By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — The relationship between the Orange Order and the Church of Ireland should one of “progressive disengagement,” according to a new study by County Antrim rector Rev. Earl Storey, who is a member of the church’s working group on sectarianism.
The starting point for ending the relationship, he said, is “the unequivocal public understanding that the Church of Ireland, whatever its history, is no longer necessarily a fellow traveler with Orangeism.”
Many clergymen and members of the church in Northern Ireland are also members of the Order and Storey says that any relationships at local should be done “within clear guidelines.”
In his book “Traditional Roots,” which was launched by the bishop of Down and Dromore, Rev. Harold Miller, Storey warns against a total and sudden break with the order.
The refusal to facilitate services would be traumatic for “decent law-abiding citizens and honorable” people who are members of both organizations and it could also fuel more extreme elements of Orangeism and greatly increase the atmosphere of sectarianism, Storey said.
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The Order’s linking of the gospel with one particular political and constitutional arrangement, namely Britain, is “something that no part of the Christian church should countenance,” according to Story, who admits that the history of the Church of Ireland has been “anything but flawless in this regard.”
Orangeism’s rendering of history that “celebrates Protestant innocence and Catholic threat, as well as the use of selective biblical texts, suggests an intellectual legitimizing of anti-Catholicism that at the very least reinforces ignorance, if not threat,” Storey said.
He said the two organizations had drifted apart but “there are matters of principle that compromise the position of the church as a politically neutral body, and actions by members of the Order that in recent years have associated the church with violence, civil disorder and murder.”
Referring to the “scandal” of the annual standoff at Drumcree every year on July 12, Storey says his church has become trapped and is being used. “This is something that it should not tolerate,” he said.
He added that there is a major temptation for much of the Church of Ireland to attempt to muddle through the issue and this sometimes took the form of ignoring Orangeism for 50 weeks of the year and to effectively relinquish control of the church for two weeks in July.
Storey said the Order had to explain why paramilitary bands are allowed to take part in the main Twelfth demonstration in Belfast and why paramilitary paraphernalia is sold at the Field at Finaghy where the Orangemen gather.
“The sight of anything that celebrates violent republican paramilitarism at a public demonstration by an organization devoted to Catholic faith would be offensive, morally repugnant and indefensible,” Storey said. “It is no less so when the reverse is the case.”