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Non-subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland

The Non-subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland is a non-creedal Christian Church, which maintains a great emphasis on individual conscience in matters of Christian faith.

Non-subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland
The official logo of the Non-subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland.
OrientationPresbyterian/Liberal Christianity
AssociationsIrish Council of Churches, European Liberal Protestant Network, International Association for Religious Freedom
RegionNorthern Ireland, Ireland
Merger ofPresbytery of Antrim with Remonstrant Synod of Ulster
Official website

The Church became part of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches on its foundation in 1928, although it is now recognized under the terms of the 2010 Accord with the General Assembly as an independent and fully functioning denomination in its own right. Non-subscribing Presbyterians continue to maintain a strong commitment to the worship of God, the person of Christ, and to the centrality of Scripture. This is in accordance with 'The Constitution and Code of Discipline' (1997) of the denomination, which states:

'That the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the rule of Christian Faith and Duty under the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ' and

'That it is the inalienable right of every Christian to search these records of Divine Truth for his own instruction and guidance, to form his own opinions with regard to what they teach and to worship God in sincerity, agreeably to the dictates of his own conscience, without privation, penalty or inconvenience by his fellow-men.'

Whilst it continues, for historic reasons, friendly relations with the Unitarian and Free Christian General Assembly it does not share the latter's 'post-Christian' outlook and remains firmly part of the Christian family of faith. In common with most Protestant churches they affirm the two Biblical Sacraments of the Lord's Supper (Communion) and Baptism. Baptism is usually performed using the wording from Matthew 28, and this usage has increased in many places in recent years.

The Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland is a founder of, and active within the Irish Council of Churches, and the European Liberal Protestant Network (ELPN).

Today, the denomination has thirty-four congregations (thirty-three churches) on the island of Ireland, divided into three Presbyteries, with a total of about four thousand members. The denomination currently has twenty five ministers on its roll with both women and men serving as ministers. The NSCPI is also a member of the International Association for Religious Freedom. It has also recorded year on year growth in recent years (source: General Synod Annual Reports).

Holywood First Non-subscribing Presbyterian


The Church has its origins with those early 18th-century Presbyterian ministers who refused to subscribe at their ordination to the Westminster Confession, a standard Reformed (Calvinist) statement of faith; and who were placed, in 1725, in the Presbytery of Antrim. A similar disagreement led to the creation of the Remonstrant Synod of Ulster in 1830. In 1835 the two bodies together with the Synod of Munster formed the Association of Irish Non-subscribing Presbyterians.[1] However, the foundation of the earliest of Irish Presbyterian congregations predates the formulation of the Westminster Confession,and the congregations of the Synod of Munster never subscribed to it. When the Presbytery of Antrim was formed, it received support from the Synod of Munster [2]. As the eighteenth century progressed, the attitude to subscription within the Synod of Ulster became more relaxed.[3].

The Non-subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland (NSPCI) was consolidated in 1910 when the Presbytery of Antrim, the Remonstrant Synod of Ulster and those congregations that had formed the Free Congregational Union (a radical group made up of a few congregations who had left the Remonstrant Synod or the Presbytery of Antrim) for a few years, formed the General Synod.[4] By 1910 only three congregations of the original Synod of Munster remained in the south of Ireland. Although (like all the elements that came to form the General Synod in 1910) the Synod of Munster was and remained a member of the Association of Irish Non-subscribing Presbyterians, it did not formally join the General Synod until 1935.

Statement of uniting principlesEdit

Evolution of the Presbyterian churches in Ulster

The Non-subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland has a statement of uniting principles which are:

“We declare allegiance to the principle that:

  • the teaching of Christ must take precedence over the doctrines of a later time, and
  • Christian unity is to be sought, not in the uniformity of creed but in a common standard of duty and adherence to the commandments set out in the Bible.

Our faith:

  • is governed by the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments of the Bible
  • asserts and upholds the right of each and every individual to search these scriptural records for themselves and to use reason and personal conscience to discover God’s Divine Truth
  • removes Human Tests and Confessions of Faith that restrict private judgement and prevent free enquiry
  • upholds the beautiful simplicity of the great commandments as defined by Jesus Christ: “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and all your mind” and “You must love your neighbour as yourself.”[5]


The church is divided into three groups, the Presbytery of Antrim with 17 churches, the Presbytery of Bangor with 11 churches, and the Synod of Munster with 5 churches. Currently the only two congregations from the Republic of Ireland are in the Synod of Munster and they are the Cork Unitarian church and the Dublin Unitarian church. The Synod of Munster and Cork and Dublin Unitarians churches produced the monthly magazine Oscailt.[6]

Presbytery of AntrimEdit

In 1725, the Synod of Ulster formed a new Presbytery of Antrim, consisting of the following 16 congregations: -

  • Aghadowey - Rev John Elder - the congregation rejoined the Synod of Ulster after his resignation in or before 1773[7]
  • Ahoghill - Rev Thomas Shaw - the congregation rejoined the Synod of Ulster after his death in 1731[8]
  • Antrim - Rev John Abernethy
  • Ballyclare - Rev Thomas Wilson
  • 1st Belfast - Rev Samuel Haliday
  • 2nd Belfast - Rev James Kirkpatrick
  • Cairncastle - Rev William Taylor
  • Comber - Rev John Orr - the current non-subscribing congregation was not founded until 1838[9]
  • Downpatrick - Rev Thomas Nevin
  • Dromore - Dr Colvil
  • Dundalk - Rev Patrick Simpson - the congregation rejoined the Synod of Ulster after his death in or before 1779[10]
  • Duneane - Rev John Henderson - the congregation rejoined the Synod of Ulster after his death in 1753[11]
  • Holywood - Rev Michael Bruce
  • Larne - Rev Josias Clugston
  • Moira - Rev Samuel Harpur - the congregation rejoined the Synod of Ulster after his death in or before 1731[12]
  • Newtownards - Rev John Mears

Newtownlimavady, under the Rev Joseph Osborne, is included in a list given by James Armstrong in 'A summary history of the Presbyterian churches in the City of Dublin', P64. However, William Dool Killen in History of the congregations of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, P 177 states that Rev Osborne's ordination by the Presbytery of Antrim occurred after 1740. He and his congregation joined the Synod of Ulster in 1743.[13]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Timeline for presbyterians in Ireland Presbyterian History Ireland
  2. ^ Sealy, Charles Scott, (2010), Church authority and non-subscription controversies in early eighteenth century Presbyterianism, p167
  3. ^ Barkley, John Monteith (1956). The Westminster Formularies in Irish Presbyterianism - Carey lectures, 1954;1956. Graham & Heslip. p. 13.
  4. ^ The Encyclopædia Britannica 1926 "In 1910 the Antrim Presbytery, Remonstrant Synod and Synod of Munster were united as the General Synod of the non-subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland. They have 38 congregations and some mission stations."
  5. ^ See "Our Faith" NSPCI,
  6. ^ Oscailt - The monthly magazine for Cork and Dublin Unitarian Churches.
  7. ^ Killen 1886, p 11.
  8. ^ Killen 1886, P12.
  9. ^ Evans 1897, P134.
  10. ^ Killen 1886, P133.
  11. ^ Killen 1886, P136.
  12. ^ Killen 1886, PP196-7.
  13. ^ Limavady Ancestry - Church Records

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit