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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
Defending the Faith

Radical Unionist political commentator Dr John Coulter firmly believes a spiritual revival amongst Unionists will force them to reaffirm that what unites Unionism as an ideology is its defence of the Protestant Reformed Faith.

Dr John Coulter • 4 November 2004

Northern Unionism, Orangeism, Protestantism and Loyalism is so heavily fragmented with splits, factions and feuds that it will require radical theological surgery to bring to an end almost a generation of bitter internecine conflict and confrontation.

From the start of the Troubles in 1986 until the 1998 parades dispute at in Portadown, County Armagh, the 60,000-strong exclusively Protestant Orange Order had traditionally always acted as the cement which held the various unionist and loyalist factions and classes together.

However, the parades crisis across the North where the Order was demanding its right to march through predominantly Catholic localities has severely tarnished its image on the global media stage, as well as losing the movement considerable support amongst the highly influential Protestant middle class.

For the Orange Order to have a meaningful role within Protestantism, it will have to abandon its political activity and re-structure itself as an entirely religious organisation dedicated to the defence of the Biblical teachings of Jesus Christ.

A formal split between the Order and the Ulster Unionist Party’s governing body, the 900-delegate Ulster Unionist Council, looks certain within the next year. This is not primarily for religious reasons. Politically, since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, the Order has been at odds with the pro-Agreement thinking of the UUC.

The Order’s 150 delegates have become a rallying point for dissident anti-Agreement support on the Council. In 1905, the UUC commemorates its centenary (ironically, also the same year Sinn Fein was founded).

The UUC was formed to mobilise Protestant opposition to the Home Rule crisis. In this, the Order played a vital role as a vehicle of communication between the Protestant denominations and the Protestant working, middle and aristocratic classes, especially in Ulster.

The best way the Order can mark this significant anniversary within Unionism is to formally leave the UUC and revamp the spiritual Qualifications of an Orangeman – the oath of allegiance which Protestants swear upon initiation in the Order. It states: “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 to be the only Mediator between God and man.”

The present Qualifications are theologically Salvationist in ethos, but they need to be reinforced using the New Testament teachings of Christ so the only way Protestants could join the Order would be if they were truly ‘born again Christians’. Practically, Christ’s words as found in St John Chapter 3 and verse 16 – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (King James translation) – need to be incorporated into the Qualifications oath.

Such a move, if implemented, would position the Order as a springboard to trigger a ‘spiritual rebirth’ in Ireland not experienced since the famous Ulster revival of 1859 when thousands of people become ‘born again believers’.

The Order’s religious re-motivation would also force it to re-think its relations with the Church of Rome, especially with the growth of the evangelical Catholic movement within Ireland. These are Salvationist Catholics who view themselves as ‘born again Christians’, but rather than leave Catholicism, have chosen to remain in their churches and evangelise from within.

Some of the most high-profile of these produced a classic Salvationist theological work – ‘Adventures in Reconciliation’, the testimonies of 29 evangelical Roman Catholics in Ireland.
Such Salvationists estimate between four and 12 per cent of the Catholic Church in Ireland is now evangelical. This poses a major theological challenge for Orangeism. The present Qualifications firmly establish the Order’s opposition to the Catholic Church: “ … he 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, resists the ascendancy of that Church, its encroachments, and extension of its power …”

This presents a real spiritual dilemma for an evangelically motivated Order – how does it support fellow ‘born again brethren and sisters’ who have chosen to remain as Salvationist Catholics with the Roman Catholic Church? Again, the Qualifications will have to be redrafted to allow Evangelical Orangeism to work spiritually with Salvationist Catholicism.





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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

4 November 2004

Other Articles From This Issue:

The Torture of John Devine
Anthony McIntyre

Defending the Faith
Dr John Coulter

Simulating the Simulators
Eoghan O’Suillabhain

Learning from Hurley
Gréagoir O’Gaothin

Politics and Reason
Mark Burke

If Looks Could Kill
Sean Smyth

Fraternal Parting
Davy Carlin

Bluebeard's Castle
Toni Solo

31 October 2004

Blanket Interview: Hugh Orde
Carrie Twomey & Anthony McIntyre

The Convict and the Cop
Suzanne Breen

Thanks and Goodbye
Diarmuid Fogarty

In Response to: John Kerry, the Wrong Choice
Saerbhreathach Mac Toirdealbhaigh

The True Face of a One-Eyed Jack
Richard Wallace

Hurley's Twisted View
Lonnie Painter

Three More Votes for Kerry-Edwards
Kristi Kline

Your Silence Will Not Protect You
Joanne Dunlop

The Orange Order: Personification of anti-Catholic Bigotry
Father Sean Mc Manus

Double Standards and Curious Silences
Paul de Rooij



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