Future of the Orange Institution

Where Now ?

The Orange Institution’s often proclaimed Christian principles are 

being brought into question by the events surrounding 

the protest at Drumcree.

While all Orangemen would support the right of Portadown District to complete their traditional walk home from Morning Prayer at Drumcree Parish Church, multitudes are distressed by the violence accompanying the protest.

These shameful events witnessed on our Television screens night after night raise questions over the fundamental direction of the Orange Institution.  Has the Institution lost its historical connection with the past so definitively, that it is destroying the principles it once upheld?

The comments of Rev. F. Rupert Gibson, a former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (1971) and Superintendent of “The Irish Mission” of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland , made many years ago, are equally true today;-

“Probably there is no human institution claiming to be based on the Bible and professing to maintain the principles of the Reformed Faith, which has been more bitterly maligned by its avowed foes and more falsely represented by those who profess to be its friends, than the Orange Order”.

Though its origins can be traced to the social and political disputes of the seventeenth century, the Orange Institution quickly established itself on the sure foundation of Scripture, as understood by Reformed Theology.

It may appear strange to the onlooking world nowadays, that an Orangeman is pledged, ‘as far as in him lies, to assist the magistrates and civil authorities.’  Strange, only because of the more recent images, of Orangemen involving themselves in civil disorder in the current dispute over parades.  The Biblical principle expounded by the Apostle Paul in Romans 13 is clear:-

“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.  Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgement on themselves.  For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong.”

That is not to say that there is no place for a tradition of dissent.  There certainly is.  But it is a clear breach of one of the core values of Orangeism for members to be involved in Civil Disorder.  Orangemen are not to be merely passive in relation to the civil authorities but to  actively assist law and order.  To refuse to condemn violence is to encourage violence.  This is not merely an anti-social activity it is anti-orange.

Having public protests which result in the injury or death of members of Her Majesties Security Forces, must bring shame on any organisation which professes to be both Christian and Loyal.  Those who call people on to the streets today, particularly in this present volatile situation, must accept responsibility for the consequences.

Human responsibility is a fundamental principle of the Gospel.  Accepting personal responsibility for our actions is also a sign of maturity.  But the Scriptures also teach us that we are ‘our brothers keeper’.  Paul encourages the early Christians  – “Do not cause anyone to stumble”(1 Corinthians 10:32).  In accepting responsibility for our actions we must also recognise that we must accept some responsibility for the results of our actions!  We cannot wash our hands, either in public or in private, of the consequences of our actions.  History has not judged Pontius Pilate well for a similar ‘hand washing’ exercise!  The cause may be just – but the violence is losing the ‘just cause’.

To the multitudes of decent respectable Orangemen, all the violence witnessed in recent days, is far removed from the Core Values which they espouse and seek to live up to. – Values of Benevolence, Brotherhood, Civil and Religious Liberty and Tolerance.

The outside world may equally find it strange to discover that the Orange Institution claims to be, “an Association of those who are attached to the religion of the Reformation”.  It is RELIGION not POLITICS which is the foundation of the Orange Institution.  What religious cause is being fulfilled by the continuation of a confrontation which will inevitably end in shame and disaster?

Protestants are committed to the authority of Scripture and the example of Jesus.  It is worth reminding all those claiming allegiance to the Protestant Reformed Faith that , “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to Him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:23)

Is the present behaviour of some Orangemen as witnessed on our television screens fulfilling the FIRST Twelfth of July resolution:- “ever seeking to encourage others to Faith in Christ”?

If the Orange Institution is ever to regain its lost credibility it must pledge by WORD and perform by DEED the principles of Scripture.  All those concerned with the future of the Institution must be obedient to the Word of God.  As James instructs the early disciples – “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22)

Rev. Brian Kennaway

FORMER Convenor of the

Education Committee



This article appeared in The Observer on 9th July 2000