Thursday, 19 January 2012

Anglicanism 1.2: Who we are (2): Introduction to the Anglican Communion today

Lambeth Palace, the official London residence of the Archbishops of Canterbury since the 13th century, also gives its name to the Lambeth Conference (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

Church of Ireland Theological Institute

MTh Year II

EM8825: Anglican Studies in an Irish context:

Patrick Comerford

Thursdays: 10 a.m. to 12 noon, The Hartin Room.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

The compass rose, the symbol of the Anglican Communion, signifying its worldwide membership and decentralised organisation. It is surmounted by a bishop’s mitre, in the centre is the cross of Saint George, and the Greek motto is Ἡ ἀλήθεια ἐλευθερώσει ὑμᾶς, The truth will set you free (John 8: 32). It was designed by Canon Edward Nason West of the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, New York

The present state of the Anglican Communion:

The Anglican Communion is a communion of churches spread across all the inhabited continents, bound together through a number of instruments.

Traditionally there have been four instruments of unity, now known as the “Instruments of Communion”:

● The Archbishop of Canterbury, who calls and convenes the Lambeth Conference and the Primates’ meetings. He is often referred to as a “focus of unity.”
● The Lambeth Conference, first called in 1867 and now meeting every 10 years – the last meeting was in Canterbury in 2008.
● The Anglican Consultative Council, formed in 1968. Its last meeting, ACC-14, was in Kingston, Jamaica, from 2-12 May 2009, and ACC-15 meets in Christchurch, New Zealand, from 27 October to 7 November 2012. The Church of Ireland members are the Revd Dr Maurice Elliott (Director of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute) and Mr Wilfred Baker (Cork).
● The Primates’ Meeting, which takes place every two or three years. The last four meetings were in Dromantine, near Newry (2006), Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (February 2007), Alexandria, Egypt (February 2009), and the Emmaus Retreat Centre in Swords, Co Dublin (25-30 January 2011).

In addition, roles in maintaining Anglican unity are played by:

● The Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council, increasingly being referred to as the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion. This is a 14-member group (15, if the Archbishop of Canterbury is present). Seven members are elected by the ACC; five are members of the Primates’ Standing Committee; and the elected Chair and Vice-Chair of the ACC. Its defined function is to assist the Churches of the Anglican Communion in advancing the work of their mission worldwide.
● The secretary of the Anglican Communion Office, at present Canon Ken Kearon from the Church of Ireland.
● The Mothers’ Union.
● The mission agencies, although they have no instrument of unity that holds them together.

The debates aimed at dealing with diversity and tension within the Anglican Communion and on the Anglican Covenant now include discussions about the instruments of communion or unity and the discipline needed to hold together the Anglican Communion and to deal with any breaches of the Covenant after it has been ratified.

Of course, there are major questions about the continuing place within the Anglican Communion of those provinces or dioceses that fail to, or refuse to, sign up for the covenant.

What is the Anglican Communion?

The Anglican Communion, which describes itself as the Anglican/Episcopal family, consists of about 80 million Christians who are members of 44 different churches. It is the third largest communion or international denomination of Christians, following Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox Churches. The Anglican Communion is made up of 34 provinces, four United Churches, and six other churches, spread across the globe.

These include four churches in the Indian sub-continent in which Anglicans merged with other denominations to form new, united churches (Bangladesh, North India, Pakistan and South India). There are four national churches (Spain, Portugal, Sri Lanka and Bermuda), that are still so small that they, along with the small Anglican presence on the Falkland Islands, accept the Archbishop of Canterbury as their Metropolitan.

Ten Anglican churches in the Caribbean, Central and Latin America have special links to the Episcopal Church in the US (TEC). For example, the Diocese of Haiti is the largest diocese, in terms of numbers, in TEC.

The newest Anglican province is the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui Hong Kong and Macao, with three dioceses (Hong Kong Island, Eastern Kowloon, Western Kowloon), and one missionary area (Macao).

Many of the dioceses in these churches are small compared with the dioceses of the Church of Ireland. Others are vast: the Diocese in Europe alone, which is part of the Church of England, stretches from Morocco in North Africa to Vladivostok in Siberian East Asia. There have been Anglican churches on Continental Europe since the early 17th century, but the diocese dates from the establishment of the Diocese of Gibraltar in 1842, and its territorial embrace overlaps with a number of other Anglican churches and dioceses:

Saint George’s Anglican Church in a quiet corner of Salamanca in Madrid (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2009)

● The Convocation of American Churches in Europe, which is part of TEC and has its own bishop, has a cathedral in Paris and churches and missions in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland.
● The Spanish Episcopal Reformed Church
● The Lusitanian Church (Portugal).

The Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East is spread across three continents, from Libya in North Africa, to Cyprus in the Mediterranean, to the Gulf States and Iran, to Ethiopia in the Horn of Africa.

As Mark Chapman says in The Anglican Covenant (p. 2):

“Anyone who travels across the world will soon realize that in some ways Anglicanism is a bit like Microsoft or any other global brand – in that it covers most of the inhabited world, and is the third largest Christian denomination after Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, with perhaps 80 million members. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, may not be quite as well known as Bill Gates, but I would guess that his beard and his eyebrows command a pretty high degree of international recognition.”

The Anglican Church in Bucharest ... a variety of languages reflecting the origins of the Anglican community in the Romanian capital (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

A variety of languages is in use throughout the churches of the Anglican Communion, both in the liturgy and in the common, spoken language of the people. At meetings of the Parochial Church Council in the Church of the Resurrection in Bucharest, I have heard prayers in both English and Romanian, the walls of the church are decorated with icons with inscriptions in English, Greek, Romanian and Church Slavonic. The chaplain is the Revd Patrick Irwin, from a well-known Irish clerical missionary family.

The linguistic riches of the Anglican Communion include:

Portuguese in Portugal, Brazil, Mozambique and the new Diocese of Angola;
Spanish in Spain, Mexico, much of Central and Latin America, and also in the Philippines and in many parts of the United States;
French in Rwanda, Burundi and DR Congo;
● A mixture of Arabic and English in Sudan, Egypt and throughout the Middle East.
● A variety of languages in the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, including Greek, Turkish, French, Arabic, Ethiopic, and languages from the Indian sub-continent and the Philippines.
● There are Anglican dioceses where the first language of the liturgy and language used in synods and church administration are Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Swahili, &c. Indeed, English is a minority language in the Anglican Communion.

The origins of the Anglican Communion

Mark Chapman says that in the days of the British Empire there was an obvious connection between Anglicanism and England … But while many of the member churches in the Anglican Communion claim a direct link with the Church of England, and see this as an important element in what defines them as Anglican, it is not always so, and has not always been so.

There are four Anglican churches on these islands:

● The Church of England,
● The Church of Ireland,
● The Scottish Episcopal Church; and
● The Church in Wales.

These four churches have distinctively different origins. The Church of Ireland, the Church in Wales and the Scottish Episcopal Church point out that the origins of Christianity in their countries predate the mission in England of Saint Augustine of Canterbury, who was sent from Rome in the year 597.

The Church of Ireland claims to be the successor to the ancient Celtic and Anglo-Norman churches. In the late mediaeval period, the churches in the dioceses in the ancient Viking cities of Ireland, including Dublin, Waterford, Cork and Limerick, sometimes continued to look to Canterbury for their episcopal orders and succession.

The reformation in Scotland was followed by turmoil over whether the reformed church should be episcopal or Presbyterian in its style of church government. After the Episcopal Church was disestablished in 1689, it suffered under penal laws in force from 1746-1792. This church developed its own (high) liturgy; it had strong links with the dissenting, high church Nonjurors of the Church of England, and did not adopt the 39 Articles until the end of the 18th century.

Historically, there have been strong links not only between the Church of Ireland and the Church of England, but there have also been strong links between the Church of Ireland and the Scottish Episcopal Church.

At the restoration of Charles II, and the restoration of the episcopal model of church in the Church of Ireland in 1660, four of the eight remaining bishops of the Church of Ireland were of Scottish birth, or of immediate Scottish ancestry. Later, when it came to framing its own Ecclesiastical Canons, the Episcopal Church of Scotland looked not only to the 1603 Canons of the Church of England, and the 1636 Canons of the Church of Scotland, but also to the 1634 Canons of the Church of Ireland.

Just as it would be wrong to define the distinctive characteristics of the Church of Ireland or the Scottish Episcopal Church within the strictures of our links with the Church of England – in so far as it is missing a lot of the subtleties and salient facts – so too the Anglican Churches around the world cannot be defined as Anglican solely because of their links, directly or indirectly, to the Church of England.

Some of those churches trace their episcopal succession, their liturgies, their ways of doing theology, their stories, to the Episcopal Church of Scotland, including the Episcopal Church in the US (TEC), which in turn introduced Anglicanism to many parts of Latin America, to Korea, to Japan and to many parts of China.

Anglican origins and Irish missionaries

Charles Inglis from Glencolumbcille, Co Donegal … the first Anglican bishop in Canada

Some of the churches in the Anglican Communion trace their historical origins, at least in part, back to the Church of Ireland:

Canada: The first Anglican bishop in Canada was Charles Inglis from Glencolumbcille, Co Donegal; Toronto has often been called the “Belfast of Ontario.”

South Africa: The first Anglican celebration of the Holy Communion in South Africa was by a priest of the Church of Ireland, and church historians see this event as marking the origins of the present-day Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACNA).

Many other Anglican churches, including those in Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, owe their growth and present numbers to Irish missionaries. Irish missionaries were pioneers in establishing an Anglican presence in parts of Persia/Iran, India, China, &c.

Indigenous Anglican churches

In addition, some churches in the Anglican Communion are indigenous churches that grew up in their own special circumstances, and looked not to the Church of England, but to the US or even to Ireland for episcopal succession:

Mexico: The Anglican Church of Mexico originated indigenously in 1810, and sought orders from the Episcopal Church in the US.

Spain: The Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church arose through the work of a former Roman Catholic priest. At first, it was under the pastoral care of the Bishop of Mexico, but it received its episcopal orders from the Bishop of Meath in 1894, and was not fully integrated into the Anglican Communion until 1980. Is it Anglican? Is it indigenous? Is it a daughter church of the Church of Ireland?

Portugal: the Lusitanian Church (the Portuguese Episcopal Church) was formed by dissident Roman Catholic priests who formed congregations and adapted the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.

India: The Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar in India, although not a full member of the Anglican Communion, is in full communion with all the member churches, and sends its bishops to the Lambeth Conferences. Yet its origins are to be found in the Syrian Orthodox Church in India.

These churches in the Anglican Communion display diversity in language, culture, origins, and ethnicity. So to be Anglican is not to share a common English heritage, culture, or liturgy, nor is to look to the See of Canterbury as the source of Episcopal government.

It would be wrong to equate Anglican with some form of ecclesial “Englishness.”

It would be wrong to assume that the Anglican Communion finds its identity through links with the Church of England.

Some questions:

● What do we mean by Anglican?
● What do we mean by the Anglican Communion?
● Where did those terms “Anglican” and “Anglican Communion” originate?
● How did the first Anglican churches outside these islands spring up?

The origins of a global Anglicanism:

Initially, it may be said, Anglicanism of the English variety followed not only the colonial flag, but also trade and commerce, and the penal system. But it soon started to spread too due to the endeavours of the missionary societies, including the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge (SPCK, 1698), the (United) Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG, 1701; now USPG – Anglicans in World Mission), and the Church Mission(ary) Society (CMS, 1799).

North America: The Eucharist was first celebrated according to Anglican rites in North America in present-day Canada at Frobisher Bay in 1578. In what is today the US, the first celebration of the Eucharist according to Anglican rites was at Jamestown in Virginia in 1607.

Latin America: The roots of the Anglican Church in Latin America were being planted with the arrival of English colonists on the Miskita coast in Central America from 1740. Expatriate Anglican chaplaincies were established in 1810 in Brazil, where the church today is Portuguese-speaking.

Europe: Soon there was also a diffuse and diverse Anglican presence on the European Continent. Anglican chaplaincies were established in ports in the Netherlands and other parts of Europe in the 17th century, and further afield as the Levant and East India Companies flourished. From the time William Laud was Archbishop of Canterbury in the 1630s, Anglicans abroad, in the colonies or in the centres of trade, were theoretically under the jurisdiction of the Bishops of London, not of the Archbishops of Canterbury.

In the 17th century there was an Anglican presence in such diverse places in Europe as the Dutch ports, including Amsterdam; in Zakynthos and Piraeus (both now in Greece but then part of the Venetian and Ottoman empires), where the presence of the Levant Company meant there were Anglican services and Anglican burials; and in Paris, where there was also a Nonjuror Anglican presence at the Jacobite court in exile, those serving it including the former Chancellor of Connor, the Irish theologian, Charles Leslie.

Anglicans in North America

Bishop George Berkeley … an early missionary from the Church of Ireland

With the foundation of SPCK in 1698 and SPG in 1701, both under the patronage of the bishops of both the Church of England and the Church of Ireland, a new missionary era opened up for Anglicans. In North America, the early SPG missionaries included Bishop George Berkeley, who went to Bermuda.

In the 18th century, SPG and later CMS were active in missionary work in Canada. The first regular church services in Canada began in 1710 at Port Royal, and the first Anglican church built in present-day Canada was Saint Paul’s, Halifax, built in 1750.

By now there was strong pressure for bishops to serve the church in the colonies. Anyone wanting to work as an Anglican priest in the colonies had to be ordained in England by the Bishop of London. Except in Scotland, where the penal laws enforced diocesan and episcopal reorganisation on the nonjuring Episcopal Church, a royal charter was needed to create new Anglican dioceses, and new bishops had to be consecrated under a royal mandate. Among those who were early advocates of providing bishops for the colonies in America was the Co Donegal missionary, Charles Inglis.

The American Revolution meant the expulsion of many loyalist Anglicans, including Inglis, to neighbouring Canada. But it left Episcopalians in the new US without bishops. In 1783, the clergy of Connecticut elected Samuel Seabury (1729-1796) as their bishop and sent him to London for consecration. But legal constraints prohibited the bishops of the Church of England from consecrating him – there was no diocese created by royal charter, no royal mandate to consecrate him, and he could be regarded as either a foreigner or a traitor.

Seabury turned to the nonjuring bishops of the Episcopal Church of Scotland, who consecrated him in 1784. He returned to America, promising to adapt the distinctive Scottish Communion in his office, and providing a line of episcopal succession that owes its origins not to the Church of England, but to Scotland.

By now, the church in the US was being slowly organised, and the convention in Philadelphia in 1785 and the election of a presiding bishop in 1789 mark not, as Charles Long asserts, the formation of “the first Anglican Province independent of the Church of England,” but the formation of the first Anglican Province outside British jurisdiction.

Eventually, in 1786, an act was passed allowing the Archbishop of Canterbury to consecrate bishops who were not crown subjects. In the following year, two more Americans were consecrated at Lambeth Palace. That year also saw the consecration of the Irish-born Charles Inglis as Bishop of Nova Scotia. An Act passed in 1819 allowed the ordination in the Church of England of clergy to serve outside the Church of England, provided they were going to minister in the colonies. The act speaks of them of being “ordained for the cure of souls in his Majesty’s foreign possessions.” An Act of 1841 allowed the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to consecrate bishops to work “in any foreign country” without requiring the oath of allegiance.

Anglican expansion beyond Europe and North America

So, what about Anglican expansion outside Europe and North America?

In West Africa, Anglican mission work began on the Gold Coast (present-day Ghana) in 1752.

South Africa: The oldest Anglican province in Africa is the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. Although Roman Catholic missionaries had arrived with the early Portuguese explorers, and the Dutch Reformed Church was present since the 17th century, the first Anglican presence in Cape Town is recorded in 1806.

But Bishop Harry de Vere White, who chronicled the labours of Irish SPG missionaries, traces the origins of the ACSA to the arrival of the first SPG missionary in South Africa, the Revd William Wright from Cork. Wright arrived at the Cape on 21 March 1821, and White sees Wright’s first celebration of the Holy Communion according to Anglican rites at Cape Town as “the beginning of the Province of South[ern] Africa.”

In India, SPCK worked in areas where there were British traders but no British colonies. There, unsure about the legal status of the Church of England clergy, SPCK initially employed Lutheran clergy from Denmark. In 1814, a bishop was consecrated for Calcutta, but his jurisdiction included most of Asia and much of Africa too, with Australia as an archdeaconry in his diocese.

Australia: The Anglican Church came to Australia in 1788 with the “First Fleet,” primarily convicts and military personnel. Free settlers soon followed, and Australia received its first Anglican bishop in 1836.

The Anglican Churches in south-east Asia date back to a chaplaincy formed in West Malaysia in 1805.

Two Anglican bishops were consecrated for the West Indies in 1824.

Anglicanism was spreading rapidly, in an unplanned and uncontrolled way, following commerce, colonialism, trade and the penal system, and the travels of explorers and adventurers. It was outside the grasp of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and outside the limitations of any legislation passed by parliament in Westminster.

In 1841, the Colonial Bishoprics’ Fund was created, and speeded up the expansion of the colonial episcopate. The first bishop for Southern Africa was appointed in 1847, the first bishop for south-east Asia was consecrated in 1855.

The tomb of Bishop George Augustus Selwyn in Lichfield Cathedral ... his introduction of synodical government in his diocese influenced church governance many parts of the Anglican Communion (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2007)

In many colonies, the Anglican churches were seeking or finding their own measure of autonomy: in 1844, Bishop George Augustus Selwyn of New Zealand called an informal synod; New Zealand was granted a measure of self-government in 1852, and in 1857 the Church of New Zealand received its own constitution.

Bishop Samuel Crowther, the first black African Anglican bishop … from a window in CMS offices in Oxford

By 1864, Anglicanism had its first black African bishop with the consecration of Samuel Adjai Crowther (1806-1891) as Bishop for Nigeria. Three years later, in 1867, there were nearly 50 bishops in the British colonies, and 35 dioceses in the USA.

A new communion?

Anglicanism was no longer a collection of churches offering to serve people from England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. It was no longer even confined to areas under British rule. Even in the Church of England and the Church of Ireland, there were early questions too of who we were in communion with.

In Ireland and in England at the end of the 17th century, our churches were happy to welcome the Huguenots. They were welcomed, found a place within the church, and allowed to continue their ministries, provided all future ordinations were carried out by bishops.

In the early 18th century, Archbishop William Wake (1657-1737) of Canterbury corresponded on Christian unity and his hopes for inter-communion of some form with Continental theologians such as:

● the German Moravian bishop and theologian Daniel Ernst Jablonski (1660-1741), who tried but failed to bring about a union of German Lutherans and Calvinists;
● the Swiss Calvinist theologian, Jean-Alphonse Turrettini (1671-1737) of Geneva;
● the French Gallicans, including Piers de Girardin and Louis Ellies Dupin (1657-1719), who also had a vision of uniting the Orthodox and Western churches.

The Nonjurors had a scheme for their form of Anglicanism to be recognised by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, seeing the Eastern Orthodox Church as natural partners for forming a wider church family.

The first missionary endeavours beyond the colonial boundaries saw Anglicans in SPCK happy to employ Danish and German Lutherans, provided they used the liturgy of The Book of Common Prayer. In the early 19th century, Anglicans were happy to collaborate with the Lutherans in establishing a bishopric in Jerusalem.

If the English language or some links with British sovereignty did not define “Anglicanism,” then adherence to The Book of Common Prayer or the 39 Articles did not provide that definition either.

The Scottish liturgy, which was considerably “higher” than the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, influenced and shaped the liturgy of the Episcopal Church in the US (TEC); for a long time, the 39 Articles were not part of the tradition of the Scottish Episcopal Church until 1811, and when they were adopted by the Episcopal Church in the US, they were modified to delete all references to the English sovereign.

The term ‘Anglican’

The terms Anglican and Anglicanism derive etymologically from the Latin anglicanus, meaning English. It is a term that predates the Reformation, that had medieval usage, and that can be found as early as the 13th century, when the Magna Carta in 1215 refers to Anglicana ecclesia, the English Church. The same phrase is used again at the time of the Reformation – in 1534 in the act confirming the royal supremacy, and in 1562 in John Jewel’s defence of the English Reformation, Apologia Ecclesiae Anglicanae.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, however, the term “Anglican” begins to refer more specifically to a distinct theological position. The Dublin-born political philosopher Edmund Burke refers to “Catholicks, Anglicans or Calvinists,” and the historian Thomas Babington Macaulay to Anglican doctrine. The French form anglicanisme occurs, it seems, for the first time in 1817, presumably by analogy with gallicanisme, and John Henry Newman uses the phrase “Anglicanism” from 1838 on.

The term “Anglican Communion” is only first used in 1851, and eventually is used as a defining term at the first Lambeth Conference in 1867.

Origins in disputes

Lambeth Palace, seen from Westminster on the opposite bank of the River Thames … the venue of the first Lambeth Conference in 1867 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

The origins of that Anglican Communion as we have come to know it can be found in two legal battles and a doctrinal dispute that rocked the Anglican churches in the 1850s and 1860s. The first of these legal battles became known as the Eton College Case. In 1857, the courts ruled that the established Church of England could not exist in those colonies where there was a local legislature.

A year earlier, the Bishop of Cape Town, Robert Gray, called a diocesan synod in 1856 – a synod that preceded by 12 years the first diocesan synod in the Church of England, which was held in the Diocese of Lichfield in 1868.

Some years after his synod in Cape Town, Gray – by now accepted as Archbishop of Cape Town and Metropolitan – attempted to depose the Bishop of Natal, John Colenso, for heresy in 1863. Colenso appealed to the Privy Council in London, which ruled in March 1865 that Gray and his synod could only exercise authority over those who voluntarily accepted it. It also held that the letters patent issued to the bishop were invalid because the Cape Colony had its own legislature.

By the time the judgment was issued, Gray had tried Colenso on the grounds that Colenso had sworn canonical obedience to him as metropolitan, thus voluntarily accepting his jurisdiction. The rulings from Gray and the Privy Council left a complete mess. The letters patent were invalid, bishops had been appointed by patents issued in London and yet there was no established church for them to serve in because the colony had its own legislature.

It was a difficult mess from which the churches in the colonies would find it even more difficult to disentangle themselves.

The crisis over the deposition of Colenso and the problems it left inspired the Irish-born Bishop of Ontario, 40-year-old John Travers Lewis (1825-1901), and the Provincial Synod of the Anglican Church in Canada in 1865 to issue a formal request to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Charles Longley, asking him to call a General Council of the Anglican Communion “in every land.”

Some English bishops doubted the wisdom or even the legality of calling such a conference. But the idea was supported at a meeting of the Lower House of the Convocation of Canterbury in May 1866. But Longley conferred with other bishops beyond the boundaries of the Church of England and the Church of Ireland, beyond the colonial boundaries too: among those he consulted was the American Episcopalian Bishop of Illinois, Henry John Whitehouse (1803-1874).

It was clear, as the invitations were being sent out, that the proposed meeting could neither enact canons nor make any decision that was binding on the Church. Nevertheless, the invitations went out to “the bishops in visible communion with the United Church of England and Ireland” to a meeting under the Presidency of the Archbishop of Canterbury in Lambeth Palace. The invitations were sent to 150 bishops: 67 attended, although the Archbishop of York, petulant if not hostile from the first refused.

And so, the first Lambeth Conference met from 24-27 September 1867 and the Anglican Communion was formally established because of a dispute involving a church that traces its origins to an Irish missionary, and because of the response to that dispute by an Irish-born bishop in Canada, John Travers Lewis. Lewis was born in Garrycloyne Castle, Co Cork, and had been a curate in Newtown Butler, Co Fermanagh, before going as a missionary in 1849 to Canada, where he ended his days as Archbishop of Ontario.

Next week:

The mission of Patrick and early Irish Christianity.


Challenges facing the communion of global Anglicanism today, including the Anglican Covenant.

Reading for that seminar:

The Anglican Covenant (supplied).

Appendix 1:

Member Churches of the Anglican Communion:

A world map showing the Provinces of the Anglican Communion (blue), as well as the Churches in full communion with the Anglican Communion: the Nordic and Baltic Episcopal Lutheran Churches of the Porvoo Communion (green), and the Old Catholic Churches in the Utrecht Union (red)

Africa (11):

The Anglican Church of Burundi; the Church of the Province of Central Africa; Province de l’Eglise Anglicane du Congo; the Anglican Church of Kenya; the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion); l’Eglise Episcopal au Rwanda; the Anglican Church of Southern Africa; the Episcopal Church of the Sudan; the Anglican Church of Tanzania; the Church of the Province of Uganda; the Church of the Province of West Africa.

Africa, Asia and Europe (1):

The dioceses of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East: the Diocese of Egypt with North Africa, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and Djibouti (blue); the Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf (red); the Diocese of Egypt (orange); the Diocese of Iran (green)

The Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East.

Asia (12):

The Church of Bangladesh; Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui; the Church of the Province of the Indian Ocean; the Nippon Sei Ko Kai (the Anglican Communion in Japan); the Anglican Church of Korea; the Church of the Province of Myanmar (Burma); the Church of North India (United); the Church of Pakistan (United); the Episcopal Church in the Philippines; the Church of the Province of South-East Asia; the Church of South India (United); the Church of Ceylon (Sri Lanka; Extra-Provincial to the Archbishop of Canterbury).

Australasia and Oceania (4):

The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia; the Anglican Church of Australia; the Church of the Province of Melanesia; the Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea.

Central and Latin America (8):

Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil; Iglesia Anglicana de la Region Central de America; la Iglesia Anglicana de Mexico; Iglesia Anglicana del Cono Sur de America; the Church in the Province of the West Indies; Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba; Bermuda (E-P to Canterbury); Falkland Islands (E-P to Canterbury).

North America (2):

The Anglican Church of Canada; The Episcopal Church (TEC, formerly ECUSA).

In addition, the Anglican Church of North America is demanding recognition within the Anglican Communion.

Europe (6):

The Church of England; the Church of Ireland; the Scottish Episcopal Church; the Church in Wales; the Lusitanian Church (E-P to Canterbury); the Reformed Episcopal Church of Spain (E-P to Canterbury).

Additional reading:

The reports and resolutions of the Lambeth Conferences.

The Anglican Covenant.

For a full text of the Anglican Covenant see:

P. Avis, The Anglican understanding of the Church (London: SPCK, 2000).
P. Avis, The Identity of Anglicanism: essentials of Anglican ecclesiology (London: T&T Clark/Continuum, 2007).
I. Bunting (ed), Celebrating the Anglican Way (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1996).
M Chapman, Anglicanism: a very short introduction (Oxford: OUP, 2006).
MD Chapman (ed), The Anglican Covenant: Unity and Diversity in the Anglican Communion (London: Mowbray/Continuum, 2008).
C. Chartres (ed), Why I am still an Anglican (London: Continuum, 2006).
D. Dormor et al (eds.), Anglicanism: The answer to modernism (Continuum, 2003).
GR Evans, JR Wright (eds), The Anglican Tradition (London: SPCK, 1991).
R. Hannaford (ed), The Future of Anglicanism (Leominster: Gracewing, 1996).
C. Helfling, C. Shattuck (eds), The Oxford Guide to the Book of Common Prayer (Oxford: OUP, 2006).
R. Holloway (ed), The Anglican Tradition (London: Mowbray, 1984).
CH Long (ed), Who are the Anglicans? (Cincinnati: Forward, 1988).
A. McGrath, The SPCK Handbook of Anglican Theologians (London: SPCK, 1998).
S. Neill, Anglicanism (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1958 and later eds).
S. Platten (ed), Anglicanism and the Western Christian Tradition (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2003).
J. Rosenthal (ed), The Essential Guide to The Anglican Communion (Harrisburg: Morehouse, 1998).
C. Sugden, V. Samuel (eds.), Anglican Life and Witness (SPCK, 1997).
S. Sykes, The Integrity of Anglicanism (London: Mowbray, 1978).
S. Sykes, Unashamed Anglicanism (London: DLT, 1995).
S. Sykes, J. Booty (eds), The Study of Anglicanism (London: SPCK, 1988).
The Virginia Report: The Report of the Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission (Harrisburg: Morehouse, 1999).
JCW Wand, Anglicanism in History and Today (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1963).
SR White, Authority and Anglicanism (London: SCM, 1996).
The Windsor Report 2004: The Lambeth Commission on Communion (London: Anglican Communion Office, 2004).
A. Wingate et al (eds), Anglicanism: A Global Communion (London: Mowbray, 1998).
WJ Wolf, JE Booty, OC Thomas, The Spirit of Anglicanism (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1979).

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism and Liturgy, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, Dublin. This lecture on 19 January 2012 was part of the MTh Year II course, EM8825: Anglican Studies in an Irish context

Anglicanism 1.1: Who we are (1): Introduction to Anglicanism in Ireland today

The bishops of the Church of Ireland at the General Synod in Galway

Church of Ireland Theological Institute

MTh Year II

EM8825: Anglican Studies in an Irish context:

Patrick Comerford

Thursdays: 10 a.m. to 12 noon, The Hartin Room.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Who we are (1): Introduction to Anglicanism in Ireland today:

Who are we?

The West Door, Saint Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny … the Preamble and Declaration of 1870 says the Church of Ireland is “the Ancient Catholic and Apostolic Church of Ireland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

The Preamble and Declaration adopted at Disestablishment by the General Convention of the Church of Ireland in 1870, offers us a four-point “solemn” definition of the Church of Ireland on behalf of “the archbishops and bishops of this the Ancient Catholic and Apostolic Church of Ireland, together with the representatives of the clergy and laity ...”

1, The first point says the Church of Ireland:

(1), accepts and believes all “the Canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, as given by inspiration of God, and containing all things necessary to salvation,” and continues to profess the faith of Christ as professed by the Primitive Church.

(2), continues “to minister the doctrine, and sacraments, and the discipline of Christ, as the Lord hath commanded; and will maintain inviolate the three orders of bishops, priests or presbyters, and deacons in the sacred ministry.”

(3). as a reformed and Protestant Church, reaffirms “its constant witness against all those innovations in doctrine and worship” that have “defaced or overlaid” the “Primitive Faith” and that were disowned and rejected at the Reformation this Church did disown and reject.

2, Secondly, the Church of Ireland receives and approves:

● The 39 Articles;
● The Book of Common Prayer;
● The Ordinal;

3, Thirdly, the Church of Ireland is committed to maintaining communion with the Church of England, and with all other Christian Churches agreeing in the principles of the Declaration, and seeks “quietness, peace, and love,” among all Christians.

4, Fourthly, the General Synod, consisting of the archbishops and bishops, and of representatives of the clergy and laity, is the chief legislative and administrative power in the Church of Ireland.

[See: The Book of Common Prayer (2004), pp 776-777.]

Does that tell the casual reader of The Book of Common Prayer enough about the Church of Ireland?


The Church of Ireland has two archbishops, ten bishops, two provinces and 12 dioceses

On the other hand, in a perhaps more exhaustive way, the website of the Church of Ireland describes this Church in the following way:

The Church of Ireland:

● is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion which has 70 million members in 164 countries.
● is an apostolic church, maintaining an unbroken link with the early apostles and drawing on the apostolic faith in its teaching and worship.
● is a Catholic and Reformed church.
● is able to trace its roots to the earliest days of Irish Christianity.
● is a church with three orders of sacred ministry – Bishops, Priests and Deacons.
● has services which follow an accepted liturgical form and structure.
● has one prayer book – The Book of Common Prayer (2004) – plus other services authorised for use by the General Synod.
● keeps a balance in doctrine and worship between Word and Sacrament.
● has the Holy Communion or the Eucharist as its central act of worship.
● is one church embracing Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
● has 390,000 members – 275,000 in Northern Ireland and 115,000 in the Republic of Ireland.
● has two provinces, Armagh and Dublin, each with an Archbishop.
● has 12 dioceses, over 450 parochial units and over 500 stipendiary clergy
● is a representative church, with each diocese electing those who will represent them at the General Synod, the ‘Parliament’ of the church.
● has in its General Synod a House of Bishops which has 12 members and a House of Representatives which has 216 clergy and 432 laity.
● also has Diocesan Synods where representatives of the parishes meet usually once a year.
● has a parochial system where decisions at local level are made by Select Vestries whose lay members are elected each Easter by the people of the parish.

Is that a good enough, concise and precise, summary of the Church of Ireland?

How do you introduce family members, friends, neighbours, strangers to the Church of Ireland?

How were you introduced to the Church of Ireland?


There are other definitions of what it is to be an Anglican. And we shall encounter some of this in the course of this module, and as we look at the wider Anglican Communion.

Facts and figures

In the Republic of Ireland, the Church of Ireland population has increased by over 46 per cent in recent years, but may be on the decline in Northern Ireland, according to a study by the social statistician Malcolm Macourt of Manchester University.

In his book, Counting the People of God? The Census of Population and the Church of Ireland, Malcolm Macourt shows, through a comparison of the 1991 and 2006 census returns, that the Church of Ireland population in the Republic of Ireland has grown from 82,840 to 121,229 – which is almost 38,000 higher than the figure given on the Church of Ireland website, an increase of 46 per cent over a 15-year period when the general population rose by only 20 per cent.

On the other hand, in recent years, the Church of Ireland has seen a drop in members in Northern Ireland, along with many other churches, including the Methodist Church. The 2001 UK census shows the Church of Ireland in Northern Ireland has 257,788 members, or 15.3 per cent of the population – which is almost 17,000 less than the 275,000 on the website.

The largest denomination in Northern Ireland is the Roman Catholic Church with 678,462 members or 40.2 per cent of the population, followed by the Presbyterian Church with 348,742 or 20.7 per cent.

So, it appears, the Church of Ireland is growing in the Republic, while it may be in decline in Northern Ireland, although in both places to be a member of the Church of Ireland remains being a member of a minority.

The Church of Ireland experienced major decline during the 20th century, both in Northern Ireland, where around 65% of its members live, and in the Republic of Ireland which contains upwards of 35%.

However, the Church of Ireland in the Republic has shown substantial growth in the last two national censuses; its membership is now back to the level it was at 60 years ago – albeit with fewer churches and fewer clergy.

Church membership increased by 8.7 per cent in the period 2002–2006, during which the population as a whole increased by only 8.2%.

Some cautionary comments

Of course, Church membership, counted according to Church affiliation entered after each name, does not equate with Church attendance, or active participation in the life of the Church.

Do census questions of religious affiliation receive “cultural answers”?

The statistics and census categories do not try to distinguish between:

● “being” Church of Ireland;
● “behaving” in a Church of Ireland way;
● believing what the Church of Ireland teaches.

Are we talking about:

● cultural attachment?
● religious label?
● tribal identity?
● faith?
● practice?

Is it possible that some people think that belonging is hereditary? After all, in many parts of Ireland we still talk about “Church of Ireland families.”

Indeed, there is evidence that the figures for membership of the Church of Ireland may have been exaggerated until the second half of the 19th century because people thought in terms of “Church of Ireland households.”

Some the ways membership may be defined when it comes to revising the Easter Vestry lists include:

● Being baptised
● Living within the parish boundaries
● Contributing regularly to the finances of the church
● Being an “accustomed” member of the parish – going to church regularly in a particular church.

But what if you have been baptised in another tradition?

What if you have been baptised but not confirmed?

If membership is defined by practice, how often do you have to go to Church to be a member?

Once a week?

Once a month?

Once a year?

And if you stop going to church, how long should pass before you stop being considered a member?

How often should you contribute financially?

Is there a minimum subscription?

And, of course, many may not sign the forms to have their names entered on the vestry roll – because they think they may move to another parish later on; because they do not feel at home where they are; because they are reluctant to give more financially; because they fear being asked to sit on the Select Vestry or become a churchwarden; because, because, because ... who knows?

Decline in the past:

The figures show the Church of Ireland population in what is now the republic of Ireland as follows:

1921: 164,215
1991: 82,840
2006: 121,229

We do have figures yet for the 2011 census last year.

Why did membership of the Church of Ireland go into decline from 1861, and in particular, in what is now the Republic of Ireland, from 1921 until the last two census counts?

Some of the reasons offered include:

● The impact of the Ne Temere decree from 1908 onwards on “inter-Church” marriages.
● The “Great War” or World War I.
● Partition.
● the migration of civil servants, military personnel and administrators after independence.
● The Civil War.
● Different fertility rates – in 1936, for example, the fertility rate for Church of Ireland couples was 54.7 per cent, barely half that for Roman Catholic couples.

James Craig famously described Northern Ireland as having “a Protestant Parliament for a Protestant people.”

On the other hand, the General Synod sent an official delegation to Michael Collins to ask if they were “permitted to live in Ireland or if [it is] desired that they should leave the country” – this despite the role of many members of the Church of Ireland in the War of Independence, including Constance Markiewicz (Constance Gore-Booth), Erskine Childers, Sean O’Casey and Robert Barton, and that the first President of Ireland would be a son of the rectory, Douglas Hyde.

After partition, the Church of Ireland population continued to decline in the area that is now the Republic of Ireland.

Statistics show a noticeable decline particularly in both border counties and in provincial towns.

Surprisingly, emigration did not take the same toll, comparatively, as is often imagined.

In the period 1946-1961, 15 per cent of Roman Catholics emigrated, while 10 per cent of Protestants emigrated.

To what degree were numbers retained through maintaining separate social structures, such as schools, hospitals, sports clubs, dances, homes, orphanages, and so on?

Was there a presumed, unspoken definition of community?

Did we create a myth of a shared common ancestry?

Did we imagine a new, separate “ethnic group”?

Did we try to convince ourselves that we are a separate cultural community, united by common cultural traits?

The feeling of exclusion among many southern Protestants was exacerbated by a number of well-known cases:

● The Mayo Library case (1930);
● The Tilson children custody case (1950);
● The Fethard-on-Sea boycott in Co Wexford (1957).

Examples and exceptions:

Saint Nicholas’ Church, Galway … in Galway City, the Church of Ireland population grew from 260 to 1,383, a virtually five-fold increase (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

From 82,840 members in 1991 to 121,229 is an increase of over 46 per cent in membership of the Church of Ireland in the Republic of Ireland, at a time.

Let me give you some examples and some exceptional statistics:

The 2006 Census in the Republic of Ireland shows the numbers of people describing themselves as members of the Church of Ireland has increased in every county. The highest percentage growth was in the west – Co Galway, Co Mayo and Co Roscommon; and the largest numerical growth was in the mid-east region – Co Wicklow, Co Kildare, and Co Meath.

Co Wicklow is the county with the highest proportion of Church of Ireland members (6.88 per cent).

Greystones, Co Wicklow, has the highest proportion of any town (9.77 per cent). But if we look at parishes, then there are some unusual figures: Donaghmore (27.3), Donard (7.5 per cent) and Dunlavin (7.4 per cent) is one parochial union in the Diocese of Glendalough.

In the six furthest western counties, taken together – Mayo, Roscommon, Galway city and county, Clare, Limerick city and county and Kerry – the Church of Ireland figures have more than doubled, from 6,831 in 1991 to 15,839 to 2006 – an increase of 9,008 or 132 per cent, and, I imagine, welcome news in the Diocese of Tuam and the Diocese of Limerick and Killaloe.

In the midlands farming counties of Wexford, Carlow, Kilkenny, North Tipperary, Laois, Offaly, Westmeath and Longford – the Church of Ireland figures have increased by almost 40 per cent, from 14,342 in 1991 to 19,972 – an increase of 5,630 or 39 per cent, and, I imagine, welcome news in the Diocese of Cashel and Ossory, the Diocese of Limerick and Killaloe, the Diocese of Meath and Kildare, and part of the Diocese of Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh.

On the other hand, in border counties of Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal the increase has been more marginal (3 per cent). Allowing for inward migration and natural increases, this may, in fact, reflect a decline in those counties.

There has been a major rise in the Church of Ireland in provincial towns. Between 1991 and 2006, the proportion of people describing themselves as Church of Ireland increased in 57 towns, and more than doubled in 19 of those towns. For example:

In Tuam, Co Galway, the Church of Ireland population grew from 10 to 121 – a twelve-fold growth, in Carrick-on-Suir, Co Tipperary, from 16 to 122, almost eight-fold.

In Ennis, Co Clare, the Church of Ireland population increased from 68 to 400 – a six-fold growth, in what is, numerically, the least Protestant county in Ireland.

In Galway City, the Church of Ireland population grew from 260 to 1,383, in Navan, Co Meath, from 111 to 541, and in Kildare Town from 32 to 177, virtually five-fold increase.

In Newbridge, Co Kildare, it was from 91 to 402.

Remarkably, the only town showing a decline was Bandon, Co Cork, where – in a saying that reflected past differences and tension – it was once said “even the pigs are Protestant.”

The Church of Ireland population of Dublin city and county, and the neighbouring counties of Wicklow, Meath and Kildare, increased from 40,428 in 1991 to 53,642 in 2006 (37 per cent). This is below the overall figure of 46 per cent, but it means – if we had in the remaining parts – about half the Church of Ireland population in the Republic lives in two dioceses: Dublin and Glendalough, and Meath and Kildare.

We have fewer farmers and fewer urban working class members of the Church of Ireland. Almost half fit into the social statisticians’ category of “professional, managerial, technical” – typical Irish Times readers, if you like.

In Northern Ireland, the census returns from April 2001, show a continuing decline in the Church of Ireland population, which is most marked in areas with higher unemployment and lower levels of professional employment.

The Church of Ireland is alone among the larger denominations in showing a marked reduction in numbers – almost 8 per cent lower than 1991 and over 26 per cent lower than its highest numbers in 1951.

Compare this with an increase of 12 per cent in the number of Roman Catholics and a smaller increase of 3.5 per cent in the number of Presbyterians.

For example: the Church of Ireland percentage in Lisburn fell from 26.4 per cent in 1991 to 21.1 per cent in 2001, a drop of one-fifth.

The Church of Ireland predominates among Protestants in the Lagan Valley, North Armagh, south Tyrone and Fermanagh, and parts of the far north of Co Antrim, as well as among the working-class population in Protestant areas of Belfast.

It will be interesting to see the figures for the latest census, on 27 March 2011, but the breakdown on religion has yet to be published.

Looking at the difference

The nature of religion has changed in both the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland in recent decades.

However, Malcolm Macourt suggests that in the Republic ‘being’ Church of Ireland “seems to have still carried with it some connection with religious observance, as well as connection with Church-managed schools.

In Northern Ireland, “‘religion’ was the label given to competing ‘tribes’.”

What does this mean for the future of Church of Ireland identity in those two regions?

Explaining growth

How do we explain this phenomenon of growth in the Republic of Ireland?

Indeed, some rectors may be asking whether the data reflect a genuine increase.

Is it correct to presume that after a long decline ever since 1861, Irish Anglicanism is undergoing a period of growth?

Some of this growth is explained by immigration, but some is also due to members of the Roman Catholic Church transferring their membership to the Church of Ireland.

The reasons suggested for this increase include:

● The relaxation of the Ne Temere regulations that stipulated that children of Roman Catholic-Protestant marriages should be brought up as Roman Catholics.
● The decline in the fertility rate for Roman Catholics.
● The inward migration of English-born Anglicans – they may account for up to 80 per cent of immigrants who now declare themselves Anglicans in the census.
● The number of Anglican immigrants who have moved to Ireland recently from countries with a considerable Anglican population, such as Nigeria.

For example, in the Western counties that I referred to, counties that form the greater parts of the Diocese of Tum and the Diocese of Limerick and Killaloe, migrants contributed just over half the increase (4,800 out of 9,008), with three-quarters of those coming from the UK.

In the Midlands counties, two-thirds of the 39 per cent increase (3,620 out of 5,630) was attributed to immigrants, of whom two-thirds were from the United Kingdom.

What are the challenges?

Responding to the 2002 census figures, the then Archbishop of Dublin, Dr John Neill, said they did not come as a surprise. “When visiting parishes I have noticed an increase in many congregations, particularly in rural areas. I am very pleased to have it officially confirmed.”

However, he said the figures bring fresh challenges to the Church of Ireland.

He identified three important facts are reflected in the figures:

● In many parts of the Republic, and indeed overall, there are now many centres of growth in the Church of Ireland and the decline in the Church’s population has been halted.
● There are people claiming allegiance to the Church of Ireland who may not be in close touch with their local parishes. This reminds all members, clergy and lay alike, of our responsibility as a Church to minister to them.
● Fellow Anglicans from other Churches are making their home in Ireland, but while they are visible in local parishes, “we are not doing enough to make our churches more welcoming and open to cultures and worship other than our own.”

Creating and dealing with problems

The downturn in the economy over the past three or four years has seen a large number of immigrants who came to the Republic of Ireland from Eastern Europe, and who worked here as casual labourers, begin to return home. They are not going to show up in the rising unemployment figures, and once they are gone no-one is going to follow up their needs, pastorally, economically or socially. It will be a case of “out of sight, out of mind.”

Those who remain may, I fear, as the “real” unemployment figures rise further, face increasing resentment that may be expressed in racist terms. The jobs that were once despised, and left to Chinese workers who came here on “student” visas, are becoming attractive once again to our own teenage and young adult children – the late night grille at fillings stations, the cleaning and casual labouring shifts, the stacking and shelving jobs in the middle of the night in supermarkets.

These are major moral issues for the Church today. Any outside observer or commentator looking at the Church of Ireland and the Anglican Communion over the past four years or so would have thought the only moral issues we face are those that dominated the agenda at Gafcon and the Lambeth Conference in the summer of 2008.

But what about the major moral issues facing us in the Church today when it comes to welcoming the stranger in our midst and to providing pastoral care and support for our new immigrants?

The ‘stranger’ in our midst today

The changing face of Ireland? Polish magazines on sale in a shop in Capel Street, Dublin (Photograph Frank Millar/The Irish Times, 2009)

The statistics analysing the 2006 census returns in the Republic of Ireland produced unusual and curious details about the number of Greek Muslims, Chinese travellers, teenage widows and the two Maltese divorcees living in Ireland – perhaps they should be introduced to each other ... or perhaps their problems started when they were first introduced to each other.

They help us to underline the way in which we have all come to realise and accept: that Ireland has become a diverse and multicultural society. We never were a plain, boring, mono-cultural society. We have always been an island that has been diverse and plural because of the people who come to our shores: from the Celts, Parthalons and Vikings, to the Anglo-Normans, both English and French, the Gallowglass and the settler Scots; from the French in the Middle Ages, to the Huguenot refugees and the weaver of Dublin’s Liberties.

Who do you think are the single largest identifiable groups of people in the Republic of Ireland on any one day? And I mean among those who were not born in the Republic?

Despite the way we compile statistics, the two largest groups on any one day are:

● firstly, people born in the United Kingdom;
● secondly, tourists.

We do not notice the first group, because many of them were born in Northern Ireland or were born in England of Irish parents, and they speak and look like the vast majority of people here.

The second group we welcome with open arms. They provide us with income, revenue, and in economic terms the equivalent of exports – they bring in money from other countries, and, so, they are vital to a key sector of the economy.

I have never heard anyone complain in racist terms that the country is being swamped with Italian tourists. But I regularly hear gross exaggerations about the numbers of Nigerians and Somalis here.

Who are our immigrants?

Bunclody, Co Wexford … the town in the Republic of Ireland with the largest Polish population (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

So who are the strangers in our midst?

The face of Ireland appeared to be changing in the first years of this century. The pace of that change may have slowed more recently, or even retreated in some cases. But, nevertheless, that face is changing, and much of the change is irreversible and – we have to accept – is for the good.

Today, the second most common first language in the Republic is no longer Irish – it is Polish. Poles make up the largest single ethnic minority in the state, and the last census figures showed at least 63,000 Polish nationals living here.

In recent years, the Poles, Lithuanians and Latvians have pushed the Chinese into fourth place, but Chinese remains one of the largest language minority groups, especially in the greater Dublin, where there may have been a Chinese population of up to 60,000 people in recent years.

Research at the National University of Ireland Maynooth found that more than 167 different languages – from Acholi to Zulu – in use by 160 nationalities among the people in Ireland as their everyday first language of choice.

Ireland has become a multilingual society, so that the 2006 census was conducted in 13 languages. Apart from English and Irish, these languages are: Arabic, Chinese, Czech, French, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian and Spanish. In addition, information was also available in Estonian, Magyar (Hungarian), Slovak, Turkish and Yoruba.

The share of foreign-born people living in the Republic of Ireland is about 11%, although the census figures include 1.3% born in Northern Ireland. The Central Statistics Office estimates that 9% of immigrants are now Chinese, and 8% are nationals from Central and Eastern Europe.

Asylum seekers and refugees are a very small proportion of the number of foreign-born people in Ireland at any one top. In Ireland, the top five countries of origin for new asylum seekers over the past decade have been Nigeria, Somalia, Romania, Afghanistan and Sudan. And over the past decade, their numbers have been decreasing steadily.

Figures from the Central Statistics Office show that the number of foreign-born nationals in the Republic of Ireland is about 457,000, out of a total population of 4.1 million, or about 11 per cent.

When immigration was probably at its highest, in the middle of the last decade, more than one-third of 70,000 immigrants in the 12-month period up to April 2005 came from the new accession states in the European Union: 17% (11,900) came from Poland and 9% (6,300) from Lithuania. But those numbers were totally outweighed by the 19,000 returning Irish citizens (27%), and close to the number of UK nationals moving here (6,900 or 10%).

Of the 50,100 people who came to Ireland as immigrants in 2004, one-third (16,900) had Irish nationality – they were returning Irish emigrants, their children, or people from Northern Ireland.

The Polish community is the single largest ethnic minority in the state. At their height, there were about 100,000 Poles here with PPS numbers, although some trade union estimates put the number of Poles here at 200,000 to 400,000. In a controversial article, Newsweek described Newbridge as the capital of Polish emigration, saying there were 30,000 people living in the Co Kildare town, although the 2006 census shows Bunclody, Co Wexford, is the town with the largest Polish population.

The second largest group comes from Latvia, and at one stage numbered 25,000 to 30,000. At one time, the Irish mushroom industry, a multi-million Euro industry, and they have been of economic benefit to us. But there are a number of problems:

● They are often exploited and paid below the minimum wage.
● They leave behind children who are cared for by grandparents – creating what the Latvian media has called a new generation of “mushroom orphans.”
● They are over-qualified for their jobs, so they are part of a brain-drain on Latvia, which has paid for their training and education and needs their skills.
● They are easy victims of racism. After one industrial protest, an American newspaper ran the headline: “For Irish, Latvians fill the role of bogeymen.”

The Chinese are probably the third largest of these ethnic groupings. There may be 60,000 Chinese living in the state, perhaps half in the greater Dublin area, and many are here on student visas and without work permits.

Their Churches

Patrick Comerford with the authors of a report on Chinese students and immigrants, Dr Lan Li of University College Dublin and Dr Richard O’Leary of Queen’s University, Belfast, in the Chapel of Trinity College Dublin in 2008

Many of the Poles are Roman Catholics, but worship in their own parishes and congregations. Many of the immigrants from the Baltic countries are Lutherans, and under the Porvoo Agreement they are full communicant members of the Church of Ireland while they are here. But we have very little pastoral or liturgical engagement with them, and many of them probably have no idea of who we are.

The Chinese have their own Catholic parish in Dublin, with Masses in Chinese, while the Chinese Protestant Church is a very conservative evangelical church.

However, despite the increasing popularity of celebrations such as the Chinese New Year, which is being celebrated in Temple Bar Square, Dublin, tomorrow evening [Friday 20 January 2012], we know very little about the religious beliefs and practices of the majority of Chinese people here.

Despite their visibility, the number of Nigerians in Ireland is probably lower than many of the public estimates. Of the 30,000 Africans thought to be in Ireland, about 20,000 are probably Nigerians. They suffer racism not only from Irish-born people but from other Africans too. Yet they make a positive contribution to public life in Ireland: Rotimi Adebarai became Ireland’s first black mayor in June 2007 in Portlaoise. Other African communities in Ireland include people from DR Congo, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Sudan.

The Romanian population is largely Dublin-based. There may be 20,000 Romanians in Ireland, although the numbers are dropping significantly at the moment, according to the priests of the Romanian Orthodox Church.

They often complain that they are all categorised as Gypsies or Roma. Yet there may only be about 2,000 Roma in Ireland, and many of those come from other Easter and Central European countries, including the Czech and Slovak republics, the former Yugoslav republics, Bulgaria and Hungary.

Admittedly, the census statistics are always on the low side when it comes to telling us who is living among us. Too many people are too afraid and too scared to register themselves at census times, worried that once noted they may face discrimination or forced deportation.

Immigrants and the Church of Ireland

The Discovery services in inner city Dublin ... providing ‘Anglican liturgies with African flavours’

What has this got to do with the Church of Ireland today, with who we are and what our mission is?

Apart from the duty on church members to comfort those who are in fear and to welcome the stranger, it is important that we do not see those who have arrived among us in recent years as problems, either in themselves or in the reaction of some sectors of society and government. They enrich our society, and they enrich our Church life too.

The fact is that immigrants have disproportionately enriched the life of the Church of Ireland. Today, 2 per cent of the Church of Ireland population in the Republic of Ireland is from an African country, compared with 0.8 per cent of the population as a whole.

The members of the Church of Ireland throughout this state include:

● 1,404 born in Nigeria;
● 1,156 who are Germans;
● 578 from Lithuania;
● 537 South Africans;
● 336 from Poland;
● 251 from the Netherlands;
● 161 from Denmark;
● 134 from Latvia; and
● (as Garrett Casey showed in a recent analysis of those statistics), 77 members of the Church of Ireland who are French nationals.

If Ireland is not monochrome or mono-cultural, then neither is the Church of Ireland.

Mission questions:

How is the Church getting it right?

How is the Church getting it wrong?

What are the challenges?

And what are the opportunities we can grasp in the Church of Ireland?

Example 1:

A positive example of the Church of Ireland has adapted and changed is provided by the Discovery programme based at Saint George’s and Saint Thomas’s Church in inner city Dublin, including the Discovery services, choir and chaplaincy.

This has been positive for the church, for the parish, and for the international community. But it also led to other initiatives, such as the U2charist.

But success was only possible because the then priest-in-charge, Canon Katharine Poulton, now Dean of Saint Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny, was open to taking risks. And because her congregation was supportive as she took those risks.

The implications for ministry are obvious. We must be willing to be adventurous and innovative, who are risk-takers. We are ordained to be “messengers, watchers and stewards.” But instead, parishes often want their clergy to be building surveyors, caretakers and boiler-fixers.

Example 2:

A negative example comes from hospital chaplaincy. I heard someone say recently not that he, but that other members of the Church of Ireland, would not like the idea of a black African chaplain visiting the wards. Why not? He protested that he is not racist. But the implications are frightening.

Many of our hospital and prison chaplains find themselves cast into the role of advocacy. They are the ones people – staff and patients or prisoners – turn to for advice about other minorities. Are our chaplains, lay and ordained, trained properly, and knowledgeable enough for this role in ministry?

Example 3:

There is a large new school in the Greater Dublin area under Church of Ireland management. Before September 2009, there were 58 or 60 children in the old schoolhouse, which was dilapidated and in need of repair or replacement. About half of those children were non-nationals.

The national school has moved to a new building. Other schools in area were giving priority to Roman Catholic children, and so their school rolls were full. After the new school opened under Church of Ireland management in September 2010, the number of children reached 240-250. Of these, 80% were Nigerian by birth or parentage, 10% were from Eastern Europe or other nationalities, and 10% were Irish-born. In the senior infants’ class, there were 31 children, of whom three were “white,” and of those, only one is Irish-born.

Were the parishioners withdrawing their children?

Is this an appropriate move by that Church of Ireland parish?

What do you think are the positive and negative aspects of this scenario?

And of course, what are the implications for teacher training or for raising awareness among parishioners?

Example 4:

How best can we use our Church buildings? The former Church of Ireland parish churches in Harold’s Cross and Leeson Park are now being used by the Russian Orthodox and Romanian Orthodox Churches, while Saint George’s and Saint Thomas’s, and the parish churches in Donnybrook, Swords and Tallaght are providing hospitality for various Syrian and Indian Orthodox communities.

How can we best use our church buildings to reflect the needs of the changing and changed Ireland?

A closing conundrum:

Some images and perceptions still have to be dealt with.

How do we relate all this to:

● The decline of the Anglo-Irish gentry?
● The loss of the substantial Church of Ireland working class population in Dublin (and perhaps soon in Belfast too)?
● The changing ethos of formerly Church of Ireland hospitals?

Is there still a sense of “Protestant identity” – north and south?

According an opinion piece by Mark Kenny in the Irish Independent a few years ago, 10 per cent ordinands in the Church of Ireland were former Roman Catholics.

Is that true today?

(This year, excluding those already ordained deacon but including part-time students, the figure is 10.5 per cent; if you include deacon-interns and other categories, the figure is 10.7 per cent.)

Does it matter?

What are the social consequences – for Roman Catholics and for the Church of Ireland?

How does this compare with England, where some Anglicans – including some bishops – have become Roman Catholics?

If religion is inextricably linked with culture, then how does the Church of Ireland engage with the context of the culture in which it flourishes in the Republic of Ireland?

And how might these figures eventually impact on how the Church of Ireland in the Republic relates to its closest neighbour?

Additional reading:

Heather Crawford, Outside the Glow: Protestants and Irishness in Independent Ireland (Dublin: UCD Press, 2010).
Patrick Comerford, Embracing Difference (Dublin: Church of Ireland Publishing, 2007).
Guidelines for Interfaith Events & Dialogue (prepared by the Committee for Christian Unity and the House of Bishops of the Church of Ireland, Dublin: Church of Ireland Publishing, 2007).
Malcolm Macourt, Counting the People of God? The Census of Population and the Church of Ireland (Dublin: Church of Ireland Publishing, 2008).
A. McGrady (ed), Welcoming the Stranger: Practising hospitality in contemporary Ireland (Dublin: Veritas, 2006).
Richard O’Leary and Lan Li, Mainland Chinese Students and Immigrants in Ireland and their engagement with Christianity, Churches and Irish Society (Dublin: Agraphon Press, 2008).
Gordon Wynne, Pastoral Care in the Recession (Dublin: Church of Ireland Publishing: 2009).


who we are (2): Introduction to the Anglican Communion today.

Next week:

The mission of Patrick and early Irish Christianity.


Challenges facing the communion of global Anglicanism today, including the Anglican Covenant.

Readings for that seminar:

The Anglican Covenant (supplied).

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism and Liturgy, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This lecture, on 19 January 2012, was part of MTh Year II module, EM8825, Anglican Studies in an Irish context.

Anglican Studies in an Irish context

Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (Photograph; Patrick Comerford, 2010)

Patrick Comerford

MTh Year II: Semester 2, Spring 2012,

Thursday mornings, 10 a.m. to 12, Noon, The Hartin Room

EM8825: Anglican Studies in an Irish context:

Outline of module content, methodologies and essays:

Week 1

1, Who we are (1): introduction to Anglicanism in Ireland today;
2, Who we are (2): introduction to the Anglican Communion today.

Week 2 (26.01.2012)

1, The mission of Patrick and early Irish Christianity;
2, Challenges facing the communion of global Anglicanism today, including the Anglican Covenant.

Week 3 (02.02.2012):

1, State-sponsored reform of the English and Irish churches in the 16th century.
2, Contextual understandings (1): the emergence, role and authority of The Book of Common Prayer, the Homilies, Articles of Religion.

Week 4 (09.02.2012):

1, The Elizabethan and Caroline Settlements;
2, Contextual understandings (2): art, music and culture in the development of Anglicanism.

Week 5 (16.02.2012):

1, The Church of Ireland from the Penal Laws to Disestablishment;
2, Understanding sectarianism and transforming societies.

Week 6 (23.02.2012):

1, Christianity and nationalisms;
2, The Good Friday/Belfast Agreement and its consequences: a reflection on the Hard Gospel Project.

Week 7 (01.03.2012):

Reading Week.

Week 8 (08.03.2012):

1, Partition, conflict and peace: the Church of Ireland in the 20th and 21st centuries.
2, Theologies of reconciliation and the challenges of divided societies (M Volf, R Schreiter, J de Gruchy).

Week 9 (15.03.2012): Saint Patrick’s Day; Public holiday.

1, The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral and the emergence of an Anglican Covenant;
2, Anglican responses to the Missio Dei: Scripture, Worship and Communion as defining themes in contemporary Anglican self-understanding.

Week 10 (22.03.2012):

1, Anglicanism, ecumenical engagement and inter-religious dialogue;
2, Postcolonial Biblical exegesis and liberation theology in contemporary global Anglicanism.

Week 11 (29.03.2012):

1, The Anglican Covenant: the debate today (1);
2, The Anglican Covenant: the debate today (2).

Week 12 (05.04.2012):

Is there a way of talking about an ‘Anglican Culture’? (1);
Is there a way of talking about an ‘Anglican Culture’? (2).

Module Content:

1, Christianity and Conflict in Ireland

● Acknowledging the conflicting interpretations of key moments in Irish church history:
● the mission of Patrick and early Irish Christianity;
● state-sponsored reform of the English and Irish churches in the 16th century;
● the Elizabethan and Caroline Settlements;
● Christianity and nationalisms;
● partition, conflict and peace;
● the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement and its consequences.

2, The ‘Anglican Way’ in Ireland

● Anglican responses to the Missio Dei: Scripture, Worship and Communion as defining themes in contemporary Anglican self-understanding;
● contextual understanding of the emergence, role and authority of the Book of Common Prayer, the Homilies, Articles of Religion;
● the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral and the emergence of an Anglican Covenant;
● Anglicanism, ecumenical engagement and inter-religious dialogue.

3, Reconciliation in an Irish Context

● Theologies of reconciliation and the challenges of divided societies (M Volf, R Schreiter, J de Gruchy);
● postcolonial Biblical exegesis and liberation theology in contemporary global Anglicanism;
● understanding sectarianism and transforming societies;
● a reflection on the Hard Gospel Project.

4, Christianity and Reconciliation

● Analysis of Anglicanism’s capacities to contribute to public debates on reconciliation, and social and ecological justice;
● exploration of new ways for Anglicans to be church (e.g., L Mudge, R Page, M Grey);
● challenges facing the communion of global Anglicanism.

Learning Outcomes:

By the end of this module students will be able to:

● understand critically the historical contexts that have shaped the current expressions of Irish Christianity.
● engage with the ways in which Anglican identity is articulated, especially through the liturgical life of the Church.
● recognise the distinctive challenges facing Irish Anglicans in articulating the ‘gospel of reconciliation’.
● engage critically with concerns of Anglicans in the Global South over the nature of Anglican koinonia.
● reflect on new proposals of how to be church.

Teaching and Learning Methods:

This module will be taught through a series of lectures and student-led seminars.
Students will be required to take part in and lead class seminars and also to take part in collaborative small groups and independent study.

There will be a joint seminar with each of the other two strands – Biblical Studies and Theology.

Semester: 2; Hours: 2 per week; 5 Credits

Assessment: 2,500 words of coursework (e.g. essay or project as agreed by course leader)

Date for submission: 10 April 2012.

Required or Recommended Readings:

The reports and resolutions of the Lambeth Conferences.
The Anglican Covenant.
ARCIC agreed statements.
The Church of Ireland/Methodist Covenant.
The Hard Gospel Report.
The Porvoo Common Statement.

Paul Avis, The Identity of Anglicanism (London: T&T Clark, 2007).
Toby Barnard, W.G. Neely (eds), The Clergy and the Church of Ireland, 1000-2000 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2006).
M.D. Chapman (ed), The Anglican Covenant (London: Mowbray, 2008).
N. Doe, An Anglican Covenant (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2008).
G.R. Evans, J.R. Wright (eds), The Anglican Tradition (London: SPCK, 1991).
Raymond Gillespie, W.G. Neely (eds), The Laity and the Church of Ireland, 1000-2000 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2002).
P. Groves (ed), The Anglican Communion and Homosexuality (London: SPCK, 2008).
William Marshall, Scripture, Tradition and Reason, a selective view of Anglican theology through the centuries (Dublin: Columba Press/APCK, 2010).
K. Stevenson, B. Spinks (eds), The Identity of Anglican Worship (Harrisburg: Morehouse, 1991).
M. Volf, Free of Charge (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005).
Keith Ward, A History of Global Anglicanism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006).

Essay titles:

Drawing on the Thirty-nine Articles and The Book of Common Prayer (2004), discuss the relative influence of liturgy and doctrinal statements in the formation of an Anglican theological outlook.


Discuss Cranmer’s attitude to state control of the Church with that of the 19th century Tractarians, and relate these attitudes to the different political circumstances of their times.

In the light of the statement in the Preamble and Declaration that the Church of Ireland is the “Ancient Catholic and Apostolic Church of Ireland,” discuss whether ‘Celtic Spirituality’ is relevant to the life of the Church of Ireland today.


Compare and contrast the Eucharistic theologies and the Ecclesiologies of Richard Hooker and Jeremy Taylor.

Discuss the Anglican Covenant, and in the light of this year’s meeting of the Anglican Primates in Dublin, discuss whether the Covenant contributes towards maintaining unity and diversity in the Anglican Communion.


Outline and evaluate the current debates and divisions within the Anglican Communion, explaining in particular the relevance of Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conferences.

Evaluate the contributions of missionaries, particularly from the Church of Ireland, to the expansion of Anglicanism and the development of the Anglican Communion, and assess whether their legacy has had an impact on current debates within Anglicanism.


Discuss whether the legacy of the Penal Laws and Establishment is a hindrance or a help to the present sense of identity and mission in the Church of Ireland.

Discuss whether the three Agreed Statements in the ARCIC Final Report (1982) have been successful in resolving the historic theological differences between Anglicans and Roman Catholics?


Compare the extent of the agreement reached between the Porvoo Churches with that between the Church of Ireland and the Methodist Church in Ireland in the 2001 Covenant, and outline and discuss the relevance in each case of the historic episcopate as set out in the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral.

Discuss whether there is a distinctive or identifiable ‘Church of Ireland identity’ and draw on modern political and social developments to illustrate and support your evaluation.


‘ The problem in Ireland today is we have had too much religion and not enough Christianity.’ Discuss this proposition, and give and defend your views about whether the ‘Hard Gospel’ report answers this type of statement.

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism and Liturgy, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute