The Orange Order has asked its members to stop using the term ‘RIP’ to express grief or sympathy after a death.
It said the phrase is unbiblical, un-Protestant, and a form of superstition connected to Catholicism.
RIP is an abbreviation of ‘rest in peace’ or in Latin, ‘requiescat in pace’.
In a publication marking the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the order called on Protestants to stop using the phrase.
Wallace Thompson, secretary of Evangelical Protestants Northern Ireland, wrote a Facebook post on which the article was based.
‘Prayers for the dead’
He told the BBC’s Talkback programme: “Observing social media, we have noticed that the letters RIP are used a lot by Protestants, and by some evangelical Protestants.”
Mr Thompson explained that for him, ‘RIP’ is a prayer and he did not encourage prayers for the dead.
“From a Protestant point of view, we believe, when death comes, a person either goes to be with Christ for all eternity, or into hell.
“That’s what we believe the gospel to be and in this 500th anniversary year of the Reformation, I think Luther, when the scales fell off his eyes, realised that it was all by faith alone, in Christ alone, the decision is made during life, on this earth, so that when death comes it has been made and no decision has been made after death,” he said.
Speaking on the same programme, former Presbyterian moderator Dr Ken Newell said he did not use the phrase very often.
“I think when people use [RIP] in social media, there’s a remembrance and a good wish in it, almost a blessing,” he said.
He disagreed that people are praying for the dead when they used the phrase.
“If folk in the Orange Order want to take this line that’s perfectly up to them, they are making a good point.
“I think ordinary people have not worked out the issues. This comes out of the human heart,” he added.
In response to a request for a spokesperson of the issue, the Orange Order referred the BBC to comments made by the county grand master of County Fermanagh Grand Orange Lodge, Stuart Brooker, in the Impartial Reporter newspaper.
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In it he said: “I think the message in the article is very clear and well put together, and I couldn’t add anything further to it.
“This article clearly explains why we as Protestants, and members of the Orange Institution, shouldn’t use the term ‘RIP’.
“It also reminds us that if we need guidance in any matter, we should refer to what the bible teaches.”
The Orange Order is the largest Protestant organisation in Northern Ireland.
It regards itself as defending civil and religious liberties of Protestants and seeks to uphold the rule and ascendancy of a Protestant monarch in the United Kingdom.