Loyal Orange Lodge in Stark Decline
Secret societies habitually present information to the outside world that is virtually impossible for non-members to authenticate. Even the members themselves of each respective secret body have no means of truly verifying the claims made by their superiors. Details like the numeric size of a specific institution is normally carefully concealed by a small tight-knit trustworthy inner-circle of higher echelon members who scrupulously guard such data from the outside world. The membership on the ground are largely ignorant of the facts. They must simply trust the word of those that lead their covert body.
One thing all secret societies are known for is exaggerating their numbers. They often present inflated figures that give a false sense of influence and strength. Being unacquainted with the true facts, onlookers find it hard to accurately validate or rebut such claims. The one thing everyone can see is that the numbers involved in the public demonstrations are in stark decline compared to years ago. Older members are dying off, current members are disillusioned and nonmembers have little interest in joining these secret fraternities with their funny handshakes and bizarre rituals.
Orangemen in the past have blindly followed their leaders and trusted statements from the top regarding their size. This, however, has all changed in recent years due to disaffection within Loyal Orders ranks. Members have lost a great degree of confidence in their weak leaders with numerous embarrassing PR debacles over recent years. This has caused them to question many of the leadership’s extravagant boasts.
The Orange Order has been cooking the books for a long time. For years Orangemen were informed that the membership of the Loyal Orange Lodge in Ireland was around 100,000, 100,000 in Canada, 85,000 in Scotland, and 15,000 in England. This in turn was presented to the media as fact (as can be verified from the archives of most local papers over recent decades).The only problem is, these numbers were actually fictional. But, repeat a lie enough and people start to believe it.
A County Grand Orange Lodge of Belfast publication, The Twelfth 1992, makes reference to “100,000 Orangemen” displaying “continued commitment” at the Tercentenary Parade in Belfast on September 29, 1990.
As these figures became increasingly questioned by those within, estimations started to drastically shrink. Orangeism’s strength in Ireland suddenly dropped to 85,000. It was then readjusted to 65,000. Scotland lowered its number to 50,000. But insiders continued to even question these smaller figures, arguing they were totally unrealistic.
One of the first to challenge the Loyal Orange Lodge inner circle reference their exaggerated figures was Joel Patton. He was the leader of the Spirit of Drumcree (a pressure group within the Order pushing for greater change and transparency). He believed the membership numbers being publicly presented were false and the real decline was being covered over. Being a Grand Lodge representative he was sufficiently informed to expose the erroneous numbers being presented by the Loyal Orange Lodge hierarchy. Paton highlighted the inaccuracies as far back as 1995.
Paradoxically, Paton’s main opponent at that time Rev. Brian Kennaway (who was the convenor of the Loyal Orange Lodge’s Education Committee) has since come out and corroborated these claims (actual adding hard evidence to what most members suspected). He revealed that the Loyal Orange Lodge had collapsed to around 30,000 members by 2006 in his book The Orange Order: A Tradition Betrayed. The fact this popular book was penned by such an eminent insider caused shock waves in the Orange hierarchy. It forced the leadership to finally come clean. This is evidenced by the fact Grand Lodge admitted for the 1st time that the membership of the Orange Order was in stark decline. In 2009 Orange leaders conceded their membership had fallen by 2006 to 35,700. This is in marked contrast to the 93,447 Orangemen it claimed in 1968. Whilst there is a slight discrepancy between Kennaway’s figure and Grand Lodge’s, they certainly show the peril Orangeism is in today. However, Robert Saulters, the Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland (GOLI), tried to water-down this disintegration by claiming that there were 100,000 members worldwide.
What of this new mantra of 100,000 members worldwide? Are we seriously expected to believe that there are 65,000 members from Canada to Togo?”
Having been reluctantly forced to internally and publicly admit its deterioration, the Loyal Orange Lodge leadership has suddenly (and conveniently) changed its approach. After years of cooking the books they are now arguing: ‘numbers are not an issue’. They are now trying to quell internal concern at the accelerating demise by cautioning “the faithful” against number-counting. This can be seen in the November 2009 edition of the Orange Standard, where a statement was released to the waning membership: “The Orange Order does not, for one moment, seek to argue that numbers are the most important aspect of its work. On the contrary, while very pleased at the membership totals, Grand Lodge, and all concerned with the wellbeing of the Order, would argue that quality is much more important than quantity.”
“These days there are some people, including Orangemen, who seem to adopt the attitude that numbers are all-important, and they are not backward in writing to the media, suggesting that the Order is in decline, and quoting membership totals in support of their case … Instead of harping on about what they perceive to be a declining membership, would those who claim Orange allegiance and write to the media, not be better employed working hard to persuade more men to join the Orange ranks?”
“Surely there are enough nationalist and republican opponents of the Orange Order without ‘friends’ of the Order sniping at the organisation?”
Can we remind Grand Orange Lodge: it is they who have made “numbers” an issue over the years? They are the ones that repeatedly released false statements giving the impression of greater strength and popularity. Now that the real numbers are out in the open it suddenly seems expedient to view their dwindling numbers as irrelevant.
If “quality is much more important than quantity,” as it alleges, why then is the Loyal Orange Lodge allowing so many undesirables into the Lodge in our day? Why are so many nominal Protestants of a questionable character, that would never have been welcome years ago, being solicited to join the Order? Why, for example, are they (as a supposed religious organization) now accepting so many into the Order that have paramilitary connections (especially in the greater Belfast)? Why are they reaching out to those that openly engage in immoral behaviour and those who are drunks and possess no godly credentials? This is not a religious institution that has raised the spiritual or moral pole but one that has kicked the pole away and is desperately recruiting anyone it can to prop up its ailing “numbers.”
Grand Orange Lodge of England’s Grand Chaplain conceded in an interview in July 2015: “Fraternal societies everywhere are struggling, and they’re never going to get back to what they were … It’s becoming increasingly difficult to hold parades, though it’s difficult for all organisations.”
Orange Chaplin Rev. Brian Kennaway lamented in a candid article in the Irish Times 21st July 2009: “People in local communities know ‘who’s who’. When they see paramilitary members, and in some cases leaders, walking with an Orange Lodge they are far from impressed. In some cases the paramilitary connection is not revealed until a death notice appears in the press, from both their lodge and the particular paramilitary organisation.”
He concluded: “it is … the paramilitary influence and connections evident in some areas which prevents people with ‘high standards’ from joining.”
Thousands of evangelicals have abandoned the Loyal Orders over this past 25 years. Liberalism, the growing alcoholism (including the spread of bars in Orange halls) and the widespread evangelical uprising against the neo-Masonic Royal Arch Purple and Royal Black degrees (as detailed in 2 explosive books – Behind Closed Doors and Inside the Royal Black Institution), have hit the Loyal Orders hard. The Royal Black in particular won’t openly talk about the startling revelations because it fears a public scandal and more evangelical resignations from the Black. Keen observers have noted the stark decline of numbers marching on parade. Preceptories are being forced to amalgamate for survival.
Many Bible-believing Christians have renounced the Masonic rites of the Royal Arch Purple degree and the Black degrees and have abandoned the Loyal Orders completely. This has included many ministers, lecturers and Worshipful Masters. The impact of this exodus has been felt at Lodge, District, County and Grand Lodge level. It has affected both the Orange Order and the neo-Masonic Independent Orange institution.
Forced Rebranding Orangeism
The Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland has finally recognised that the credibility of the Orange Order has been severely damaged within the Protestant community. The Drumcree debacle a few years ago has left a bitter taste in many Protestant mouths. Protestants who ordinarily would have considered joining the Orange Order have ended up giving their time, commitment and passion to other more fruitful interests. Many were disgusted at the street disorder the Orange leaders encouraged and defended throughout Northern Ireland during the Drumcree stand-off. The 12th of July became associated with tension, violence and road-blocks. This is still very fresh in the minds of most Ulster Protestants today. Instead of staying for the parades over the July fortnight, many Protestants choose to leave the country (in their thousands) to escape the drama.
Because of the tarnished image of the Loyal Orange Lodge, Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland has desperately tried to re-brand Orangeism, giving it a more appealing user-friendly face. It is trying to encourage younger people back into its ranks. As part of the planned rebranding of the July marches, it has instituted a cultural Orangefest, something that has created significant internal strife with the traditionalists. Orangefest involves a programme of music, dance and drama to entertain and educate local people and tourists. It includes highland dancing, local bands, poetry, drama and storytelling. For those watching on, it seems like a desperate attempt to resuscitate a terminally declining patient.
The Orange Order has even invented a superhero “Diamond Dan” who was named after 18th century Diamond (County Tyrone) pub owner and one of Orangeism’s founding members, Dan Winters. The Diamond refers to the place where his bar was located, outside which different Masons agreed to form a new secret society of Protestants in 1795.
Is this the type of hero Protestants need? Many Protestants oppose the vice of alcohol. Why would they want a 18th century bar owner as a model for their kids, even if he was one of the founding fathers of the Orange Order? This seems like another ill-thought-out idea.
Loyal Orange Lodge education officer David Scott claimed “Diamond Dan will be the kind of person who offers his seat on a crowded bus to an elderly lady. He won’t drop litter and he will be keen on recycling. He will also be very committed to the Orange Order and to the Junior movement and will make efforts to know all he can about the history and culture of his community.”
This endeavour ended up being another PR disater for the Orange Orader. No sooner had Dan come to the fore to lead the new PR campaign than he was exposed as a counterfeit. The Orange Order had stolen him from Dan Bailey, a British designer from Essex. He was a straight rip-off of the “Super Guy” cartoon character created by the English illustrator. Diamond Dan was basically a repaint job of the “Super Guy” character often used by British computer magazines. After a bit of tweaking, the ‘SG’ logo on Super Guy’s chest was removed and replaced with an Orange sash and the purple star. The image was dishonestly acquired on iStockphoto.com (one of the world’s digital libraries) without permission, and then suitably adorned in Orange colours. This highlighted the disarray and desperation existing within the aging leadership of the Orange.
Work to be done
Whilst the Orange Order in Ireland has been forced to admit its decline, the Orange Order in Scotland is still misleading its members and outsiders with its official figures. It is time for the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland to come clean and give us exact figures. Its website still boasts: “The Orange Order has now been part of Scottish life and culture for over 200 years. That makes it a well established organisation. Yet, with an estimated membership of 50,000 and investment in a new headquarters and heritage centre, the Order is remarkably more buoyant than most religious denominations and bodies in Scotland today” (Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland).
Informed insiders know that this figure is a gross exaggeration of its strength. The Loyal Orange Lodge in Scotland is definitely trailing behind the reality curve. It is time for Loyal Orange Lodge in Scotland to come into the real world. The only ones it is deceiving is its own members.
Even the pro-Orange Ulster Scots website recently conceded: “Scotland has the largest number of Orangemen outside of Ulster with about 300 Lodges and a total membership of 20,000. Orangeism was first introduced to Scotland through a military Lodge in 1798 and has steadily maintained an Orange band tradition.” The reality today is that there are probably less than 15,000 Orange members in Scotland (a figures used by the Newsletter in July 09).
Despite Orangeism’s boasts, the reality is numbers are in free fall throughout the world. The overall Loyal Orange Lodge membership worldwide has fallen to well below 100,000. Ireland (the centre-point of its strength) has less than 30,000 members today (and falling), Scotland has probably less than 15,000 active members (and falling), England is now down to hundreds rather than thousands, and is currently fighting for its very survival.
As for the smaller Independent Orange, it is in the emergency room. Its numbers have crashed to a couple of hundred today. Its members are old, its lodges are small and its parades are abysmal.
Maybe we are starting to see real transparency and honesty among these Orange bodies (that are by their very nature preoccupied with secrets, mystery and deception). Maybe they will now open their lodge room and show us their shadowy rituals, teaching and traditions so that we can objectively come to our own decision as to the Christian credentials of these esoteric bodies.
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The demise of the Royal Black Institution
Independent Orange Order fighting for its very survival
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View the overall Orange degree system
A Biblical Analysis of the Royal Arch Purple degree
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A biblical response from Evangelical Truth to the Royal Arch Purple Chapter’s response (by Rev. Ron Johnstone) to Behind Closed Doors – Behind Closed Minds
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The Royal Black Institution and British Israelism
A Biblical Analysis of the Royal Arch Purple degree
Questions for Christian Orangemen to consider