Decline in number of Irish Presbyterians continues

Membership down almost 40% since 1975 as annual General Assembly opens in Belfast

Outgoing Presbyterian moderator Michael Barry. He will be replaced by Rev Dr Ian McNie of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Ballymoney, Co Antrim. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Outgoing Presbyterian moderator Michael Barry. He will be replaced by Rev Dr Ian McNie of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Ballymoney, Co Antrim. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

 

The number of Presbyterians in Ireland has dropped by almost 40 per cent in the past 40 years – and the decline is steady and ongoing, according to latest figures from the church.

The 2015 General Assembly annual reports of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland show that, in 1975, it had a membership of approximately 375,000 across the island. Today, that figure is 230,000 in 545 congregations across its 19 presbyteries, north and south.

Between 2013 and 2014 membership dropped by 3,534, or 1,420 families, while there had also been a drop of 1,249 in those who attended at least one Communion between 2013 and 2014, and a drop of 111 in baptisms and of 19 ministers in active duty.

Meanwhile, the 2015 General Assembly gets under way today in Belfast with installation of the new Moderator Rev Dr Ian McNie of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Ballymoney, Co Antrim.

Year-long term

Rev McNie takes over from outgoing moderator Rev Dr Michael Barry. The new moderator has described himself as an “evangelical conservative” who must acknowledge theological differences and therefore would prefer not to attend Catholic Masses.

He has attended Catholic funerals and said he would be happy and was looking forward to jointly working with the leaders of the Church of Ireland, Methodist and Catholic churches in Ireland. Approximately 1,000 people from Presbyterian congregations across Ireland will take part in the General Assembly, beginning at 7pm today.

It continues to Thursday evening. Altogether, more than 70 resolutions are to be put forward and debated.