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 the report, then personal conscience may be used."
Baptist Press universalism, Freemasonry
By David Winfrey 4/15/94
ATLANTA (BP)--Home Mission Board directors adopted a statement condemning universalism at their annual spring meeting while rejecting a request to study whether Masons should be prohibited from serving as home missionaries.
The statement on universalism came in response to criticism of the board's report on Freemasonry presented to the Southern Baptist Convention in Houston last
“May this forever and eternally be very clear," said board chairman Brad Allen following the unanimous vote to accept the statement, prepared by the board's administrative committee.
President: Larry Lewis told Baptist Press, "The obvious consensus of our board is that they do not want further involvement with the Freemasonry issue and that we have dealt with this issue as thoroughly and adequately as we are able."
Messengers to the 1993 SBC meeting adopted the recommendation that many Masonic teachings are not compatible with Christianity and Southern Baptist doctrine, while other teachings are. Among those things found incompatible was that universalism “permeates the writings of many Masonic authors."
The recommendation stated membership in a Masonic Order must: be a matter of personal conscience, but exhorted "Southern Baptists to prayerfully and carefully evaluate Freemasonry in light of the lordship of Christ, the teachings of the Scripture, and the findings of the findings of this report as led by the Holy Spirit of God."
The April l3 statement by the board reads, in part: "It has never been the intention of the HMB to suggest that individual Southern Baptists may feel justified in affiliating with such (universalist) teaching on the basis of personal conscience.“
"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,“ the statement continued.
"Remember, Abraham used his personal conscience and it produced an Ismhael,” said Allen, pastor of First Baptist Church of Duncan, Okla.
Eleven directors signed and, during a break in the meeting, distributed a document intended to clarify their interpretation of the HMB report on Freemasonry. The document said, “Southern Baptists cannot ignore the spread of an erroneous gospel by a group numbering 4 million in the United States. It is our strong conviction that membership in a Masonic lodge should be avoided."
However, passage of the statement on universalism apparently addressed their concerns, because the document by the ll directors was not presented to the full board. Wyndham Cook Jr., of Magnolia, Ark. , said the adopted statement should satisfy him and the other signers. "It sounded like enough," he said. "I'll have to read it to be sure."
The editor of a Masonic journal, however, told Baptist Press later that Freemasonry does not teach universalism or any other religious belief. Masonic writers‘ religious beliefs do not reflect the organization's teachings, he said.
"Freemasonry, despite what other people may say, does not make theological statements of this sort or any sort, other than the belief in a deity," said John Boettjer, of the Scottish Rite Journal of Freemasonry. "That's as far as we go theologically. "
"It certainly, I hope, does not make us a religion to say that religion is the province of the individual," he added.
Director Tommy Futrell, pastor of Southside Baptist Church in Johnson City, Tenn. , was among those who said they want to be done with the issue. ‘When we walk away from it, I want it laid aside by this body for good."
Freemasonry critic Larry Holly called the statement "a step in the right direction, but it does not begin to address the problems with Freemasonry.“
Holly predicted Freemasonry "will continue to plague the Home Mission Board until they do address it straightforwardly." '
"In an attempt to avoid the issue they're only perpetuating the issue." h said. He added, however he has no plans to bring the matter before the SBC annual convention in June in Orlando, Fla.
After the statement’s unanimous adoption, director Jim Guenther, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Schenectady, N.Y., made a motion that the administrative committee study barring Masons from serving as home missionaries.
Director John Avent, pastor of Northrich Baptist Church in Brownwood, Texas, opposed the request, saying the board had more important matters. "The people in my church and the lost people in my community, they don't care about this issue.“
The motion appeared to pass 30-29 until board secretary Linda Principe, of Brandenburg, Ky. , said she had not voted and wished to vote against it. The ti required the action of chairman Allen, who also voted against the motion.
In defeating the motion, Allen said he favored the use of the interview process that would reveal the views of missionary candidates. “If they stand with the doctrine of universalism, turn them down."
After that vote, director Wendell Estep, pastor of First Baptist Church in Columbia, S.C. , said he was burdened to see the board divided after uniting in its earlier vote. "I think we really need to come together to make an impact for Christ."
Director Everett Geis, pastor of First Baptist Church of Delhi, La., said, however, "We can disagree as long as we're not disagreeable.“
In a related matter, HMB President Larry Lewis told directors that all copies of the agency's study of Freemasonry had been distributed, and no more would be produced.