In student days, walls were the place to find such comments – views written by anonymous writers. One wondered at how anyone who wrote anonymous comments expected to be taken seriously, if their convictions were so firm, why not express them in person and publicly? The Internet has become the modem equivalent of graffiti on the wall, websites where anonymous views are expressed by people not prepared to put their names to their articles.
Reform Ireland stands among the spray can writers. A platform for right-wing religious views, authoritarian attitudes, and simplistic analysis; it is predictable in its opposition to anything not in conformity with its interpretation of orthodoxy.
The election of the Reverend Patricia Storey as bishop of Meath and Kildare elicited the response one might have anticipated from Reform Ireland – the election was in defiance of Biblical standards and that no “Bible-believing” Christian could now go to the diocese of Meath and Kildare.
Reform Ireland are selective in which texts from the Bible they regard as authoritative.
Writing recently, the Limerick blogger Bock the Robber, tied Reform Ireland to a long history of Protestant intolerance. The Revd Eddie Coulter, chair of Reform Ireland, is superintendent of the Society for Irish Church Missions, a group still infamous for its engagement in souperism during the years of the Great Famine and whose most famous superintendent, TC Hammond, was a trustee of the scandalous Bethany Home. While the chair of Reform Ireland leads an organisation where the tradition of intolerance dates from the mid-Nineteenth Century, Bock the Robber points out that the Reverend Alan McCann, treasurer of Reform Ireland, belongs to a group rooted in intolerance – the Orange Order.
Sectarianism and child abuse can pass without a word of apology from the Society for Irish Church Missions, Reform Ireland pass no comment whatsoever on the Bethany Home, or on the bitterness and hatred engendered by years of Protestant bigotry, yet they presume to express a definitive opinion on the ministry of women.
Of course, Bock the Robber is a self-declared atheist so any opinion he expressed would be dismissed by Reform Ireland, as would the views of anyone they describe as “liberal” (a category that would presumably include the evangelical bishops who elected a woman), but what about the views of a conservative evangelical?
The Reverend Dr Alan McCann was on the platform at an Orange demonstration on 12th July this year; two years ago, he was described by the Belfast Newsletter two years ago as a deputy grand chaplain to the Orange Order; he is a senior Orangeman. Being a member of the Order is something wholly alien to being a Christian according to the website Evangelical Truth, which includes testimonies from former members of the Order.
Which conservative evangelical voice is the authentic one? Reform Ireland, whose treasurer is an Orangeman, or the writer of Evangelical Truth?
Stuff sprayed on walls was clear and definitive compared with the nuances of anonymous right-wing Irish Protestantism.