Our denomination is known as the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland and we are sometimes called Covenanters. Here’s why.
We are part of the Reformed Presbyterian denomination and so are part of a family of churches throughout Ireland and with sister churches throughout the world.
Reformed means to be changed by the Bible in both what we believe and what we do. We are ever changing to conform to God’s word.
This tradition dates back to the Reformation where the emphasis was returned to the Bible alone which recognised that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone for the glory of God alone.
Presbyterian means to be led by presbyters or elders and describes how we are governed. There is no complex hierarchy but there is accountability as there is oversight provided by fellow elders from other churches. And although never perfect, the care and leadership of the elders are a reminder and picture of our Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.
A covenant is a binding agreement or promise between two parties. On special occasions in both the Old and New Testaments, believers covenanted together that they would obey the Lord. At the time of the Reformation, believers in Scotland adopted the practice for mutual protection and for the advancement of Biblical Christianity. On at least three occasions (1581, 1638 and 1643) the entire nation covenanted in this way.
The last of these, the Solemn League and Covenant bound “…the three kingdoms of Scotland, England and Ireland … to bring the Churches of God in the three kingdoms to the closest unity and uniformity in religion, confession of faith, form of church government, directory for worship and catechising that we and our posterity after us, may, as brethern live in faith and love, and that the Lord may delight to dwell in the midst of us…”
THE BLUE BANNER
The covenants maintained that the king (or the state) cannot govern the Church, and that the State itself must recognise the supreme Kingship of Christ. The Reformed believers, known as Covenanters (from their support of the covenants), insisted on “the crown rights of King Jesus” which brought them into conflict with those who supported the “divine right of kings”. The Blue Banner bearing the motto “For Christ’s Crown and Covenant” originated as a battle flag for these Covenanters. It first appeared in 1639 with the Covenanter army under General Alexander Leslie, First Earl of Leven.
During the period of most intense persecution (1680-1688), some 18,000 men, women and children died in battle, were executed, killed without process of law, or exiled, for their faithfulness to “Christ’s Crown and Covenant”. Since the end of the “killing times” the Blue Banner has continued to serve as a symbol of the Reformed faith.
The Reformed Presbyterian Church in Ireland originated from a dispute around the Revolution Settlement of the late 17th century. A minority of Ulster Presbyterians objected to the Settlement as it disregarded the Covenants which had been made with the Parliament in London. These people, like the earlier protagonists for the Covenants, became known as Covenanters.
They stood apart from the Presbyterian Church and began to hold separate meetings. Until 1757, they were dependent on visits by ministers from Scotland. They then began to hold their own meetings and, in 1763, a Reformed Presbytery was formed, followed by a Synod in 1811.
The Reformed Presbyterian Church today continues to treasure the testimony and heritage which God has given to it, reminding us of our commitment to the great truths of the Word of God and the sovereign rule of Jesus Christ.