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Irish and Universal

APCK Leaflet 2 - Irish & Universal1. Did the Church of Ireland begin at the Reformation?
No - the Church of Ireland is that part of the Irish Church which was influenced by the Reformation, and has its origins in the early Celtic Church of St Patrick.

2. How is it that so many of the ancient church buildings of Ireland belong to the Church of Ireland?
Since the days of the Emperor Constantine in the 4th century European states saw themselves as having a central role in the government of the Church. This church-state link was vigorously applied when the Normans came to Ireland in the 12th century. Bishops were required to do homage to the king for their lands, just like earls and barons, who were vassals of the crown. It was therefore accepted, both during and after the Reformation, that the crown should continue to exercise that authority over the church, in which it continued to play a central role. In this way, church property that existed at the time of the Reformation, buildings included, was retained by the reformed, established (state) Church of Ireland.

In the 19th century, at the time of the Disestablishment of the Church, its property was confiscated by the state. However, schools, churches and cathedrals were given back, and remain in the possession of the Church to the present day.

3. Is the English monarch head of the Church of Ireland?
No. At the time of the Reformation, the English crown (which had jurisdiction over Ireland) claimed to govern the Church of Ireland. For centuries the monarch held that position in the Church of Ireland as the official state Church.

However from 1871, when the Church of Ireland was disestablished, and ceased to be the state Church, the crown and government have had no authority or constitutional role in the Church in any part of Ireland.

4. Is the Church of Ireland under the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury?
No. The Church of Ireland is a self-governing part of the Anglican Communion, which means that it is in communion with the See of Canterbury. But it is not under the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Church of Ireland is led by the Archbishop of Armagh (Primate of All Ireland) and the Archbishop of Dublin (Primate of Ireland).

5. What authority has the Lambeth Conference over the Church of Ireland?
The Lambeth Conference (the Archbishop of Canterbury's ten yearly meeting of Anglican bishops and certain others in full communion) usually issues statements on major theological and moral issues, for the guidance of the various member Churches but they must be accepted by the individual Churches before they become effective. The Church of Ireland is governed only by the preamble and declaration to its own constitution which requires it to:

  • accept and unfeignedly believe all the canonical scriptures of the Old and New Testament . . . as containing all things necessary to salvation
  • profess the faith of Christ as professed by the primitive church
  • maintain inviolate the three orders of bishops, priests or presbyters, and deacons in the sacred ministry

6. Why is the Church of Ireland sometimes called the Anglican Church?
The Church of Ireland is sometimes called "Anglican" because it is part of an international fellowship of churches known as the Anglican Communion. This communion is called "Anglican" because many of these churches owe their origin to the missionary outreach of the Church of England (formerly known as Ecclesia Anglicana) and both morally and canonically have looked to Canterbury.

Each Church in the Communion is independent with its own pattern of synodical government, by bishops and representatives of the clergy and laity.

The bishops meet in conference, usually every ten years, under the presidency of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Any resolutions made by the conference, while in their own right carrying considerable weight, become operable in the different Churches only when they have been officially accepted by them. The struggle to maintain independence and interdependence in communion, challenges these churches to face the attendant issues of identity and authority.


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©1996 APCK