A leading Anglican figure has warned of an increasing “divergence” between the loyal orders and the Christian churches.
Canon Ian Ellis, writing in Thursday’s News Letter, decried what he called a “disconnect” between institutional Christianity and such groups, and called for a remedy to be found as quickly as possible.
He said more dialogue between churches and orders could aid in the resolution of parading tensions, and suggested a Churches and Loyal Order Forum be established to help make this happen.
Canon Ellis wrote: “The Loyal orders are self-proclaimed Christian organisations, yet there is an unfortunate and growing ‘disconnect’ between them and the institutional churches that needs to be remedied...
“While the churches in recent times have had occasional meetings with the loyal orders, a more sustained and in-depth dialogue is now required.”
The forum he envisages would be independent, voluntary, and “could play a significant role in assisting towards the resolution of contentious parades and flags issues at local level”.
His call comes in the wake of the Stormont House Agreement – a wide-ranging deal between the Province’s five main parties which includes a blueprint to help resolve cultural differences, including unionist anger over parading decisions.
Among other things, the Stormont House Agreement declares that responsibility for marches and associated protests should “in principle” lie with the Assembly; that some kind of “independent adjudication” process will still be necessary; and that local-level talks will be vital to regulate parades.
Detailed proposals are to be drawn up by June.
Canon Ellis is rector of Newcastle, Co Down – a post he has held since 1993.
He has also been editor of the Church of Ireland Gazette since 2001; a newsletter containing news bulletins and commentary.
It is distributed island-wide, often by subscription, and is independent of the Church of Ireland itself.
In addition, Canon Ellis is also a past president of the Irish Council of Churches.