In his Journal for 18 June 1773, having read a French tract on Freemasonry, John Wesley wrote: 'I incline to think it is a genuine account... If it be, what an amazing banter upon all mankind is Freemasonry! And what a secret is it which so many concur to keep! From what motive? Through fear - or shame to own it?' His nephew Samuel Wesley was later to be a notable Freemason, becoming Grand Organist and composing the Grand Anthem for the foundation of the United Grand Lodge of England in 1813. Among other Wesleyans later in the century who were Freemasons was Sir James Meek.

H. Kingsley Wood initiated a Petition to the Grand Lodge for a Grant of Warrant for an Epworth Lodge. Petitioners included J. Alfred Sharp, Owen S. Watkins and Joseph Johnson, the PM Book Steward (who, in 1925 wrote the definitive Freemasonry: its Vision and Call). Approval was granted and the Epworth Lodge (no. 3789) was consecrated in the Strand Temple in 1917. Until 1921 it met at Westminster Central Hall. The Lodge banner features H. Perlee Parker's painting of the Epworth Rectory fire.

In 1919 the Lodge commissioned a stained glass window for Wesley's Chapel. During the Fifth Methodist Ecumenical Conference in London in 1925, Dr. Sharp (then President of the WM Conference and Assistant Grand Chaplain) held a Masonic Banquet for all Methodist Freemasons, followed next day by a Masonic service at Wesley's Chapel. In 1927 Charles Penny Hunt (author of The Menace of Freemasonry to the Christian Faith) attacked Freemasonry in the Pastoral Session of the WM Conference. Freemasonry survived the attack, its defence being led by the WM President William Hodson Smith. Other notable Methodist Freemasons were Frank O. Salisbury, W.W. Pocock, and Sir Horace Brooks Marshall (Lord Mayor of the City, 1919, and Past Grand Treasurer).

The Methodist Conference of 1984 responded to a request from the Cornwall Synod for guidance and in 1985 adopted a report of the Faith and Order Committee on Freemasonry which expressed unease about its secrecy, rituals, ambiguity and emphasis on works rather than grace. Its advice was that Methodists should not become Freemasons and that those who were already Freemasons should reconsider. A Standing Order was introduced restricting the use of Methodist premises for Masonic purposes. In 1996, in response to changes in Masonic practice and claims of discrimination against some Methodist Freemasons, a further report was adopted, more sympathetic in tone, which repudiated discrimination and insisted that being a Freemason was not a bar to membership, but substantially came to the same conclusions as in 1985. Membership of the Epworth Lodge is no longer exclusively Methodist. There is a continuing Association of Methodist Freemasons, and Lodges for old boys of some Methodist schools.

  • C.H. Crookshank, in WHS Proceedings, 7 pp.163-64
  • Conference Agenda, 1981 p.296; 1985 pp.628-35; 1996 pp.179-89
  • Nigel McMurray, 'Freemasonry, Methodism and Wesley's Chapel' in Journal of the London and South East Branch of the Wesley Historical Society, 62 (2000) pp.4-16