It has tended to dwell on the problems and priorities of the men who were at home in such places. The result is that historians have devoted a great proportion of their energies to a relatively small proportion of the Church. An examination of the thought of prelates, politicians and dons provides a valuable insight into the minds of those in the vanguard of shaping opinion, but it avoids the question of how or even if their ideas were assimilated in the country at large. This book looks at the Church at the parish level in order to reconstruct the religious world of the nineteenth-century Anglican, and to examine the impact that the policies being formulated at the top of the ecclesiastical hierarchy had on the parishioners and clergy of England.
The offer of the archbishopric was gratifying to my organ of approbation; the acceptance of the office is martyrdom. The more I learn from the most authentic sources of the State of Ireland, especially of the church there, the more appalling does the danger appear.
It is too late I fear to think of unexceptionable expedients to meet the emergency. Some decisive steps must be taken if the Irish Church or indeed Ireland is to be saved.
In large districts of Ireland the established Church is such as by the help of a map you might establish in Turkey or in China: The events of the last century and a half have confirmed that impression of Ireland in the minds of many not familiar with the country, and indeed led to an impression that political and religious sectarianism have been a way of life in Ireland for longer than anyone can care to remember.
In fact it is the argument of this book that the religious history of Ireland is more complicated than that, and that the sectarianism with which we are all familiar has only really been a dominant feature of the Irish political and religious landscape since the middle years of the nineteenth century.
I would suggest that there have been, between the late sixteenth and the late twentieth centuries, three main phases of Irish religious history. The first phase lasted for about two hundred years until about It was marked by the failure, unique within the British Isles, to create a Protestant established church which could command the loyalty of a majority, or even a significant minority, of the population and the recognition by the political establishment that it had no choice but to accept this state of affairs and abandon the various measures that had been taken to discriminate against the majority Roman Catholic population of Ireland and groups of dissident Protestants, which almost equalled in number those who supported the established Protestant Church of Ireland.
The Protestant ascendancy, the phrase often used to describe the state of Ireland in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, was 1 NLW, Ms C, letter dated 28 September transcribed on 20 December The second phase, which lasted from about to aboutis the subject of this book.
It is my argument that during the last three decades of the eighteenth, and the first two decades of the nineteenth, centuries there was a decision on the part of the leadership of the three main religious groups in Ireland, the Church of Ireland, the Roman Catholics, and the Presbyterians to develop a strategy of mutual toleration and cooperation, and that this strategy was successfully maintained for much of this period.
There were, of course, political issues, especially in the s, which threatened to destabilize this fragile framework of relative ecumenism but there was sufficient commitment to it on all sides to enable it to continue.
From about the situation began to change. Various political and religious developments, dealt with in some detail in the pages that follow, began to create a climate that completely destabilized the previous consensus. Tensions developed between the leadership of the church, much of which wished to preserve the status quo, and radical voices within those churches that felt that the caution exercised by their leadership no longer met the requirements of a changed political and religious landscape.
By the conservatives had been marginalized, and the radicals had taken over the agenda, in all three of the main churches of Ireland. The third phase of Irish political and religious history since the Reformation had begun. It was a phase marked by a determined sectarianism, vestiges of which still remain in parts of Ireland, especially within the six counties which since partition in have remained part of the United Kingdom.
Since about a much more ecumenical climate has begun to develop between the three churches in Ireland though it still lags some way behind that in most parts of Western Europe. There also remain powerful, if by now minority, voices in Ireland determined to maintain the political and religious struggle.
The political and religious climate of the last century and a half has had a major impact on the religious historiography of Ireland.
The religious history of Ireland has, almost invariably, been set in a political context and written from a denominational perspective. In other parts of Western Europe this approach has largely been abandoned in favour of treating religious history as a branch of social history and looking at the impact that religion has had on popular culture.
In recent years a number of Irish scholars, particularly those working on aspects of Roman Catholic history, have begun to adopt a similar approach, but very little comparable work has been done on the history of the Protestant churches. A typical illustration of this is the most recent collection of essays on Irish religious history, eventually published as a memorial volume for the late Donal Kerr.
Revisiting the Story, ed. Introduction xxi two are brief overviews of Presbyterian and Methodist history and two are relatively narrow studies of aspects of Irish Anglicanism.
Whilst three of these cover the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, there is no comparable treatment of what was then the established church during the same period.
This book aims to take both a socio-historical approach to Irish religious history and to do so from an inter-denominational, to some extent even a non-denominational, perspective.
In particular I have endeavoured, whilst not disregarding the political dimensions of Irish religious history, to adopt for Ireland a similar revisionist approach to the study of its religious institutions and their effectiveness to that which has been successfully adopted for the study of religion in England, France, and Scotland over the last thirty years.
The aim of this approach is to downplay the role of religion as a manifestation of cultural, political, and social division and to look in much more detail at the way in which the churches conducted their business, and the areas of common ground between them, and at the impact that all this had on clergy and laity in the localities.
This book aims to do four things. In the first place it aims to examine in some detail this interesting period of Irish religious history in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, when there appeared to be an opportunity to create a religiously pluralistic society in which necessarily good relations could exist between the main religious bodies.
In order to understand the background to this situation, and the factors that helped to destabilize it, I have included two overview chapters, one surveying the main developments in the religious history of Ireland between the Reformation and aboutand another drawing attention to the main non-religious developments in Ireland between and which had an impact on religious ones in this period.
I have then examined in some detail the factors that were to lead to the breakdown of good relations between the main religious denominations in Ireland after about and the origins of the sectarianism that was to dominate Irish politics and religion after The second theme of this book is the religious reform programme which had an impact on all the main religious groups in Ireland between and Find the training resources you need for all your activities.
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