What is the Orange Order?

An enlightening examination of the secrets, teaching, rituals and history of the Orange Order

Orange Order Standard
What is the Orange Order?

Who are the Orangemen? We go behind the shut doors of the Orange Order and take an enlightening in-depth examination of the secrets, teaching, rituals and history of the Orange Order.

The Orange Order is a large exclusively Protestant secret society. It is one of the biggest secret societies existing throughout the world today, having tens of thousands of members in Ireland, Britain, and throughout the British Commonwealth (especially Australia, Canada and New Zealand). Whilst most people today are aware of the existence of the Order, few know anything about its inner teaching and practices. The Orange Order has succeeded in concealing its secrets and mysteries from outside scrutiny until recent times. The Independent Orange Institution is a breakaway from the senior order.

The Orange Order is also known as the Loyal Orange Lodge and the Loyal Orange Institution. Some people know the Order as the Orange Fraternity; but probably the most popular designation its members use is the shortened (more affectionate) term ‘the Orange’.

The Orange Order takes its name from the Protestant King William III of Orange who defeated the Roman Catholic king James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1st July 1690. This became widely known throughout Europe as the glorious revolution. From this, came general civil and religious freedom to the British isles and further afield.

The Order is part of the overall Loyal Orders family.

The Orange Institution draws its members from all classes of Protestant society in Ireland. Most of its members are upright law-abiding members of society who are required to give their allegiance to the just principles of the Reformed Faith. The Orange Order is Loyalist in its outlook, strongly supporting the Monarchy of England and the reign of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. Politically, the Orange Order is strongly Unionist – in that it passionately supports the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

It is politically over this past hundred years that the Orange Order has been most effective, drawing the varying sides of Unionism together in Northern Ireland into an organised cohesive group. During the worst of the Irish troubles the Orange Order became the largest political voice for the Unionist people. Nevertheless, the Order has become increasingly ineffective politically over this past few years with ‘major splits’, the ‘Drumcree debacle’ and a glaring ‘lack of leadership’. And whilst the Order has been a vehicle for drawing Protestants together politically, spiritually it has been an impotent machine.

Qualifications of an Orangeman
Orange Order obligation (oath) exposed

Read a detailed exposure of the Royal Arch Purple by W P Malcomson:

What is the history of the Orange Order?

What is the history of the Orange Order? The Orange Order was founded on 21st September 1795 shortly after the ‘Battle of the Diamond’ outside a small village in Northern Ireland called Loughgall. Three well-known local men of the area, James Wilson, Dan Winter, and James Sloan, formed the Orange institution. History reveals that all three men were dedicated Freemasons and two of the three were local pub owners.

The ‘Battle of the Diamond’ itself lasted only fifteen minutes and was centred on Dan Winter’s public house, which was located at the Diamond crossroads. This battle (or skirmish) resulted in Winter’s premises being burnt to the ground by the attacking Catholic’s who were known as ‘the Defenders’. The public house itself was the special focus of the attack as it was the gathering house for the local Protestant militia, the ‘Peep O Day Boys’.

Winter’s supporters, many of whom were Freemasons, gathered around the debris of the public house and pledged themselves to form a new secret society, made up solely of Protestant men. Devoid of Winter’s premises as a meeting place the men retired to James Sloan’s public house in the local village of Loughgall. It was here that the Orange Institution was properly organised.

James Wilson was probably the most influential of the founding fathers of Orangeism and was an ardent Freemason. Respected Orange historian R.M. Sibbett records, “Wilson was a member of the Society of Freemasons, which fully qualified him for establishing a new Order of a secret character.”

History of the Orange Order

King William III

The infant Orange Order strategically identified itself with the Dutch-born Protestant William Prince of Orange (who was much respected in Protestant Ireland). This certainly made the Order more appealing to most Protestants. The Orange Order was set up to commemorate William’s 17th century victory over the Roman Catholic King James, who was ruling the British Isles with tyranny and injustice. William became King of England, Scotland, and Ireland in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. James fled to Ireland with his defeated army after being dethroned. King William followed him over and confronted him at the River Boyne, Drogheda in 1690. James and his Catholic followers were roundly defeated and many fled to France for safety.

This victory is remembered with great affection by most Protestants that are not members of the Orange Order, as it was the pivotal victory that secured civil and religious freedom for Protestants (and all citizens) throughout the British Isles. Since King James’ malevolent reign it has been forbidden for another Roman Catholic to be head of state of the United Kingdom.

Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland website

Orange Order Scotland
What is the membership size of the Orange Order?

Whilst Orangemen often boast that the strength of the Order is around 100,000 members in Ireland, the reality is, this figure grossly exaggerates the Orange Order’s size. The Orange Institution has been forced to admit publicly a few years ago that its membership had collapsed to 35,700 by 2006. This is in marked contrast to the 93,447 Orangemen it claimed in 1968. Senior member of the Orange Order, member of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland Order for more than 25 years, and convenor of its Education Committee for many years, Rev. Brian Kennaway claims the fall is steeper. He suggests it had shrunken to around 30,000 by 2006 in his book The Orange Order: A Tradition Betrayed. The Orange Order is definitely in terminal decline.

Those in the know estimate that 40% of Orangemen join the Royal Black Institution. If that is the case, and it seems an accurate gauge, then Grand Black’s recent admission that their current membership is about 17,000 globally, in over 550 perceptories, would suggest there is now only about 42,000 Orangemen worldwide. Of these, 40,000 of these are from the UK. The breakdown of Orangemen is now about 25-28,000 in Ireland, 10-14,000 in Scotland and about 1000 in England.

See also: The decline of the Royal Black Institution and Orange Order PR debacle

The recent evangelical exodus

The Orange Order today is suffering from increasing evangelical opposition and the resignation of many Christians from the Order. The institution has essentially become a nominally Christian grouping. This fact is seen in the unprecedented wave of bars being introduced into Orange Halls throughout the Province. This runs totally against Reformation principles, and more importantly biblical truth. This has naturally resulted in a stark drop in the standard of behaviour of many of the Orange brethren on the twelfth of July walk – especially in the Greater Belfast parades. After a day of binge drinking on demonstration days, many are barely able to walk straight due to their intoxicated state on the walk home.

Things have got so bad that a massive rift has opened between the more dignified country lodges and the disorderly ones in Belfast. County Fermanagh Grand Orange Lodge released a statement in January 2014, saying: “No matter how we create good relations in Fermanagh we will always be let down by the hooligans in Belfast who tarnish our reputation.”

More and more, men are being accepted into the Orange Order solely on the grounds of their ‘nominal Protestantism’ and their Loyalist/Unionist credentials rather than their strong Christian belief. This, it seems, has been permitted in some areas simply to prop up falling Orange Order ranks. This turn of events has caused great disillusionment among the more God-fearing elements within the Order.

Many Christians have also been dismayed at the growing liberalism within the Institution at its attitude towards ecumenism. This compromise is especially prevalent among some of its leading clergy. Some of the Orange Order’s senior ministers like Rev. Martin Smyth (former Grand Master) and Rev. Robert Coulter (a Grand Chaplain) have attended ecumenical prayer breakfasts in recent years with the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church. This runs against the strong evangelical position on separation from ecclesiastical error. There can be little doubt the institution has moderated its attitude to the Roman Catholic Church.

On top of these previous concerns, there has been a growing evangelical opposition to the highly degrading Masonic ritualistic practices of the Royal Arch Purple and the Royal Black Institutions within the Orange over this past number of years. The public exposure of these two organisations for the first time in over 200 years in Behind Closed Doors and Inside the Royal Black Institution, has hit the 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. Numbers on parade are notable down. Preceptories are being forced to amalgamate for survival.

The release of these two explosive books has opened the eyes of many evangelicals outside the Loyal Orders and caused turmoil within the Orange camp. This has resulted in the resignation of many good evangelical Christians from the Orders including 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 and the Independent Orange institutions.

Testimonies from former members
Ironically, from its inception in 1798, the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland (the ruling authority of Orangeism) looked upon the ritualism embodied within the Royal Arch Purple and the Black with understandable abhorrence. It was viewed as being incompatible with, and contrary to, both Protestantism and Orangeism. Those ritualistic Orangemen who practised the Arch Purple and Black degrees were persecuted by Grand Lodge, forcing them to practise their degrees in great secrecy for fear of expulsion from the Order. Grand Lodge maintained this position throughout the whole of the 1800s and into the early 20th century. The hard line assumed by the Orange Institution in Ireland mirrored the resolute stance of Orangeism throughout Great Britain.

We recommend An Army with Banners: The Real Face of Orangeism by William Brown

Orange Grand Lodges historic opposition to Royal Arch Purple and Black degrees

By the start of the 1900s key ritualistic Orangemen throughout the British Isles had strategically moved themselves into positions of responsibility within their respective Grand Lodges allowing the RAP and Black degrees to become acceptable.
As the years have passed by, the former hostility from the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland towards the Royal Arch Purple and Black degrees has all but been extinguished. The Arch Purple Chapter and the Black Institution has exploited the 20th Century indifference, existing within Grand Lodge, by portraying the Arch Purple and Black degrees as natural steps of advancement within the Orange Institution. This practice has prevailed, despite the Arch Purple and Black still being officially barred by Irish Orangeism’s own rules.

What is the Orange Order degree system?

What is the teaching of the Orange Order? What do the secrets, teaching, rituals of the Orange Order look like?

The nature and system of working of the actual degrees within the Orange Order worldwide is now largely the same, although the degrees employed has slightly changed over the years. Most jurisdictions have replaced the Small Purple degree with the neo-Masonic Royal Arch Purple degree during the 1900’s – thus following the Scottish example initiated in 1902. Canada bears its own unique degree system of five Orange degrees which includes the Royal Arch Purple degree and some of the degrees which belong to the Royal Black Institution in Ireland.

Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland (2 degrees)

1st degree: Orange degree
2nd degree: Plain (or Small) Purple degree

Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland (2 degrees)

1st degree: Orange degree
2nd degree: Royal Arch Purple degree

Grand Orange Lodge of England (3 degrees)

The Orange Institution in England preserved the Small Purple degree and added the Royal Arch Purple degree to its existing two degrees system, thus making it the third degree.

1st degree: Orange degree
2nd degree: Plain (or Small) Purple degree
3rd degree: Royal Arch Purple degree

For more on the internal debate within the Orders we recommend The Orange Order by Brian Kennaway:

Evangelical Truth response to Grand Chaplain to the Grand Lodge of England (Rev. Richard Harvey) booklet attacking Behind Closed Doors: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

Grand Orange Lodge of Canada (4 degrees)

The Canadian Orange is quite different from the rest of global Orangeism. It has integrated a couple of degrees from the Royal Black into its degree system.

1st degree: Orange degree
2nd degree: Royal Blue degree (We assume this consists of major elements of the Royal Black’s Apron and Royal Blue degree).
3rd degree: Royal Arch Purple degree
4th degree: Royal Scarlet Degree

The Canadian Orange merges aspects of the worldwide Orange, Royal Arch Purple and Royal Black degree systems together into one unique mongrel degree system.

What is the Orange Order British Israelism teaching?

What is the meaning of the British Israelism teaching of the Orange Order? We take an enlightening examination of the secrets, teaching, rituals and history of the Orange Order

Orange Order British Israelism teaching
British Israelism – the underlying theology of the Loyal Orders
The British Israelism thinking behind the Orange Order
The Royal Black Institution and British Israelism
British Israelism Exposed
British Israelism Refuted

Royal Arch Purple push-back

Evangelical Truth response to Former Independent Orange Grand Master’s attack on Behind Closed Doors.
Biblical response to Rev. Ron Johnstone (Royal Arch Purple spokesman): Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6
Grand Chaplain to the Grand Orange Lodge of England JRG Harvey book in response to Behind Closed Doors: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

Evangelical Truth debate with Independent Orange Institution

Ulster Christian review of Behind Closed Doors
The response of George Dawson (Imperial Grand Master of the Independent Orange Institution).
Readers response (including the author of ‘Behind Closed Doors’ – Paul Malcomson).
Second response of George Dawson (Imperial Grand Master of the Independent Orange Institution).
Evangelical Truth reply to George Dawson

Read a detailed exposure: