Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Converts and Conversion in Ireland, 1650-1850

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Converts and Conversion in Ireland, 1650-1850

Article excerpt

Converts and Conversion in Ireland, 1650-1850. Edited by Michael Brown, Charles Ivar McGrath, and Thomas P. Power. (Dublin, Northern Ireland: Four Courts Press, 2005, Pp. 310. euro50.00.)

This is a book which will make you think again about the question of conversion. This has always been a difficult subject for people writing about religious history, not just in Ireland but elsewhere in the world. As described in the introduction to this volume of essays, the experience of converts has often been seen with distaste or with the view that the convert's decision was essentially unproblematic as they took the path towards truth. In either case, these experiences have usually been treated as hardly worth researching. What this book shows is that conversion should not be taken for granted, as those who went through that process certainly took it seriously. Making it more valuable is the fact that while many of the essays concentrate on the usual question of conversion of Roman Catholics to Protestantism, some of the best of them have much to teach us about shifting faiths within Protestantism-conformity as conversion.

Among those looking at the Roman Catholic-Protestant conversion process, the chapters by James Kelly and Betsy Taylor Fitzsimons stand out. The first takes a detailed look at the conversion of the Dominican priest James O'Farrell in 1785 at a time when the numbers of converts were close to their height. Kelly shows how this Dominican appeared to be a sincere convert, convinced that the Anglican faith was correct in some matters. Also, he was initially supported by the Anglican bishop of Dromore, Thomas Percy, to prepare for the legal process by which his conversion would be judged sincere and he could receive support from the state. However, O'Farrell fell between two stools-being judged sincere enough to be ostracized by his peers, but not important enough to be celebrated by the Anglican hierarchy. Taylor Fitzsimons shows the perils for those Protestants who pursued the cause of conversion-in this case the use of the Irish language to evangelize among Catholics. The correspondence she has uncovered (between Lady Ranelagh and Bishop Dopping of Meath) shows that many Anglicans were just not that keen on evangelism.

Beyond this usual area lies the lesser known idea of "becoming convinced" or conversion in order to gain salvation. The chapters by Sandra Hynes (possibly the best one in the book), Andrew Holmes, and Crawford Gribben take seriously the idea of being "saved. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.