Church Of Ireland, the name of the Irish branch of the Anglican Episcopal church. Until Jan. 1, 1871, this church was an integral part of the " Church of England and Ireland," which was the establishment in Ireland as well as in England. (See England, Church of.) In 1868 the house of commons, on motion of Mr. Gladstone, resolved to disestablish the church in Ireland. The house of lords rejected the proposition, but under the pressure of public opinion, which strongly expressed itself against the continuance of the privileges of the Irish church, the "royal commissioners on the revenues and condition of the church of Ireland" recommended important reductions as to the benefices of the Irish church. Mr. Gladstone, having become prime minister toward the close of the year 1868, introduced in March, 1869, a new bill for the disestablishment and disendowment of the Irish church, which was passed by both houses of parliament, and on July 26 received the royal assent. By this act a body of commissioners of church temporalities in Ireland was appointed, in whom the whole property of the Irish church was to be vested from the day the measure received the royal assent.
A distinction was made between public endowments (valued at £15,500,000), including everything in the nature of a state grant or revenue, which were to be resumed by the state, and private endowments (valued at £500,000), which were defined as money contributed from private sources since 1660, and which were to be restored to the disestablished church. Provision was made for compensation to vested interests (including May-nooth college and the regium donum of the Presbyterians), the largest of which in the aggregate were those of incumbents, to each of whom was secured during his life, provided he continued to discharge the duties of his benefice, the amount to which he was entitled, deducting the amount he might have paid for curates; or the interest might under certain circumstances be commuted upon his application for a life annuity. Other personal interests provided for were those of curates, permanent and temporary, and lay compensations, including claims of parish clerks and sextons. The aggregate of the payments would amount to about £8,000,000, leaving about £7,500,000, giving an annual income of about £30,000, at the disposal of parliament.
When the affairs of the establishment should be wound up, the commissioners were to report to the queen that the objects immediately contemplated by the act had all been provided for, and to report the amount of surplus available for charitable purposes. The actual disestablishment provided for by the Irish church act took effect on Jan. 1, 1871, when all church property became vested in the church temporalities commissioners, and the right of the Irish bishops to sit in the house of lords ceased. Previously a general convention held in Dublin in 1870 adopted a constitution for the church of Ireland. The church is governed by a general synod, meeting annually in Dublin, and consisting of a house of bishops and a house of clerical and lay delegates. The house of bishops have the right of veto, and their veto prevails also at the next synod. The bishops are elected by the diocesan convention, but whenever the latter fails to elect a candidate by a majority of two thirds of each order, the election devolves upon the house of bishops. The primate (archbishop of Armagh) is elected by the bench of bishops out of their own order.
The property of the church is vested in a " representative church body," which is composed of all the archbishops and bishops, of one general and two lay representatives for each diocese, and 12 coopted members. At the first general synod of the church several resolutions against the introduction of ritualistic practices were adopted. As late as 1833 the church of Ireland, notwithstanding its small membership, had four archbishoprics and 18 bishoprics; in that year the number of archbishoprics was reduced to two, Dublin and Armagh; and the number of bishoprics to ten, five for each archbishopric. The number of benefices in 1873 was 1,548; the number of curates 622. The population connected with the church of Ireland, according to the census of 1861, was 693,357, or 11.9 per cent. of the total population; in 1871, 683,295, or 10 per cent. of the total population. Immediately on the passing of the Irish church act, the church temporalities commissioners took charge of all the property formerly belonging to the established church, and issued forms of claims to be filled up by clergymen or other persons entitled to receive a continuance of clerical income or compensation.
The total number of clergy and officers who had commuted under the provisions of the act to the end of 1873, when the time expired, was 6,162, of whom 1,459 were incumbents, 921 curates, 579 nonconformist ministers, and 3,203 church officers. The total number of non-commutants was 415, of whom 20 were incumbents, 15 curates, 30 nonconformist clergy, and 300 church officers. The total amount of commutation paid in respect of claims investigated up to February, 1873, was £8,259,673.