Orange is not the only colour.....

OK, I will be up front about this. I am an Orangeman. There I said it. Now I am expecting a number of very liberal minded people to go either 'bigot', 'not surprised', 'how can he be so sectarian'.....blah blah blah.

I make no apologies, or excuses. I am what I am (as that Broadway musical song goes). It is part of my upbringing, my culture, my values and beliefs. People can make up their own minds on what I am actually like.

The Orange Order is a broad church of views from the very broadest interpretation of Protestantism to the most evangelical. It is a common tie that binds together a wide range of people who would not necessarily 'hang out together' in any other circumstance.

Normally, discussions I have regarding the Loyal Orders revolve around its history, why it still exists and, depressingly, marching.  But none the less I am proud to be a member of the fraternity.

I have noticed over the past number of years that the Order has been making serious efforts to broaden its appeal (OK, stop sniggering!). The 12th of July celebrations have been expanded to take in a week of activities. It is much more family and tourist orientated. Something I really welcome.  Every year I really do believe the Orders are adjusting and responding to changing circumstances in a positive way without throwing out its core tenants and values. 

And then...............

The Orange Order reacts to the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the UK .

Oh dear.  Oh deary me.

The Orange Order states in the very first sentence
"While we recognise the civil and religious rights of all, we cannot welcome or agree with the visit of the Pope to this country."
Hmmmm. I think that's called an oxymoron.

I am fully signed up to the first part of this assertion, that of civil and religious liberty for all.  Yet, even in the same sentence the Order asserts the Pope is not welcome. If the Pope decides to accept an invitation from Queen Elizabeth II to visit the country of which she is the Head of State, then that is up to him. As Bruke's Corner points out,
"Queen Elizabeth II, acting in her role as chief governor of the ecclesiastical estate of her realm, has issued the invitation to Benedict. The statement of Grand Lodge is, therefore, a blatant rejection of the Queen's role as Supreme Governor of the Church of England."
Next the Orange Order says,
"The Pope claims himself to be the vicar of Christ on earth, a title which assumes supreme and universal supremacy both in honour and jurisdiction over all - church, state, the world. Any who would welcome him are in danger of appearing to acknowledge his primacy and universal supremacy in all of these matters."
So does this mean that the Head of State for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, is now in danger? Has she therefore acknowledged the Pope has primacy and universal supremacy? 

How then will the leadership of the Order cope with the Queen, who is greatly admired within the Order and many a Lodge having at least one picture of her on the wall, welcoming the Pope to the UK after having specifically invited him?  Or, as Burke's Corner also contends, does it signify Benedict recognising the Queen Elizabeth as the Supreme Governor of the Church of England?  He is visiting the UK on HER invitation alone.

The call to protest, whilst of course refraining 'from any uncharitable acts or sentiments against our Roman Catholic fellow countrymen', again seems to be a strange sentiment. I would have thought that making public protests against someone 'our Roman Catholic fellow countrymen' revere as much as Orangemen do the Queen was in itself an uncharitable act.

Perhaps it is merely an attempt to re-route the Pope?

At the end of the day the Orange Order really needs to think very carefully in future on public statements it makes, and think firstly about exactly what it is saying, to its members and to wider society on behalf of its members.  

I really do not see the point of the Orange Order making such ill-informed and doctrinally  narrow statements on my behalf.  I think it undermines the great work it has been engaged in for the past number of years.  

The reformation, on which the Orange Order stands, was never anti-Roman Catholic, it was pro-Protestant.  It was also rife with splits (Lutherans, Calvanists, Presbyterian).  The Orange Order draws members from all of the different Protestant denominations, and statements on behalf of the whole membership should reflect that, not a narrow section.  I do not deny their right to feel such a way or indeed express their theological opinions on the Pope's visit.  I would just have liked them to make the statement on their own denominational behalf.  The Orange Order should not have been used as a platform to launch such a statement.

Grand Chaplain Reverend Alistair Smyth said the Orange Order did not want protests of a violent nature taking place and that the final decision was up to the Grand Orange Lodges of Scotland and of England. He said Brethren might hold rallies outlining the differences between the Catholic Church and the principles of the Protestant reformation Orange Order members espouse.  He also defended the statement saying it was not sectarian, adding members wanted to flag up the principles of the reformed faith.  

Well, of course it is sectarian.  Sectarian means 'Adhering or confined to the dogmatic limits of a sect or denomination; partisan'.  Being sectarian is not a bad thing in its own right, though the word is used disparagingly far too often.  Any one with a religious belief is sectarian.  I am sectarian.

I think the Grand Chaplain and any Orange Brother who intends to act on the statement also need to remember, they will probably be right back at the end of the queue of people already wishing to have a wee chat to Benedict about a little matter of child abuse and its cover up.


Kilsally on 2:56 pm said...

Rev Ron Johnstone and Rev Mervyn Gibson have letters in the News Letter on this. I have posted them on my Orange Facebook page

..but basically I think the Order was right to comment on the Popes visit although I think physical protests would be unwise - we can leave that to the likes of Peter Tatchell the Human / Gay Rigths Campainers, Richard Dawkins, Stonewall, Outrage, The British Humanist Association and THe National Secular Society amongst others who all plan to protest and a united petition on the 10 Downing Street website and a united website at

Ivor Whitten on 11:30 pm said...

Very good :) thanks for the link to the facebook page and for kindly sharing my post with the brethren on the page as well.

I do take the arguments the clergymen put forward and respect them.

I just think the Orange might have put it across a bit better. it was a Pope that supported King William in his fight against King James II.

Maybe a letter of thanks would have been better.

I think the Orange is at the back of the queue anyway with the way the whole Roman Catholic church has been behaving recently.

Anonymous said...

The Queen did not invite him. Gordon Brown on behalf of the government did. It is illegal for the Queen to invite a pope here.

Ivor Whitten on 10:52 am said...


Yes, there are protocols in place, but it was through the discussions of a Presbyterian Prime Minister (Brown) with the Chief Governor of the ecclesiastical estate of Her Majesty's realm (Queen Elisabeth II) that the invitation was arranged. The Queen has to 'sign off' the invitation, otherwise it can not be a state visit.

It is also not the first time Queen Elizabeth has invited a Pope to officially visit the UK. John Paul II came to the UK in 1982 on invitation from the Queen.

I can understand the argument that she was placed in such a position and could not have stopped such an invitation going out. The illegal bit? I don't understand where this is coming from. The invitation has to come from the the King or Queen of the realm. Gordon Brown can not send the invite for a state visit - he does not have the authority to do so. Gordon Brown can not invite a head of state to the UK for a State visit on behalf of anyone, never mind the Government. Though I am willing to concede this if you can find the evidence to the contrary. I am not a fountain of knowledge, and appreciate being set straight when I am provide the wrong information.

I understand the religious issues being raised in the Orange Order statement, I defend the right for denominations to make their standpoints of faith. However, the Orange Order is not a singular reformed faith denomination. It has a wide variety of different denominational adherents. I just wish the Order had thought of this before issuing such a statement.

Many thanks for your comments. I do appreciate you taking the time to contribute.

I have copied the official notice from the Royal Family website below.

At the invitation of Her Majesty The Queen, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI will pay a Papal Visit to the United Kingdom from the 16th-19th September 2010.

His Holiness will arrive in Edinburgh on Thursday, 16th of September and will be received by HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh at the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

His Holiness will also visit Glasgow, London and Coventry during the four-day Papal Visit.

Steve Nimmons on 7:54 pm said...

Ian Wilson and the Grand Lodge of Scotland seem to have a much more sensible position on this.

I do not believe that the Pope's visit can be credibly challenged. It is perfectly reasonable to have a theological (or ideological) counterpoint, but the precepts of civil and religious liberty for all would preclude me from supporting any protest. The visit might well stimulate positive religious interest across the nation and lead us to explore areas of common belief. I was a big supporter of Benedict's visit to Israel in 2009 which 'broadly speaking' had a very positive impact. That visit also met with criticism from various quarters, so debate in these matters is not peculiar to Britain.

Some of the 'wilder' commentators have perhaps never studied the proceedings of "Vatican 2" or indeed recall the ties of the Williamites to Pope Alexander VIII.


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