Exploring the worlds of the Orange Order

Operating Room''Accident and Emergency, A+E, A&E, Hospital.
Operating Room''Accident and Emergency, A+E, A&E, Hospital.

Presumably Richard Ferguson (Letters, 8 January) will be next advocating the reinstatement of slavery as a biblical requirement.

As for the Bible, to which he rightly appeals, it is not a book but a collection of books as the Greek title has it, ‘Agia Biblia, the Holy Books, the list of which as canonical has varied within time and tradition. The Authorised or King James’ Bible, for example, with which English speakers are most familiar, in its original printing contains the Apocraphal books, although in some printings since then these are omitted.

As for Orangism, it too, like the church, has its traditions, and they have, as with the church, varied in time and place. The Orange Order in Ireland at one time was opposed to the Union of Ireland with England, Scotland and Wales, and saw in Castlereagh its great enemy. It was only in time with a growing ultramontanism, an exalting of a tradition of papal authoritarianism in the local church of the Roman communion, that the Orange Order became aggressively pro-Union.

It had an earlier function, and an understandable one, as a union in protecting Protestant tenant farmers from those who would drive them off the land. That was its founding origin in Ireland at a meeting in Dan Brown’s cottage. Although today it sees itself as a Christian order I think its membership is as much, or more,imbued less with ideas of Christian respectability than with what on the European continent would be a working class ant-clericalism.

Not unlike Tom Paine, but a stifled Tom Paine, stifled by the chains of a Christian respectability. Earlier In England the Orange clubs with which Tom Paine (1737-1809) author of the “Rights of Man”, was associated in his younger days, attending their dinners, were founded to celebrate the Revolution of 1688 and the Settlement that followed as a move away from a monarchical autocracy (such as still prevailed in France) and an opening the way to parliamentary democracy.

It is the exploration of these worlds of Orange, and also “loyalist” traditions, along with the traditions of the Church, that I think Canon Ellis may have in mind in proposing in the News Letter a Church of Ireland, along other church traditions, engagement with the members of the Orange Order at an official level. And that is something different from the world of Richard Ferguson.

W A Millar

Belfast