Church of Ireland

The Church of Ireland (Irish: Eaglais na hÉireann) is an autonomous province of the Anglican Communion, and is present in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Like other Anglican churches, it is both Catholic and Reformed: in its constitution, it is called "the Ancient Catholic and Apostolic Church of Ireland" and "a reformed and Protestant Church". When the Church in England broke with the Pope and communion with the Roman Catholic Church, the Church in Ireland did too, with those adhering to the new rules becoming the State Church and holding possession of official Church property,  while the majority of the population remained loyal to the Roman Catholic Church and continue to do so to this day. As the reformed Church of Ireland took possession of nearly all official Church property, it has a great inventory of religious buildings, architecture and other items.

Despite its numerical minority, however, the Church of Ireland remained the official state church until it was disestablished on 1 January 1871, by the Liberal government under William Gladstone.

Today the Church of Ireland is, after the Roman Catholic Church, the second-largest church in the island of Ireland and the third-largest in Northern Ireland after Catholicism and Presbyterianism. It is governed by a General Synod of clergy and laity and organized into twelve dioceses. It is led by the Archbishop of Armagh 
(styled "Primate of All Ireland"), and the church's other archbishop is the Archbishop of Dublin (styled "Primate of Ireland").

The origins of the Church of Ireland go back to the missions of Saint Patrick. As a monastically-centered institution, the early Celtic Church of Ireland had a unique calendar and practices, but was a full part of the wider Western Church with links to the Coptic and Syriac churches. Henry II of England invaded Ireland and (
basing his action on the Papal Bull Laudabiliter), in 1171 made himself Lord of Ireland, but the church still looked to Rome.

The Reformation
In 1536, during the Reformation, Henry VIII was named the head of the Irish church by the Irish Parliament. When the Church of England was reformed under Edward VI so too was the Church of Ireland. Only two of the Irish bishops did not accept the Elizabethan Settlement. There is continuity and Apostolic succession in the Church of Ireland, separate and distinct from the Church of England. The established church in Ireland for a time adopted a more radical Calvinist doctrine than did the Church of England. James Ussher (later Archbishop of Armagh) compiled the Irish Articles, adopted in 1615 and in 1634 the Irish Convocation adopted the English Thirty-Nine Articles in addition to the Irish Articles. After the Restoration of 1660, the Thirty-Nine Articles took precedence, and remain the official doctrine of the Church of Ireland even after disestablishment.

The Church of Ireland undertook the first publication of Scripture in Irish: the translation of the New Testament was begun by Nicholas Walsh, Bishop of Ossory, who worked on it until his untimely death in 1585. The work was continued by John Kearny, his assistant, and Dr. Nehemiah Donellan, Archbishop of Tuam. It was finally completed by William O'Domhnuill (William Daniell, Archbishop of Tuam in succession to Donellan) and 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 1680 (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 by John Richardson (1664 - 1747) was published in 1712.

During the United Kingdom
In the first 300 years of the church, some clergymen of the Church of Ireland sat as Lords Spiritual in the Irish House of Lords. Under the Act of Union in 1800, one archbishop and three bishops chosen by rotation would be Lords Spiritual in the newly united United Kingdom House of Lords in Westminster, joining the two archbishops (Canterbury and York) and the twenty-four bishops from the Church of England. In 1833 the British Government proposed the Irish Church Measure to reduce the 22 archbishops and bishops who oversaw the Anglican minority in Ireland to a total of 12 by amalgamating dioceses and using the revenue saved for use in the parishes.

As the official established church, the Church of Ireland would receive tithes imposed on all Irish citizens, irrespective of the fact that only a minority of the populace attended. This was a source of much resentment which regularly boiled over, as in the "Tithe War" of 1831-36. Tithes were eventually ended, replaced with a lower levy called the tithe rentcharge. The Irish Church Disestablishment Act 1869 came into effect in 1871 and the Church of Ireland ceased to be the state church. This terminated both state support and parliamentary authority over its governance, and took into public ownership much church property. Compensation was provided to clergy, but many parishes faced great difficulty after the loss of rent-generating land, property and buildings. The Church of Ireland made provision in 1870 for its own government, led by the General Synod, and financial management by the Representative Church Body. With disestablishment, tithes were abolished and the church's representation in the House of Lords ceased.
The Church of Ireland did not divide when Ireland was partitioned in 1920, and continues to be governed on an all-Ireland basis.

The Church today
The Church of Ireland, has a number of High Church (Anglo-Catholic) parishes, but is on the whole Low Church and evangelical. 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
synodical government, on its disestablishment in 1871,  and was one of the first provinces to ordain women to the priesthood, in 1991.

The Church of Ireland has two cathedrals in Dublin: within 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. There are other Cathedrals in the dioceses. The church has a seminary, the Church of Ireland Theological College, in Rathgar, Dublin. The Church of Ireland also runs a College of Education.

The Church of Ireland experienced substantial decline during the 20th century, both in Northern Ireland where 75% of its members live, and in the Republic of Ireland. However, the Church of Ireland in the Republic has shown resilient growth in the last two national censuses and its membership is now back to the levels of sixty years ago. The relaxation of the Ne Temere regulations, which stipulated that children of mixed Roman Catholic-Protestant marriages should be brought up as Roman Catholics and also the number of Anglican immigrants who have moved to Ireland recently contributing to this growth. In addition, some parishes report significant numbers of Roman Catholics joining. A number of clergy originally ordained in the Roman Catholic Church have now become Church of Ireland clergy and many former Roman Catholics have also come forward for ordination after they have become members of the Church of Ireland.
The 2006 Census in the Republic of Ireland showed that the numbers of people describing themselves as members of the Church of Ireland increased in every county.
In 2007 twenty candidates were ordained into the Church of Ireland, as opposed to only nine Roman Catholic priests in the Republic. 

The Church of Ireland is of Episcopalian governance
and embraces three orders of ministry: deacon, priest or presbyter and bishop, as do other Anglican churches. The church maintains the pre-Reformation structure with a system of geographical parishes organized into dioceses. There are twelve of these, each headed by a bishop. The leader of the five southern bishops is the Archbishop of Dublin; that of the seven northern ones the Archbishop of Armagh; these are styled Primate of Ireland and Primate of All Ireland respectively, (note the ultimate seniority of the latter) although he has 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.

Canon law and church policy are decided by the church's General Synod, and changes in policy must be passed by both the House of Bishops and the House of Representatives (Clergy and Laity). Important changes must be passed by two-thirds majorities. 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 of the Church of Ireland in their attempts to resolve the crisis at the Church of the Ascension at Drumcree, near Portadown.

Ecumenical relations
Like most other Anglican churches, the Church of Ireland is a member of many ecumenical bodies, including the World Council of Churches and the Irish Council of Churches and a member of the Porvoo Communion.


Church of Ireland
Church of Ireland

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