enquiry. It distances itself from those currents that may be termed narrowly ascetic, and that characterize extreme Protestantism or Puritanism. The predominant quality that can be seen in the past leadership of the AEC is a steadfast witness to the Catholic and Orthodox Faith alongside a wide-ranging intellectual exploration that has embraced various strands of philosophical and esoteric thought – and that in our view is fully characteristic of our Anglican heritage. From the outset the AEC has attracted a number of men and women of intellectual achievement and broad spiritual interests. It has always permitted its members to be Freemasons, and some members have also had significant involvement with Rosicrucianism.

It should not be thought that the AEC itself, in allowing this freedom to its members, endorses any form of belief that is at variance with the Christian Faith as that Faith has been historically interpreted. To study teachings is not the same as to profess them as beliefs. In the event that such teachings or practices may be in conflict with an Orthodox witness to the Faith, they are not supported by the AEC nor is an adherence to them compatible with our membership.

Since its inception, the Apostolic Episcopal Church has had a close relationship with Freemasonry. Its founder, Mar John Emmanuel, and many of its clergy have been Freemasons, as well as friends of the Church such as the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras and Archbishop of Canterbury Geoffrey Francis Fisher, who was Grand Chaplain to the United Grand Lodge of England.

The association of Anglicanism with Freemasonry is very strongly established in nineteenth and twentieth-century history, despite significant opposition from some quarters in recent years. As a traditional Anglican church, the Apostolic Episcopal Church maintains this connexion. For the Apostolic Episcopal Church, the value of Freemasonry is principally as a repository of particular wisdom which provides a profitable school for moral self-improvement as well as an absorbing study in its own right. In addition, the AEC recognizes the contribution of Freemasonry to ecumenism and interreligious dialogue, and its capacity to unite people of disparate origins in a worthwhile common purpose.

Some say that Freemasonry is opposed to orthodox Christianity because it promotes a form of syncretism or otherwise conflicts with Christian beliefs and obligations. This assumes that Freemasons regard the beliefs and teachings of the Craft as if they were religious teachings requiring personal subscription and substituting for those of the Church. In practice, Freemasonry does not require of its adherents the dogmatic beliefs that the Church imposes in order to assure the salvation of souls, nor does it, as some claim, teach a secret religion. What Freemasonry teaches is often expressed through symbol and allegory, and by being presented in ritual, invites the candidate to undertake a dramatised journey in search of enlightenment. Moreover, while much of mainstream Freemasonry is open to all without requirement of religious belief, and is essentially secular in nature, a number of branches that are of interest to the AEC specifically require the profession of the Christian faith and direct themselves to aspects of the Christian life.

In consequence, the fraternal and organizational aspects of Freemasonry are of incidental rather than principal interest to the AEC. That is not to deny the importance of charitable work nor of the social aspects of the Craft. But it must be admitted that the mainstream of the Craft has today moved away from any esoteric character, and as a result some of the most interesting teachings are now to be found in Rites and bodies that are outside that mainstream. Indeed, those closely associated with the AEC have in some cases been responsible for the preservation and rediscovery of aspects of Masonic tradition that would otherwise have been lost or forgotten.

While the AEC welcomes Freemasons as members, it is a Church and not a Masonic organization. Masonic membership is neither a requirement for joining nor affords a person any privilege within our body.

>>A few words on Freemasonry by Canon Prof. Luca Scotto di Tella de’ Douglas di Castel di Ripa, quondam Professor of History of Religions, Università Popolare degli studi di Milano.