History of the Church of Ireland

August 15, 2022 in News

In the latest edition of A Short History of the Church of Ireland (Messenger Publications), author Kenneth Milne outlines the story of the Church through centuries of plantations and penal laws within the wider context of Irish history. The book traces the Church of Ireland’s history back to the coming of Christianity to Ireland in the fifth century and, grounded in the teaching and practice of the early centuries of the Church, claims a place in the tradition of Saint Patrick.

In the preface, Milne writes:

“But while the Church of Ireland rejected some of the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church on the grounds that they were not based on, nor warranted by, scripture, and lacked precedent in the practices of the early Church, the Church of Ireland has always regarded itself as Catholic, holding to the threefold ministry of bishops, priests and deacons, subscribing to the ancient creeds and its teaching rooted in both scripture and the tradition of the Catholic Church”.

According to the author, the evolution of the Church of Ireland is intricately linked to political developments in Ireland over several hundred years and the complex relationship with Britain. It survived the disestablishment of its position as the established Church of the state in 1869 along with a series of other challenges – the transfer of land ownership from landlords to tenants, the loss of life incurred by war in Europe and Ireland and changing societal norms. It restructured its organization and, administratively as distinct from pastorally, started again from scratch.

With a bibliography and chapter-specific suggestions for further reading, the book allows the reader the choice to explore the history of the Church of Ireland at their own pace. The final chapter brings the story through changing times to the present day, taking into account the ecumenical movement, Prayer Book revision and the ordination of women to priesthood and the episcopate.

Milne notes that in 1990 the General Synod legislated for the ordination of women as bishops and priests. It was a move that attracted enormous attention in Ireland and beyond. The first woman to be ordained to the priesthood was the Revd Irene Templeton.

Finally, it is thought that in today’s era of ecumenism, as religions embrace dialogue and mutual understanding, this volume provides a sensitive and detailed introduction to the history of the Church of Ireland for Christians of all denominations.

Kenneth Milne is a former secretary of the Board of Education of the General Synod of the Church of Ireland and principal of the Church of Ireland College of Education. He was convenor of the European Affairs Committee of the Irish Council of Churches and a member of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA). He has published widely on Irish education and Anglicanism. This is his first publication with Messenger Publications.

A Short History of the Church of Ireland by Kenneth Milne is published in Ireland and the UK by Messenger Publications. It is priced at €12.95/£11.95.