Church of Ireland
The Church of Ireland is the national church of the Anglican Communion in the island of Ireland. It operates across the island and is the largest Protestant church on the island. In Northern Ireland, the Church of Ireland is the second largest Protestant denomination, after the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.
The Church of Ireland was reformed at the same time as the Church of England in the sixteenth century, all but two of the Church's bishops following the reformation, though fewer of the clergy or laity and the substantial majority of the Irish population outside Dublin and its neighbourhood remained attached to Rome.
The Church of Ireland was united with the Church of England by Article V of the Act of Union 1800 by which the two were united into "one Protestant Episcopal Church, to be called, The United Church of England and Ireland". Although this union was declared "an essential and fundamental Part of the Union", nevertheless the Irish Church Act 1869 separated the Irish part of the Church again and disestablished it, the Act coming into effect on 1 January 1871.
The General Synod is the chief governing body of the Church of Ireland.
The church is structured as follows (from the lowest level upwards):
- Province: There are two provinces, of Armagh and Dublin, each under the jurisdiction of an archbishop. A province is divided into dioceses. The Archbishop of Armagh bears the title "Primate of All Ireland" and the Archbishop of Dublin is "Primate of Ireland".
- Diocese: This is the area under the jurisdiction of a diocesan bishop, and it will have a cathedral. Within the diocese may be one or more assisting bishops, called suffragan bishops. The Diocese will have a Diocesan Synod. There are 6 dioceses in the Province of Armagh and 6 dioceses in the Province of Dublin.
- Archdeaconry: This is a division of a diocese in which an archdeacon has functions.
- Parish: This is the most local level, often consisting of one church building and community, although nowadays many parishes are joining forces in a variety of ways. The parish will be looked after by a parish priest who may be entitled "vicar" or "rector" or "priest in charge".
Until the nineteenth century, the Church of Ireland had four provinces based on the Provinces of Ireland: Armagh (Ulster), Dublin (Leinster), Tuam (Connaught) and Cashel (Munster) but declining membership from the depopulation of Ireland required a consolidation.
- Cross, F. L. (ed.) (1957) The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Oxford: U. P.; pp. 700–701
- Neill, Stephen (1965) Anglicanism. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books
- MacCarthy, Robert Ancient and Modern: a short history of the Church of Ireland. Four Courts Press Ltd., 1995