The new Archbishop of Canterbury has said he believes Christianity and Freemasonry are "incompatible" and has refused to appoint clergymen to senior posts because they are members of the Brotherhood.
Dr Rowan Williams, who becomes head of the Church of England next month, told The Independent that he is not in favour of ministers being Masons because it is a "secret organisation" whose views are questionable.
He also voiced doubts in a letter to Hugh Sinclair, who has been investigating the Brotherhood: "I have real misgivings about the compatibility of Masonry and Christian profession ... I have resisted the appointment of known Masons to certain senior posts."
Dr Williams' comments will renew controversy about the Freemasons. In the past 50 years some of its most senior members have been in the Church's higher echelons, and there have been links between the two organisations for centuries. Thousands of leading clergymen and churchgoers are among its 350,000 British members.
The Rev Gregory Cameron, chaplain to Dr Williams, said: "He questions whether it's appropriate for Christian ministers to belong to secret organisations. He also has some anxiety about the spiritual content of Masonry."
A spokesman for the Archbishop said he was "worried about the ritual elements in Freemasonry – which some have seen as possibly Satanically inspired – and how that sits uneasily with Christian belief". He continued: "The other idea is that because they are a society, there could be a network that involves mutual back-scratching, which is something he would be greatly opposed to."
A spokesman for the Freemasons in England said: "As far as we are concerned, there is no incompatibility between Christianity and our organisation whatsoever."
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