• The Cost of Democracy: The Church of Ireland and Its Ritual Canons, 1871–1974

    Alan Ford (see profile)
    Church history, Liturgics, History, Fundamentalism, Ritualism, High Church movement, Church of Ireland, Evangelicalism, Canon law
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    In 1870, disestablishment suddenly turned the Church of Ireland from a state church into a democracy, governed by its “parliament,” the General Synod. The empowerment of the laity left it with a distinctive, indeed unique, feature among the churches of the Anglican communion—a set of disciplinary canons designed to exclude high-church ritualism from its worship. Passed in 1871, these canons, the most radical of which included a ban on the use of the cross, were used by evangelical pressure-groups to prosecute high-church clergy in the church courts. For the dominant low-church lay party, determined to defend the “Reformation heritage” of the Church of Ireland, they represented an essential bulwark against the threat of English high-church ritualism and a “slide towards Rome.” For many clergy and bishops, anxious to allow for a broader range of Anglican churchmanship, the canons unduly narrowed and impoverished the worship of the Church of Ireland. Because of the General Synod's majority voting mechanism, efforts to amend the canons proved fruitless. It was only in 1964 that the ban on the cross was removed, and not until 1974 that the canons as a whole were revised, ending over a hundred years of contention and division.
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    9 months ago
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