A new report has raised questions about whether all the beliefs of the Royal Black Institution are consistent with the Church of Ireland.
It says some of the RBI’s rituals and ceremonies “may be difficult to defend from a Christian basis” and adds that problems associated with the “privacy and secrecy of the RBI” raise questions about whether the CoI should hold its services.
The report was written by a Theological Working Group appointed by Bishop of Down and Dromore, the Rt Rev Harold Miller, in June 2015 - after problems arose in the St Matthias congregation at Knocknamuckley, Co Armagh - to examine the theology of the RBI and of Bethel Church, Redding in California, which was reported to have had a significant influence on the teachings of a newly appointed minister at Knocknamuckley.
There was a public split in the church following the appointment of the Rev Alan Kilpatrick.
One of the biggest tensions in the congregation followed him blocking the RBI from using the church. The service eventually went ahead under the leadership of Bishop Miller.
Rev Kilpatrick eventually resigned and set up an independent church – Hope Community Church, Craigavon.
Bishop Miller described the report as “fair and balanced”. He added: “I am looking closely at the report’s recommendations and hope to meet with people from the Royal Black Institution, St Matthias’ Church and Hope Community Church, Craigavon.”