Generating Distance?: The Changing Identity of Irish Presbyterianism

Patrick Mitchel

in Evangelicalism and National Identity in Ulster, 1921-1998

Published in print October 2003 | ISBN: 9780199256150
Published online January 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780191602115 | DOI:
Generating Distance?: The Changing Identity of Irish Presbyterianism

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How the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) has interacted with unionism since Partition is investigated in two stages. Analysis of the Church’s relationship with Orangeism; Presbyterian national identity; and PCI attitudes to the Northern Irish state from 1921 to 1972 reveal a denomination ‘at ease in Zion’, spiritually supportive of unionism and Orangeism. In contrast, evidence from 1972 to 1998 points to an identity shift towards a more open evangelical identity. However, organizational inertia, new challenges such as secularization, pietistic attitudes towards political engagement, a continuing reluctance to acknowledge past Presbyterian support for ‘God and Ulster’ and a continuing level of ambivalence towards the status of the Orange Order, all combine to make the church effectively impotent to confront the powerful emotive appeal of nationalism.

Keywords: Britishness; General Assembly; Home Rule; Orangeism; Ian Paisley; Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI); Reformed; Roman Catholic Church; the Witness

Chapter.  17620 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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