Tag Archives: Orange Order

And they claim the Orange Order isn’t sectarian?

The Orange Order is opening disciplinary procedures against two of its members – the politicians Tom Elliot and Danny Kennedy for attending the funeral of murdered PSNI Officer Ronan Kerr.  It follows a complaint made by members of an Orange Lodge (interestingly called ‘Total Abstinence’).

I had to double take when I read this, living in Dublin puts some of the issues I grew up with in a great deal of perspective.

The reason? Because members of the Orange Order are banned from attending Catholic masses and in so attending they have apparently:

“sold their principles for political expediency”

It seems crazy that two politicians who in their attendance of the funeral are reaching out and walking some of the steps of reconciliation between the communities, who are showing respect, should be censured in this way and indeed be accused of political expediency.

What can we do to bring an end to this sectarianism that pollutes the north? What is the role of the church in speaking up and speaking prophetically? What is the role of the ‘chaplains’ of the Orange Order to be held to account by their denominations?

It seems as if the Orange Order is still living in a fear and siege mentality – afraid of the pollution that will come from the ‘papists’. Maybe it’s time for them to re-examine their ‘Protestant faith’ and take some time to soak in the the words of Jesus who is at it’s centre. They are welcome to take a trip down the road to see that of the ‘threats’ (if such language is even appropriate) to their ‘faith’, the Catholic church doesn’t exactly have the influence it once had. But then if the Catholic church is not a threat, and their identity is rooted in opposition to that church then who are they?

Perhaps that is the issue. When we find our identity in opposition to an ‘other’ we define ourselves by what we are not. When that ‘other’ wanes in power or influence we are left with an identity crisis. Perhaps a legitimate question is ‘is there a future for the Orange Order?’.

The Orange Order is in decline…

Northern Ireland Orange OrderAnd I can’t say I’m too sorry to hear it. Membership of the order in Northern Ireland has more than halved in the last 60 years. Grand Secretary Drew Nelson blames the decline primarily on the increasing secularisation in Northern Ireland, and that the order was suffering the same fate as churches with people turning away from religion. Interesting and heavily ironic. As an organisation that encourages its members to be church-goers it too is struggling with the church. Or perhaps people are turning away from bad religion as experienced in the Orange Order. Growing up in East Belfast there certainly seemed little connection with church as I knew it to the drinking and sectarianism of the local bands and orangemen. Nelson’s second reason for the decline is:

“Secondly, there’s the whole ethos of the state in Northern Ireland – it appears to be leaning somewhat against the Orange Order.”

In which he refers to PSNI members having to inform superiors of their membership of the order. Just right too. I wouldn’t want any policemen or women to be members of any sort of sectarian, never mind historically misguided organisation which brings ambiguity at best to the gospel of Jesus. The Jesus who told us to love our enemies and to serve – which seem to be things the Orange Order has forgotten or fails to practise.

Could it also be suggested that the fall in membership of the Orange Order is also a result of the ending of the troubles and many trying to move away from the sectarianism that has been eating away at us for the last who knows how long?