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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2006, Vol, 6 No. 1 .

Traditional Roots: Towards an Appropriate Relationship between the Church of Ireland and the Orange Order
Earl Storey

Dublin: The Columba Press, 2002,
144 pp, PB $8.99 ISBN 1-85607-364-5

The main questions that Earl Storey seeks answers to in this book are twofold:
Is the Orange Order compatible with the ethos of the Church of Ireland and should any link exist between the two institutions today? Storey successfully casts light on these clearly sensitive issues and provides the reader with an easily accessible account of the ?interlinkage? that has existed between the two institutions, past and present, as well as providing a detailed evaluation and analysis of the essence of the two organizations and how compatible they really are.

Given that a large part of the subject matter of the book is whether or not the ethos and actions of the Orange Order are compatible with the theological ethos of the Church of Ireland, a theological analysis is an obvious necessity for Storey?s argumentation. In the author?s view, ?The Church of Ireland must respond as a Christian church to this matter (?) [and] it is wise that any response should have a solid theological foundation (14). In his analysis, Storey does acknowledge the strong theological ethos of the Orange Order, yet he criticizes how this is combined with an anti-Catholic sentiment as well as the connection made between religion and a specific political viewpoint and constitutional arrangement ? ?A particular political loyalty becomes an article of religious faith!? (37) Indeed, Storey finds that the two institutions are doctrinally compatible but that certain ?sectarian? aspects of Orangeism are not compatible with the ethos of the Church of Ireland: ?It is essentially the theologisation of a political context, and is done in a way that perpetuates the myth that Protestant security is dependent on separation from and protection against Roman Catholics on the island of Ireland. It is this aspect of Orangeism that is profoundly sectarian and one that the Church of Ireland cannot be in agreement with or identify with? (71).

In addition to using mainly theological criteria in his analysis, Storey also relates the issues above to the bigger context of the Northern Ireland conflict throughout the book. In other words, the author not only contributes to the debate within the Church of Ireland regarding what, if any, relationship the institution should have with the Orange Order; he also offers detailed discussions of topics such as Orangeism and the Protestant community in Northern Ireland. For instance, Storey provides an in-depth analysis of Orangeism as an expression of identity and culture, its political aims and objectives as well as its role in defending Protestant religion. Although the book was published three years ago, the contemporary relevance of it is obvious. In light of recent rioting and expressions of feelings of insecurity and alienation within parts of the Protestant community, Storey?s analysis of Orangeism and Unionism and discussion of the current state of Protestant communities in Northern Ireland is still clearly relevant.

All in all, this is a uncomplicated and openhearted book which shows that the issue of how the Church of Ireland should relate to the Orange Order is not a straightforward one. Storey also indirectly gives the reader a hint of the complexities of Northern Irish society and the many unresolved issues that still exist within it. Indeed, one of the book?s strengths is that regardless of whether the readers? interest is in the Northern Ireland conflict generally, the essence of the Orange Order and/or its parades, the state of the Protestant community in Northern Ireland today or the actual relationship between the Church and the Order, Storey is likely to have something to offer them. Extra credibility and a personal touch are also added early on in the book when Storey shares his own personal experiences of the Orange Order and the fact that he is a Protestant clergyman. The book?s small scope ? a mere seven chapters and an epilogue ? makes it easily ?digested? and, despite sometimes detailed references to the Bible and theological ?discussions?, the text is easily accessible and definitely worth a read.

Jessica Blomkvist, Intercomm, University of UlsterINCORE intern, 2005

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