FREEMASONRY is still common in the Church of Scotland despite calls more than a decade ago for Kirk members to "reconsider" their position with the secret organisation.
According to a number of ministers, membership of the society has continued unabated since the Kirk’s general assembly heard in 1989 that there were "very real theological difficulties" with Freemasonry.
There also were claims that Freemasons within the Kirk should be able to keep their membership of the society a secret if they wished.
The issue was first raised in 1987 when the Kirk - aware that thousands of members had an affiliation to both the Church and the craft - undertook a two-year study into Freemasonry. In 1989, it asked its members to reconsider involvement with Freemasonry, but stopped short of branding the faith and the craft incompatible.
However, the findings of the study stated that there were "very real theological difficulties" with Freemasonry and complained that the name of Jesus seemed to be suppressed in Freemason worship.
In an interview with Life and Work, the Kirk’s magazine, the Rev Andrew Paterson, an auxiliary minister at St Leonard’s Church in Dunfermline, who is also senior grand chaplain in the Grand Lodge, said the Church was "very compatible" with Freemasonry. He said: "I haven’t got any problems with Freemasonry at all and never have had. I think it is very compatible with the Church.
"I find my work being a minister in the Kirk and the enjoyment I get from being a Mason compatible. Freemasonry isn’t a substitute for the church or worship, and I can’t comprehend anybody saying it is anti-Christ. That is demonic."
The Rev John Jenkinson, an auxiliary minister in Falkirk presbytery and a past senior grand chaplain, said he had "no idea" what the problem was.
He said: "I am a past senior grand chaplain, which many Church of Scotland ministers have been before me - some of them Moderators. Suddenly they are persona non grata." Another minister, who asked not to be named, said the Kirk’s ruling on Freemasonry in 1989 had been largely ignored.
He said: " There were people who were angry the Kirk had seen fit to rule in this way, and some elders resigned their eldership."
The Rev Douglas Galbraith, secretary of the Kirk’s panel on doctrine, refused to be drawn into the debate.
However, Professor Robert Davidson, a former Moderator and one-time chairman of the panel which looked at Freemasonry, said: "I would see no reason for the church to change its earlier stance which is really that they should think twice and consider their position."