The Church of Ireland in the Anglican Communion

April 16, 2008

 Many misconceptions exist regarding the Anglican church, and the Anglican Communion. The Anglican Communion refers to the Anglican church worldwide. No single Anglican church has autonomy over all others. Each national church, such as the ECUSA (The Episcopal Church in the United States) has autonomy, a presiding bishop, and bishops elected to each diocese. Churches in full communion with the Church of England comprise the Anglican Communion. 

The Celtic church in Ireland traces its origins back to the time of St. Patrick, when the church was centered around monastic communities. The Irish Church is considered to be both Catholic and Reformed, since Henry Vlll was named the head of the Irish church by the Parliament of Ireland during the Reformation. At that time the Church of England severed ties with the Roman Catholic Church.  When the Church of England was reformed by Edward Vl, so was the Church of Ireland.

During the Reformation, the Irish church underwent more radical changes due mainly to the doctrines of John Calvin. However the Bishop of Armagh authored the Irish Articles which were adopted in 1615, and accepted along with the Thirty Nine Articles, the official doctrine of the Church of England. The Thirty Nine Articles are now the official doctrine of the Church of Ireland. 

The first Irish translation of the New Testament was published in 1602, and the translation of the Old Testament was published in 1680 by the Archbishop of Dublin. The translation of the Book of Common Prayer of 1662 (the official prayerbook of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion) was published in 1712.

Although there are Anglo-Catholic parishes, referred to as High Church, the majority of the churches in Ireland are consideered more Low Church. The Church of Ireland has two cathedrals, Christ Church Cathedral, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, both located in Dublin. However there are cathedrals in other dioceses as well.

The majority of Anglicans numbering 75%, live in Northern Ireland. During the last century there was a decline in the membership both in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, but the Republic has experienced more growth since the church has relaxed standards about children of mixed marriages being brought up in the Roman Catholic faith, Anglicans moving to Ireland, and Roman Catholics who have left the Catholic church in favor of Anglicanism.

Recent developments in the church have left their mark on every parish, and we can only pray that resolutions will be found to overcome challenges facing the Irish church and restore the stability of the Anglican Communion worldwide.



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