Southern Baptists and their (Tainted) Reports on Freemasonry, 1993-2000
Pulpit & Pen will be writing much on Freemasonry in coming days, weeks and months. If all goes well, we plan on hosting a conference on the topic in the Atlanta area. I’ll let P&P contributor, Seth Dunn, talk more about his church excommunicating him for little more than teaching and warning about Freemasonry. Let it suffice to say for now that I’m well aware of Dunn’s actions, his (successful and honorable) attempt to follow our Lord’s advice in Matthew 18 regarding interchurch conflict and confrontation with sin, and his church’s deplorable actions. I’ll provide a summary below, but more details will come out in coming days.
The summary is basically this; over the course of two years, Dunn has repeatedly followed Biblical protocol in discussing Freemasonry within his church, which is overseen by deacons who have Masonic ties or are Freemasons themselves. Dunn approached these men individually, and also approached the pastor, who told Dunn that if he addressed Freemasonry within the church in his capacity as pastor, he would be fired. Dunn, who is a Certified Public Accountant and seminary graduate, had his Sunday School teaching position removed at the church. He continued to speak out about the religion of Freemasonry and how it conflicts with Christianity, including doing formal lecture by invitation. Dunn’s pastor and deacons then began to quietly and secretly ask for Dunn to leave the church. Dunn refused to leave the church, unless he was publicly removed from membership by a vote of the congregation (which is usually my advice, that the vote might be upon the congregation’s conscience and so that what is done in the dark may come to the light). The Freemasons and deacons continued to intimidate Dunn and make it very clear he was unwelcome. Dunn also exposed a number of high-ranking Masons in churches throughout his county in Georgia. It’s then that outside pressure from other churches, Freemasons, and even the Baptist association began to pressure Dunn’s pastor to remove him from membership in the congregation. When asked his sin, Dunn was not satisfactorily answered. I have heard the audio of the meeting in which Dunn repeatedly asked his sin, in which “zealousness” was mentioned as the only explanation (their Baptist church covenant requires zealousness of its church membership). Dunn mailed a copy of a book about Freemasonry to members of the congregation, which appears to have been the final straw for the Freemason-controlled congregation. Ultimately, some of the deacons “joked” about needing a gun to deal with him, one Masonic church member spit at him, and when the church voted to remove him, it had the Baptist Association attorney present to help with the ordeal. When Dunn was leaving the church property peaceably after the meeting, they had two police units on standby the escort him off the premises. I have been monitoring the situation for some time, and have watched Dunn serve as an exemplary church member who had done everything Biblically in dealing with the false religion in his church and among the Baptists of Bartow County. And, I’ve seen his treatment by Rowland Springs Baptist Church.
Again, we will be writing/speaking more about this affair. And, if you live in the Atlanta area, you can attend a conference on this topic I will personally be hosting at a public venue (and yes, we will name names of Freemasons in the local area who are serving in their Baptist churches). We are also inviting former Freemasons who left the cult when they became born-again believers. In the meantime, I wanted to give a few historical resources to educate Baptists on the torrid relationship between Freemasons and Southern Baptists, in particular.
In 1993, the Interfaith Witness Department of the Home Mission Board (now North American Mission Board) completed a study into the relationship between Freemasonry and Southern Baptists. The study was submitted and reviewed by the Executive Council of the Home Mission Board, the Board of Director’s Administration Committee, and the Board of Directors for the Home Mission Board. It was then approved by the Board of Directors for the Home Mission Board and distributed by the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convnetion. The document itself was an atrocious mess of contradiction.
The document “commends” the Masonic Order (it uses that actual word) for its various practices that are charitable, including Shiner’s Hospitals, drug and alcohol awareness help, and its nursing homes. It also acknowledges that “many fine Southern Baptists” have been Masons, including prominent names like B.H. Carroll and George W. Truett. It then recognizes Masonic practices that are “compatible” with Christianity, including rites that mention “Jehovah,” a reference to Jesus in the Masonic rites of Alabama, or the Lodge cornerstone-laying ceremony that seems to reference a nebulous higher power that some might interpret as the Christian God. However, the report that “many tenets and teachings of Freemasonry are not compatible with Christianity or Southern Baptist doctrine,” and include blasphemous titles for their leaders, sacriligious titles for God (including calling God “Abaddon,” which is the name of a demon from the book of Revelation), beliefs that are “undeniably pagan” (their words), and sinister oaths.
Amazingly – in every sense of the word amazing – and in spite of the report’s findings, it says that membership in Freemasonry is “a matter of Christian conscience.” Occultic or pagan worship, obviously, is not a matter of Christian conscience. This document, unfortunately, laid the groundwork for widespread indifference on the subject of Freemasonry for Southern Baptists. You can find the document uploaded to our servers here.
Now, if it seems strange to you that the report would – on one hand – acknowledge the heresies of Freemasonry and – on the other hand – say being a member in the Lodge was a matter of personal conscience, it is. In fact, there’s a whole side of this story you probably don’t know.
The individual heading up the report and study for the Home Mission Board was Dr. Gary Leazer, who was supposed to create an unbiased review. In reality, Leazer was a clandestine Freemason, or at least working clandestinely with Freemasons in order to generate a report that would affirm Freemasons as Baptists. A letter was leaked to the Home Mission Board from Leazer to his Lodge friends, in which he made dispariaging remarks about people trying to find out the truth about Masonry (including the Home Mission Board) and game-planning how to create the most Freemason-friendly report possible. In fact, Leazer had given speeches at Freemason events, demonstrating the he himself was a Freemason (source link).
As reported by David Anderson in the Columbus Dispatch on November 6, 1993, Home Mission Board president, Larry Lewis, then asked for Leazer’s resignation in late October of 1993 for “gross insubordination” after reading a particularly damning Freemason speech transcript from Lezer in August 8 of that year. However, the work from Leazer was already done and accepted by the Home Mission Board and the report allowed to stand in its entirety, in spite of it coming from a Freemason himself! The Freemason Scottish Rite Journal published a comment, “this [vote was the] significant turning point for modern Freemasonry.”” (August 1993, pages 3-6).
There was outrage throughout the Southern Baptist Convention toward the report, considering that it generally acknowledged that Freemasonry teaches “Universalism” (the belief everyone goes to Heaven, with or without Jesus). It was generally not well reported at the time that the report had been compromised by a clandestine Freemason heading it up.
In damage control, the Home Mission Board posted the following in the Baptist Press.
HMB directors clarify statement on Freemasonry
ATLANTA (BP) – Home Mission Board directors adopted a statement to clarify their stand on universalism. The original statement came from the administrative committee and was adopted by the full board. The text of the motion follows:
“In light of all questions that have arisen and confusion concerning Freemasonry, and the recommendation that was made to the Southern Baptist convention by the Home Mission Board and in order that there be no misinterpretation, the Board of Directors wish to reiterate the longstanding position of the HMB on the subject of universalism: Whether it be the teaching of a religious body, a fraternal order, or an individual, the universalist plan for human redemption is unbiblical and heretical, and we oppose the embrace or perpetuation of any such teaching.
“It has never been the intention of the HMB to suggest that individual Southern Baptists may feel justified in affiliating with such teaching on the basis of personal conscience. Rather, we would call upon fellow Southern Baptists to never embrace or perpetuate such heresy.
“In the spirit of the above, and in light of the leadership of the Holy Spirit, the Lordship of Christ, the teachings of Scripture, and the findings of the report, then personal conscience may be used.”
However, in the year 2000, another report was commissioned. Ironically, it was commissioned to the same agency, the Home Mission Board, which had taken on the name North American American Mission Board (NAMB). A motion by Russ Kaemmerling of DeSoto, Texas, at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in 1999 led to NAMB issuing a new report on Freemasonry. It was entitled, A Closer Look at Freemasonry, and was again put out by the Interfaith Evangelism Team of NAMB. One wonders why just 6 years after the original report was given, the same organization would find a new report necessary.
You can see that “clarifying statement” here.
While acknowledging the “many charitable endeavors” of Freemasonry, the pamphlet also expands on eight “tenets and teachings” of Freemasonry that were found to be “incompatible with Christianity” in a controversial report on Freemasonry approved by the Southern Baptist Convention in 1993.
William Gordon spoke to the Baptist Press on behalf of the committee, saying, “We decided to write this piece that would expand a little further on some of the things that were stated in the report on Freemasonry. Rudy Gonzalez, the director of the interfaith evangelism team, added, “The document is not condemning in any way, but simply seeks to put information out so that individuals can arrive at informed conclusions about what they ultimately believe about these organizations.”
According to this report, Freemasonry is incompatible with Christianity in that it:
1) “Freemasonry uses offensive, non-biblical, and blasphemous terms relating to God.”
2) “Freemasonry insists on the use of ‘bloody oaths’ or obligation, which are strictly forbidden by the Bible.
3) “Freemasonry urges that occultic and/or pagan readings be used, and that their teachings be appropriated in interpreting such concepts as the Trinity.”
4) “Freemasonry includes the Bible as part of the ‘furniture of the lodge,’ but only as an equal with non-Christian symbols and writings.”
5) “Freemasonry misuses the term ‘light’ to refer to moral “reformation” as a means to salvation.”
6) “Freemasonry teaches that salvation may be attained by ‘good works’ and not through faith in Christ alone.”
7) “Freemasonry advocates in many of its writings the non-biblical teachings of universalism.”
8) “In some of its lodges, Freemasonry discriminates against non-whites.”
The report suggested, “Taking the above into consideration, and being consistent with our denomination’s historic deep convictions regarding both the priesthood of the believer and the autonomy of the local church, we recommend that each individual Baptist, as well as each congregation, carefully review the issues of the teachings and practices of Freemasonry. Since, in the final analysis, the Bible alone is the only guide for faith and practice, issues related to Freemasonry and any other fraternal organizations, especially secret societies, must be evaluated only in light of the plumb line of Scripture.”
You can find the report uploaded to our servers here.
[Editor’s Note: This is one in a series of posts on the topic. Up next, we’ll look at how other denominations have dealt with Freemasonry; Audio from Dunn’s meeting with the Deacons of Rowland Springs Baptist Church is below; contributed by JD Hall]