By Sharon Mager BCM/D Correspondent
COLLEGE PARK, Md. –Should Christians join fraternities and secret societies? That’s a question a group of pastors and lay leaders pondered, discussed, and at times, hotly debated at a Prince George’s Baptist Association sponsored round table discussion at Berwyn Baptist Church, College Park.
Victor Kirk, pastor of Sharon Bible Fellowship, Lanham, moderated the discussion. Participants were: Alton Roundtree, Past Master of Redemption Prince Hall Masonic Lodge No. 24 in Washington, D.C. and author of several books about Freemasonry; Dale Wafer, pastor of Greater Harvest Baptist Church, Washington, D.C.; Matthew Kirk, a member of Sharon Bible Fellowship Church, Lanham; Sylvelt “Bishop” Walker, elder of Golgotha Church on the Rock, Washington, D.C.; Curtis Morris, pastor of Bethany Baptist Church, Chester, Pennsylvania; Vernon Miller, pastor of Evergreen Baptist Church, Washington, D.C.; Stephen Chandler, pastor of Destiny Harvest Church, Deputy Grand Mason Wellington Gibson Darin Poullard, pastor of Fort Washington Baptist Church, Washington, D.C.
Darin Poullard shared the definition of a fraternity – a brotherhood or organization fostering companionship and brotherhood dedicated to the intellectual, physical and social development as members.
Poullard said he polled his congregation in Fort Washington and asked them what they are the benefits to belonging to such an organization. The overwhelming response, he shared was the idea of brotherhood and sisterhood.
Curtis Morris agrees that brotherhood and belonging are a huge part of the appeal.
“I use the fraternity as an opportunity to share Christ,” Curtis Morris said. “It opens doors. I’ve been the best man at weddings, presided at funerals and ministered to families.”
Several panelists mentioned ungodly activity in fraternities. Morris said some chapters do engage in that, some don’t.
“Yeah, we have people who act foolish and violate the principles of the organization. We see hazing, drunkenness and sexual behavior that does not please God. I see the same thing in churches,” Morris said.
“It is nearly impossible to blame a structure for what individual people do. That’s similar to people blaming God for the actions of so-called Christians,” Matthew Kirk said.
Kirk said the problem is many churches aren’t doing what fraternities are. They don’t have strong ties with the community. “We’re (fraternity brothers) cleaning the street, feeding the homeless, tutoring, giving, educational assistance – what I have found by being a member of my fraternity is that it’s a vehicle for ministry. I don’t serve because I’m a Sigma, but because I’m a Christian. My brotherhood came easy because of being a Christian. I know who my Father is. I pledged to an idea and it was an idea I already believed in – scholarship, brotherhood and service.
“My organization doesn’t make me, I make my organization. Those letters don’t define me, I define those letters.”
Steven Chandler said his concern was not with the negative connotations. His concern is with the term “brotherhood.” “I’m not clear how a believer in Christ can call someone who is an unbeliever a brother. The connotation brings the idea of the same origin. The origin is not Christ. Brotherhood in the church means you have the same father.”
Curtis Morris said that using that logic, then no Christian should be part of the fraternal order of police, football teams – we should lock ourselves in church. Jesus spent an inordinate amount of time with sinners.
“We’re not effective when we sit in nice buildings and segregate other folks. We almost become a secret society ourselves. We want to be fishers of men. We have become more keepers of the aquarium. I go and sit and fellowship with guys in prison. I fellowship with drug dealers and murderers. I call them brothers.”
Dale Wafer agreed with Chandler. “There are two classes of family the family of God and the family of the devil. I witness to the Bloods and Crips but I never considered them brothers. But I’ve loved them and ministered to them.You don’t have to be a blood to reach a blood.”
Poullard spoke regarding Freemasonry, saying Masons teach that all men are spiritual brothers, and that Masons teach deism.
Past Master Mason Alton Roundtree strongly disagreed. “We encourage each individual to pursue faith but there is no spiritual god of Freemasons. We don’t teach any religion at all.”
Poullard took offense with the Masonic term “Worshipful Master” that refers to a masonic lodge leader. “How do we as Christians justify that title?”
Rountdree explained that the title is simply ancient word usage that goes back to England stone masons in the 1700’s and those titles would be found in print at that time.
Dale Waifer said Masons have a temple, prayers, and a god – the “great architect of the universe.”
“Anytime you invoke a deity, anytime you invoke prayer, it’s a religion,” Walker said. “If Masonry is right it has to be the one the God that Christians proclaim.”
“There is no reason why Christians shouldn’t be Masons. We don’t teach religion or theology. Probably 85 to 90 percent of all Masons are members of some Christian church. We encourage Masons to go to church and to be faithful.”
Roundtree responded Freemasonry is concerned with moral and spiritual values, self-improvement, and helping their communities with charitable endeavors. Masons take oaths to be good to their brothers in Masonry, their families, and all people.They are taught that they are part of the brotherhood of man, under the fatherhood of God.
Roundtree said Freemasonry has been under attack with the same arguments for years. “We are not a secret organization. We don’t have any secrets. Thanks to the Internet they’ve all been exposed except for passwords and grips,” he said with a chuckle.
Wafer said Christians must prayerfully consider the beliefs of any organization they join.