20 November 2004
ROW OVER VICAR'S BAN ON FREEMASONS
TOP level talks between the freemasons and the Church have been held over a vicar's decision to ban ministers and readers who are masons from serving in his parishes.
The ruling made by Reverend Gordon Barker, priest-in-charge of Andreas with Jurby and Lezayre, has ruffled feathers.
A meeting between Bishop Graeme Knowles and George Peake, provincial grand master of the Island's freemasons, has taken place. Ramsey woman Esther Richmond is appalled at Mr Barker's ruling.
'As a regular attender at Glen Auldyn and on the readers list, I am appalled to learn that the two people, Duncan Robertson and His Honour Henry Callow, who helped so much, with the lay reader Anne Kean, to keep our churches going during a very lengthy interregnum have been told no freemason can preach or take part in services,' said Mrs Richmond.
'People should remember, no matter what their views on freemasonry are, they provide for a lot of charitable causes in the Island and in particular Noble's Hospital where, over the years, they have donated hundreds of thousands of pounds for equipment which has been of benefit to thousands of patients. Is that a non-Christian action?'
'I personally have a lot to thank the masons for and I am not the only one in this Island, my late father High Bailiff Percy Kelly was a freemason and a deeply committed Christian. Due to his death at an early age my two brothers were able to have an excellent education at the Royal Masonic School, in Bushey, and they were not the only ones in the Island to benefit thanks to freemasons.
'I sincerely hope that Mr Barker will have a good rethink about freemasons because if he doesn't I for one, in what are becoming sparse congregations, will leave and go to another church.'
Mr Barker was welcomed to his post at a special service in September. He took over from Reverend Rod Geddes. In a statement, he said: 'I have never said that I would ban freemasons from my parish churches. I have no wish to do so. 'I have never said that I would ban freemasons from being office holders, wardens or parochial church council members in any of my parish churches.
Again, I have no wish to do so. 'I have made it clear on several occasions that I will minister to all people without distinction, freemasons among them, who come within my parishes or who are members of the congregations of my parishes. 'I have said, however, that I do no want ministers who are freemasons to serve in the parishes. That applies only and specifically to ministers and readers. However following recent meetings I am currently reconsidering the effect of such a prohibition on certain members of my congregation.'
He added: 'There is nothing new in all this, the difficulties encountered by Christians who are freemasons was the subject of a report by the Church of England House of Bishops several years ago.' Mr Peake said: 'There are many Christians who are also freemasons and have no difficulty in being both. 'For almost three centuries eminent churchmen have taken pride in being leading freemasons and have found Christianity and freemasonry to be entirely compatible.'
Neither Mr Robertson nor Mr Callow wanted to comment on the matter but Mr Callow said he was proud of being a freemason.