Some Notes on the Orange Order

It is an inescapable fact that the Orange Order was formed in blood-shed, ostensibly in defence of the Faith. Its history is a history of battles. Its cultural expression in song and poetry are almost exclusively accounts of physical battles supposedly for the Faith. The question must be addressed as to how far all this is in accord with the teaching of the New Testament? Is this the way of the Saviour and the Apostles? The answer is self evident…

Since the time of Constantine, there has been great confusion regarding the clear lines of demarcation that exist between the church and the State. The Reformation did little to clarify this matter and indeed in many ways compounded the confusion of the two. In Northern Ireland the Loyal Orders have supported and added to this confusion. In doing so, they have produced a conception of the church which has heavy Old Testament/Covenant rather than New Covenant overtones. They emphatically weld together the notion of the church with a political ideology. In its Basis of Institution the Orange Order makes this plain…

Even the many political changes that have taken place over the recent past have not fundamentally changed this aim.

Christians have a right to hold political views and to be involved in political activity. The problem arises however when one particular political philosophy is characterised as the Christian view. As a result of this the notion has grown and has permeated all sections of our society. It implies that being a Christian necessitates accepting the particular political philosophy of unionism. This has been a tremendous stumbling block to many because they have misinterpreted conversion to Christ as entailing a conversion to this particular political view. It may not be comfortable for Baptists today but it needs to be remembered that some of the earliest Baptist influences in Ireland came from those who certainly could not be classed as Royalists! How would they fit into Baptist churches today?

“The Loyal Orders” A Biblical Examination (PDF) – The Association of Baptist Churches in Ireland.

Something else needs to be said about the Orange Order’s mixing of spiritual loyalty to Christ and political loyalty to the Crown and Constitution. It was well stated by Rev. John Dunlop, writing in the Presbyterian Herald. “We appear to be so obsessed with our own anxieties that we cannot understand with compassion the traumatic experiences of the other people with whom we share this Island. Do we realise that 1690 is not only about glorious victory and civil and religious liberty? It is also about defeat, humiliation, and dispossession. Can you love your neighbour and at the same time celebrate the anniversary of his defeat?”

Covenanters believe that our great task in this Island is the loving and sensitive evangelism of our Roman Catholic fellow countrymen, so that they come to see that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, on the basis of Scripture alone. Covenanters, untrammelled as they are by prior commitments to organisations and political parties on one side of the socio-political divide in this Island, believe they are well placed to undertake this task and are presently doing so. Any cultural, historical or political baggage that gets in the way of it must be laid aside. In that light we have to ask the question – What sort of witness to the Gospel is it when a nationalist Roman Catholic sees a triumphalist Orange parade deliberately routed through his area? How does such an action even square with the Orangeman’s promise that he will, “abstain from all uncharitable words, actions, or sentiments, towards Roman Catholics”? At the end of the day a Christian’s ultimate loyalty must not be to any side of our political conflict, but to the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, a Kingdom which transcends all human barriers and divisions.

Unqualified Allegiance to the British Constitution.

Every Orangeman takes a promise that he will, “to the utmost of his power support and maintain the Laws and Constitution of these Realms.” Covenanters cannot take such an unqualified promise. This is because the Constitution usurps Christ’s sole Supremacy as Head of the Church (in giving the Monarch the title ‘Head of the Church’) and because it usurps Christ’s sole Supremacy over the State…

… if some Covenanters now saying that it is a matter of no consequence I take an unqualified vow of allegiance to the Crown and Constitution of Britain as it stands since 1680~1690 (as Orangemen are required to do), then, by implication, they are surely saying that our Covenanting forefathers were wrong. They were wrong to dissent from the Revolution Settlement Church and maintain a separate witness (as we, spiritual descendants, do still) and we are found guilty of the sin of schism. We would maintain if they were not wrong and that we are therefore not guilty.

Covenanters and the Orange Order – Rev Norris Wilson, minister of Dervock Reformed Presbyterian Church, Ballymoney; Professor of Old Testament language and literature and lectures at The Reformed Presbyterian College, Belfast.

Here are some important questions that all Christian Orangemen would do well too honestly answer.

1. Why do you need to be a member of a SECRET religious organization? Is not your church a satisfactory channel for fellowship, and through which you can use your energies to reach the lost?

2. Is your church not protesting against the errors of Rome and the host of other errors to make it a sufficient voice for you? Maybe a change of church is required – a place where Protestantism is faithfully upheld?

3. Would a monthly Church prayer meeting surrounded by believers not be more suitable for fellowship than a monthly lodge meeting surrounded by ungodly men?

4. If a march is something that one dearly cherishes, would a Christian march with Gospel texts, terminating in an Evangelistic Service, not be more effective and beneficial in turning our unsaved Protestant and Catholic neighbours to Christ?

5. Would you agree, the saved Lodge member is devoting time, effort and money into things which are at best secondary and at worse futile and unbiblical? Matters which divert him from the great comission, which commands us to preach the Gospel, first to our family and friends (Jerusalem), then to our own community (Judea), then to our enemies (Samaria) and finally unto the uttermost parts of the earth? Does not membership of these secret bodies severely hamper our efforts to reach those who are perceived by many to be our enemy community.

6. Many ex-lodge members have admitted their strong anti-Roman Catholic feelings to the point they could not love their neighbour and rarely witnessed to them. After resignation their attitudes radically changed. Do you need such a change of heart?

7. Many lodge members find it hard to miss a lodge meeting yet they readily find it easy to miss the church prayer meeting. Does it not show which God is on the throne?…

Questions for Christian Orangemen – Paul A. Johnston, Independent Methodist Pastor

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