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Famous Baptists who were Freemasons


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Southern Baptists in general and Southern Baptist leaders in particular have a long history of embracing Freemasonry. Some of the most famous devout Baptists who were also active Freemasons are listed below. (All or nearly all of these Baptist Freemasons were Southern Baptists: members of the Southern Baptist Convention):
  • B.H. Carroll
  • David E. Moore
  • George W. Truett
  • J.B. Lawrence
  • James C. Bryant
  • James Huckins
  • James P. Wesberry
  • John T. Christian
  • Joseph Samuel Murrow
  • L.R. Scarborough
  • Louie D. Newton
  • Richard A. McLemore
  • Robert E. Baylor
  • W.T. Conner
  • W.W. Barnes
  • William R. White
  • William Tryon
  • William W. Hamilton


Source: Bill Maddox, "Subject: Re: Free-Mason Ministers", post on soc.religion.christian newsgroup, 9 Aug 1999 (archived http://www.pastornet.net.au/jmm/aasi/aasi0215.htm; viewed 4 December 2005)

Kenol Noel wrote:
> Peace!

Peace unto you Kenol - to perhaps save you some time, I want to let you know I have been a Freemason for 15 years, and a United Methodist nigh onto 40 years. You might not care for what I have to say.

> There are a lot of Ministers affiliated with many lodges receiving pass
> words and sacred words for each grade or degree.

You are right that there are a lot of ministers that are freemasons. According to the Southern Baptist Convention's A Report on Freemasonry, we find the following:

In 1991, the Home Mission Board submitted questions concerning Freemasonry in the SBC to Baptist VIEWpoll. Baptist VIEWpoll is a survey by the Corporate Market Research Department of the Sunday School Board, SBC, of 1,433 Southern Baptists (283 pastors, 430 ministers of education, 247 directors of missions, 202 deacon chairmen, and 271 church clerks). Of the 1,433 who received the questionnaire, 997 responded. One question was how important it was for the SBC to have an official statement on Freemasonry. A majority of pastors (60%), ministers of education (56%), directors of missions (72%), deacon chairmen (63%), and church clerks (74%) felt that such a statement was either "not very important at all" or had no opinion about whether a statement was needed. When asked if the issue of Freemasonry ever caused a problem in their churches/associations, the vast majority of each group responded that their churches/associations had never dealt with Freemasonry. Of those responding, 14 percent of the pastors, 5 percent of the ministers of education, 13 percent of the directors of missions, 18 percent of the deacon chairmen, and 12 percent of the church clerks were or had been Masonic or Eastern Star members.1

An estimated 400,000 - 500,000 Southern Baptist men are Masons. Among this number are many well-known Southern Baptist leaders. No attempt will be given to naming living Southern Baptist Masons. However, following are some well-known Southern Baptist Masons from the past.

Robert E. Baylor was one of eight Masons who petitioned for a charter for Baylor University in 1845. "Every president of Baylor University has been a Master Mason." 2 One president was William R. White, 33d, who served as president of Baylor University from 1948 to 1961. He served as pastor of First Baptist Church of Austin, First Baptist Church of Oklahoma City, First Baptist Church of Lubbock, and Broadway Baptist Church of Fort Worth. He also served as executive secretary, and later as president, of The Baptist General Convention of Texas.

The first two missionaries sent by the SBC to Texas, James Huckins and William Tryon, were Masons.

George W. Truett (1867-1944), pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas (1897-1944), president of the SBC (1927-1929), president of the Baptist World Alliance (1934-1939), and trustee of Baylor University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, was a Scottish Rite Mason. He was raised a Master Mason in 1920 in the Dallas Lodge No. 760; he received the 32nd degree in 1921. Of his Masonic membership, Truett said:

"From my earliest recollection, sitting about my father's knees, who was a Mason, and hearing him and fellow Masons talk, I imbibed the impression in early childhood that the Masonic fraternity is one of the most helpful mediating and conserving organizations among men, and I have never wavered from that childhood impression, but it has stood steadfastly with me through the busy and vast hurrying years." 3
Truett, in perhaps his most famous sermon, preaching on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on May 16, 1920, addressed the 15,000 people gathered:
"The right to private judgment is the crown jewel of humanity, and for any person or institution to dare to come between the soul and God is a blasphemous impertinence and a defamation of the crown-rights of the Son of God.... Every one must give an account of himself to God. Each one must repent for himself, and believe for himself, and be baptized for himself, and answer to God for himself, both in time and in eternity." 4

B.H. Carroll (1843-1914), first president of Southwestern seminary, was a member of Waco Lodge No. 92 and Herring Lodge No. 1224, both located in Waco, Texas.5 Carroll was instrumental in the creation of the Department of Evangelism of the Home Mission Board in 1906. Carroll was the author of more than 20 books, including The Bible Doctrine of Repentance (1897), Baptists and Their Doctrines (1913), and Evangelistic Sermons (1913). It is said that his favourite causes were evangelism, prohibition, home missions, and Christian education.6

L.R. Scarborough (1870-1945) was a member of Gray Lodge No. 329 in Houston, Texas.7 He served Southern Baptists as pastor of First Baptist Church in Abilene, Texas, from 1901 to 1908; professor of evangelism at Southwestern seminary from 1908 to 1914, when he became president of the seminary. He authored a number of books, most of which focused on evangelism, including How Jesus Won Men (1926), or were collections of his sermons.8

W.W. Barnes (1883-1960), professor of church history at Southwestern seminary (1913-1953), was an active 32nd degree Scottish Rite Mason. W.T. Conner (1877-1952), who taught theology at Southwestern seminary from 1910 until his retirement in 1949, was a member of Southside Lodge No. 1114 in Fort Worth until his death. James T. Draper Jr. referred to Conner as "perhaps the most famous theologian to be associated with Southwestern Seminary." 9

William W. Hamilton, a Mason, was named the Home Mission Board's first head of the Department of Evangelism in 1906. He served as president of Baptist Bible Institute (BBI), now the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, from 1927 to 1943. While president, he saved BBI from bankruptcy in 1932, when the school defaulted on $353,000 in bonds. He was president of the SBC from 1940 to 1942.

Louie D. Newton (1892-1986), was president of the SBC (1947-1948) and vice president of the Baptist World Alliance (1939-1959), served 27 years on the SBC Executive Committee, and was a member of Joseph C. Greenfield Lodge No.400 in Atlanta. He received his 50-year Masonic pin in 1980. He was also a York Rite Mason and a Shriner. He was the chaplain of the Yaarab Shrine Temple in Atlanta from 1939 to 1953, when he was succeeded by fellow Southern Baptist James P. Wesberry.

James P. Wesberry, who died in December 1992, was pastor of Morningside Baptist Church in Atlanta for 31 years, president of the Georgia Baptist Convention for 3 years, recording secretary for the Georgia Baptist Convention for 20 years, moderator of the Southern Baptist Pastors Conference, and executive-director of the Lord's Day Alliance.10 He became a Mason in 1927. He was a York Rite Mason, 32nd degree Scottish Rite Mason, and a Shriner. He succeeded Louie D. Newton as chaplain of the Yaarab Shrine Temple in Atlanta in 1953. Wesberry was succeeded as chaplain by another Southern Baptist minister, James C. Bryant, in 1981.

Joseph Samuel Murrow (1835-1929) was an appointed Southern Baptist home missionary to the Oklahoma Indian Territory, where he established more than 100 churches, according to one report. Called "the founder of Freemasonry in Oklahoma," he established the first Masonic Lodge in the Indian Territory, served as the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge in the Indian Territory, and wrote the Murrow Masonic Monitor.11 He was raised a Master Mason in 1867. He served as Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the Indian Territory from 1877 to 1878 and Grand Secretary from 1880 to 1909.12

John T. Christian (1854-1925), a Knight Templar, was chairman of the informal committee of friends who met in 1915 to consider formation of BBI. He was professor of Christian history and librarian at BBI from 1919 until his death in 1925. He donated his personal library of 15,000 volumes to BBI. The library on the New Orleans seminary campus bears his name. Christian also pastored First Baptist Church, Chattanooga; First Baptist Church, Hattiesburg; Second Baptist Church, Little Rock; and other churches.

J.B. Lawrence, a Mason, was vice president of the SBC (1916-1917) and executive secretary-treasurer of the Home Mission Board (1929-1954). In 1943, Lawrence freed the Home Mission Board from debt for the first time.

Richard A. McLemore, president of Mississippi College in Clinton (1957-1968), was a member of Hattiesburg Lodge No. 397 and a 33rd degree Scottish Rite Mason.13 David E. Moore was a well-known pastor in southeastern New Mexico until his death in 1992 at the age of 103. He was pastor of Caprock Baptist Church in Caprock, N.M., for many years and was assistant pastor of First Baptist Church, Roswell, N.M., at the time of his death. On his hundredth birthday, he was honoured with the title of "Honourary Past Master of Roswell Lodge No. 18." 14

Some insist that "Christian Masons must decide today whether they will remain Masons and deny their Lord, Jesus Christ, or whether they will do the will of their Father in heaven and leave Masonry." 15 They call for Christian Masons to reject the "hypocrisy" of being a Mason and a Christian. "Either follow God or follow Masonry. Either live as a Christian or live as a Mason." 16

Taking an opposite position, a non-Mason Southern Baptist pastor writes, "The Masons I know are good Christians that are as active and perhaps more active than most church members and are instrumental in the spiritual growth of their peers in their respective churches." He continues, "It is time for us to lay aside our prejudices against other organizations and denominations that differ from us, and focus on the mission of the church. That is to make disciples, to baptize them, and to teach them to reach others." 17

1. Baptist VIEWpoll, November 1991, and memorandum from Steve Whitten to the HMB Administrative Council, February 20, 1992.
2. Carter, Masonry in Texas, p. 340. R.E. Baylor was a member of Baylor Lodge No. 125.
3. William R. Denslow, 10,000 Famous Freemasons, vol. IV (Trenton: Missouri Lodge of Research, 1961), pp. 254-255. The quote is from an address by Truett at the Grand Lodge of Texas meeting in Waco in 1940. The full text of Truett's address is found in Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Texas (Waco: Grand Lodge of Texas, 1940), pp. 148 - 156.
4. Powhatan W. James, George W. Truett: A Biography (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1945), p. 3.
5. D.D. Tidwell, "Dr. George W. Truett," The Texas Grand Lodge Magazine, March 1960, p. 113, and letter from James D. Ward of Waco, Texas, December 9, 1992.
6. Melton, Religious Leaders of America, pp. 86- 87.
7. Letter from James D. Ward of Waco, December 9, 1992.
8. Melton, Religious Leaders of America, p. 409.
9. James T. Draper Jr. Authority: The Critical Issue for Southern Baptists (Old Tappan: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1984), p. 64.
10. Sunday, September-December 1991, pp. 8-12.
11. Unpublished manuscript from Jim Tresner, ed., The Oklahoma Mason, n.d.
12. Denslow, 10,000 Famous Freemasons, vol. III, pp. 249 -250.
13. The New Age Magazine, September 1968, pp. 35-36.
14. Letter from Ray D. Carpenter, Albuquerque, N.M., November 6, 1992.
15. Ankerberg and Weldon, The Facts on the Masonic Lodge, p. 44.
16. Ibid.
17. Letter on file.

...Finally - from: http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Forum/7849/family.html:

Freemasonry has ever been the patron of learning. Its votaries long ago discovered that ignorance was the mother of nearly all of the evils and dangerous environments that afflicted humanity; that education dispelled this evil, set free the victims of its influence, and put a smile where terror and despair had planted sorrow. In its unending efforts to eliminate such human afflictions, Freemasonry has perhaps performed its greatest labor, breaking down the walls of religious hatred and intolerance that for too long divided men into opposing sects and hostile camps.

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