Society of Ireland
 

Present Church of Ireland

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 organized 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, each headed by a bishop and belonging to one of the 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. 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). Certain important changes, for example the decision to ordain women as priests, must be passed by a majority of two-thirds of both houses. 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.[17] The Church of Ireland embraces three orders of ministry: deacons, priests (or presbyters) and bishops. These orders are distinct from positions such as rector, vicar or canon.

Saul church, a modern replica of an early church with a round tower, is built on the reputed spot of St Patrick's first church in Ireland.
 



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