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For nearly a year, the Interfaith Witness Department of the Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention had studied Freemasonry.

From 1717 until today, Freemasonry has insisted on the right of every person to worship God according to the dictates of individual conscience.Southern Baptists who are Masons realize there is no conflict between their church and the fraternity.

Home Mission Board president Larry L. Lewis said more money ($111,000) had been spent on this study than any other study ever undertaken by the board.

We don't win people to Christ by condemning them. Considering other pressing needs facing Baptists, I question whether the study was worth the cost.

Being a Mason and Southern Baptist, I am pleased the Southern Baptists did not embarrass themselves by yielding to an extremist splinter group whose demands run so counter to the convention's traditional support of the freedom of each Southern Baptist's personal conscience and the autonomy of each local Baptist church.

One messenger said, ``It breaks my heart to see these kinds of things come before us and divide us again and again. We should settle this once and for all.'

And that is exactly what the convention did. By show of ballots, the messengers voted overwhelmingly to approve the Home Mission Board's report to view membership in Masonry as ``a matter of personal conscience.'

This is, of course, what Freemasonry has been saying all along.\ Marvin L. Richardson\ Greensboro

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