PREACHER WHO REFUSED TO RENOUNCE MASONRY
As Masons today are forced by fundamentalist extremists to choose between their Church and Freemasonry, an anecdote from the late nineteenth century carries a particularly significant moral of courage, conciliation, and cooperation. In 1884 or 1885, an incident happened in Iowa, an event probably without parallel in Masonic history, that indicated the kind of Freemasons who lived then. This influenced Freemasonry in the territory now known as Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.
Moses F. Shinn, a Methodist minister in Keokuk, Iowa, a member of Ft. Madison Lodge No. 13, is the principal character in this story. A powerful leader in his church and his Lodge, he was greatly loved by all. There came a time when his church coworkers, persons uninformed as to Masonry and its teaching, sought to increase his usefulness to the church by requiring him to renounce Masonry and devote all his energies to the church. At the next general conference of the church, a resolution to that end was adopted, and the church waited for Brother Shinn to respond.
Brother Shinn sat in thought for what seemed to be many minutes. The situation was serious for him. Unless he renounced Masonry, he would be separated from the work of God to which he had hoped to give his life. Also, he would be deprived of the livelihood for which he had prepared. What did Masonry offer in place of that which he must sacrifice?
After the stillness became oppressive, Bro.'. Shinn rose to his feet, looked into the faces of his friends, then spoke in a clear voice: "I have for many years endeavored to perform my duty as a faithful minister of Christ, and I believed I had extended the field of my usefulness, without violation of my vows to the church, by becoming a loyal and zealous Freemason.
"Now you demand that I renounce Masonry or retire from the church. The decision you require is a harsh and painful one. I must sever relations that have been pleasant to me and, I hope, acceptable to others. I have friends in both the church and Freemasonry from whom I wish not to be separated, but you have made the requirement. It is not for me to question whether that requirement is right or wrong, wise or just. So, at your bidding, I separate myself from the Methodist Episcopal Church."
Bro.'. Shinn then sat down to control his emotions.
The silence was oppressive, the Conference was stunned. Finally, one who had been active in proposing the resolution rose to his feet, walked to Bro.'. Shinn, extended his hand and said, "My brother, there must be something good about Freemasonry or you, whom we all love so well, would not adhere to it so tenaciously. I want to be a Mason. Will you recommend me and present my petition to your Lodge?" Others of the gathering followed the first.
One of these, Jonas W. Brown of Eagle Lodge No. 12 of Keokuk, became the third Grand Master of Idaho. Another, John C. Ainsworth, became the third Grand Master of Oregon.
At this time one may wonder what influence Bro.'. Shinn had upon the lives of others who witnessed the incident or were familiar with it.
WHEREVER there is a human cause we are certain to find Masonry, for it is the fundamental base of all truly liberal associations. Thank all of my Brothers and tell them that I am always with them, with all my heart, and that forever I will pride myself upon my Masonic connection."
Giuseppe Garibaldi, November 1880, Milan, Italy Dedication of the Mentana Monument