Presbyterian Church in Ireland

Presbyterian Church in Ireland

Infobox Christian denomination
name = Presbyterian Church in Ireland

imagewidth = 300px
caption = Modern logo of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland
main_classification = Protestant
orientation = Calvinist
polity = Presbyterian
founder = James I
founded_date = 1610
founded_place =
separated_from =
leader/moderator = Right Reverend Dr Donald Patton
parent = Church of Scotland
merger =
separations = Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster (separated 1951)
associations =World Alliance of Reformed Churches
area = Ireland
congregations = 550
members =
footnotes =

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland (or PCI) ( _ga. Eaglais Phreispitéireach in Éirinn) [cite web|url= |] [cite web|url= |] , operating seamlessly across the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, is the largest Presbyterian denomination in Ireland, and the largest Protestant denomination in Northern Ireland.


PCI has a membership of approximately 300,000 people in 550 across both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, though the bulk of the membership is in Northern Ireland. It is the second largest church in Northern Ireland, the first being the Roman Catholic Church [Confusion can arise from the fact that overall, the majority of the people of Northern Ireland are members of the various Protestant churches such as the Presbyterian Church, Church of Ireland, Methodist Church and several others. Therefore the Roman Catholic Church is smaller than the combined Protestant denominations in Northern Ireland.] . In the Republic of Ireland the church is the second largest protestant denomination, after the Church of Ireland. All the congregations of the church are represented up to the General Assembly (the church's government).


Presbyterianism in Ireland dates from the time of the Plantation of Ulster in 1610. During the reign of James I of England (James VI of Scotland) a large number of Scottish Presbyterians emigrated to Ireland. The first move away from the Church of Scotland, of which the Presbyterians in Ireland were part, saw the creation of the Presbytery of Ulster in 1642 by chaplains of a Scottish army which had arrived to crush the rising of 1641. Under Cromwell congregations multiplied and new presbyteries were formed. After the Restoration, nonconforming ministers were removed from parishes of the Established Church, but the Irish administration could not afford to alienate such a substantial Protestant population and Presbyterianism was allowed to continue in the country, with the stipends of ministers paid through the "regium donum" - literally 'the King's gift'.

William III rewarded Presbyterian support against James II (James VII of Scotland) with an increase in the "regium donum". From the 1690s, Presbyterian congregations, now organised in the Synod of Ulster, enjoyed practical freedom of religion, confirmed by the Toleration Act of 1719. However, their members remained very conscious both of continuing legal disabilities under the penal laws and of economic hardship as many were tenant farmers and objected to the payment of tithes to support the Church of Ireland. Throughout the eighteenth century, many Presbyterians were involved in movements for reform, which culminated with their prominent involvement in the United Irishmen. [S. J. Connolly ed., "The Oxford Companion to Irish History" (OUP, 1998), see also R. F. G. Holmes "Our Irish Presbyterian Heritage" (Belfast, 1985) and P. Brooke, "Ulster Presbyterianism: the historical perspective" (Dublin, 1987)]

The eighteenth century saw significant tensions within the Synod of Ulster, which was divided between the Old Lights and the New Lights. The Old Lights were conservative Calvinists who believed that ministers and ordinands should subscribe to the Westminster Confession of Faith. The New Lights were more liberal and were unhappy with the Westminster Confession and did not require ministers to subscribe to it. The New lights dominated the Synod of Ulster during the eighteenth century, allowing the more conservative Scottish Presbyterian dissenters, Seceders and Covenanters to establish a strong presence in Ulster. [Ian McBride,"Scripture Politics: Ulster Presbyterians and Irish Radicalism in the Late Eighteenth Century", (Oxford, 1998)]

In the nineteenth century, a belief that some of those who did not subscribe to the Westminster Confession were in fact Arian provoked a new phase of the conflict. [ I. R. McBride, '"When Ulster Joined Ireland": Anti-Popery, Presbyterian Radicalism and Irish Republicanism in the 1790s', "Past and Present" 157(1997), pp.70-1] This ended when seventeen ministers opposed to subscription seceded with their congregations to form the Remonstrant Synod. This led to the restoration of obligatory subscription to the Westminster Confession within the Synod of Ulster and facilitated union with the Seceders in 1840 to create the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. The united church was active in missionary activity both at home and abroad, particularly benefitting from the evangelical Ulster Revival of 1859. [ D. W. Miller, ‘Did Ulster Presbyterians have a devotional revolution?’ in J. H Murphy (ed.), Evangelicals and Catholics in Nineteenth Century Ireland (Dublin, 2005) pp52-4.]

PCI today

The current (2008-09) moderator is the Right Reverend Dr Donald Patton, minister of O.C. Presbyterian Church in Randalstown.

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland, a founding member of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, has over 560 in 21 presbyteries across Ireland.

The PCI is involved in education, evangelism, social service and mission in a number of areas around the world;

*China (see also: Irish Presbyterian Mission)
*The Middle East

The headquarters of the church are at Church House in Belfast. Plans to relocate to a new development in May Street have been cancelled.

The 21 presbyteries and the churches in them are:
*Ballymena: First Ballymena (1645), First Broughshane (1650's), Glenarm (1655), First Ahoghill (1650's), Clough (1650), Connor (1658), Grange (1670's), First Portglenone (1720's), Cunningham Memorial Cullybackey (1730), Buckna (1756), High Kirk Ballymena (1769), Brookside Ahoghill (1775), Trinity Ahoghill (1781), Killymurris (1795), Glenwherry (1825), Newtowncrommelin (1826), West Ballymena (1830), Rasharkin (1834), Churchtown (1835), Third Portglenone (1839), Cloughwater (1841), Cairnalbana (1862), Wellington Ballymena (1863), Second Broughshane (1864), Kells (1873), Harryville (1899), Eskylane (1903),Ballyloughan (1974), Ballykeel (1974), Ballee (1977), and Carnlough with Cushendall (1993).
*East Belfast
*North Belfast
*South Belfast
*Carrickfergus Woodlands, Raloo, First Carrickfergus,
*Coleraine: First Coleraine (1640's), Aghadowey (1655), First Dunboe (1656), Ballyrashane (1657), First Garvagh (1658), Ballywillan (1661), Macosquin (1680), First Kilrea (1680), New Row Coleraine (1727), Ballywatt (1748), Killaig (1765), Main Street Garvagh (1771), Boveedy (1780), Crossgar (1787), Second Dunboe (1788), Terrace Row Coleraine (1796), Portstewart (1829), Second Kilrea (1833), Ringsend (1835), Moneydig (1835), Portrush (1836), Castlerock (1874), Hazelbank Coleraine (1973), Burnside (1974), and Ballysally Coleraine (1977). The total number of Presbyterians in the Coleraine Presbytery has increased by over 30% in the last fifty years, congregations like Ballywillan, Castlerock, and First Dunboe have seen extradordinary growth. The growing population of Coleraine and the local area have seen three new congregations in the last fifty years and this may continue as Coleraine grows.
*Derry and Strabane
*Dublin/Munster: Aghada Cork [] , Trinity Cork [] , Cahir Tipperary [] , Athy & Naas [] , Christ Church Limerick [] , Carlow Town [] , Dun Laoghaire [] , Christ Church Rathgar [] , Christ Church Sandymount [] , Howth & Malahide [] , Adelaide Road [] , Maynooth [] , Lucan [] ,Greystones [] , Kilkenny City [] , Boyle Roscommon [] , Ormond Quay Dublin, St. Andrews Blackrock, Clontarf, Abbey Dublin, St. Andrews Bray, Wexford Town, Sligo Town, Carrigallen Leitrim, Tullamore, Drogheda, Fermoy
*Route: First Ballymoney (1646), Bushmills (1646), Dervock (1646), Ramoan (1646), First Kilraughts (1660), Finvoy (1688), Roseyards (1751), Dunluce (1755), Armoy (1771), Bushvale (1793), Mosside (1794), Trinity Ballymoney (1815), Toberdoney (1828), Ballycastle (1829), Toberkeigh (1830), Croaghmore (1830), Saint James's Ballymoney (1835), Drumreagh (1838), Ballyweaney (1840), Garryduff (1840), Dunloy (1841), and Dromore (1856). Over the past fifty years membership within the Route Presbytery has increased by about 25%, most of this growth is centred upon the towns of Ballymoney, Ballycastle, Bushmills and Clough Mills.

The church's two nineteenth century theological colleges, Magee College (Derry) and Assembly's College (Belfast), merged in 1978 to form Union Theological College in Belfast.Presbyterian Church in Ireland Press Release, 2003 [ "Presbyterian College Celebrates 150 Years"] . Retrieved on March 8, 2008.] Union offers post-graduate education to the denomination's candidates for the full-time ministry.

Church and worship

Apart from the seats for worshippers (not shown above), the inside of the church is dominated by four items of furniture.

*The Pulpit is the place from which the sermon is delivered and it reflects the important place given to teaching the Word of God in the church's life.
*The Bible Stand holds the bible in a prominent place in the church. The bible is the source of all authority in the life of the church.
*The Communion Table occupies the central place in the church. The associated chairs are occupied by the minister and elders during the service of Holy Communion.
*The Baptismal Font is used during baptisms, which is the rite of entry into church membership. Children are regarded as sharing the promise of salvation with adults in the church and have as much right to be baptised as adults. ('Infant Baptism' does not guarantee admission to Full Membership. Full Membership is only accepted on Profession of a personal Faith.)


The Word of God is central in the Presbyterian Church, along with Prayer and Praise. The worship is a mix of prayers, hymns, psalms, paraphrases, Scripture readings and sermons. In recent years, psalms and paraphrases have been used less but are still an important part of worship. The order of service varies from church to church but it generally involves a hymn, followed by a prayer, followed by a children's address and a children's hymn. This is then followed by an expository sermon by the minister and another hymn, then another prayer and a closing hymn. Most Presbyterian churches mix more traditional hymns with modern praise songs, and many churches now have praise bands with a variety of instruments, as well as the traditional organ.

Logo and motto

The motto of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland is "Ardens sed Virens" - "burning but flourishing". It is usually seen alongside the Burning Bush, the church's symbol. A burning bush was included in the more modern logo (top).: "Main article" : Burning Bush According to the Bible, in Exodus 3:2, Moses heard the voice of God coming from a burning bush that was not consumed by fire. This occurred after he had to flee Egypt, and was when he was called to go and demand the release of the Israelites.

Bodies to which the PCI is affiliated

*Irish Council of Churches
*Community of Protestant Churches in Europe (Leuenberg Church Fellowship)
*Conference of European Churches
*World Alliance of Reformed Churches



Finlay Holmes "The Presbyterian Church in Ireland: A Popular History." (Blackrock, Co. Dublin: The Columba Press, 2000) ISBN 1-85607-284-3

Laurence Kirkpatrick "Presbyterians in Ireland: An Illustrated History." (Holywood, Co. Down: Booklink, 2006) ISBN 0955409713

Ian McBride,"Scripture Politics: Ulster Presbyterians and Irish Radicalism in the Late Eighteenth Century", (Oxford: Calrendon Press, 1998) ISBN 0198206429

ee also

*Religion in the United Kingdom

Other Presbyterian Churches in Ireland

*Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster
*Non-subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland
*Reformed Presbyterian Church (denominational group)

External links

* [ Presbyterian Church in Ireland] - Church Website
* [ The Presbyterian Herald Online] - Church Newspaper
* [ pciYOUTH] - Youth Website of the PCI
* []

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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