Church of Ireland
The Church of Ireland (Irish: Eaglais na hÉireann; Ulster-Scots: Kirk o Airlann) is a Christian church in Ireland and an autonomous province of the Anglican Communion. It is organised on an all-Ireland basis and is the second-largest Christian church on the island after the Catholic Church. Like other Anglican churches, it has retained elements of pre-Reformation practice, notably its episcopal polity, while rejecting the primacy of the Bishop of Rome. In theological and liturgical matters, it incorporates many principles of the Reformation, particularly those espoused during the English Reformation. The church self-identifies as being both Catholic and Reformed. Within the church, differences exist between those members who are more Catholic-leaning (high church) and those who are more Protestant-leaning (low church or evangelical). For historical and cultural reasons, the Church of Ireland is generally identified as a Protestant church.
|Church of Ireland|
|Eaglais na hÉireann
Kirk o Airlann
Archbishop of Armagh
|Region||Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland (United Kingdom)|
|Headquarters||Church of Ireland House
Church Avenue, Rathmines
Dublin 6 D06 CF67
Republic of Ireland
|Founder||Claims episcopal succession from Saint Patrick.
Established as a state church in 1536 under King Henry VIII.
Disestablished in 1871 under Queen Victoria.
The Church of Ireland describes itself as
that part of the Irish Church which was influenced by the Reformation, and has its origins in the early Celtic Church of St Patrick.
The Church of Ireland considers itself Catholic because it is in possession of a continuous tradition of faith and practice, based on scripture and early traditions, enshrined in the Catholic creeds, together with the sacraments and apostolic ministry. However, the Church of Ireland is also Protestant, or Reformed, since it opposes doctrines and ways of worshipping that it considers contrary to scripture and which led to the Reformation.
The Church of Ireland, as a Reformed and Protestant Church, doth hereby re-affirm its constant witness against all those innovations in doctrine and worship whereby the Primitive faith hath been from time to time defaced or overlaid, and which at the Reformation this Church did disown and reject.
When the Church of England broke communion with the Holy See, all but two of the bishops of the church in Ireland followed the Church of England, although almost no other clergy did so. The church then became the established church of Ireland, assuming possession of most church property (and so retaining a great repository of religious architecture and other items, though some were later destroyed). The church explains its possession of so many of the ancient church buildings of Ireland by reference to the precedent set by Emperor Constantine the Great in the 4th century:
Since the days of the Emperor Constantine in the 4th century European states saw themselves as having a central role in the government of the Church. This church-state link was vigorously applied when the Normans came to Ireland in the 12th century. Bishops were required to do homage to the king for their lands, just like earls and barons, who were vassals of the crown. It was therefore accepted, both during and after the Reformation, that the crown should continue to exercise that authority over the church, in which it continued to play a central role. In this way, church property that existed at the time of the Reformation, buildings included, was retained by the reformed, established (state) Church of Ireland.
 In Ireland, the substantial majority of the population continued to adhere to Roman Catholicism, despite the political and economic advantages of membership in the state church. Despite its numerical minority, however, the Church of Ireland remained the official state church until it was disestablished on 1 January 1871 under Queen Victoria by her Liberal government led by William Ewart Gladstone.
In the past the Church of Ireland claimed that, that in breaking with Rome, the reformed established church was reverting to a condition that had obtained in the church in Ireland prior to the 12th century – the independent character of Celtic Christianity. Modern scholarship, however, sees the early Irish church as different to but still a part of Roman Christianity, with the result that the Church of Ireland and the Irish Roman Catholic church can both claim descent from St Patrick.
Claims of legitimacy for the Norman invasion of Ireland were derived from a Papal Bull of 1155 – Laudabiliter, although the governing structures in Ireland had never acknowledged any external authority over Ireland. The bull claimed to give King Henry II of England the right to invade Ireland, ostensibly as a means of reforming the church in Ireland more directly under the control of the Holy See. The authorisation from the Holy See was based upon the putative Donation of Constantine which claimed to make every Christian island in the western Roman Empire the property of the Papacy, though as Ireland was never a part of the Roman Empire, it had no real relevance. By the time of the English Reformation, the Donation had been exposed as a forgery, and Henry VIII sought to undo by enforcing laws regarding praemunire the historic royal homage to the Papacy that was delivered by John, King of England before him.
The Church of Ireland is the second largest church in Ireland and the third largest in Northern Ireland, after the Roman Catholic and Presbyterian churches.
16th to 18th centuriesEdit
The Church of Ireland began as a reformed church independent of the Catholic Church in 1536 when the Irish Parliament declared King Henry VIII to be the Supreme Head of the Church on earth (i.e. Head of the Church in Ireland). He would not legally become king of Ireland until 1541. Henry's assumption of the title of King of Ireland had great ecclesiastical and political significance since the title "Lord of Ireland" implied a tacit acceptance of the Pope's claim, (apparently) first made by Adrian IV in the papal bull Laudabiliter of 1155, that Ireland was a papal fief. Adrian granted Henry II the Lordship of Ireland; thus, Henry's assumption of the title of King had less to do with dispossessing the native Irish kings than with confronting the Pope. The reformation commenced mainly in Dublin under the auspices of George Browne (Archbishop of Dublin) during Henry's reign. When the Church of England was reformed under King Edward VI of England, so too was the Church of Ireland. All but two of the Irish bishops appointed by Queen Mary (1553–1558) accepted the Elizabethan Settlement,, the Archbishop of Dublin, Hugh Curwen, being one of them (he was chief consecrator of Adam Loftus as Archbishop of Armagh who would 4 years later bring charges of moral delinquency against Curwen). The vast majority of priests and the church membership remained Catholic. The Church of Ireland claims Apostolic succession because of the unbroken continuity of the episcopal hierarchy; however, this is disputed by the Roman Catholic Church.
The project to convert the native Irish met with limited success in the 16th century:
in order to convert the native Irish, it needed native ministers; but the supply of native ministers was meagre because the native Irish were unconverted
As a result, a gradualist policy towards ecclesiastical reform was adopted leading to "church papist" clergy and laity. In this way, they were able to nominally "conform to the established church whilst at the same time continuing to worship...in the traditional, pre-Reformation manner". Following the accession of King James I of England, this policy was abandoned.
The lack of success prompted an alternative strategy of importing reformed clergy from England and Scotland. Consequently, the church underwent a period of more radical Calvinist doctrine than occurred in England. In 1615 the Convocation of the Church of Ireland adopted 104 articles known as the Irish Articles. James Ussher (later Archbishop of Armagh) was their main author. Although these articles superficially resemble the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England they are in fact a great deal more detailed and much less ambiguous on many matters; they also represent a more thoroughgoing and explicit Calvinism than the 39 Articles. When the Irish Parliament adopted the 39 Articles in 1634 under pressure from the King and Archbishop Laud, Ussher ensured that the Church of Ireland in the Irish Convocation adopted them in addition to, not instead of, the Irish Articles. After the Restoration of 1660, it seems that the Thirty-Nine Articles took precedence; they remain the official doctrine of the Church of Ireland even after disestablishment.
The Church of Ireland undertook the first publication of Scripture in the Irish language. The first Irish translation of the New Testament was begun by Nicholas Walsh, Bishop of Ossory, who worked on it until his death in 1585. The work was continued by John Kearny, his assistant, and Nehemiah Donnellan, Archbishop of Tuam; it was finally completed by William Daniel (Uilliam Ó Domhnaill), Archbishop of Tuam in succession to Donellan. Their work was printed in 1602. The work of translating the Old Testament was undertaken by William Bedel (1571–1642), Bishop of Kilmore, who completed his translation within the reign of Charles I, although it was not published until 1685 in a revised version by Narcissus Marsh (1638–1713), Archbishop of Dublin. William Bedell had undertaken a translation of the Book of Common Prayer in 1606. An Irish translation of the revised prayer book of 1662 was effected by John Richardson (1664–1747) and published in 1712.
Despite these translations, the Church of Ireland largely served The Pale and the plantations such as the Plantation of Ulster and failed to win support from the old Hiberno-Norman aristocracy, still less the native Irish, who saw it as an instrument of English occupation. The English-speaking minority mostly adhered to the Church of Ireland or to Presbyterianism, while the Irish-speaking majority continued to adhere to Roman Catholicism, which remained the majority denomination in Ireland.
19th to 20th centuriesEdit
When Ireland was incorporated in 1801 into the new United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, the Church of Ireland was also united with the Church of England to form the United Church of England and Ireland. At the same time, one archbishop and three bishops from Ireland (selected by rotation) were given seats in the House of Lords at Westminster, joining the two archbishops and twenty-four bishops from the Church of England.
In 1833, the British Government introduced the Irish Church Temporalities Bill which proposed the administrative and financial restructuring of the church. The bill sought to reduce the number of both bishoprics and archbishoprics from 22 to 12, to change the structure of the leases of church lands and to apply the revenues saved by these changes for the use of parishes. The bill, not only had implications for the future political trajectory of the Whigs and Tories but also sparked the generation of the Oxford Movement, which was to have wide repercussions for the Anglican Communion.
As the official established church, the Church of Ireland was funded partially by tithes imposed on all Irish subjects of the Crown. Irrespective of the fact that the adherents of the church were never more than a small minority of the populace, the population at large was expected to pay for its upkeep. Following the defeat of Roman Catholic arms in 1691, no armed resistance was to be expected to this discriminatory policy. Nevertheless, peasant resentment of the tithes occasionally boiled over, as in the "Tithe War" of 1831–36. Eventually, the tithes were ended, replaced with a lower levy called the tithe rentcharge. The last remnant of the tithes was not abolished until disestablishment in 1871.
The Irish Church Act 1869 (which took effect on 1 January 1871) finally ended the role of the Church of Ireland as state church. This terminated both state support and parliament's role in its governance, but also took into government ownership much church property. At the establishment of the state church, no compensation had been given to Roman Catholic clergy who suffered loss in the seizure of church property by the state; at its disestablishment, compensation was provided to clergy by the state. On both occasions, parishes faced great difficulty in local financing after the loss of rent-generating lands and buildings. With disestablishment, the church's representation in the House of Lords also ceased.
The head of the Church of Ireland is, ex officio, the Archbishop of Armagh. In 1870, immediately prior to its disestablishment, the Church provided for its internal government, led by a General Synod, and with financial and administrative support by a Representative Church Body. Like other Irish churches, the Church of Ireland did not divide when Ireland was partitioned in the 1920s and it continues to be governed on an all-Ireland basis.
The polity of the Church of Ireland is episcopal church governance, as in other Anglican churches. The church maintains the traditional structure dating to pre-Reformation times, a system of geographical parishes organised into dioceses. There were more than 30 of these historically, grouped into four provinces; today, after consolidation over the centuries, there are 12 Church of Ireland dioceses or united dioceses, each headed by a bishop and belonging to one of two surviving provinces.
The leader of the southern province is the Archbishop of Dublin, at present Michael Jackson; that of the northern province is the Archbishop of Armagh, at present Richard Clarke. These two archbishops are styled Primate of Ireland and Primate of All Ireland respectively, suggesting the ultimate seniority of the latter. Although he has relatively little absolute authority, the Archbishop of Armagh is respected as the church's general leader and spokesman, and is elected in a process different from those for all other bishops.
General Synod and policy-makingEdit
Doctrine, canon law, church governance, church policy, and liturgical matters are decided by the church's General Synod. The General Synod comprises two Houses, the House of Bishops and the House of Representatives. The House of Bishops includes the 10 diocesan bishops and two archbishops, forming one order. The House of Representatives is made up of two orders, clergy and laity. The order of clergy holds one third of the seats while the laity holds two thirds of the seats. As of 2017, there are 216 clergy members and 432 lay members in the House of Representatives. The membership of the House of Representatives is made up of delegates from the dioceses, with seats allocated to each diocese's clergy and laity in specific numbers; these delegates are elected every three years.
The General Synod meets annually, and special meetings can be called by the leading bishop or one third of any of its orders.
Changes in policy must be passed by a simple majority of both the House of Bishops and the House of Representatives. Changes to doctrine, for example the decision to ordain women as priests, must be passed by a two thirds majority of both Houses.
The two Houses sit together for general deliberations but separate for some discussions and for voting. While the House of Representatives always votes publicly, often by orders, the House of Bishops has tended to vote in private, coming to a decision before matters reach the floor of the synod. This practice has been broken only once when, in 1999, the House of Bishops voted unanimously in public to endorse the efforts of the Archbishop of Armagh, the Diocese of Armagh and the Standing Committee of the General Synod in their attempts to resolve the crisis at the Church of the Ascension at Drumcree near Portadown.
Statutes and ConstitutionEdit
The Church's internal laws are formulated as bills proposed to the Houses of the General Synod, which when passed become Statutes. The Church's governing document, the Constitution, is modified, consolidated and published by way of Statute also, the most recent edition, the 13th, being so published in 2003.
The Representative Body of the Church of Ireland, often called the "Representative Church Body" (RCB), is the corporate trustee of the church, as established by law, and much of the church's property is vested in it. The members of the RCB are the bishops plus diocesan delegates and twelve co-opted members, and it meets at least four times a year. The staff of the Representative Body are analogous to clerical civil servants, and among other duties they oversee property, including church buildings, cemeteries and investments, administer some salaries and pensions, and manage the church library. While parishes, dioceses, and other parts of the church structure care for their particular properties, this is often subject to RCB rules.
Orders of ministry and positionsEdit
Each diocese or united diocese is led by its Ordinary, one of the ten bishops and two archbishops, and the Ordinary may have one or more Archdeacons to support them, along with a Rural Dean for each group of parishes. There is a Diocescan Synod for each diocese; there may be separate synods for historic dioceses now in unions. These synods comprise the bishop along with clergy and lay representatives from the parishes, and subject to the laws of the Church, and the work of the General Synod and its committees and the Representative Church Body and its committees, oversee the operation of the diocese. Each diocesan synod in turn appoints a Diocesan Council to which it can delegate powers.
Each parish has a presiding member of the clergy, assisted by two churchwardens and often also two glebewardens, one of each type of warden being appointed by the clerical incumbent, and one by popular vote. All qualified adult members of the parish comprise the General Vestry, which meets annually, within 20 days each side of Easter, as the Easter Vestry. There is also a Select Vestry for the parish, or sometimes for each active church in a parish, comprising the presiding cleric and any curate assistants, along with relevant churchwardens and glebewardens and a number of members elected at the Easter Vestry meeting. The Select Vestry assists in the care and operation of the parish and one or more church buildings.
Special provisions apply to the management and operation of five key cathedrals, in Dublin, Armagh, Down and Belfast.
The Church has disciplinary and appeals tribunals, and diocesan courts, and a Court of the General Synod.
The Church of Ireland experienced major decline during the 20th century, both in Northern Ireland, where around 65% of its members live, and in the Republic of Ireland which contains upwards of 35%. Church of Ireland is still the second-largest in the Republic of Ireland, with around 126,400 members in 2016 (minus 2% compared to the 2011 census results) and the third-largest in Northern Ireland, with around 260,000 members.
The Church of Ireland has two cathedrals in Dublin: within the line of the walls of the old city is Christ Church Cathedral, the seat of the Archbishop of Dublin, and just outside the old walls is St. Patrick's Cathedral, which the church designated as a National Cathedral for Ireland in 1870. Cathedrals also exist in the other dioceses. The church operates a seminary, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, in Rathgar, in the south inner suburbs of Dublin. The church's central offices are in Rathmines, adjacent to the Church of Ireland College of Education, and the Church's library is in Churchtown.
The Churches of the Anglican Communion are linked by affection and common loyalty. They are in full communion with the See of Canterbury and thus the Archbishop of Canterbury, in his person, is a unique focus of Anglican unity. He calls the once-a-decade Lambeth Conference, chairs the meeting of Primates, and is President of the Anglican Consultative Council. The contemporary Church of Ireland, despite having a number of High Church (often described as Anglo-Catholic) parishes, is generally on the Low Church end of the spectrum of world Anglicanism. Historically, it had little of the difference in organisation between parishes characteristic of other Anglican provinces, although a number of markedly liberal, High Church or Evangelical parishes have developed in recent decades. It was the second province of the Anglican Communion after the Anglican Church of New Zealand (1857) to adopt, on its 1871 disestablishment, synodical government. It was also one of the first provinces to begin ordaining women to the priesthood (1991).
Like many other Anglican churches, the Church of Ireland is a member of many ecumenical bodies, including the World Council of Churches, the Conference of European Churches, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, and the Irish Council of Churches. It is also a member of the Porvoo Communion.
In 1999, the church voted to prohibit the flying of flags other than St Patrick's flag and the Flag of the Anglican Communion. However, the Union Flag continues to fly on many churches in Northern Ireland.
The church has an official website. Its journal is The Church of Ireland Gazette, which is editorially independent, but whose governing body is appointed by the Church. Many parishes and other internal organizations also produce newsletters or other publications, as well as maintaining websites.
Doctrine and practiceEdit
The centre of the Church of Ireland's teaching is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The basic teachings of the church include:
- Chalcedonian Christology; Jesus Christ is fully human and fully God in one person. He died and was resurrected from the dead.
- Jesus provides the way of eternal life for those who believe.
- The Old and New Testaments of the Bible ("God's Word written") were written by people "under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit". The Apocrypha are additional books that are to be read, but not to determine doctrine. The Apocrypha of the King James version of the Bible constitutes the books of the Vulgate version that are present neither in the Hebrew Old Testament nor the Greek New Testament.
- The "two great and necessary" sacraments are Baptism and the Eucharist (also called Holy Communion and the Lord's Supper).
- Those "commonly called Sacraments that are not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel" are confirmation, ordination, marriage, reconciliation of a penitent and unction.
- Belief in heaven, hell and Jesus's return in glory.
The 16th century apologist, Richard Hooker, posits that there are three sources of authority in Anglicanism: scripture, tradition and reason. It is not known how widely accepted this idea is within Anglicanism. It is further posited that the three sources uphold and critique each other in a dynamic way. In Hooker's model, scripture is the primary means of arriving at doctrine; things stated plainly in scripture are accepted as true. Issues that are ambiguous are determined by tradition, which is checked by reason.
Ordination of womenEdit
On women's issues, the church has ordained women to all offices. In 1990, the church began ordaining women to the priesthood. The first two women ordained were Kathleen Margaret Brown and Irene Templeton. In 2013, the church appointed its first woman bishop, Pat Storey.
Same-sex unions and LGBT clergyEdit
The church has been divided over human sexuality. In 2002, the issue became pertinent as a vicar provided a blessing for a lesbian couple. The denomination announced a period of discernment to allocate time to the perspectives within the discussion. In 2010, a congregation was recognised by the church for receiving an LGBTI award for offering services for LGBTI people.
Civil partnerships have been allowed since 2005. The church has no official position on civil unions. In 2008, "the Church of Ireland Pensions Board ha[d] confirmed that it will treat civil partners the same as spouses." In 2011, a cleric in the Church of Ireland entered into a same-sex civil partnership with his bishop's permission. Assurances of sexual abstinence were not required from the cleric. In 2012, the church's Clergy Pension Fund continued to recognise that "the pension entitlement of a member's registered civil partner will be the same as that of a surviving spouse." Regarding cohabitation, the church said that "any view of cohabitation has to be the intention of the couple to lifelong loyalty and faithfulness within their relationship." The church recognises four general viewpoints within the denomination ranging from opposition to acceptance toward same-gender relationships.
Prior to the referendum on same-sex marriage, the church remained neutral on the issue. In 2015, the Bishop of Cork, the Rt. Rev. Paul Colton, Bishop Michael Burrows of Cashel, and two retired archbishops of Dublin endorsed same-sex marriage. While voting "no" on gay marriage, Bishop Pat Storey endorsed civil unions. Also, 55 clergy signed a letter supporting the blessing of same-sex couples. In its pastoral letter, the church reiterated that, presently, church marriages are only for heterosexual couples, but that clergy may offer prayers for same-sex couples. When asked about clergy entering into civil same-sex marriages, the letter stated that "all are free to exercise their democratic entitlements once they are enshrined in legislation. However, members of the clergy, are further bound by the Ordinal and by the authority of the General Synod of the Church of Ireland." Services of Thanksgiving for same-sex marriage have taken place in congregations; for example, St. Audoen's Church hosted "a service of thanksgiving" for same-sex marriage. LGBTI services are also allowed by the Diocese of Cork, Cloyne and Ross.
REFORM Ireland, a conservative lobby, has criticised the official letter as "a dangerous departure from confessing Anglicanism" and continues to oppose same-sex marriage recognition. Reflecting division, the church deferred its report on same-sex marriage to listen to all voices. The Church of Ireland Gazette, although "editorially independent", endorsed a blessing rite for same-sex couples. Many congregations, including cathedrals, have become publicly affirming of LGBTI rights. A church report has determined that "the moral logic underpinning the negative portrayal of same-sex eroticism in Scripture does not directly address committed, loving, consecrated same-sex relationships today". In 2017, the General Synod considered a proposal to request for public services of thanksgiving for same-sex couples, but the proposal was not passed; the church's select committee on human sexuality recommended that the bishops continue to study the issues. There were 176 votes against the motion to request public services, 146 in favour, and 24 abstentions. The Bishop of Cork, Paul Colton, declared his support for same-sex marriages in the Church of Ireland.
The first translation of the Book of Common Prayer into Irish was published in 1606. An Irish translation of the revised prayer book of 1662 was published in 1712.
The Church of Ireland has its own Irish language body, Cumann Gaelach na hEaglaise ("Irish Guild of the Church" - www.gaeleaglais.ie). This was founded in 1914 to bring together members of the Church of Ireland interested in the Irish language and Gaelic culture and to promote the Irish language within the Church of Ireland. The guild aims to link its programmes with the Irish language initiatives which have been centred round Christ Church Cathedral. It holds services twice a month in Irish.
From 1926 to 1995, the church had its own Irish-language teacher training college, Coláiste Moibhí. Today, there are a number of interdenominational Gaelscoileanna (schools where Irish-medium education is applied).
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