Diocese of Connor

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Diocese of Connor
Church of Ireland
Province: Armagh
Arms of the Bishop of Connor

Lisburn Cathedral
Bishop: Alan Abernethy
Cathedral: 1) Lisburn Cathedral
2) St Anne's Cathedral, Belfast
Archdeaconries: Connor, Dalriada, Belfast
Website: connordiocese.org.uk

The Diocese of Connor is a diocese of the Church of Ireland in the Province of Armagh of the Church of Ireland. It serves County Antrim and the Liberties of Coleraine.

Overview and history

Tradition holds that St Patrick, apostle to the Irish herded sheep on Slemish, in the heart of the Diocese, when first brought to Ireland as a slave. Saint Malachy, the great reformer of the Irish church, was consecrated Bishop of Connor in 1124 and remained until his translation to the Archbishopric of Armagh in 1132. The see was originally at Connor.

There is much evidence, from written sources and archaeological material, that Connor was a sizeable, complex settlement in the Early Christian period, probably with monastic and secular elements coexisting. There was no monastic establishment at Connor in the Middle Ages, though there was an Augustinian community at Kells nearby.

The Church of Ireland broke communion with Rome at the same time as the Church of England under King Henry VIII and was reformed from that period. At this time the diocese was a resolutely Gaelic area whose people did not accept the Reformation. This changed dramatically though with the Plantation of Ulster beginning in the reign of King James I and VI, bringing new, Protestant settlers to Antrim. The majority of planters though came from Scotland and were Presbyterians opposed to episcopacy: such was the anti-Anglican tenor of the Scottish settlers that the English divine, Jeremy Taylor, for a time Bishop of the United Dioceses of Down, Connor and Dromore, said of his new home, "I perceive myself thrown into a place of torment."

In time, County Antrim, corresponding closely with the Diocese of Connor soon became the most Protestant county in Ireland, a situation which remains the case until today.

In the 1830s, a number of diocese were merged or reorganised as the population of Ireland declined, though it was a very different story in County Antrim.


The modern form of the diocese came into being when the Diocese of Connor was split from the hitherto United Dioceses of Down, Connor and Dromore in 1944. The Diocesan Cathedral is in Christ Church Lisburn, although this functions largely as a parish church for Lisburn City Centre. Because of its larger size, St Anne's Cathedral, Belfast, is shared with the Diocese of Down and Dromore for major church events.

Recent history

In the 19th century, Belfast became the epicentre of the Industrial Revolution in Ireland. Other towns in the diocese, such as Ballymena, Larne and Lisburn, were also among Ireland's foremost industrial centres. The Church of Ireland population of the Diocese increased dramatically as people moved to the area to work in the factories in the major towns, both from rural areas of Ulster with large Anglican populations like County Armagh and Fermanagh and from England.

The rapid growth in the population of the Greater Belfast area as well as the mass exodus of the Protestant population of the new Irish Free State after Partition of Ireland in 1922 led to the bizarre situation where the United Dioceses of Down, Connor and Dromore, just one of fourteen Church of Ireland Dioceses had over half the Anglican population of the whole island. In 1944, therefore Connor Diocese was split off from the other two. St Anne's Cathedral, Belfast built in 1905 to serve as a single cathedral for the Diocese, theoretically running alongside, but in practice replacing the existing cathedrals in Lisburn, Downpatrick and Dromore, saw two bishops of two distinct dioceses have stalls in the cathedral within forty years.

In the 1950s and 1960s rapid slum clearance and suburbanisation saw a number of new parishes created, however demographic changes, movement of people to suburban areas in the Diocese of Down and Dromore and the growth of both secularism and small Evangelical churches saw a decline in membership. Between the end of the Second World War and 2001, the number of Anglicans in the Diocese decreased by 30%, the largest drop in Ireland, although it remains the largest Diocese in the Church.

The Troubles presented the Diocese with major challenges – in common with every other community in Northern Ireland, many Anglicans in the Diocese were killed or injured in terrorist related incidents. Ecumenism, which since the 1960s has become a steadily more important part of Anglican life in the Diocese, had to be carried out against the background of civil strife in which religion played a major factor. Demographic change, exacerbated by sectarian tensions, meant that North and West Belfast, within the Diocese, became more and more Roman Catholic, while many Church of Ireland members who had previously lived there moved to suburban areas in County Down, causing many Belfast parishes to close or severely cut back their activities.

Geographic remit

The diocese is based on the traditional County Antrim, including Belfast west of the River Lagan, and a small part of County Londonderry including Portstewart and those parts of Coleraine east of the River Bann.

Based on Census figures, more than 100,000 self-described adherents of the Church of Ireland live in the Diocese, making it home to the largest Anglican population of any Irish diocese and more than one in four members of the Church of Ireland. It is unusual in being the only Church of Ireland diocese where Presbyteriansm, rather than Roman Catholicism is the largest single religious denomination of the population.


Since early 2007 the Diocese has comprised three archdeaconries:

  1. Belfast
  2. Connor
  3. Dalriada

and ten rural deaneries (some of them far from rural):

  1. North Belfast
  2. Mid Belfast
  3. South Belfast
  4. Antrim
  5. Ballymena
  6. Carey (centred on Ballycastle)
  7. Carrickfergus
  8. Coleraine
  9. Derryaghy
  10. Lisburn


Christ Church Cathedral, Lisburn
St Anne's Cathedral, Belfast

The Diocese has two cathedrals:

Style and ethos

In common with much of the Church of Ireland, most parishes in the Diocese are very moderately Low Church in ethos or part of the central liturgical tradition. However, there are a small but growing number of distinctly Evangelical Anglican parishes in the Diocese, while a small number of parishes in Belfast could be described as High Church, in the case of St George's in Belfast City Centre even Anglo-Catholic.


Pre-Reformation bishops

Pre-Reformation Bishops of Connor
From Until Incumbent Notes
unknown 1117 Flann Ua Sculu Died in office.
1117 1124 See vacant
1124 c. 1136/37 Saint Malachy Irish: Máel Máedóc Ua Morgair; Saint Malachias; also Bishop of Down from 1124 and Archbishop of Armagh from 1132; resigned Armagh and Connor, but retained Down until his death on 2 November 1148.
1137/38 bef. 1152 See vacant
bef. 1152 bef. 1172 Máel Pátraic Ua Bánáin Present at the Synod of Kells in March 1152; resigned; died 1174.
bef. 1172 bef. 1178 Nehemias Died in office.
c.1178 1225 Reginaldus Died after 19 April 1225.
1226 1241 Eustacius Eustace; previously Archdeacon of Connor; elected bishop in 1226 and received possession of the temporalities 5 May 1226; died before October 1241.
1242 1244 Adam OCist Previously Abbot of Wardon Abbey; elected bishop in 1242 and received possession of the temporalities 27 January 1242; consecrated in September 1242; died 7 November 1244 and was buried in Wardon Abbey.
1245 1256 Isaac of Newcastle Elected before 4 April 1245 and received possession of the temporalities 8 May 1245; died circa 6 October 1256.
1257 1260 William of Portroyal OSB Appointed 27 October 1257 and received possession of the temporalities 7 January 1258; died before 16 July 1260.
1260 1262 William de la Hay Elected 10 October 1260; consecrated and received possession of the temporalities after 21 March 1261; acted as a suffragan bishop in the Diocese of Lincoln in 1262; died before 25 December 1262.
1263 1274 Robert of Flanders Elected 3 February 1263 and received possession of the temporalities after that date; died 25 November 1274; also known as Robert le Fleming or Flandrensis.
1275 1292 Petrus de Dunach Peter of Dovenach or Donach; elected before 2 March 1275; died before January 1292.
1292 1319 Johannes John; elected before 23 January 1292 and received possession of the temporalities 27 April 1293; died c.1319.
c. 1320 unknown Richard Elected circa 1320.
1321 James of Couplith Elected before 26 July 1321, but did not get possession of the see.
1323 John de Egglescliffe OP Translated from Glasgow before 5 March 1323, but did not get possession of the see; translated to Llandaff 20 June 1323.
1323 1324 Robert Wirsop OESA Translated from Ardagh on 20 June 1323; died before May 1324.
1324 1351 Jacobus Ó Cethernaig James O'Kearney; translated from Annaghdown between 7 and 15 May 1324; received possession of the temporalities 22 December 1324; died 1351.
1353 1374 William Mercier Previously Archdeacon of Kildare; appointed bishop 8 July and consecrated after 12 August 1353; received possession of the temporalities 2 November 1353; died in office.
1374 1389 Paulus Appointed 11 December 1374 and received possession of the temporalities 10 May 1376; died in office.
1389 c. 1416 Johannes Elected before 29 March 1389 and received possession of the temporalities 23 July 1389; appointed 9 November 1389; died in office.
1420 1421 Seaán Ó Luachráin Appointed 22 May 1420; died before February 1421.
1421 1429 Eóghan Ó Domhnaill Appointed 5 May 1421 and consecrated after June 1422; translated to Derry on 9 December 1429.
1429 1431 Domhnaill Ó Mearaich Translated from Derry 9 December 1429; died in office on 28 January 1431.
1431 1442 John Fossade John Festade; appointed 28 January and consecrated after 2 June 1431; became Bishop of Down and Connor in late 1442, although did not gain full control; died in the spring of 1450.
After the union of Down and Connor, there were two further bishops of Connor. Their position is uncertain – they may have been suffragan or titular bishops.
1459 Patricius He is said to have died before his letters of appointment were drawn up in 1459.
1459 1481 Simon Elvington OP Appointed by Pope Pius II on 12 February 1459; acted as a suffragan bishop in the dioceses of Salisbury and Exeter 1459–1481; died in office.

Bishops since the Reformation

Church of Ireland Bishops of Connor
From Until Incumbent Notes
1945 1956 Charles King Irwin Elected and confirmed Bishop of Down, Connor and Dromore in 1942; relinquished Down and Dromore on 31 December 1944/1 January 1945, but retained Connor; resigned on 31 May 1956; died 15 January 1960.
1956 1969 Cyril Elliott Elected 28 June and consecrated 21 September 1956; resigned on 31 August 1969; died 3 April 1977.
1969 1981 Arthur Butler Translated from Tuam, Killala and Achonry; elected 16 September and confirmed 14 October 1969; resigned on 30 September 1981.
1981 1987 William John McCappin Elected 28 October and consecrated 30 November 1981; retired; died 3 July 1992.
1987 1995 Samuel Poyntz Translated from Cork, Cloyne and Ross; elected and confirmed in 1987; retired on 10 March 1995.
1995 2001 Jimmy Moore Elected 31 March and consecrated 25 May 1995; retired; died 16 March 2005.
2002 2007 Alan Harper Elected 17 December 2001 and consecrated 18 March 2002; translated to Armagh on 16 March 2007.
2007 present Alan Abernethy Appointed 17 April,[1] consecrated 29 June,[2] and enthroned 6 September 2007.

Outside links


Church of Ireland dioceses

Province of Armagh:   Armagh  • Clogher  • Connor  • Derry and Raphoe  • Down and Dromore  • Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh  • Tuam, Killala and Achonry
Province of Dublin:   Cashel and Ossory  •
Cork, Cloyne and Ross  • Dublin and Glendalough  • Limerick and Killaloe  • Meath and Kildare