Orange Order welcomes idea of church forum

The Orange Order said there was 'considerable merit' in the proposal by Canon Ian Ellis
The Orange Order said there was 'considerable merit' in the proposal by Canon Ian Ellis

The Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland has praised the suggestion that a voluntary, independent body should be set up to bring together Christian churches and the Province’s loyal orders.

The idea had been mooted in the News Letter on Thursday by Church of Ireland Canon Ian Ellis, who suggested that – among other things – such a forum could help to ease tensions around parades.

In a statement the Orange Order said: “The Orange Institution actively participates in regular communication with the main churches and recognises the importance and immense value of doing so.

“We believe there is considerable merit in this proposal and look forward to exploring it further with all appropriate parties.”

Canon Ellis, rector of Newcastle in Co Down, had made his call for a forum “entirely separate from state institutions” to allow greater dialogue between established churches and loyal orders.

He said: “Just as religion is part of the historic problem in Northern Ireland, so the churches have a role and responsibility in making things better.

“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.”

Among the issues he raised was a “clear divergence between the churches and the Loyal Orders over the subject of ecumenism”.

Such a new forum could also play a role in helping to resolve marching and flag-related controversies, he suggested.

His call came after politicians at Stormont agreed to look at a new way of regulating parades as part of the wide-ranging Stormont House deal.