About 60 per cent of Church of Ireland schools would be forced to close if a recommendation that a minimum school roll of 80 pupils and four teachers is accepted.
The church’s general synod in Armagh yesterday heard an appeal for the proposal to be resisted.
Presenting a report by the church's board of education, Adrian Oughton said that the loss of so many schools would hasten the assimilation of Church of Ireland members into the local community.
“The word I used was ‘assimilation’ and not ‘integration’. Our people are very much integrated into their communities, but they do not wish to be assimilated.”
He also lamented the lack of Church of Ireland education at second level. Of the 26 counties in the Republic, he said only 13 had a Protestant second-level school. Of the 26 second-level schools, 19 charged fees.
“We cannot afford a further reduction, but many of our families cannot afford fees either and there is no basis for the statement that in tuition-free education, the maintenance of quality teaching could be a problem.”
Archbishop of Dublin Dr Michael Jackson told a synod press conference on Thursday of his personal fears that no school could survive without at least two teachers.
The synod also heard that Church of Ireland College of Education in Dublin was effectively prevented from being taken into the Trinity College centre.
“Trinity by its actions in effect refused to accept as undergraduates Protestant young men and women who wish to be primary teachers,” Mr Oughton said.
“Now we have a ban on Church of Ireland people seeking to enter Trinity as primary teachers.”
He said that Dublin City University was willing to accept "our intake and our ethos".
“Traditions die hard, but a tradition is something that someone once started and that does not mean that it cannot be changed,” he said.
“Better to be cut free from that tradition and seek new and more promising roads than to be emasculated.”
Call for action
The synod also passed by acclamation a call for action to combat world hunger.
Leaders of the G8, due to hold their summit in Fermanagh next month, and the Irish Government in its role in the presidency of the EU, were urged to act.
“We commit to pray for our governments and specifically for the G8 leaders, and to campaign for change persistently and prophetically.
“We call on the UK and Irish governments to do everything in their power to fight the injustice of hunger.”