Lutherans Informed about Lodges (LIL)

What have Conservative Lutherans said about Lodges?



From the FAQ section of the LCMS website:

Q. What is the Synod’s view of membership in lodges, fraternal organizations and fraternities?

A. It has consistently been the position of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod throughout its history that membership in the Masonic Lodge is incompatible with membership in a synodical congregation. Article X of the bylaws of the Synod outlines the scriptural rationale for this position and the pastoral procedures to be followed in dealing with uses of lodge membership. The Commission on Theology and Church Relations has prepared a detailed discussion of the reasons for the Synod’s opposition to membership in the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons.  You may read this evaluation online.

There are fraternal organizations (e.g., Kiwanis, Lions Club) or community clubs that do not have the objectionable features of the Lodges in their rites, ceremonials, and membership requirements. There are generally no objections to membership in such organizations.

Since there are so many college fraternities, and since their membership requirements vary, the Synod’s Commission on Theology and Church Relations has advised that judgments must be left to individuals based on the particular case.


From the FAQ section of the WELS website:

Joining the Freemasons

I grew up going to a WELS school and church. I have always been told that we are not to join the Freemasons. I have a friend now that has joined. I don’t know what to tell him because whatever I say to him he comes back that our church is against everything. Could I get some references and some information on why this is against the church? Thank you.

Our synod’s position toward Freemasonry is long standing and consistent. You can read papers at the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Essay File from the 1930’s and 1940’s that express our concern about the Masons. While those papers are decades-old, the content is still applicable because Freemasonry has not changed. I would call your attention to another paper in a different section of the Essay File that shows a side-by-side contrast between lodges and biblical teaching.

The Masonic Lodge and its affiliates are essentially deistic religious organizations. They strongly maintain that there is a Creator God who rewards good and punishes evil but do not formally acknowledge God as a gracious giver of salvation through the work of Jesus Christ. Nor do they acknowledge the Triune God as the only true God, but allow that most any “Supreme Being” embraced by any Mason may be seen as a legitimate deity. To them salvation is not by grace alone through faith in Christ alone, but based on good works. They also maintain that the supreme deity (“Architect of the Universe”) may be and is worshiped in many forms and under many names by many religions aside from Christianity. Additionally, the oaths and rituals of the lodge have many features that consistent and conservative Bible students have long found incompatible with Christianity... This negative appraisal of the Masonic Lodge is shared by a number of church bodies, and is not the conclusion of only a few like the WELS.

So although the Masons somewhat promote civic righteousness and undertake certain praiseworthy projects in society, we maintain that a Christian would compromise clear Bible teachings by becoming a member of that lodge. We are aware that people have joined such groups for the sake of business connections as well as a sense of social responsibility and say they really don’t care for or think of the religious aspects of the organization. But we maintain that to do so is still a compromise of truth, easily or inevitably causes others to stumble spiritually, and links the person to a false religious group. The Bible often testifies against such an attitude and action.

Bottom line: to be a WELS member with the public confession involved with that membership and to be a Mason with that public confession are incompatible. We owe members of masonry a loving and courteous reply that will not compromise truth. Refraining from membership in that network of organizations and providing patient but consistent testimony to the falsehood the Masons embrace or tolerate would be right and fitting.

As far as the perception that WELS is “against everything,” I would respond this way: we are “for” everything that is scriptural; we are “for” everything that is godly. Taking a stand for God and the Bible will naturally mean that we are “against” whatever is unscriptural and ungodly. It is unfortunate if some people associate WELS as only being “against” things in life. You can help dispel that inaccurate picture by explaining what we are “for.” God help you to do just that.

From the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) We Believe, Teach and Confess web page:

10. Church Fellowship
We confess that Scripture requires that church fellowship be recognized and practiced where there is a mutual confession of and commitment to the pure Marks of the Church, the Word and Sacraments. Jesus Christ is the Head of His Church, and He governs and teaches it by His Word, but deviation from the teaching of God's Word is not to be tolerated in the church. We therefore reject unionism, that is, church fellowship with adherents of false doctrine, and ecumenical endeavors which compromise the pure doctrine of God’s Word. We also reject participation or membership in religious organizations which have features that are in conflict with the Christian faith, such as the Masonic Lodge and similar organizations. At the same time we also condemn separatism, i.e., the refusal to acknowledge and practice fellowship when there is agreement in doctrine. See John 8:31-32, 1 Cor. 1:10, Eph. 2:19-20, Matt. 7:15-20, Rom. 16:17, Gal. 1:6-9, 2 John 9-11, Matt. 23:8, 1 Pet. 4:11, 2 Cor. 6:14-18. [Emphasis added.]

Also from the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS), from the “Questions and Answers” section of their web site:

Lodge Membership

Q: What is the main reason our Synod objects to members belonging to the Masonic Lodge?  Is membership in the Animal Lodges (i.e., Elks, Moose, Eagles, etc.) to be viewed the same way?

A: It is the firm teaching of Scripture that everything we do as Christians—including the organizations we join—not destroy our profession of faith. We are called to acknowledge Christ alone as the one true God and Savior of the world (Matt. 10:32,33). Those who do not worship the Trinity but claim to be followers of  “God” on the basis of their morality and ritualistic sincerity are actually heathen (John 14:6). There is only one way of salvation: belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. His righteousness credited to the sinner’s account by the pure mercy of God is what makes one acceptable for the eternal abode of heaven (Rom. 3:21-24). If membership in an organization compromises that confession, such as to insist on salvation by works (Gal. 2:16, 21), or the view that all who are “religious” in some way will make it to the celestial mansion, then a Christian must refuse to join (2 Cor. 6:14, 15; Rom. 16:17).

Does the Masonic Lodge fall into this category? One of Freemasonry’s esteemed leaders has written:  “The religion of Masonry is not sectarian. It admits men from every creed... Its religion is that general one of nature and primitive revelation—handed down to us from some ancient and patriarchal priesthood—in which all men may agree and in which no men can differ” (Albert Mackay in An Encyclopedia of Freemasonry).

Other evidence for the Masonic Lodge being a generalized RELIGION and not just a social club or a community-involvement society can be seen by the following: the “Sacred Book” symbol (this is to represent not just the Bible, but all the “sacred books” of various religions); the name for God in the York Rite is “Jah-Bul-On,” a conglomeration of Jehovah (Jah), the Assyrian Baal (Bul), and the Egyptian sun god “On”; the giving of the lambskin (or white apron) is given to symbolize the “purity of life and conduct” by which a member is said to gain admission into the “Celestial Lodge” above; burial rites which teach immortality and resurrection to bliss apart from faith in Christ; prayers offered, but not exclusively “in Jesus’ name”; and their oath of secrecy which speaks of grotesque dismemberment and yet is unnecessary and morally wrong.

Many other objectionable elements of Masonry could be enumerated. At the same time, one would not wish to disparage the many fine humanitarian gestures made by this organization, like the operating of the Shriner hospitals and clinics. Suffice it to say, though, a Christian who wishes to take his profession of faith seriously will not attempt to join the Masons, since it jeopardizes the teaching of the Trinity and the central Biblical doctrine of justification. If one cares to join organizations for purely social reasons and for helping the community, there are plenty of others available that can be recommended: Rotary, Kiwanis, Lion’s Club, etc.

The Animal Lodges are not as overt in displaying a religious feature as do the Masons, yet membership in these needs to be forbidden as well. These are just offshoots of Freemasonry and have a number of things in common with it. For example, they do have unchristian rituals, initiation rites and burial rites which are contrary to Scripture. Keeping with the “generalized religion” of Deism, the Animal Lodges frequently employ prayers which omit references specifically to Jesus Christ, in spite of how the term “Lord” may readily appear. Remember, many false doctrines have crept into religious circles not so much because of what was said, but because of what was not said.

From the 2016 Handbook of the LCMS


(a) Pastors and congregations alike must avoid membership or participation in any organization that in its objectives, ceremonies, or practices is inimical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ or the faith and life of the Christian church. It is the solemn, sacred, and God-given duty of every pastor properly to instruct his people concerning the sinfulness of all organizations that

  1. explicitly or implicitly deny the Holy Trinity, the deity of Christ, or the vicarious atonement;
  2. promise spiritual light apart from that revealed in the Holy Scripture;
  3. attach spiritual or eternal rewards to the works or virtues of men; and/or
  4. embrace ideologies or principles that clearly violate an express teaching of the Holy Scriptures concerning the relationships of men to one another.

The complete bylaws regarding “Fraternal and Other Organizations” may be found on pages 142-144 of the 2016 LCMS Handbook.


From the 1932 “Brief Statement of the Doctrinal Position of the Missouri Synod”

Of God

4. On the basis of the Holy Scriptures we teach the sublime article of the Holy Trinity; that is, we teach that the one true God, Deut. 6:4; 1 Cor. 8:4, is the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, three distinct persons, but of one and the same divine essence, equal in power, equal in eternity, equal in majesty, because each person possesses the one divine essence entire, Col. 2:9, Matt. 28:19.  We hold that all teachers and communions that deny the doctrine of the Holy Trinity are outside the pale of the Christian Church.  The Triune God is the God who is gracious to man, John 3:16-18, 1 Cor. 12:3.   Since the Fall, no man can believe in the “fatherhood” of God except he believe in the eternal Son of God, who became man and reconciled us to God by His vicarious satisfaction, 1 John 2:23; John 14:6. Hence we warn against Unitarianism, which in our country has to a great extent impenetrated the sects and is being spread particularly also through the influence of the lodges. [Emphasis added.]

The entire “Brief Statement” may be viewed at the Project Wittenberg site:



From a doctrinal essay titled, “When Do Use the Doctrine of the Church Properly?” by Professor Theo. Hoyer. 
This essay was given June 15-19, 1942, at the 41st Convention of the Minnesota District of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Missouri, Ohio and Other States at St. Paul, Minnesota.

“It’s sadly true that men will rather believe evil than good of their fellowmen; and I need not go to any length to prove that pastors are even more than others the victims of that propensity; and there are only too many church members who think, when a pastor is slandered: Where there is so much smoke there is bound to be some fire. Untold harm is done the Church by that sort of cowardly action.  Let no Christian be ashamed of his pastor when people throw filth and spit poison, and the newspapers drag his name in the dirt, because he testifies against lodges, or against prevalent sins, or refuses to bury everything that’s dead.  Let us back up our pastor under such conditions; and share his dishonor, which is an honor to him and to his backers in God’s sight. ” [Emphasis added.]

The entire essay may be viewed at Confessional Lutheran Papers



From the LCMS Committee on Organizations (COO) Evaluation of Freemasonry:

The entire Masonic ritual is cast in a religious mold. The ritual provides for an altar, a chaplain, and religious services. It accepts all “Volumes of Sacred Law” as of equally divine origin. The lodge is “erected to God” and “dedicated to the Holy Saints John.” The candidate assumes his obligation “in the presence of Almighty God” and prays “So help me God and enable me to keep steadfast in the performance of the same.”

He receives an apron, “the emblem of innocence” to constantly remind him “of the purity of life” essential to gaining admission “into the Celestial Lodge Above.” In the third degree, still seeking “more Light” after being instructed in the first two degrees, he is conducted through a quasi-regeneration drama to symbolize his “new birth.”

Masonry denies that regeneration is only by the Spirit of God working through the Means of Grace. It denies the distinctive character of the Bible as God’s Word. It ignores the depravity of man and denies the consequences of sin, making irrelevant the deity of Christ and His substitutionary suffering the death. It repudiates as narrow intolerance salvation by grace alone, through faith in the blood of Christ. It binds men with oaths more sacred than allegiance to church, family, nation. It buries every one of its members in good standing with the expressed confidence in reunion in the Grand Lodge Above.

Ignoring the innate sinfulness of the human heart, Masonry addresses itself to the perfecting of the natural state of man. The will of God is not the perfecting of man’s natural state but the redeeming of it from sin and eternal damnation. God has established the preaching of the Gospel, not to effect civic righteousness, but to graft man into the Body of Christ.

The entire report may be viewed at the LIL page COO on Masons.





From the LCMS Committee on Organizations (COO) report on the Order of Elks:


“Although the Order has less emphasis upon religious philosophy in its ritual than Freemasonry, nevertheless the principles of the Order are promoted as meriting the approval and blessing of God.  The Order is to be commended for its patriotism and its benevolent contributions to society.  The sincere Christian will, however, be concerned that his desire to approach God only through Jesus Christ is ignored, in spite of the fact that he had been promised there would be nothing to conflict with his religious convictions. He obligates himself not to introduce at Lodge meetings anything of ‘sectarian character’ only to discover that whole ceremonies are built upon the sectarian premise of universal salvation which he cannot accept.  If used, the poem ‘Thanatopsis’ confuses him since it denies all immortality, while ritual references give assurance of immortality.  He hears of the ‘redeeming grace and power’ of God, but sees it applied to men who reject the Redeemer. As a Christian he believes that his good works do not merit God's approval but are simply a response of thanksgiving and love to God for God’s gift of salvation in Christ. (1 John 4:19)  Yet at the graveside of a brother Elk he hears that observing and advancing the principles of Elkdom merit God’s blessings and approval.  The Christian is further disturbed when the Bible is used only as a Book of Law, certainly a lesser purpose than that for which it was given—to make men ‘wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.’ (2 Timothy 3:15)  Evaluated on the basis of the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith, the religious themes in the Elks’ Ritual—the prayers, hymns, funeral and memorial services—are incompatible with confessional Christianity. Officers of local Elk Lodges sometimes insist that some rituals are omitted and that funeral services are falling into disuse.  Whether omitted or not, however, these forms still define the Elks’ religious philosophy. Initiated members obligate themselves to these and all other ritual forms. Membership in the organization would compromise the public profession of a Christian’s faith, something which he cannot do in good conscience.” [Emphasis added.]


The entire report may be viewed at the LIL page COO on Elks.







 From a WELS conference paper titled, “So What Does the Bible Say About the Lodge?”


“Common practice in all lodges forbids members to speak of Christ as the exclusive source of forgiveness and eternal life.  Such practice, they say, is too narrow and sectarian.  Assuming that all lodge members comply with this—and the Grand Lodges do enforce it—we will find the lodge member in precarious situation.  ‘Whoever disowns me before men,’ Jesus warns, ‘I will disown him before my Father in heaven.’ Mt 10:33.

We will want to share God’s warning against sinful lodge practices wherever we see the enticement of membership leading someone to a new, strange, deistic altar.

The best way to accomplish this is to keep people away right from the start. It may or may not surprise us to find out that even the elders and other leaders of our congregations do not realize the seriousness of the lodge problem.  We can begin by showing our spiritual co-workers a comparison of lodge lies with God’s truth.  If our leaders are convinced by God’s Word of the dangers, the rest of the congregation will more easily follow.

Yet, no matter how insistent our efforts, we will find some involved with a lodge.  Yes, even among our own members!  We may have weak members who don’t see the problem, or not so weak members who have simply hidden their membership until we discover it somehow.

Even more common, is the interested prospect who finds out in adult class that we accuse the lodge of teaching sinful anti-Christian doctrine.  Naturally he wonders why.  Hopefully he has seen enough of our Biblical teaching to give us a chance to explain.

In either case, member or prospect, we share what the Bible says about the lodge.  We do not want someone to risk having Jesus deny him before the heavenly Father, just because we are too timid to speak up, or too fearful of losing a member.” [Emphasis added.]

The entire conference paper may be viewed at the LIL page WELS Conference paper.