Society of Ireland
 

Church of Ireland

The Church of Ireland's beginnings as a reformed church independent of the Roman Catholic Church began in 1536 when the Irish Parliament declared Henry VIII to be the Supreme Head of the Church on earth (i.e. Head of the Church of Ireland). He would not legally become King of Ireland until 1541. Henry’s assumption of the title of King of Ireland had great ecclesio-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 accepted the Elizabethan Settlement,[citation needed] although the vast majority of priests and the church membership remained Roman Catholic. The Church of Ireland claims Apostolic succession because of the continuity in the 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"[9] 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.[10] 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 Dr Nehemiah Donnellan, Archbishop of Tuam; it was finally completed by William Daniel (Uilliam O 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.[11][12] 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 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 remained faithful to the Latin liturgy of Roman Catholicism, which remained by far the majority denomination in Ireland. 19th to 20th centuries [edit] Church of Ireland Parish in Cavan Church of Ireland Parish in Carnlough 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 sparked the Oxford Movement,[citation needed] 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 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 was given to Catholic clergy by the state who suffered loss by the seizure of Church property; at its disestablishment, compensation was provided to clergy by the state.[13] On both occasions, parishes faced great difficulty in local financing after the loss of rent-generating lands and buildings. The Church of Ireland made provision in 1870 for its own government, led by a General Synod, and with financial management by a Representative Church Body. With disestablishment, the Church's representation in the House of Lords also ceased. Like other Irish churches, the Church of Ireland did not divide when Ireland was partitioned in the 1920s. It continues to be governed on an all-Ireland basis.

 



ESHSI, Department of Modern History, Trinity College, Dublin, Republic of Ireland Contact: Membership Secretary