“The Church of Ireland Diocese of Clogher, like the other Dioceses within Northern Ireland and straddling the Border Counties, numbers many members of the Orange Order in its parishes. Significant numbers of them contribute to the life of their parishes and play their part as members of the Church of Ireland locally and further a field.”
Displaying great maturity and wisdom in his approach to the Orange Order, and offering much hope for the future, Bishop Jackson said “The Church of Ireland is, as everyone knows, an all-Ireland Church and part of a world-wide Communion. Voices from Kerry, Cork and Offaly are heard every bit as much in the councils of the Church of Ireland as are voices from Antrim, Down and Fermanagh. The Orange Order itself is international in its composition and membership and is, therefore, well aware of the rich tapestry of human life which individuals bring to the table when decisions have to be made for the future.”
The bishop acknowledged too the importance of the Christian faith for the members of the Orange Order. “Love of God, faith in Christ and the authority of Scripture are, in the understanding of the Orange Institution, the building blocks for life.” He also highlighted the cultural aspect of Orangeism. “Colour and pageantry contribute to the public sharing of cultural identity of Orangemen and Orangewomen.”
In his closing remarks, Bishop Jackson pointed to Jesus Christ as the Good Shepherd of the sheep. “Perhaps the strongest image for our time which is displayed on Orange banners is the image of Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd caries tired lambs. The Good Shepherd will go into places of danger to find the one lost sheep from his flock. The Good Shepherd himself forms the door of the sheepfold at night to secure protection and rest for those in his care. Let us all, whether we belong to the Orange Institution or not, live out such a principle derived from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ himself.” As a leading churchman, Bishop Jackson has shown that the sheep will not be without a shepherd, and for that, Orangemen across this island are grateful to him.