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Printable version

Church of Ireland General Synod Sub Committee on Sectarianism Report : April 1999

Reprinted from the Church of Ireland, General Synod Book of Reports 1999

Executive Summary
The Sub Committee has met 18 times.

It has received 34 written submissions and 8 verbal presentations.

It has addressed sectarianism under the following headings:

(a) Working Definition of Sectarianism
(b) Theological Reflection on Sectarianism
(c) The Church of Ireland and the Loyal Orders
(d) The flying of flags on churches
(e) Educating the Church in the issues of sectarianism
(f) Sectarianism and the historic formularies of the Church of Ireland
(g) Elements in the history of the Church of Ireland giving rise to sectarianism
(h) The powers of bishops

Resolutions are proposed in respect of (d) and (f). An educational programme, already approved in principle by the Standing Committee, is recommended in (e).

The work of the Sub Committee was undertaken during a period when the situation at Drumcree continued both tense and unresolved. That situation figured widely in the Sub Committee’s consultations. Therefore with the knowledge and support of the Standing Committee a further resolution is proposed arising from the Drumcree situation.

1.0 Remit of the Committee
The Standing Committee Sub Committee on Sectarianism was appointed by the Standing Committee in response to a motion passed at the General Synod of 1997. The Synod resolved as follows:

"That this Synod affirms that the Church of Ireland is opposed to Sectarianism and requests the Standing Committee to initiate an examination of Church life at all levels, to identify ways in which the Church may be deemed to be accommodating to Sectarianism, and as a means of combating Sectarianism, to promote, at all levels of Church life tolerance, dialogue, co-operation and mutual respect between the churches and in society, to identify and recommend specific actions towards that end and then to report progress in the matter to the meeting of the General Synod in 1998."

The Committee recognises the importance of the special meeting of the Standing Committee and representatives of the Representative Church Body held in Killiney on 6 October 1998 which discussed sectarianism with particular reference to Drumcree. [See Standing Committee Report.]

2.0 Membership

The following were appointed to serve on the Sub Committee the first meeting of which took place on 1 August 1997:

Attended/Max number

The Archbishop of Armagh 6/18
The Archbishop of Dublin 2/18
Rev. K.M. Brown (formerly Young) 16/18
Very Rev. H. Cassidy (Representing the Honorary Secretaries) 2/3
Very Rev. D.R. Chillingworth 12/18
Mr E.W. Cookman (Representing the Honorary Secretaries) 0/4
Rev. O.M.R. Donohoe 14/18
Mr S. Foster 9/16
Ven. A.E.T. Harper (Chairman) 18/18
Mrs E. Hilliard 11/16
Mrs A. Kee 3/18
Rev. Canon W.A. Lewis 14/18
Ven. G.C.S. Linney (Representing the Honorary Secretaries) 3/10
Ven. G.A. McCamley 16/18
Dr K. Milne 10/18
Mr S. Morrow 10/16
Rt. Rev. J.R.W. Neill 5/18
Mr D.B. Thorpe 11/16
Prof. B.M. Walker 7/18
Very Rev. S.R. White (Consultant) 6/15
Mr M.C. Davey (Consultant) 7/18
Mrs E. Gibson-Harries (Press Officer) (Consultant) 10/18
Rt. Rev. S.G. Poyntz (Consultant) 13/18

Ms C.S. Turner was appointed to provide secretarial services.

3.0 Meetings
The Sub Committee met in total 18 times in Dublin, Belfast and Dundalk. The Sub Committee was instructed to report to each meeting of the Standing Committee and it presented an interim report of its first year’s work to the General Synod of 1998. (q.v.)

4.0 Working Definition of Sectarianism

The original motion required a broad address to issues of sectarianism within the Church of Ireland. The Sub Committee was required to address both the substantive issue and such perceptions and even misconceptions as might be abroad, including not only such aspects of Church life as may rightly be deemed to be tainted with sectarianism but also areas in which it may be held that the Church accommodates to sectarianism not specifically its own. As the report to General Synod 1998 set out, a general definition of sectarianism was adopted in line with the evolving working definition deriving from the work of the Irish School of Ecumenics ‘Moving Beyond Sectarianism’ project. The working definition stands as follows:


is a complex of attitudes, actions, beliefs and structures

: at personal, communal and institutional levels

: which typically involve a negative mixing of religion and politics

which arises as a distortion of natural, positive human needs for belonging, identity and the free expression of difference and is expressed in destructive patterns of relating

:negatively re-enforcing the boundaries between communities

:overlooking others

:belittling or demonising others

:justifying or collaborating in the domination of others

:physically intimidating or attacking others."

The Sub Committee acknowledges (as do Clegg and Leichty of the ‘Moving Beyond Sectarianism’ project) that the definition is not perfect. Sectarianism is one of those areas in which people often know what they mean but find a concept hard to define.

5.0 Context of the work of the Sub Committee
The background and context within which the original motion was framed is changing and evolving rapidly. Within the short life of the Sub Committee there has occurred not only the "Good Friday Agreement" but also the outworking of that in the holding of a referendum, elections and the setting up of a Northern Ireland Assembly, together with the proposed appointment of persons to office in an Executive to which it is proposed that power shall be devolved, along with the prospective creation of cross-border bodies and mechanisms for political consultation at local level. These achievements have been marked by the award of a Nobel Peace Prize to Messrs Hume and Trimble, but there have also been the evil catastrophe of the Omagh bombing, continuing paramilitary style beatings and shootings, and other atrocities such as the murder by arson of the Quinn children in Ballymoney, an event which occurred at a time of high community tension. From the particular perspective of the Church of Ireland there has continued, unresolved at the time of writing this report, the "Drumcree crisis".

It would be disingenuous to pretend that the events, the emotion and indignation engendered by successive confrontations at Drumcree and along the Garvaghy Road in Portadown, and reported in the media world-wide, did not set a context and provide motivation for the motion of 1997, the setting up of the Sub Committee, and much of the Sub Committee’s work. It is widely perceived that the whole Church of Ireland has been seriously damaged in international esteem, internal cohesion and public reputation throughout Ireland. There is little doubt that in the eyes of many the Drumcree crisis is a microcosm of the sectarian agonies of Northern Ireland, (if not of all Ireland) and it is especially distressing that a parish of the Church of Ireland and its church building should appear at the very heart of that agony. Issues surrounding the Drumcree crisis, and the appropriate response of the Church of Ireland to that crisis, have taken up much of the Sub Committee’s energy and time engaging the attention of two of our sub groups (no. 1 "dealing with the relationship between the Church of Ireland and the Loyal Orders and the Masonic Order together with the issue of flags and emblems" and no. 5 "examining the powers of bishops in relation to their ability to take actions in crisis situations for the good of the whole church and community").

6.0 Submissions
Submissions were invited at an early stage from any who might wish to contribute to the work of the Sub Committee. A total of 34 written submissions were received. In the case of the more substantial or significant contributions, the Sub Committee followed up written submissions by arranging face to face meetings with contributors. All of these meetings were extremely helpful and one issue surfaced time and again in both written and verbal submissions, namely that the apparent relationship between the Church of Ireland and the Loyal Orders (especially the Orange Order) gives rise to a widespread perception of the Church of Ireland as a sectarian body. Many who gave evidence saw the Church of Ireland as guilty of sectarianism by association with the Orange Order, which is widely perceived as itself sectarian. Furthermore the continuing situation at Drumcree serves in the eyes of many to exemplify and reinforce that perception. Lists of submissions received and groups/individuals met by the Sub Committee are included as Appendix One and Appendix Two.

7.0 Drumcree Crisis
The Sub Committee took great pains to examine and to attempt to describe the relationship between the Church of Ireland and the Orange Order and also to draw together an objective analysis of what the Order claims to stand for and whether these claims fit with the position of the Church of Ireland at the end of the twentieth century. It is important to recognise that whereas the Church of Ireland shares associations with the Orange Order spanning a period of two centuries, and whereas many current members of the Order are also members in good standing of the Church of Ireland, the Church has moved from some of the positions which in the past it may have shared with the Orange Order. Furthermore the Church regards the theological, doctrinal and liturgical convergence achieved in this century between the various Christian traditions as significant, substantial and congenial. It may therefore be fair to say that in certain respects the Church of Ireland and the Orange Order have parted company and that the Church has failed to draw this parting of the ways formally to the attention of the Orange Order. In certain respects the ministry of the Church to the Order is seen to have fallen short, for the Church has not sought to inform or lead the Order into the new era of rapprochement and mutual respect between the denominations, and particularly between the Churches of the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church. In the relevant section below there is an attempt to show exactly where attitudes and understandings diverge as between the Church of Ireland and the Orange Order. We offer those comments in charity so as to inform not only the members of our own Church (who may or may not be members of the Orange Order) but also the Order itself and the wider community which has a right to be reminded of such divergences. It has been said to us that indeed the Church owes the Orange Order an apology for having moved on and changed without telling them, in order not to disturb or disrupt the long established, albeit informal, links between the Church and the Order. The Sub Committee wishes to be seen to be at pains not to demonise the Loyal Orders - to do so would be to act towards them in a sectarian fashion. We commend to the Church an attitude of constructive engagement encouraging the Orders to move as the Church has moved.

It needs to be said that for all its international notoriety the situation at Drumcree is infinitely complex. Baldly stated the situation is as follows: Drumcree Parish Church is the ancient parish church of Portadown. It stands now in the midst of open country on a locally prominent hill some distance outside the town centre, for the town did not grow up around the hill at Drumcree but around the crossing point of the Bann near its entry to Lough Neagh. The events which led to the formation of the Orange Order in 1795 took place not far from Drumcree and Blacker records that the then rector of Drumcree was amongst the first of the gentry of the county publicly to support the newly formed Orange Order. Subsequently from 1807 onwards the local lodge or lodges of the Order established the custom of processing to Drumcree Parish Church to attend morning service on the first Sunday in July. That custom has not been continuously observed, nor has the route always been as it now is, but the custom is nevertheless a well established one. At times in the past, when public processions were declared illegal (e.g. The Party Processions Act 1850-1871) or when national necessity (1940-1944) was deemed to require it, the annual procession was not held. In other words in the past the Order has found it possible to vary its practice to comply with either the requirements of the law or a grave national situation. The Sub Committee has been informed that there were formerly as many as ten ‘church parades’ by the Order in Portadown and that these have been reduced now to one only. From the perspective of the Orange Order therefore while re-routing or cancellation is not impossible there is a strong local feeling that all that could reasonably be expected to be surrendered by the Order has been ceded. Furthermore there is no doubt that the attendance at worship by the brethren of the Portadown district is welcomed by the Rector and Select Vestry of Drumcree who take the view:

a) that no-one should be prevented from attending the public worship of Almighty God;

b) that what takes place within the church is an entirely proper, lawful and dignified act of worship; and

c) that what takes place outside the church is neither their responsibility nor within their control.

Some may see the parish and the church as powerless victims of particular circumstance. The position in which the Rector and Select Vestry of Drumcree find themselves is difficult but it is apparent to this Committee that they have full sympathy for and offer full support to the Portadown Lodges and it is equally clear that this support has been manifested by practical and verbal means during the protest. It is perfectly fair to say that the controversial elements of the Drumcree/Garvaghy Road situation arise not from events within the church but from what takes place on the outward and homeward journeys. Dispassionate observers may be disposed to recognise that sectarianism is operative on both sides of the community divide in the Drumcree situation. There is no doubt that many see public parades by an avowedly anti-Roman Catholic organisation like the Orange Order as sectarian and intimidatory; there is equally no doubt that the actions of the Garvaghy Road Residents’ Coalition are seen by many as a deliberately anti-Protestant sectarian encroachment on the right of a legal organisation to proceed peacefully to and from public worship.

It is not the place of the Sub Committee to adjudicate on the rights and wrongs of the marching issue at Drumcree nor to review the actions of the civil authority. In this regard however the Committee recognises the continuous efforts made by the Primate, the diocesan authorities of Armagh and the Standing Committee as well as other inter-church groups to address the particular difficulties presented by the Drumcree situation. [See select list at Appendix Three.] It is right therefore that the Sub Committee should draw attention to the particular issues that affect the Church of Ireland.

  1. An act of public worship cannot be entirely divorced from the actions, attitudes and intentions of worshippers before and after the act of worship itself. The attitudes and intentions of worshippers in respect of their adherence to the law and their personal and corporate disposition towards the wishes and opinions of fellow citizens are material to the act of worship itself, and where attitude and or intention are seriously defective may turn that act of worship into something potentially blasphemous. Furthermore there are circumstances in which an act of worship may become the focus for, or the proximate cause of, events which give rise to scandal or disorder.
  2. There is a long established tradition reaching back into the Middle Ages of brotherhoods and other corporate bodies making public progress to and attending public worship. That tradition persists and is represented by a much wider spectrum of such organisations than merely the Loyal Orders. What makes the situation different in the case of the Loyal Orders is the existence of a political element to their raisons d’être. The Church will have to give mature consideration to the implications of these aspects of Loyal Order parades since the Church will not wish to be seen as endorsing any particular party-political standpoint.
  3. The Church of Ireland will need to give careful thought to the way in which it responds to situations in which one of its parish churches is seen repeatedly to be at the heart of serious and damaging controversy. The situation at Drumcree could conceivably be replicated elsewhere and, it is widely acknowledged, could arise at a church of any of the Reformed traditions; or indeed other situations, not necessarily related to sectarianism, but damaging to the wider mission and ministry of the Church, could be conceived of as arising; yet the Church has no formal remedial mechanism, nor do bishops have powers of intervention. Only moral authority can be exercised as Church law now stands. The Sub Committee has had to consider whether such a situation is acceptable. In particular it has had to consider whether the exercise of moral authority may not be fatally damaged by unwillingness to back it with legal authority, if that moral authority is ignored or resisted.

8.0 Theological Considerations
Having set out the background and context within which the Sub Committee has had to conduct its work, it becomes a priority to set forward a theological consideration of the status of sectarianism for Christians. A preliminary statement was included in the report to Synod in 1998 which concentrated upon an address to the issue of sectarianism from the perspective of systematics. This statement has been revised to include also a biblical and specifically Trinitarian approach and the statement is commended to the General Synod for prayerful study.

8.1 Standing Committee Theological Reflection
We also commend the statement issued in January 1999, on behalf of the Standing Committee, offering a theological reflection on the situation at Drumcree. [See Report of Standing Committee.]

8.2 Theological Reflections on Sectarianism

8.2.1 There is in every theological venture a need to return, at least briefly, to the first principles of theology in order to ensure that whatever is thought and said thereafter is consonant with these principles. The principle of systematics is important here, namely that statements which are made in one context need to be, as far as is humanly possible, valid in every other theological context also.

8.2.2 Thus, if theology is to be defined briefly as "reasoned discourse about God", it is with God himself and our understanding of his nature that we must always begin. Theology has always professed and attempted to hold in balance two complementary and, at the same time, almost paradoxical visions of God: that he is at once knowable and at least partially intelligible to human reason (linked to his immanence), and that yet he is ultimately unknowable and beyond the reach of human intellect - that he is ineffable (linked to his transcendence).

8.2.3 There have existed, side by side therefore, the ‘negative’ and ‘positive’ ways in theology. Thus in one sense Martin Henry is right when he claims in On Not Understanding God (itself a significant title) that the only statement we can make about God is that "God is". At the same time, however, it is essential to fill out our understanding of God’s nature (acknowledging always the provisionality and inadequacy of our human terms, concepts and indeed understanding itself) the better to do justice to the reality of God ‘in himself’. As Isaiah so perfectly expressed it ""For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways", declares the Lord."

8.2.4 Within this context of acknowledged provisionality, the Christian tradition bears witness to one overwhelming facet of God’s nature as it appears to us: that "God is love" (cf. I John etc.). This love may be beyond our comprehension, but we know enough of what love is and of its importance to us, to know that if God is, in Anselm’s words, "That than which nothing greater can be conceived" then love itself must be one of the primary attributes of God.

8.2.5 With this love go other attributes (which must be at least the equivalent of the most profound human experience) and which must be necessary concomitants of such a perfect love, namely: openness to all his children and freely offered forgiveness to all who will accept it. This then, hedged around with all the qualifications of our human capacity to understand anything at all of divinity, is something of the essential nature of the God with whom we have to do.

8.2.6 Thus far our remarks have been confined to the possibility of speaking about God, and although they are written from a Christian perspective and from within the various traditions and methods of Christian theology, they might perhaps apply equally well to any theistic (and certainly any ethically monotheistic) religion. However, Christianity holds - and indeed proclaims - that the nature and activity of God is revealed supremely in the person and work of Jesus Christ. There is no space here to produce a detailed Christology or even to examine Christ’s life and ministry in any depth, but it is sufficient to indicate that Jesus reflects in his life the nature of the God of whom we have already spoken here.

8.2.7 The primary characteristic of Jesus’ life, then - and indeed the subject of some of his profoundest teaching - is love. Jesus’ condemnation is reserved for those who do not themselves love, and for those who love only by measure or according to law. To everyone else who comes to him, however, Jesus’ arms are open. He welcomes the despised, the outcast, the sinner, the sick, the maimed, the children, and into their lives he brings the living love of God himself, a love which ultimately, of course, lives most triumphantly by dying, and a love which gains its power to draw people to it precisely by its own self-giving and self-emptying for others.

8.2.8 Equally importantly, Jesus not only reveals the nature and depth of God’s love, but he also reveals what is the nature of a rightly ordered human love and self-love - and it is a failure to appreciate this which may also be seen to be at the root of sectarianism. Thus Jesus’ life is lived in the constant knowledge of dependence upon God, of everything, including life itself, stemming from God and being his gift, and of all that is being created, sustained and loved by God. It is into this over-arching framework which calls forth our responsive love for God that all our human loves, hopes and desires must be fitted. Our response to God is "ultimate": our response (and attitude) towards anything else is merely "penultimate" and therefore of the second, as opposed to the first order of importance.

8.2.9 Theology acknowledges then, as of the first order, at least these two central tenets: that God - if he is anything - is love; a love revealed most profoundly and most fully in Jesus Christ, and that even this assertion must be provisional in that we shall never know exactly what we mean by love until we experience its fullness for ourselves, which will, by definition, be an experience not to be vouchsafed in this life where we "see through a glass darkly".

8.2.10 These two central tenets would appear to be radically at variance with any manifestation of sectarianism. Where God is open, sectarianism rejects; where God forgives, sectarianism stores up revenge; where God would unite, sectarianism divides. Sectarianism gains its identity precisely through its lack of openness: my rightness is diametrically opposed to, and defined by, your wrongness; and therefore, indeed, my rightness is diminished if it can ever be shown that you may not be entirely wrong. This translates very often into an individual’s identity being bound up with that of a community/church/party or nationality whose "rightness" is thus identified.

8.2.11 This applies, unlikely though it may seem, even to what might be called "unintentional sectarianism", where a position is adopted for reasons which may be entirely internal to an organisation or community, but which then has (or is perceived to have) sectarian implications as far as others outside that organisation are concerned. A position is adopted on a particular issue for what may be excellent reasons as far as the community is concerned, because it appears in some way "right", but this conviction of "rightness" is then immediately cast in a sectarian light as soon as it makes contact with other communities which do not share this particular conviction. Again, even in matters internal to our own group or community we need to beware of any conviction of absolute "rightness" especially when we are aware that there are others who may sincerely and with integrity entirely disagree with us.

8.2.12 Furthermore, there is a theological understanding of how this process of polarisation can be created. Sectarianism depends upon either a refusal or an inability to recognise the provisionality of all of our human thinking and concepts, and therefore of all of the structures which flow from this thinking. This is in no way to deny that there is a universal human need to have "somewhere to stand": it is merely (but vitally) to indicate that however heartfelt and committed the stance, the "bottom line" must always be the ultimate inadequacy and provisionality of our (or of any) human stance. Without this acknowledgement, at however deep a level, a position or stance is reified, losing its provisionality in the process, and becomes a stance of rightness, indeed even of "righteousness", which it is then one’s duty to uphold in the face of those who have now, by definition, become "wrong".

8.2.13 Finally, this transformation may be given a further theological interpretation which is of immense potential significance - if an uncomfortable one - for our understanding of sectarianism. If faith is always, as we have argued, a provisional seeking after the absolute, then sectarianism would appear to represent the absolutising of the provisional, in which a church/community/party or nationality is put in the place of God, and in which the real God, now dethroned, is apparently made to serve and reinforce and defend. A goal or an organisation (and a need to belong) which may even be "good" in themselves, have been perverted by being given a greater and more absolute weight and significance than something which is purely human can ever properly or morally bear. Sectarianism may therefore be defined - harsh though it may seem - as a form of idolatry.

8.2.14 In conclusion, the above remarks may seem uncompromising, but this, we suggest, is the nature of theology, to bring us face to face with our human limitations in the light of our paltry glimmerings of divinity. In this meeting of the human and the divine we may either in pride reject what we see or sacrifice our human preoccupations and, as Micah succinctly expressed it, fulfil God’s own desire by "walking humbly with our God". The choice is ours: as God will not reject, neither will he coerce.

9.0 Forgiveness and Reconciliation
One issue which the Sub Committee as a whole has not yet addressed, and yet which was drawn to its attention in the 1998 Synod, has to do with properly understanding and providing for penitence, forgiveness and repentance. This is undoubtedly a fundamentally important and essentially doctrinal task. The following comments are offered not to foreclose discussion but to enable it. The divine model of forgiveness and reconciliation, most perfectly explored in the teaching of Our Lord and his example on the cross, should be our standard. That model suggests that:

  • Forgiveness precedes repentance not vice versa.
  • Forgiveness enables repentance but does not depend upon it.
  • Neither forgiveness nor repentance can be vicarious.
  • Forgiveness can include personal forgiveness for an offence or offences committed against the group with which one is identified.
  • A corporate entity, such as the Church, could offer and articulate forgiveness.
  • Confession and/or penitence can be articulated so as to include offences of which one is or has been unaware.
  • The act of forgiveness may become a means by which the nature of an offence is articulated.
  • Such articulation may draw the attention of an offender to an offence he may be unaware of having committed.
  • It is worth repeating that forgiveness does not await repentance but calls it forth.
  • As a matter of principle penalty should be restorative not retributive.

10.0 Further Substantive Issues
Although at times it seemed possible that issues closely allied to Drumcree might engage the whole energy of the Sub Committee, specific address was made to three other substantive issues of lasting consequence.

The Historic Formularies of the Church have been examined in order to see in what ways the doctrinal formulations of a bygone era may be contextualised for a new day.

Further contextualisation has been provided in the form of a short statement on the history of the Church of Ireland and its relationships with other ecclesial bodies and with the nation states and state institutions.

Finally considerable thought and preparatory work has gone into recommendations for creating an educational package to be applied throughout the Church of Ireland in order to raise awareness of the issue of sectarianism and in order to provide ways of changing attitudes and encouraging reconciliation.

In addition to these three major categories the Sub Committee found it necessary to give consideration to what is a culturally significant aspect of church life in Northern Ireland, namely the flying of the Union Flag for large parts of the year from or within the curtilege of church buildings of the Church of Ireland. It was noted that in the rest of the United Kingdom very clear directions, based on an adjudication by the Earl Marshal, control the flying of flags and emblems. Our report recommends a practice which we believe appropriate for the Church of Ireland but stops short of insisting on a mandatory code of practice with prohibitions. The practice in the Church of England, in conformity with the advice of the Earl Marshal, is set out for purposes of comparison and information.

11.0 Sub Groups

Five Sub Groups were established:

Sub Group One dealing with the relationship between the Church of Ireland and the Loyal Orders and the Masonic Order together with the issue of flags and emblems.
[After some consideration it was decided that the Sub Group did not regard the Masonic Order as falling under its remit according to the accepted definition of sectarianism but also emphasised that this did not preclude the relationship between the Masonic Order and the Church of Ireland being addressed in other contexts in the future.]

Sub Group Two dealing with the education of people in parishes, the use of adult and youth networks for education on issues related to sectarianism, denominational and integrated education and theological education on ecumenical issues in the Theological College.

Sub Group Three examining the Constitution, the Formularies and Articles in the light of our contemporary experience of sectarianism.

Sub Group Four examining the history of the Church of Ireland to identify ways in which our history has contributed to bigotry and sectarianism.

Sub Group Five examining the powers of bishops in relation to their ability to take actions in crisis situations for the good of the whole church and community.

The Reports of these Sub Groups follow.

A. Sub Group One: dealing with the relationship between the Church of Ireland and the Loyal Orders and the Masonic Order together with the issue of flags and emblems.

A1. Brief
Our brief was to examine Church Life at all levels to identify ways in which the Church may be deemed to be accommodating to sectarianism’ (Motion General Synod 1997). In the light of this we were asked to ‘deal with the relationship between the Church of Ireland and the Loyal Orders and the Masonic Order and the place of political and religious flags and emblems’ (Guidelines, Sectarianism Sub Committee 1997). Further, we should ‘consider the negative aspects of these issues and identify positive signs of hope, and opportunities for the future’.

A2. What is ‘Sectarianism’?
We acknowledge a human need to belong to ‘groups’ or ‘sects’, each of which has its own unique and specific identity. Problems arise however when there is ‘a distortion of the natural, positive, human needs for belonging, for identity and for the free expression of difference’ (Leichty/Clegg definition 1997). This affirmation of identity may be expressed in destructive patterns e.g. ‘negatively reinforcing boundaries between communities, overlooking others, belittling or demonising others, justifying or collaborating in the domination of others, physically intimidating or attacking others’ (Leichty/Clegg definition 1997).

All groups - including the Churches - can be party to emphasising identity in such a manner that it results in offence, hurt and conflict. There is a natural need to affirm identity. We recognise that the affirmation of identity is not risk-free or problem-free, and that, in an imperfect world, there is potential for conflict. In such circumstances, sensitivity is necessary.

In the light of the definition, we acknowledge and respect the wish of some people to belong to the various Orders. Our task, however, is not to evaluate these organisations in their own right, but to identify ways in which the Church of Ireland may be deemed to be accommodating to sectarianism in those organisations, if and where sectarianism exists, and insofar as the sectarian practice(s) of those organisations impinge on the life of the Church of Ireland. For example, does the Church of Ireland accommodate one or other of the Orders in collaborating ‘in the domination of others’ or ‘physically intimidating or attacking others’?

A3. The Church of Ireland and the Loyal Orders
The Loyal Orders have played a significant role in the history of Ireland and especially Northern Ireland for two centuries. The largest and most prominent is the Loyal Orange Institution of Ireland. A note on the origins, structure, history and standpoint of the Orange Order is set out in Appendix Four, the text of which has been certified by representatives of the Order as accurate. We are grateful to representatives of the Orange Order and others for their help in assembling the information contained in the appendix.

A3.1 The Relationship between the Church of Ireland and the Orange Order
There are no official or formal links between the Church of Ireland and the Orange Order. There are, however, many informal links established since 1795 and there are three points of informal contact today between the Church of Ireland and the Orange Order.

A number of members of the Church of Ireland - clergy and laity - are members of the Orange Order and other Loyal Orders.
Some Church of Ireland services are attended by the Orange Order. In some places, there is a tradition of holding services at other special times.
Some Orange Order halls are used by the Church of Ireland for church activities.
Where church services, at which Orange Order members are in attendance, take place, the Incumbent of the church alone has authority in the ordering of Divine Worship, and all related matters.

A3.1.1 Recognition of High Ideals in the Orange Order
We recognise that the Orange Order is a religious society with many high ideals. For example, to qualify for membership an Orangeman should have:

"a sincere love and veneration for his Heavenly Father; an humble and steadfast faith in Jesus Christ, the Saviour of mankind, believing in Him as the only mediator between God and man; he should cultivate truth and justice, brotherly kindness and charity, devotion and piety, concord and unity and obedience to the laws; his deportment should be gentle and compassionate, kind and courteous; he should seek the society of the virtuous and avoid that of the evil; he should honour and diligently study the Holy Scriptures, and make them the rule of his faith and practise; he should love, uphold and defend the Protestant religion, and sincerely desire and endeavour to propagate its doctrines and precepts; ........................he should remember to keep holy the Sabbath day, and attend the public worship of God, and diligently train up his offspring and all under his control, in the fear of God, and in the Protestant faith; he should never take the name of God in vain, ....... his conduct should be guided by wisdom and prudence, and marked by honesty, temperance and sobriety; the glory of God and the welfare of man, the honour of his Sovereign, and the good of his country, should be the motive of his actions."

A3.1.2 Difference on attitude to Roman Catholic Church
However, the Orange Order in its requirements, adopts an anti-Roman Catholic stance. An Orangeman:

"..... should strenuously oppose the fatal errors and doctrines of the Church of Rome, and scrupulously avoid countenancing (by his presence or otherwise) any act or ceremony of Popish worship; he should by all lawful means, resist the ascendancy of that Church, its encroachments and the extension of its power, ever abstaining from all uncharitable words, actions or sentiments, towards his Roman Catholic brethren...."

We will be stating below that, while these views were current in past centuries, they have been superseded in the late twentieth century in many churches, including the Church of Ireland, by a spirit of mutual respect, and the acceptance of denominational integrity.

A3.2 Ways in which the Church of Ireland may be deemed to be accommodating to sectarianism
The Church of Ireland may be deemed to be accommodating to sectarianism by association with certain aspects of Orange Order teaching and practice. The Church of Ireland responds to this suggestion by identifying clear differences between the Church of Ireland and the Orange Order.

A3.2.1 Areas where there are clear differences between the Church of Ireland and the Orange Order

A3.2.1.1 Inter-Church Relations

Because the Church of Ireland facilitates the Orange Order in Church of Ireland churches and church buildings, it is often thought that the Church of Ireland identifies with the Orange Order outlook on relations between Churches today. The reality is quite different. Whereas the Orange Order adopts an anti-Roman Catholic Church stand, the Church of Ireland is fully engaged in inter-church relations with the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland and world-wide.

The official Church of Ireland record demonstrates conclusively that for many decades the Church of Ireland has been to the forefront of ecumenical endeavour in promoting good inter-church relations with all the churches and further afield, including the Roman Catholic Church e.g. the Irish Inter-Church Meeting, the Irish Council of Churches, the Council of Churches of Britain and Ireland, the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, the Conference of European Churches, the Councils of Catholic Bishops of Europe, the World Council of Churches.

A3.2.1.2 The Orange Order’s claim to be the Defender of ‘Protestantism’
The Orange Order declares itself to be:

"composed of Protestants, united and resolved to the utmost of their power to support and defend the Protestant religion."1

The Church of Ireland is strongly supportive of efforts to promote the visible unity of the Church. However, there is as yet no single body of doctrine uniting all those churches and groups calling themselves Protestant. The Church of Ireland reserves to itself the responsibility of defining, defending and interpreting in the light of Holy Scripture the Faith it has received.

A3.2.1.3 The Place of Holy Scripture
We observe that much of the representation of Holy Scripture in the Loyal Orders is of the Old Testament, with an emphasis on such things as battle, righteousness, the defeat of evil, obedience to the law. This is reflected in the bible teaching and representation of bible scenes on Orange Order and especially the Royal Black Preceptory banners.

While we affirm fully the centrality of Holy Scripture in all of life, we submit that in the Loyal Orders, insufficient emphasis is ostensibly given to the New Testament, in particular to those teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ who manifested in his earthly ministry, and in his redeeming work on the cross, God’s love for all people: and who called us to the love of God and our neighbour (St Mark 12.30,31), to love our enemies (St Matthew 5.44), and who gave us the Golden Rule, to treat others as we ourselves would wish to be treated (St Matthew 7.12).

A3.2.1.4 Drumcree
The Church of Ireland may be deemed to be accommodating to sectarianism by association with certain aspects of Orange Order conduct and practice at Drumcree. The Church of Ireland responds to this suggestion by identifying clear differences between the Church of Ireland and the Orange Order in the Drumcree situation.

Because of the presence of the Orange Order at Drumcree Parish Church it is often thought that the Church of Ireland supports the range of issues surrounding the annual Orange Order church parade to Drumcree Parish Church on the Sunday before July 12. The reality is quite different.

Attendance at that service involves an Orange Order church parade to and from the Parish Church. Every year since 1995, partly as a result of opposition to them from the residents of the Garvaghy Road, the parades from the church service resulted in civil disturbance and violence. By facilitating the attendance of the Orange Lodges of the Portadown District at the church service, the Church of Ireland is perceived by many to be accommodating, in a degree, to the violence which occurred subsequently; it is argued that if the parade from the church service had not taken place, there might not have been the circumstances for civil disorder. In 1998 the Orange Order was unable to prevent civil disorder following the service of worship in Drumcree Parish Church.

We deeply regret that the Church of Ireland should have been in any way identified with the civil disturbance and we confess that in the circumstances, regret is insufficient, and must be combined with resolute remedial action. The commitment and ethos of the Church of Ireland are to "promote tolerance, dialogue, co-operation and mutual respect between the churches and in society" (General Synod Motion 1997). Not to do so is to promote sectarianism.

It has become a matter of deep shame that an act of worship should be followed by displays of hostility, hatred and lawlessness.

A3.2.1.5 Attitudes to the Law
At Drumcree, in 1998, the Orange Order did not recognise the lawful determination of the Parades Commission, namely that the Portadown District Church Parade should follow "the outward route on its return journey, or should disperse." The determination of the Parades Commission was disregarded.

The Church of Ireland has supported the lawful exercise of the civil power, and has taught respect for the law. Many members of the security forces - army and police - have been, and are, members of the Church of Ireland.

It is, therefore, of great concern when we observe scenes of lawlessness and violence at Drumcree, and elsewhere. These deplorable acts of aggression create the atmosphere of heightened tension in which atrocities such as the murders of the Quinn children in Ballymoney and, as a result of the violence deriving from Drumcree, the death of a policeman, have taken place.

The Church of Ireland respects the state and its authority. Historically, and by contrast, the Orange Order has had a conditional relationship with the state. The Orange Order has accepted the authority of the State insofar as the succession to the throne remains Protestant.

The Orange Order has a ‘party political’ as well as ‘religious’ agenda. The Church of Ireland has no party political allegiance and includes and welcomes into its membership people of all political persuasions and none.

The Church of Ireland upholds the right of peaceful protest within the law. At Drumcree, in 1998, the law was broken, and the protest resulted in violence and loss of life. The Church of Ireland totally abhors all such incidents and events.

A3.3.1 The Church of Ireland has changed
Since the sixteenth century Reformation, the Church of Ireland, with most of the Christian Churches, has changed and has gained new insights into the Christian faith as it has sought to deepen its obedience to its Risen Lord, and as it has sought the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Renewal, change and reform – ecclesia semper reformanda - are all part of the Reformation heritage.

We recognise that in our history on this island in past centuries we as the Established Church have been party to conquest, oppression and discrimination against our fellow Irish people, members of other Churches. We acknowledge that our own history and the history of the Orange Order, in its origins and growth, have been intertwined.

However, many of those in the forefront of work for reform and justice in society have been members of the Church of Ireland. In the twentieth century much encouraging change has taken place in breaking down the centuries-old barriers between the churches. The Church of Ireland commitment to, and involvement in, the ecumenical movement goes back to the Edinburgh International Missionary Conference (1910). Following the Lambeth 1920 resolution 13, the first meeting of the "United Council of Christian Churches and Religious Communities in Ireland" was held in January 1923 with the Bishop of Derry (Bishop Peacock) in the chair. Subsequently the United Council evolved into what is now known as the Irish Council of Churches. The Church of Ireland has been committed to the World Council of Churches since its formation in 1948. The work of the Second Vatican Council in the early 1960s added substantial impetus to the Roman Catholic Church’s involvement in the developing process of steadily increasing contacts between the churches. In 1968 the Church of Ireland was instrumental in the establishment of the Ballymascanlan Conference; also, the Church of Ireland in the 1970s initiated the custom of inviting observers of other Churches - including the Roman Catholic Church - to the General Synod. In 1996 the Church of Ireland became a signatory to the Porvoo Declaration. In the 1990s, the great majority of churches world-wide are committed to ongoing dialogue with one another, as they pray and work for ‘the visible unity of the Church". The Church of Ireland has been, and is, fully part of this development.

We encourage the Orange Order to note these remarkable and encouraging developments in relations between the churches, which are marked by a spirit of mutual respect, charity, and the acceptance of diversity. Until the mid-twentieth century, differences between the churches were often handled in a confrontational manner. Today, in the Church of Ireland, differences with our fellow Christian churches are handled through dialogue recognising that the common faith that we share is more than our differences.

A4 The Orange Order - Faith and Practice
We commend the Orange Order where it exhorts its members "to an humble and steadfast faith in Jesus Christ ..... And to cultivate truth, justice, brotherly kindness and charity" (Qualifications of an Orangeman). We also note the Order’s explicit commitment to tolerance of difference: The Institution "will not admit into the Brotherhood persons whom an intolerant spirit leads to persecute, injure or upbraid any man on account of his religious opinions"

A5 Reflections
In conclusion:

  • We believe that in order to show itself a truly Christian movement it is now time for the Orange Order to show that love of God, love of neighbour and obedience to the New Testament principles take priority over mere party advancement.
  • We believe that exclusivity is contrary to the teaching and example of Jesus Christ and that inclusivity, therefore, must be the hallmark of our Christian actions as the third millennium approaches.
  • We fear that the Qualifications of an Orangeman cloak anti-Catholicism in a culture of courteous civility.
  • We believe that while it is the right of any individual to attend public worship in Church of Ireland churches such rights do not extend to participation in marches that may be deemed offensive to some.
  • We suggest that the full consequences of marching, including the cost to social cohesion as well as all economic costs, should be weighed before insisting on the right exclusively to march (which right does not exist inalienably).
  • We therefore suggest that the approach of a new millennium presents a timely opportunity for the Orange Order to address the issues identified above and to take steps towards reform and renewal

A6 Flags and Emblems
For the purposes of our examination, flags and emblems fall into five categories:

  1. Flags laid up
  2. The Union Flag
  3. The Flag of the Republic of Ireland
  4. Orange Flags
  5. Church Flags and Banners

A6.1 Flags Laid Up

Many flags and emblems of the Crown have been laid up in Church of Ireland churches, north and south, and reflect the past. As a church we have a responsibility to ensure that these symbols are cared for respectfully, and also to ensure that they do not become a dominant element in church buildings. Where flags are laid up they should be displayed with dignity and in such a manner that they are not intrusive in the worship of Almighty God.

A6.2 The Union Flag

The Union flag, of the crosses of St George, St Andrew and St Patrick, is the flag of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

(a) Flags displayed on or outside church buildings

This practice is common in certain areas of Northern Ireland at certain times of the year. However, some people question whether the flag should be flown externally on church buildings. We point to the example of sister Anglican Churches in England, Scotland and Wales, where it is common practice to display the flag of the patron Saint and not the Union Flag. It is believed that this emphasis testifies to the universality of the Christian faith.

(b) Flags displayed inside the Church

Often the Union Flag is displayed. An appropriate location for the display is the war memorial.

(c) Church of England practice

The rationale for the practice of flying a flag bearing the cross of St George on churches of the Church of England is provided in the adjudication given by the Earl Marshal in 1938. The following text derives from the most recent edition of "Legal Opinions Concerning the Church of England".

Without making it compulsory, the Earl Marshal laid down in 1938 that the flag proper to be flown on any church in the provinces of Canterbury and York is a St George’s Cross with the arms of the see (which should not be surmounted by a mitre except when used by the Bishop personally) in the first quarter. Detailed guidance was given in the 8th report of the Council for the Care of Churches, published in 1940.

Note: The ‘detailed guidance’ in the 8th report of the Council for the Care of Churches does not give specific directions regarding the Union Jack, but the College of Arms advised in 1977 that no other flag but the St George’s Cross should ever be flown from a church flagpole (and stressed that this includes the Union Flag).

In the past, this has been left to the discretion of the Incumbent. A flag may be flown on the acknowledged day of the church’s name saint, e.g. a church dedicated to St George would fly a flag in St George’s Day. The flag can also be flown on other festive occasions in the church or the nation, e.g. the Queen’s Birthday (actual or official birthday).

The Home Office issues general advice concerning flags being flown at half-mast for periods of public mourning (e.g. after the murder of Lord Mountbatten).

[Extract from Legal Opinions concerning the Church of England is copyright © The Central Board of Finance of the Church of England 1994, 1997, The Archbishops’ Council 1999 and is reproduced by permission. Legal Opinions concerning the Church of England contains legal opinions on a wide variety of topics affecting the Church. The complete text can be obtained from Church House Bookshop (Tel: 0171-898-1301/1302; Fax: 0171-898-1305; E-mail: Church House Bookshop) and other Christian bookshops.]

A6.3 Flag of the Republic of Ireland

The Tricolour, of green white and orange, is the flag of the Republic of Ireland.

(a) Flags displayed on or outside church buildings

It is not common practice to fly the flag on church buildings.

(b) Flags displayed inside the Church

It is noted that on certain occasions, such as Founder’s Day of the Boys’ Brigade, the national flag is carried in procession and on Remembrance Sunday when the British Legion and national flags stand together in St Patrick’s Cathedral Dublin.

A6.4 Orange Flags on Churches

There is no ecclesiastical justification for flying ‘Orange’ and ‘Purple’ flags on or outside church buildings.

A6.5 Church Flags and Banners

The display of flags and banners of church organisations, of Patron Saints and of the Anglican Communion, is an acceptable practice of the Church of Ireland.

Following from this Resolution One is offered.

B. Sub Group Two: dealing with the education of people in parishes, the use of adult and youth networks for education on issues related to sectarianism, denominational and integrated education and theological education on ecumenical issues in the Theological College.

The requirement to develop a programme of education in the issues of sectarianism is urged as a long-term project within the Church of Ireland. Such a proposal has been accepted in principle by the Standing Committee. To this end a structure will be required orientated towards development and management.

The purpose of the programme should be to explore:

"how people in parishes and dioceses throughout the Church of Ireland can come to a deeper understanding of the nature of sectarianism and its impact on their lives."

Three aspects to such a programme are identified:

B2.1 The need to produce materials for use in parishes in a wide range of groups and situations. This would include study and other materials for groups and the possibility of particular times of focus on this issue, e.g. in a Lent programme. Much material is already in existence and could be produced in a ‘repackaged’ form with the assistance of groups such as ECONI, Corrymeela etc.

B2.2 The need to develop a programme of National, Diocesan and other conferences and events through which the issue of sectarianism can be constantly brought to the attention of church people. In proposing this, we are very aware of the success of the model adopted by CIYC for the Youth Forum and its development throughout the dioceses. We are also aware of the increasing priority being given to this area of work by dioceses throughout the Church of Ireland.

B2.3 The need to develop a programme on issues of sectarianism within the Theological College for the benefit of ordinands and other clergy in training.

We believe the need to move forward is urgent. A new body is required to oversee the development of this work, to achieve the involvement of more people in the process and to make possible the employment of staff. A newly-constituted body may be able to attract considerable financial support from the Community Relations Council (NI) and other sources.

The following structure is commended:

a) An Overseeing Committee

This would take responsibility for the development of the work, seeing it as a long-term strategy, perhaps five years.

b) Resource Development Group and Forum Development Sub Group

These groups would be responsible for the development of the work as outlined above.

C. Sub Group Three: examining the Constitution, the Formularies and Articles in the light of our contemporary experience of sectarianism.

The Church of Ireland has required assent to its historic formularies from all those being ordained or admitted to any office in its ordained ministry. In a few provinces of the Anglican Communion, this assent has been substantially altered, and in some cases some of the formularies are no longer included in the form of subscription. However, this church retains its particular confessional heritage, recognising that it is distinctively Anglican, asserting the freedom of the church with respect to tradition and its obligation with respect to Scripture. In order that certain phrases in the historic formularies should not be taken out of context, and that due recognition be given to the way that the Church of Ireland has committed itself to working for Christian Unity, the work of this section of the Sub Committee on Sectarianism was to offer clarification.

Statement on Historic Formularies
As a result of dialogue with other churches in recent years a number of statements have been issued which condition the way in which the Church of Ireland approaches relationships with other Christians, and also its understanding of the historic statements and formularies of this church.

The official Response of the Church of Ireland to the Final Report of Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC I) issued in 1986 states:

"Meanwhile, the Church of Ireland needs to recommit itself to the goal of visible unity in Faith, Order and eucharistic fellowship, and to redouble its efforts to work with Roman Catholic and other Christian people for that unity which is grounded in truth, love and holiness. [Prefatory note p106 Book of Reports 1986.] It is important in our search for unity in truth that we continue ........ to encourage growth in personal and community relationships between members of the Church of Ireland and people of all Christian traditions in Ireland, including those of the Roman Catholic Church." [Introduction p108 Book of Reports 1986.]

It is in the light of this and similar statements that Resolution Two is offered.

D. Sub Group Four: examining the history of the Church of Ireland to identify ways in which our history has contributed to bigotry and sectarianism.

Elements or Issues in the History of the Church of Ireland Giving Rise to Sectarianism
In the past, religion and politics in Ireland have been inextricably linked. Members of the Church of Ireland, though a minority of the population, but belonging to the Established Church, had a privileged position as compared with Roman Catholics and Presbyterians. Although the dominance of the state church was commonplace in contemporary Europe from the time of the Reformation, we must acknowledge the impact of that position on other Churches in Ireland.

The penal laws, tithes, the landlord system, and nineteenth century proselytising societies, were episodes in our past that fuelled sectarian feeling, though it is essential to recognise the different historical contexts in which they occurred.

In Northern Ireland the Church of Ireland has often been perceived as identified with the political parties supporting the union, and with the Loyal Orders. Such identification was understandable in an age of widespread connection between religion and politics throughout Ireland; and similar connections were common in Europe.

However, in present circumstances, with the demands of an ecumenical age and, especially in Northern Ireland, the ongoing efforts to find new relationships between the political parties, the existence of such links must be challenged. This is necessary if we are to prevent damaging consequences to the Christian Faith, and to liberate political parties from a denominational strait-jacket.

Political parties will benefit from not being tied solely to particular religious traditions, and Christianity will benefit from being separated from party politics.

The historical dimensions of conflict on the island must be acknowledged. The influence of historical events and myths must be admitted. We must also recognise that it is not necessarily historical events alone that promote sectarian attitudes, but also the interpretation that is put upon them, and, most of all, the way that they are used for specifically political and sectarian purposes.

Advances in the teaching of Irish history have helped us to distinguish between myth and reality in our perceptions of the past.

E. Sub Group Five: examining the powers of bishops in relation to their ability to take actions in crisis situations for the good of the whole church and community.

The events at Drumcree, especially over the past four years, have drawn attention to the fact that highly disruptive events may become associated with occasions such as public worship which fall solely under the control of the parochial authorities. Bishops do not have, or so it appears, power to intervene or to overrule despite the fact that in the declarations administered to an incumbent at his/her institution he/she promises to be obedient to the diocesan in all lawful and honest commands. While for the most part bishops would be extremely reluctant to act in overruling an incumbent the absence of power has posed a particular dilemma in the light of Drumcree.

When the Sub Committee first examined the issue it formed the view that to attempt to give bishops reserve powers was not consonant with the ethos of the Church of Ireland. In the Church of Ireland it is argued, the basis of the exercise of Episcopal authority is moral and didactic, not legal and juridical. Furthermore the exercise of such powers might lead to protracted and difficult circumstances including resort to legal proceedings in the Church courts. It seemed at the time that to create circumstances in which an incumbent would be penalised for doing that which is normally his/her duty, (namely conduct divine worship in the parish church to which he/she was instituted), might make matters even worse. The reluctance of the Church of Ireland to give its bishops powers in special circumstances is seen and portrayed by many as undermining the very moral and teaching authority we ascribe to our bishops..

For this reason some members of the Sub Committee were in favour of offering to the General Synod new legislation in the form of a bill. Such legislation would have provided powers to a bishop who might determine that a particular service should not take place because it might be attended by specified scandalous circumstances. Under such legislation it would have been lawful for the incumbent to dissent from his/her bishop’s opinion but not deliberately to thwart its implementation. The specimen detailed provisions of the proposed legislation were passed before the Standing Committee.

Continuing and wider consultation within the church, including not only debate in the Standing Committee but also (it is understood) discussion within the House of Bishops, indicated significant opposition to such legislation, including opposition from a majority of bishops. Not only was it asserted that such legislation was highly unlikely to succeed if offered to the General Synod, but it was also strongly argued that the effect of the legislation would be profoundly to alter the long established relationship between parochial and diocesan authorities. The wide freedom enjoyed by an incumbent in respect of his/her bishop and by a parish in respect of the diocese carries with it profound responsibilities; better, it is argued, to encourage mature counsel and responsible action than to threaten the exercise of individual responsibility by coercion. The Church may have to suffer, therefore the pain and offence occasioned by rare instances of failure or breakdown of relationships where and when they occur, the better to protect and foster a culture of mutual responsibility. It will always be important to affirm and assert that actions (or indeed refusals to act) on the part of clergy and parishes have consequences for the whole church, and that the whole church may be damaged by irresponsibility on the part of individual elements within it, just as the whole church may be edified and enriched by courageous actions that are responsible and responsive to the Gospel of love. The delicate balance developed in the Church of Ireland between individual freedom and corporate responsibility brings with it both risk and opportunity, but so distinctive and potentially creative a characteristic of this church should not lightly be jeopardised. The ultimate decision therefore of the Sub Committee was not to proceed with legislation.

The decision not to proceed with proposed legislation does not, however, remove the need to make an articulate response to the Drumcree situation. The Sub Committee therefore takes the view that the General Synod should be invited to support a motion (Resolution Three) which gives full-hearted support to the efforts that have been made by the Church of Ireland, under the leadership of the Archbishop of Armagh, to resolve the situation at Drumcree and also to invite and encourage the parochial authorities of Drumcree to identify totally with the rest of the church and its leadership in respect of the stand taken over the continuing Drumcree crisis. That motion is set out in Resolution Three. The Sub Committee recognises that in bringing forward this resolution it has placed a heavy responsibility on the Rector and Select Vestry of Drumcree. The Sub Committee also recognises the pain and suffering experienced in the past years by the Rector and Select Vestry of Drumcree, but along with their suffering in what has become their tragic dilemma there must also be heard the pain, the voice and the will of the rest of the Church of Ireland.

Appendices (* Indicates Appendices are not included in this extract )

Appendix One: Submissions and Letters Received*
Appendix Two: Groups and Individuals Met by the Sub Committee following Submissions or Requests*

Appendix Three: Summary list of statements by the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, the diocesan authorities of Armagh, the Standing Committee of the General Synod of the Church of Ireland and the Representative Church Body of the Church of Ireland on the Drumcree Situation

Joint Statement by Archbishops of Armagh
23 June 1998

Open letter to Portadown District of the Orange Order from Diocese of Armagh
25 June 1998

Statement by Archbishop of Armagh condemning attacks on Roman Catholic churches
2 July 1998

Statement by Archbishop of Armagh
4 July 1998

Statement by Archbishop of Armagh on continuing Portadown Stand-off
10 July 1998

Statement by the Representative Church Body
15 July 1999

Letter of Archbishop of Armagh to the editor of "The Tablet"
25 July 1998

Open letter to Portadown District of the Orange Order from Diocese of Armagh
24 August 1998

Armagh Diocesan Council Motion on Drumcree
7 September 1998

Standing Committee of General Synod of the Church of Ireland and Executive Committee of the Representative Church Body
6 October 1998

Appendix Four: Origins and History of the Loyal Orders

The following is a brief summary of the origins and history of the Loyal Orders which has been approved by members of the Education Committee of the Loyal Orange Institution of Ireland. It shows the historic roots of the Orange Order and the practicalities of this organisation.

The Loyal Orders are ‘The Loyal Orange Institution of Ireland’, ‘The Royal Arch Purple Chapter’, and ‘The Imperial Black Chapter of the British Commonwealth’. Strictly speaking ‘The Apprentice Boys of Derry’ are not classified as a Loyal Order.

4A The Brotherhood Tradition
The Loyal Orders background is in the broader ‘brotherhood’ tradition which has existed throughout the Christian world - from the Middle Ages until recently. Brotherhoods have been found among people of all political persuasions, social classes and religious groupings. The last 300 years saw a massive increase in the number of brotherhoods, all modelling themselves on organisations much older, viz. the ancient monastic orders, orders of chivalry, and guilds of merchants and craftsmen who ran most towns and cities into the 19th century.

The 18th and 19th century societies and orders in Ireland were formed to satisfy a variety of human needs in religion, politics, recreation, economic life and insurance. Today the brotherhood tradition persists in Freemasons, Buffaloes, Orangemen, Blackmen, Apprentice Boys, Hibernians, Foresters, Trades Unions, friendly societies, Scouts, Guides, religious orders and confraternities.

The brotherhoods share certain characteristics as follows:-

complex ceremonials, secret signs, passwords, processions with music and banners, attendance at special church services, elaborate regalia, hierarchies of degrees and officers, formal lectures, elaborate membership documents, material aid in difficulties, and a real or supposed association with a tradition of the Middle Ages.

4B Origins
The Loyal Orange Institution may be said to derive from three sources - the Williamite Societies such as the Boyne Society; the Volunteers; and the Orange Boys formed at Dyan in Tyrone by James Wilson, a Presbyterian, following the disbanding of the Volunteers in 1793.

Although Armagh had suffered agrarian disturbances between rival factions of Peep O Day Boys and Defenders, the Orange Society, set up after the Battle of the Diamond, repudiates any connection with these.

The Orange Society was a new departure from the beginning aimed at keeping within the law. Initially it inherited its orders and degrees from the Boyne Society but when a Grand Lodge was set up in 1798 it began a process of discouraging the biblical based degrees. However those which had already been admitted were continued unofficially after 1798 and became the Royal Arch Purple Order, unrecognised by the Orange Institution. The degrees inherited from the Boyne Society, but which had not been admitted before 1798, became the Royal Black Institution which was set up as a Grand Black Lodge with its own warrants in 1820. Its designs are all based on Holy Scripture. For sociological reasons the leadership of the Orange Institution after 1798 was almost entirely Church of Ireland but the membership from the beginning was mixed from all Protestant denominations.

The Basis of the Institution: Aims and Purpose.
It is composed of Protestants resolved to defend

- the rightful Sovereign being Protestant

- the Protestant religion

- the law of the realm

- the lives and property of Protestants

- the public peace.

Members associate to honour the memory of King William. They are forbidden to show an intolerant spirit or to upbraid any man on account of his religious opinion.

4C Aims and Purpose of the Orange Order
The Orange Order degrees indicate that the Order is dedicated specifically to the celebration of the memory of William III, Prince of Orange, and the public demonstration on July 12 recalls the Battle of the Boyne. The Order also professes a loyalty to ‘The Protestant Crown’ and ‘The Protestant Faith’. These basic commitments are reflected in the emblems of the Order - William III, crown and bible. A core purpose of the Orange Order is defence of the Protestant faith:

"The Institution is composed of Protestants, united and resolved to the utmost of their power to support and defend the Protestant Religion."

"It is exclusively an Association of those who are attached to the religion of the Reformation"

The Order seeks to unite Protestants of all denominations in opposition to biblical error and in the encouragement of scriptural truth.

4D Structure and Authority
The Orange Order is organised at Local, District, County and Grand Lodge levels. However the organisation, from its inception, has not had a linear command structure. For example, in the early 19th century Grand Lodge tried to stop local lodges from forming more ‘degrees’, but with little success. It is not a monolithic organisation. Lodges are subject to the structures above them. The hierarchy has influence but not complete power over the membership. There is an organisational structure, with reasonable freedom of decision-making at every level, subject to compatibility with Senior Lodge thinking. Like all brotherhoods, the Order is dominated by its experts and enthusiasts. Control of such a large membership can be difficult in tense situations. It is, therefore, difficult to assess the Order. When a view is expressed, it may not be that of the Order as a whole.

4E Membership, Degrees and Scripture.
The Orange Order welcomes into its membership those who are practising Protestants - who attend regular worship in church, who live a morally upright life, and who are tolerant towards those with whom they disagree. The bonding between members is based on a spirit of tolerance towards those within the brotherhood with whom there may be differences and those outside the brotherhood who may differ in religious persuasion. The "Basis of the Institution" states that the Institution:

"will not admit into the Brotherhood persons whom an intolerant spirit leads to persecute, injure or upbraid any man on account of his religious opinions."

The Order boasts of being able to bring together in fellowship members of the ‘Protestant’ denominations: also people of all social classes, besides being an international organisation with a presence in England, Scotland, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Togo, Ghana and the Republic of Ireland.

When someone joins the Orange Order today, he usually passes through two tests of initiation called ‘degrees’ - the Orange and the Plain Purple. He may then be invited to join the Royal Arch Purple Chapter, involving passing through a further, more daunting degree. After that, he may become a member of a Black Preceptory and pass through its eleven ‘degrees’ - nine from the Old Testament, two from the New Testament. Membership of the Royal Black Institution is the highest form of Orangeism. Like other brotherhoods, the Orange and Black have annual processions.

4F Parades, Marches, Church Services
From the beginning, attendance at church services has been part of the Orange practice, most notably on the Sunday preceding July 12 each year. Attendance has frequently been linked to a parade to and from the church. There is a qualitative difference between ‘church parades’ and ‘marches’: the 12th July parade is to a field and not to a church. Currently, some church parades are controversial. Some Orange Order members perceive that there is a concerted effort to prevent ‘church parades’.

In Northern Ireland there are more than 3,000 parades, marches and demonstrations each year. One third of the parades are not Orange Institution parades. Most of the parades pass off peacefully and uneventfully. Thirteen have been controversial.

The Orange Institution has produced a booklet which provides some explanation for the parade phenomenon. It states that:

  • Orange parades represent a celebration of the victory of King William III at the Battle of the Boyne, and of the Protestant religion and culture.
  • Orange parades are a display of pageantry.
  • They are a demonstration of strength.
  • They represent a sense of tradition.
  • They are a testimony and a statement of beliefs.
  • The Institution itself has outlined a number of proposals for the reduction of conflict relating to parades. These proposals relate to offensive symbols, sectarian lettering on banners and drums, standards of behaviour of bands, the playing of music outside Roman Catholic churches, and indicate that the Institution values negotiations between parade organisers and local residents prior to parades taking place.

4G Teaching about the Roman Catholic Church
The Orange Order teaches that some Roman Catholic beliefs and practices are incompatible with the clear teaching of the Holy Scripture and the Articles and Confessions of the Protestant Churches. The Order sees itself as a defensive organisation against the encroachment of Roman Catholicism. It perceives itself as ‘a watchman’ against the errors of Rome. The Roman Catholic Church and Irish Nationalism are perceived ass a great threat to the Protestant/Unionist identity. There is a perception that the ‘Church of Ireland clergy are weak on Protestantism’ and that they should ‘stand up for faith and people’ [against Roman Catholicism].


Resolution One:
The General Synod of the Church of Ireland recognises that from time to time confusion and controversy have attended the flying of flags on church buildings or within the grounds of church buildings. This Synod therefore resolves that the only flags specifically authorised to be flown on church buildings or within the church grounds of the Church of Ireland are the cross of St Patrick or, alternatively, the flag of the Anglican Communion bearing the emblem of the Compassrose. Such flags are authorised to be flown only on Holy Days and during the Octaves of Christmas, Easter, the Ascension of Our Lord and Pentecost, and on any other such day as may be recognised locally as the Dedication Day of the particular church building. Any other flag flown at any other time is not specifically authorised by this Church.

Resolution Two
The General Synod of the Church of Ireland adopts the following declaration with regard to its understanding of the historic formularies of the Church of Ireland:

The Church of Ireland is part of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, worshipping the one true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It professes the faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds: which faith the Church is called upon to proclaim afresh in each generation. Led by the Holy Spirit, it has borne witness to Christian truth in its historic formularies, the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer, the Ordering of Bishops, Priests and Deacons and the Declaration prefixed to the Statutes of the Church of Ireland (1870).

These historic formularies are a definition of the faith as proclaimed by the Church of Ireland, and thus form an important part of the inheritance through which this Church has been formed in its faith and witness to this day. The formularies that have been passed on are part of a living tradition that today must face new challenges and grasp fresh opportunities.

Historic documents often stem from periods of deep separation between Christian Churches. Whilst, in spite of a real degree of convergence, distinct differences remain, negative statements towards other Christians should not be seen as representing the spirit of this Church today.

The Church of Ireland affirms all in its tradition that witnesses to the truth of the Gospel. It regrets that words written in another age and in a different context should be used in a manner hurtful to or antagonistic towards other Christians.

The Church of Ireland seeks the visible unity of the Church. In working towards that goal this Church is committed to reaching out towards other Churches in a spirit of humility and love, that together all Christians may grow towards unity in life and mission to the glory of God.

Resolution Three
This Synod fully endorses the efforts of the Archbishop of Armagh, the Diocese of Armagh and the Standing Committee of the General Synod of the Church of Ireland in their attempts to resolve the crisis at Drumcree. It calls upon the Rector and Select Vestry of Drumcree to endorse the pledges called for by the Archbishop of Armagh in respect of the conduct of those attending the annual parade by lodges of the Orange Order to Drumcree Parish Church. The pledges are as follows:

The avoidance of any action before or after the service which diminishes the sanctity of that worship.
Obedience to the law of the land before and after the service.
Respect for the integrity of the Church of Ireland by word and action and the avoidance of the use of all church property or its environs in any civil protest following the service.
This Synod further requests that should the Orange Lodges of the Portadown District decline to adhere to the pledges required by the Archbishop of Armagh, the invitation, established by custom, to the Lodges to attend Morning Service be withdrawn by the Rector and Select Vestry of Drumcree.