Row between Parades Commission and LOL District No. 6

During last week the ongoing row between the Parades Commission and the Orange Order came up again. In April Rev. Mervyn Gibson, minister of Westbourne Community Presbyterian Church and Orange Order’s District Number 6 Chaplain complained when the Parades Commission specified that only one hymn “Abide with Me” be played whilst bands marched passed St. Mark’s Catholic Church on the Lower Newtownards Road.

Mr. Gibson stated:

“It breaches our religious liberties. They have banned the playing of Christian hymns in the UK and that is one of the points we will be raising with the Secretary of State. It’s tantamount to the Taliban religious police telling us what to do.”
Mr Gibson claimed the Parades Commission had a grudge against his district.
He said: “In my opinion there’s a vendetta against Number 6 District. The Parades Commission made this determination without talking to the unionist community. I believe it’s a vindictive decision.”

At the time the Parades Commission defended its decision claiming: “It is easily recognisable and people can’t confuse it with any other tune. It takes away any ambiguity.” It is a little odd that the Parades Commission could only think of one hymn tune which has no ambiguity: As examples, I can think of few controversial political connotations to Nearer My God to Thee (as an aside in reality the tune played as the Titanic sank was probably Horbury not Bethany as in Cameron’s film), What a friend we have in Jesus both of which are easily recognisable marches. I am sure others can think of multiple examples of non controversial hymn tunes. Hence, the Parades Commission decision not to allow several different apolitical hymn tunes does seem somewhat odd to say the least. As Mr. Gibson said: “What have the Mullahs of the Parades Commission got against other hymn tunes?”

After Mervyn Gibson’s comments, the Parades Commission wrote to the Presbyterian Church complaining in turn about the Orange Order’s Press Release. The Clerk of the General Assembly Donald Watts wrote back saying (from the BBC):

(the) “highly emotive vocabulary of Islamic fundamentalism” could really only be used “with the intention of causing offence…..It is therefore unhelpful and unacceptable. It may also give offence to our Islamic neighbours.”

Mr. Gibson’s response in turn has been that he was not “overly impressed” by the church response adding “they failed to discuss the matter with me when it was about me”.
“However, I don’t wish to make any further comment.”

He also said he had submitted a Freedom of Information request in an attempt to obtain any correspondence or emails from the Parades Commission in which he was mentioned.

It is not clear whether or not the clerk of the General Assembly took the decision to write on his own authority or after consultation with others (though clearly not Mr. Gibson). If Dr. Watts took the decision on his own it has very little validity as a position of the Presbyterian Church (he its not its leader). If, however, it was taken after consultation it seems bizarre not to discuss the complaint with the one against whom it was made.

Once again over the issue the Parades Commission seems to misunderstand: the Presbyterian Church has very little control over Mr. Gibson or indeed any other minister (or anyone else) within its own ranks. As such writing to the Presbyterian Church to complain about a Presbyterian minister is essentially pointless. As part of an ongoing feud between the Parades Commission and Orange Order District No. 6 it makes a little more sense.

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  • aquifer

    ‘the Presbyterian Church has very little control over Mr. Gibson or indeed any other minister (or anyone else) within its own ranks.’

    The Presbyterian church is more than a flag of convenience for a gang of random schismatics, so it is perfectly in order for the Parades Commission to complain about the conduct of one of its ministers.

    The Parages Commission are doing their job lawfully, preventing coat trailing and sectarian aggression, so it is less a feud with district 6 than district 6 against good public order.

    The recent events in East Belfast, with orange tunes deliberatedly played in front of catholic homes, and then homes attacked by UVF thugs, were a disgrace.

    The Orange do the remants of the ‘RA great service. destabilising the British State.

  • dwatch

    ” The Presbyterian church is more than a flag of convenience for a gang of random schismatics,”

    Very much a Roman Catholic view of all Protestant clergymen irrespective of whatever denomination they come from since the 1517 reformation

  • rfcjohn

    You are absolutely correct that the Presbyterian Church in Ireland has no control over its ministers do the PC letter was a waste of time – as was Donald Watt’s reply! As Clerk he has no authority over Mervyn Gibson and has angered many Presbyterian – not in my name!

  • rfcjohn

    *so *Mervyn

  • Comrade Stalin

    The Parades Commission made this determination without talking to the unionist community

    Am I reading this right ? Is this a guy from the Orange Order, which refuses to talk stakeholders, complaining about another organization refusing to talk to stakeholders ?

  • exsdlp

    Turgon it’s funny that one example you give of an unambiguous hymn is ‘What a friend we have in Jesus’ which is well known to have an alternative set of words which areultra offensive and are belted out regularly at band and Order parades. I suspect you know the words too.

    Maybe that’s why the Parades Commission specifically named the hymn it did. And gibson took offence because it robbed him of a chance to annoy some Catholics. Of course the ruling was flouted anyway.

    Is Mervyn Gibson an Orangeman first, or a Minister?

  • exsdlp

    Part of Gibsons moan was that he didnt actually use the words ‘taliban’ and Mullah though I see you attribute them to him directly. Interesting.

  • I thought Christians (like the rest of us) had to maintain a proper balance between humility and righteousness. Here it seems there are Presbyterian ministers who overflow with righteousness with no humility whatsoever, so the Church has to respond with humility without righteousness. When did Mervyn Gibson last turn the other cheek?

  • latcheeco

    Turgon,
    St. Mark’s or or St. Matthew’s?

  • south_down

    Exsdlp:

    “What a friend we have in Jesus’ which is well known to have an alternative set of words which are ultra offensive and are belted out regularly at band and Order parades.
    Maybe that’s why the Parades Commission specifically named the hymn it did.”

    This “alternative words” thing is a nonsense. The band were playing the tune only. No words were sung at this parade.

    And besides, if someone makes up an offensive set of words which fit the tune “Eventide” (which is, by the way, the actual name of the tune most people associate with the hymn “Abide with me”) does it then become an “offensive tune” which can be banned?

    Also, I’ve been going to OO and band parades for more than 30 years, and I’ve never heard anyone sing the “offensive” version of “what a friend we have in Jesus” while on parade.

    Never.

    It just doesn’t happen outside of the fevered imagination of people like you.

  • andnowwhat

    FAO South_down

    Last year, offensive sectarian lyrics were chanted to the tune of What a Friend We Have in Jesus as a march passed Ardoyne shops.

    These were corner boys’ tricks; an attempt to cause offence and break the spirit of the adjudication. You should condemn them and ensure that, in future, the order can be taken at its word

    Read more: http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/opinion/columnists/liam-clarke/why-the-old-orange-order-has-to-change-16023120.html#ixzz1VkIwihDV

  • dwatch
  • south_down

    andnowwhat:

    “Last year, offensive sectarian lyrics were chanted to the tune of What a Friend We Have in Jesus as a march passed Ardoyne shops.”

    Who by? The band? members of the lodge? or who?

    I’m afraid I’m going to need more evidence than a passing reference in a Liam Clarke column.

  • babyface finlayson

    It is not always about what we are allowed to do. It must also be what we should do. Clearly it would have been an act of goodwill by the Lodge to abide (sorry) by the ruling. To claim a breach of civil liberties seems ludicrous to me.
    What loss would there have been to the Orange Order?
    After all, did Jesus not say if someone asks for your tunic you should give him your cloak as well?

  • exsdlp

    south down

    Turns out the ‘evidence’ isn’t too hard to find. Look at this clip of this year’s 12th July parade at Ardoyne. From about 4.30 onwards. The band leader is even helpful enough to call out “Holy Mary” rather than “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”

    The alternate wirds – used all over the place – are then quite audible as they are screeched out by the locla wimmin.

  • andnowwhat

    Cheers for that exsdlp, I can’t get on to Youtube this last few days for some reason.

    Seems there was another few breeches of the PC determination on the day noted in this blog

    http://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/local/parade_row_minister_hits_out_at_church_letter_1_2969962

    I trust that South down will trust the News Letter as it seems Liam Clarke has become a raving republican these days in the eyes of some

  • I would like to know what problem the rev Gibson has with the hymn “ABIDE WITH ME”

    What’s wrong with it? Is it not good enough for hymn?

    As to the comments on Presbyterian-ism I have never understood what ‘Presbyterian’ is. But then again I dont understand what ‘Christian’ is, and coming from a Brethren background, used to call myself one. But thing I do know is that those in the Presbyterian Mutual of Presbyterian stock lay no belief in the sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6 19:21) when Christ said Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

    So if they, Presbyterian, do not heed Christ the centre of Christendom, what exactly are they, and who is at their centre?

    And what of Free Presbyterians? Are not all Presbyterians ‘Free’.

    I know Presbyterians have a special form of governance not one bit of which instructed by Christ,

    The term Presbyterian does seem to be a flag of convenience.

  • south_down

    exsdlp

    “Turns out the ‘evidence’ isn’t too hard to find. Look at this clip of this year’s 12th July parade at Ardoyne.”

    So we agree that it wasn’t the band or the lodge doing the singing.

    Thanks.

    Any thoughts on my other “Abide with me” will be banned if someone makes up an offensive set of words to fit the tune?

  • south_down

    What happenned there?

    Should have been

    Any thoughts on my other question about whether “Abide with me” will be banned if someone makes up an offensive set of words to fit the tune?