Charles Fox Parham and Freemasonry
Parham was probably a member of the Freemasons at some time in his life. The 1930 biography on Parham (page 32) says “Mr. Parham belonged to a lodge and carried an insurance on his life. He felt now that he should give this up also.” The question is one of timing, the extent of his involvement, and how much of their teachings became merged with his theology. From his wife’s comments, it appears he was originally involved because of the good deeds they did in looking after their fellow man (something he did not feel the churches did a good job of doing), not because of their beliefs. Because many in the Pentecostal movement oppose the Freemasons so bitterly, some have said that he left the organization when he started his “Full Gospel” ministry. This would fit with the comment in the biography. What is clear is that, at the peak of his ministry (between 1900 and mid-1907) he had little time for involvement in any organizations. His bible school and his preaching were an all consuming task. Even his active later ministry left little free time for activities like lodges. Some feel there is evidence that Parham was still a member of the Freemasons in 1928 (they feel he “appeared to still have Masonic tendencies”), but source documents for this are not quoted. They may be drawing an inference from a letter that Parham wrote back home from his Palestine trip where he said “I am going to bring a gavel home with me … I am going to present it to the Masonic lodge in Baxter Springs with my respects.”(p373) Yet if he had been a member then, it is likely that his wife’s earlier comment in the same book, where it tells of Parham’s decision to leave the lodge, would have been different. She said “I had been taught in the Friend’s church not to believe in secret organizations, and was very glad for his decision” [i.e. to leave the lodge].(p32) It is just as likely that the gavel was simply a present for friends he had known since his original involvement. If Parham was involved in Freemasonry, the ultimate question is what the level of his involvement was, when he was involved, and if there are any indications of these beliefs in his ministry, especially during the period of his highest influence in the early pentecostal movement (from 1900 to 1907). Lower level involvement in smaller communities can be more of a social involvement than a belief in or an understanding of their principles (as it appears was the situation with Parham’s early involvement with the lodge).