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About Us

The Church of Ireland has around 378,000 members – 249,000 in Northern Ireland and 129,000 in the Republic of Ireland.  Our history is the story of almost 1,600 years of Christian worship and witness in Ireland.

The Celtic Church, which emerged in Ireland following the mission of St Patrick in the 5th century, is still recognised as the source of the modern Church of Ireland.  A strong diocesan and parochial structure has existed for almost 1,000 years.

The Celtic Church is still recognised as the source of the modern Church of Ireland

The Reformation in the 16th century stressed the importance of the individual’s relationship with God and refocused the Church on its biblical foundation.

The Disestablishment of the Church of Ireland, in 1871, led to the creation of its current structures.  A new General Synod replaced Parliament as the legislative body responsible for the rules governing the Church and the Representative Church Body was incorporated as the trustee body for the Church.

The Church maintained its unity following the partition of Ireland in the 1920s and continues to serve its membership and wider society across the island’s two political jurisdictions.

Our Structures

The Church of Ireland believes in the equality, within the Body of Christ, of all the baptised.  All have a distinctive task or vocation to fulfil and authority in the Church is entrusted to and exercised on behalf of the whole body.

All have a distinctive task or vocation to fulfil and authority in the Church is entrusted to and exercised on behalf of the whole body 

Every lay member of the Church who is aged 18 or older is entitled to be registered as a member of the general vestry of their parish.

The general vestry elects the select vestry, which is responsible for parish finances and the care of its property.  A select vestry includes church wardens (responsible for the control of church services) and glebe wardens (responsible for care and management of church property and land).

Each diocese is overseen by a diocesan synod consisting of the Bishop, the clergy and lay representatives from each parish.  The Church of Ireland comprises twelve dioceses, which are grouped within two provinces – each led by an Archbishop.  

The Province of Armagh consists of seven dioceses:

  • Armagh
  • Clogher
  • Connor
  • Derry and Raphoe
  • Down and Dromore
  • Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh
  • Tuam, Killala and Achonry

The Province of Dublin consists of five dioceses:

  • Dublin and Glendalough
  • Cashel, Waterford, Lismore, Ossory, Ferns and Leighlin
  • Cork, Cloyne and Ross
  • Limerick, Ardfert, Aghadoe, Killaloe, Kilmacduagh and Emly
  • Meath and Kildare

Diocesan synods meet annually and elect members to the General Synod which acts as the ‘parliament’ of the church and decides questions of liturgy, church teaching and government.

The General Synod decides questions of liturgy, church teaching and government 

The General Synod consists of three orders – the bishops, the clergy and the laity – who sit together as two houses: the House of Bishops and the House of Representatives.   The Archbishop of Armagh presides at meetings of the General Synod and it elects four Honorary Secretaries – two clerical and two lay – to oversee the running of the Synod and its Standing Committee.

The Representative Church Body (RCB) acts as the charitable trustee and ‘civil service’ of the Church, holding property and administering funds on its behalf.  It consists of the archbishops and bishops, lay and clerical members elected by the dioceses, and twelve co–opted members.