“Churches and loyal orders must forge greater links”

I notice that Canon Ian Ellis the editor of The Church of Ireland Gazette has written a piece in todays Belfast News Letter under the heading: “Churches and loyal orders must forge greater links”.

Canon Ellis goes on to suggest: “A Churches and Loyal Orders Forum for such a dialogue should be established as soon as possible to promote mutual understanding between the Loyal Orders and the churches.”

While Canon Ellis suggests that there is a “growing ‘disconnect’ between them and the institutional churches that needs to be remedied”, he does not specify why or how that ‘disconnect” has arisen.

Perhaps I can suggest some reasons why that ‘disconnect’ has arisen?

1. The violent behaviour of Orangemen over the Drumcree dispute was not just an embarrassment to the Church of Ireland, but to all the Christian churches.

2. The violence associated with parades, particularly in Belfast, in recent years has resulted in many churches of every denomination at least unhappy, if not unwilling, to accommodate ‘Orange Services’.

3. The way some Lodges and even District Lodges behave by making demands, contrary to their own rules, when arranging ‘Orange Services’ has created an unwillingness on the part of Ministers to be associated with such events.

4. The association of the Orange Order with alcohol and gambling, does not appear to be in accord with the Christian Basis expounded by the Institution. Many Orange Halls have Licensed clubs, while some have shebeens. Some take lottery money, contrary to the decision of Grand Lodge, and others run gambling dens.

5. The leadership of the Orange Institution have in the past treated the leadership of the Protestant churches with contempt. When advice was sought at various crucial times in the past it was never taken.

6. While Canon Ellis acknowledges that ‘The Loyal Orders are self-proclaimed Christian organisations’, he should understand that that that does not imply that all Orangemen are church members – even though such a ‘regular attendance’ at church must be declared at initiation.

7. The Loyal Orders appear to be more interested in building relationships with political parties and groups associated with paramilitary organisations who have murdered Orangemen, than with the Protestant Churches. This was clearly evident last July with the establishment, at the Order’s instigation, of the apparently now defunct ‘Pan-Unionist Front’.

Personally, from much sad experience, I will not be holding my breath to see the fulfilment of these ‘greater links forged’.


Rev. Brian Kennaway

Author: The Orange Order:A Tradition Betrayed