Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

The Irish Puritans: James Ussher and the Reformation of the Church

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

The Irish Puritans: James Ussher and the Reformation of the Church

Article excerpt

The Irish Puritans: James Ussher and the Reformation of the Church. By Crawford Gribben. (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 2014, Pp. 160. $18.00.)

Crawford Gribben's The Irish Puritans is the most remarkable of books, for it can genuinely be described as a romp through the life and ideas ofjames Ussher. Gribben's undisguised admiration for the Irish cleric, his sharp eye for the key moments in his life, and his ability to select and parse seminal passages in his writing make this book an inviting quick tour through the Church of Ireland's dominant figure of the troubled early Stuart and interregnum era.

Ussher's importance to later Church of Ireland history was his ability to preserve an Irish identity for the church during the first significant attempt to reconcile Irish and English doctrine and policies. That Irish identity was slight enough that it often made no essential difference to church affairs, either internal or as they related to the state. However, on rare but telling occasions the continuing strand of Irish DNA allowed for slight but distinctive adaptations in practice that offered the church an ability to adapt to Irish circumstances a purely transplanted English structure would have denied it.

Crucially, because of Ussher's theological work, the Church of Ireland had a more Puritan inclination entering Charles I's reign than did its English counterpart, yet it had, also, a more inclusive approach to understanding doctrinal matters and so the church was able to absorb the Laudian influences that crossed the Irish Sea, thereby preserving its immediate future without altering its core. While it fared no better during the interregnum than the Church of England, its Puritan sympathies, broad tolerance on strict matters of legitimacy of ordination, and the ability to absorb-albeit briefly in the case of Ulster-all but the most doctrinaire of Presbyterian congregations provided the Church of Ireland an injection of energy immediately after the restoration that revitalized its battered structures, where, otherwise, they would likely have fallen into terminal stupor

Ussher left a legacy that ensured the church was theologically vibrant. …

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