The Association of Baptist Churches in Ireland (ABC) is a group of 111 autonomous churches in the United Kingdom (Northern Ireland) and the Republic of Ireland which have voluntarily agreed to work together. The Association only acts on behalf of the churches for the work which the churches have agreed to do together.
Baptist’s have been in Ireland since the early 1600s. The forerunner of the present Grosvenor Road Church, Dublin, Cork and Waterford churches were all in existence by 1650. Cork traces its roots back to 1640, Grosvenor Road to 1642 and Waterford to 1650. It is uncertain whether those churches were formed by or simply strengthened by soldiers from New Model Army garrisoned in these towns. However it is certain that these churches existed and continued in existence until today.
On a wider level the history of Baptist witness in Ireland throughout the remainder of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries is not one of glowing health and unstoppable progress. Indeed the Baptist cause is described as having “lingered rather than lived”. Of the eleven churches which formed the Irish Baptist Association in the eighteenth century only five remained by 1814 when the Baptist Irish Society was formed.
However in the first half of the nineteenth century Baptist churches were founded at the rate of one per year. County Tyrone in particular experienced remarkable growth with eleven churches founded in the space of forty-five years. In Northern Ireland the 1859 Revival and its outflow greatly strengthened. Many new workers were enlisted to advance the work.
At the end of the nineteenth century, Baptist work in Ireland came under the management of the churches here with the formation of the Baptist Union of Ireland in 1895. Over the next ten years membership doubled reaching 3000. In 1887 there were 22 churches in the Union. By 1927 this figure had risen to 52. At that point growth slowed. In 1951 there were 61 churches with 4741. Over the next fifty years the number increased to 111 churches with a membership of 8000. In the period 1950 to 1990 the major growth was in Northern Ireland with some 38 churches joining the Union. At this time only one church was formed per decade in the Republic of Ireland. However this situation altered dramatically in the 1990s. 5 new churches in the Republic joined the Union but only three in Northern Ireland. Indeed by the early years of the C21st it is in the Republic that church planting is moving ahead. Some 5 locations are presently in train.
Growth in Northern Ireland slowed and in fact in many areas decline was in evidence by the end of the century, particularly in the urban areas of Belfast.
In 1999 the Baptist Union decided to return to its historic name of the Association of Baptist Churches in Ireland. This was done to emphasis that the Association is not a denominational structure but rather is a group of autonomous churches of the Baptist faith and order in Ireland which have agreed to work together.
The Association of Baptist Churches in Ireland is a group of 111 autonomous churches in Ireland which have voluntarily agreed to work together: 94 are located in the United Kingdom (Northern Ireland) and 18 are located in the Republic of Ireland.
Presently committed membership is 8500. However each week about 20000 people attend the churches.
The churches in membership of the Association have agreed to work together for the:
- evangelisation of others in obedience to the Lord's Commission
- establishment, fostering and maintenance of Churches of the Baptist faith and order in Ireland and overseas.
- promotion of fellowship among all the Baptist Churches in Ireland.
- provision of opportunities for conference, for joint action on questions affecting the welfare of the churches, and for the co-operation of the churches in the advancement of Baptist principles.
- promotion of measures for educating persons called to full-time Christian service.
- maintaining of spiritual unity through the fostering of fellowship with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity and who adhere to the Doctrine of Scripture expressed in the Doctrinal Statement (section 2: 1) and are faithful to the gospel of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone.
The emphasis on the importance of the church as a local company of baptized believers leads us to place the local church at the centre of the life of the Association. It is from there that all our work commences.
Each church appoints at least two representatives to serve on the Churches’ Council. This body meets twice each year. It is the final authority within the Association. It appoints the committees and Association Officers, approves the policy and practice of the Association and reviews the work undertaken on behalf of the churches.
Between meetings of the Churches’ Council the work of the Association is under the control of the Executive Committee of 18 Church Representatives appointed by the Council from among their number and the Association Officers.
The Officers of the Association are: President, Vice-President, Ex-President, Honorary Treasurer and Association Director. They meet with the Executive Committee and deal with matters of urgency arising between meetings.
The Churches' Council also appoints the Management Committees to oversee the various areas of Association work. There are 8 Management Committees:
The churches of the Association hold to the Lordship of the Lord Jesus Christ as Head of the Church. The church is His and was purchased by His blood shed on the Cross. His will is expressed in the Scriptures which are the final authority in all matters of faith and practice. The truth of Scripture is received by the illuminating power of the Holy Spirit.
The churches stand in the conservative and evangelical understanding of the Scriptures.
While there are differences of interpretation, emphasis and practice evident among the churches each church affrims the Doctrinal Statement of those things which are commonly believed.
Each church in membership of the Association affirms the following beliefs that are commonly held among the churches:
- The verbal inspiration and total inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as originally given by God; their sole-sufficiency and final authority in all matters of faith and practice.
- One God in three persons, the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, co-equal, co-eternal, sovereign and active in creation, providence and redemption.
The Lord Jesus Christ
- The essential deity and perfect humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ, the only mediator between God and men;
- His virgin birth, sinless life and sacrificial death on the cross as the only substitute for sinners;
- His burial, bodily resurrection and ascension to heaven;
- His high priestly ministry and personal return.
The Holy Spirit
- The work of the Holy Spirit in regenerating the sinner and indwelling, sanctifying and empowering the believer.
- The personality of the devil; his evil activity and final doom.
- The creation of man in the image of God;
- the entrance of sin through Adam's disobedience;
- the fallen and totally depraved state of all men;
- their subjection to God's wrath and condemnation;
- their responsibility to repent and believe the Gospel.
- The justification of the sinner by God's grace alone through faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ alone;
- the eternal security of the believer.
- The church, the body of Christ, made up of those drawn from every tribe, language, people and nation throughout history who are added to it by the work of the Holy Spirit and the exercise of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
- the scriptural expression of the church in the world as the local company of baptised believers gathered under the headship of Christ for worship, fellowship, instruction and evangelism, in separation from all systems of belief that do not adhere to the Scriptures and are unfaithful to the gospel of salvation by grace alone.
- the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's supper: baptism being the immersion of believers on profession of their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and a symbol of their identification with Him in His death, burial and resurrection;
- the Lord's supper being a remembrance of Christ until He comes and a renewal of commitment to Him;
- the offices of elder and deacon;
- the gifts of evangelist and pastor-teacher;
- the priesthood of all believers and their unity in the Body of Christ;
- the separation of church and state.
The Future State
- The unconditional immortality of the soul;
- the resurrection of the body;
- the eternal joy in heaven of the believer;
- the conscious eternal punishment in hell of those who die impenitent.
- The responsibility of all believers to obey and serve the Lord and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives;
- the duty of each church to exercise godly discipline in a loving and caring fashion.