Irish Council of Churches
The Irish Council of Churches was founded in 1923 in the aftermath of the civil war and is the formal national body through which our member churches formally engage, dialogue and act on a wide variety of issues. We are established by our member churches and funded by them.
The ICC Executive meets four times a year and is made up of church general secretaries and other nominated representatives from across the range of Protestant, Orthodox, Reformed and Independent church traditions. The President is the public representative of the Council.
Our current President is Rev Dr Donald Watts, former Clerk of the Presbyterian Church, our incoming president in 2016 is the Rt Rev John McDowell, Church of Ireland Bishop of Clogher and our immediate past President is the Rev Fr Godfrey O’Donell, chair of the Orthodox Network of Churches. Presidents are elected on a rotation basis and serve for two years.
Irish Inter Church Meeting
In 1973 in the midst of the Troubles the Council began historic talks in Ballymascanlon with the Catholic Church which over the course of time became formalised as the Irish Inter Church Meeting. The meeting is coordinated by a committee which also meets four times a year. This Inter Church Committee is formed from the leadership of the churches made up of 50/50 representation from the Irish Bishops Conference and the Council. It is co–chaired by Most Rev Dr Brendan Leahy, Roman Catholic Bishop of Limerick, and the President of the Council.
Our present day membership reflects the changing landscape of Christianity across Protestant, Orthodox, Reformed, Catholic, Independent and Migrant–led churches. Our newest Member, the Redeemed Christian Church of God is the largest migrant–led Church in Ireland with over 15,000 members throughout Ireland and the latest Census lists over 45,000 Orthodox adherents. When added to the membership of our longer established traditions we encompass the vast majority of Christians within Ireland.
Through our structures churches in Ireland from across the wide range of established traditions have been meeting together on an ongoing and all–island basis for over 90 years. Countless positive changes have taken place as a consequence of the relationships formed, bridges built and actions taken through and beyond our dialogues together.
Our constitution describes us as “Christian Communions in Ireland willing to join in united efforts to promote the spiritual, physical, moral and social welfare of the people and the extension of the rule of Christ among all nations and over every region of human life”.
This mandate stems from the original constitution that established the United Council of Christian Churches and Religious Communities in Ireland in 1922. There were seven founding member churches at the Council’s first meeting in January 1923 (Church of Ireland, Presbyterian Church, Non–Subscribing Presbyterian Church, Methodist Church, Moravian Church, Congregational Union, and the Religious Society of Friends/Quakers).
This historical background is significant as it indicates that the Council’s ecumenical beginnings were shaped by the aftermath of World War 1 and the period when partition and the border had just been created on this island.
This Council was one of the earliest pioneers of National Councils of Churches throughout the world and six of its seven founding churches continue in its membership today. The original Council started in the context of momentous changes in Ireland. It served at the cutting edge for those churches wanting to express their Christian witness in working together for the benefit of all peoples, both locally and overseas. Its mandate covered the whole island and continues to reflect the all–Ireland focus of the majority of its member churches.