The Orange and anti-clericalism…

Newshound has the rest of that Rite and Reason piece from Brian Kennaway. The most striking part is what he describes as the anti-clericalism that’s been growing within the Orange for most of the duration of the troubles and stands in marked contrast with the organisation of the 1950s.

Over the 200 years of the institution’s existence many people have written from the position of ignorance and communicated to the wider world inaccuracies about the position of the order. This I have attempted to correct throughout this publication, from revealing that the original qualifications are strictly pro-Protestant and make no reference to Roman Catholics, to the fact that the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland did not oppose the Belfast Agreement.

In my experience of 42 years membership of the Orange institution, what I have witnessed is an increasing narrowness of vision within the membership. This narrowness, or “funnel vision”, is in turn reflected in the leadership. This is seen in a narrowness of religious perspective. In the 1950s the Grand Lodge and the institution in general was dominated by ministers from the main protestant denominations. This is not the case today, and the previous list of churches recognised for the purpose of chaplains has been rescinded.

The Rev Dr Warren Porter in his foreword states: “Anti-clericalism, and the ‘sect’ mentality, ie opposition to and criticism of, the mainline Protestant denominations, is also an unlovely feature of some modern-day Orange gatherings.” This growing sense of anti-clericalism was seen in an interview in the Belfast Telegraph on June 30th, 1999, when the Grand Master Robert Salters is quoted as feeling “betrayed” by the leaders of the main Protestant churches.


  • willis

    I hope this publication will, as David Trimble has expressed, “help to bring the institution back to its roots and core principles”.

    If you take an institution which developed to provide mutual support in an essentially agrarian society and us it to provide an umberella for vastly disparate elements in an urban setting without changing you are going to get problems.

    This genie is never going back in that bottle.

  • fair_deal

    The GOLI does need to modernise to make sure it remains relevant to the 21st century Ulster and Irish Protestant experiences. Any organisation that is tasked with maintained traditions and beliefs is always slow to change, its inherent in their nature but the OO has evolved before and it can do again. Furthermore, its highly devolved structure means like an oil tanker it takes time to work through and shift direction.

    However this line of argument is really where he starts to lose the plot. It ignores the significant shift in theological thinking in the main Protestant churches explains the decline in relationship between those in the Protestant ministry and the OO.

    There were lots of Protestant ministers involved in the OO in the 1950’s, just as church attendance was much stronger back then too. In the 1950’s you would have filled the Ulster Hall with Protestant ministers of the Presbyterian and CoI for meetings opposing ecumenism. Today you wouldn’t come close.

    An increasing proportion of Protestant ministers won’t allow Orange services in their church (deapite the Gospel being for all sinners) it was not the OO that sought an end to the relationship but individual minsters and churches closed their doors. A proportion of ministers and individual churches see engagement with the Roman Catholic community (ecumencial or non-religious) requires them to end their relationship with the OO.

    The OO has not been rejecting Protestant ministers as members either. The shifts in theology mean less wish to join.

    There is also the practical of falling church participation has meant more and more falls to individual ministers to so so there ability to get involved in any outside group is reduced. Just ask community workers who try to engage with Protestant ministers on bread and butter community issues.

    The shift in theology also meant that attachment to Orangeism became a barrier to advancement within the churches. Just as some ministers may have joined in the 1950’s as they believed it assisted their advancement so some avoid active membership as it may hamper them.

    The NIO memo prior to the referendum and its references to church leaders would raise legitimate questions about whose interests some acted in.

    The OO fulfils a range of functions cultural, religious, political and social. Different people join for one or mixture of these functions. Kennaway falls into the trap that what interested him should be the sole basis for it. When like all other mass membership organisations a range of fucntions is the key to its breadth. The claim of narrowness is curious as it is his demand the OO concentrate on a sole function is the real demand for narrowness and development of a sect.

    Lets also be clear what he is pushing when he harkens back to the 1950’s and the power of ministers he is effectively talking about a theocracy. The religious ministers should be primarily in charge and a selective theocracy at that (the big two getting the lion share).

    His attack on the Grand Lodge reforms that shifted from representation from county to district was a democraticising move by the organisation and he attacks this. Considering his liberal champions it is strange they don’t seem to have fathomed these anti-democratic tendencies.

  • willis


    Couldn’t argue with most of that.

    There is a view that the OO still holds a disproportionate amount of influence in the Presbyterian Church. If they moved to OMOV for Moderator you would see less traditionalist Moderators.

    What do you think?

  • Traditionally, chaps, it’s rendered ‘anti-clericalism’.

  • Nevin

    FD, would it be fair to say that the OO has splintered along similar lines to that of the Unionist party and for similar reasons?

  • páid

    post of the month, FD. Informative and illuminating.

  • fair_deal


    “If they moved to OMOV for Moderator you would see less traditionalist Moderators. What do you think?”

    I’m not a prebyterian so I’m not up to speed on the internal politics. My guess would be no, some early CRC research shows ministers were more likely to be less traditionalist than their congregations. Also a few friends have been through the theological collge and they argue that the balance in new ministers has swung back to those who challenge ecumenism rather than propogate it.


    “FD, would it be fair to say that the OO has splintered along similar lines to that of the Unionist party and for similar reasons? ”



    “post of the month”

    Thank you

  • willis


    Yeah but it’s only the 3rd May. 🙂

  • darth rumsfeld

    post of the month will undoubtedly be

    ” wasn’t Henry’s hat trick in Arsenal’s 3-0 win over Barcelona the finest football ever seen?”

    FD is spot on with his analysis of the church, and indeed one of the underlying complaints of Rev Kennaway and co is how the disproportionate representation of clergymen on Grand Lodge was removed by the structural changes in 2000.The book even claimed they were of “questionable legality” -perhaps in the foreward if memory serves.
    Others wirh a hostile view of the Orange have correctly challenged Kennaway’s assertion that it is a religious organisation first and foremost, and that there was a “golden age” when the rougher types knew their place and deferred to the establishment. And it has to be said, that if he was sincerely adopting the position that politics was a peripheral concern of the Institution, it’s strange in the extreme that his book was launched by ….er, well known cleric Rev. W D Trimble. Shome mishtake shurely?

  • lib2016

    The first real sign of change in South Africa was when the Lutheran Church moved away from it’s identification with the Broederbund and it’s previous support for apartheid.

    The Vicar of Bray is still with us – leading his flock from the rear as usual.

  • yerman

    “The first real sign of change in South Africa was when the Lutheran Church moved away from it’s identification with the Broederbund and it’s previous support for apartheid.”

    And maybe the first sign of progress here will be when people stop trying to draw increasingly tenuous comparisons to the South African situation.

    As for the anti-clericalism – I dont think it exists in the way Brian Kennaway thinks that it does. Certainly the statement by Robert Saulters that he felt ‘betrayed’ by the main Protestant chuch leaders doesnt mean that it exists. All that does is show that people are willing to challenge Churchmen when they think they are wrong.

    However, maybe Rev. Kennaway harks back to the days when Clerics wielded absolute power and could not be challenged by ‘ordinary’ people. Maybe he wants Grand Lodge minutes in Latin so that the ruffians wont be able to understand them either.

  • lib2016

    The Orange tradition is about the need to uphold Protestant Supremacy. It has no place now that we are in transition towards becoming part of a functioning secular democracy, whether that be a British or an Irish secular democracy.

    Hence the references to anticlericalism, which has echoes of previous debates in both countries.

    The question of whether Norn Ireland will be British or Irish is very different although some might argue that the Orange domination of Irish unionism has destroyed both traditions, just as Catholic domination came near to undermining Irish republicanism before anticlericalism won the day in the South.

  • Dont agree. The Rev Kennaway raises some very valid points particularly about bands and this is something that has been raised again and again but the leadership never does anything. These paramilitary type bands with paramilitary emblems are more prevalent in the secular areas such as Belfast where largely, the lodges are also secular with little or no Christian basis whereas as you move out into the country to L`Derry, Tyrone, Donegal and rural Armagh the lodges are set in rural country side, are much more family and church oriented usually with lodges having their own small bands and with a wider variety such as accordian, pipe and silver bands more prevalent in the rual areas plus a notable departure in musical style with the rural areas playing an awful lot more hymns in my experience. Well done to the Rev Kennaway for having the guts to stand up and speak the truth. I believe the Orange Order has an important part to play in the culture and heritage of the emerging Northern Ireland and island of Ireland but it desperately needs to be positive, pro-active and importantly set out some rules and abide by them. Get rid of the drunks, the thugs and the hangers on and as Mr Logan of the Black Institution has said we have nothing to fear from talking to people. Talking to people does not automatically mean compromising your principles. The Apprentice Boys Maiden City festival is a case in point of what can be achieved by talking to people.