Unfair and demeaning remarks about loyal orders must be challenged

There were huge crowds at the Twelfth earlier this month
There were huge crowds at the Twelfth earlier this month

As an ordinary grassroots member of all the Loyal Orders, I want to challenge the unfair and demeaning remarks from Mark Taggart from Fermanagh (July 20) which were directed at my legitimate cultural expression.

All the Loyal Orders have become accustomed to unfair criticism. However, it is evident that this campaign has intensified with ferocious vigour from many quarters. It’s sad that a naive minority within Christian circles who champion tolerance are expressing unfavourable and unnecessary remarks which pander to those who seek our demise.

Despite all this negative propaganda and subliminal attacks, our parading culture and Loyal Order work continues to thrive and has the overwhelming endorsement from the Protestant community. This was evident by the massive attendances this year. If the contributor feels his or others protestations are going to lead to its decline, they are gravely mistaken.

Our culture is steeped in history, pageantry, colour, music and friendship, all positive attributes and innocent manifestations of our background, none of which inhibits our outreach opportunities to other faiths. It in turn affords us unique opportunities to witness to those within our own community and many men and woman are in Heaven as a result of that outreach through the ages.

Within the Loyal Orders, evangelism and gospel witness are the key component to many and our members work extensively to achieve that objective. Those within my locality who are members of the Loyal Orders are pillars of the community and play a pivotal role within their respective denominations to extend Christs kingdom, both locally and internationally, through the Orders and various other organisations.

The Loyal Orders have raised around £250,000 for Christian charities in two years with recipients including the Christian Institute, Bible Society, Wycliffe Bible Translators and the Mission Aviation Fellowship . This year they are to the fore in leading commemorations to Martin Luther. Each week religious services are held where opportunities are afforded to ministers of the gospel to play their part in that outreach.

It was through that work 28 years ago, when I was a 17-year-old Orangeman and someone whose father was murdered five years previous by terrorists, that I came under conviction and had a desire to learn more about the Lord.

This happened as a consequence of my attendance at these Orange services listening to various ministers, Orange chaplains and laymen faithfully preaching the message of salvation through personal faith in Jesus Christ. I now have the privilege of sharing my testimony around the various denominations where I have met numerous individuals whose experience of the orders’ outreach played a part in their own salvation.

I trust this confronts the cul de sac mentality of Mark Teggart and challenges his myth that somehow the orders are inferior as organisations in defending reformed truth and spreading the Gospel.

It is regrettable there are those who feel the need to express Christian division and unnecessary remarks through newspapers. I won’t be commenting on any further correspondence on this matter in the interests of respect and Christian harmony.

Sammy Heenan

Rathfriland