A Brief Guide to PCI

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) was established in 1840 with the coming together of two Presbyterian churches, the General Synod of Ulster and the Secession Synod. The union of the two churches took place at the first General Assembly of Presbyterian Church in Ireland meeting in Belfast on 10th July 1840.

Irish Presbyterianism had its origins in Scottish migrations to Ulster in the early 17th Century. Ballycarry Presbyterian Church in County Antrim is the oldest congregation dating back to 1613. The newest, Donabate Presbyterian Church in County Dublin, first gathered for worship in 2010.



The Presbyterian form of Christian faith is best described as 'Reformed' with its strong emphasis on the Sovereignty of God, the Kingship of Christ and the authority of the Bible.

Preaching the Word of God is central to Presbyterian worship services that are set amongst a mixture of prayer and praise. There is no fixed liturgy in Presbyterian services of worship. Prayers and hymns, psalms and paraphrases, Scripture readings and sermons are adapted to the needs of the occasion.

The word 'Presbyterian' itself describes the form of Church government, which emphasises the individual and corporate responsibility of members. Ministers and members share in the organising and running of every aspect of the Church's work. In the Presbyterian Church in Ireland this is undertaken at three levels:

  • Congregational (local)
  • Presbytery (regional)
  • General Assembly (denominational)

The General Assembly is the highest decision-making body of the Church. One of its roles is to elect the Moderator, the chief public representative of the Church who serves for one year. The current Moderator is Rt. Rev. Dr. Noble McNeely, minister of First Holywood Presbyterian Church in County Down.

The Moderator, however, is not the ‘head of the church’. The Code, or constitution of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland clearly states that ‘The Lord Jesus Christ is the sole King and Head of the Church…’

You can read more about PCI’s structure and leadership here. The Church's administrative heart is Assembly Buildings, which is located at Fisherwick Place in Belfast.


PCI in 21st Century

Through its congregations, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland is very much a part of local community life and an integral part of wider society. Today PCI has over 225,000 members who belong to 536 congregations from Bushmills in County Antrim, to Aghada in County Cork. PCI is the largest Protestant denomination in Northern Ireland.

The Church currently has 326 active ministers, some of whom will have two or more congregations to minister to. In terms of their training, Union Theological College in Belfast’s Queen’s Quarter, is PCI’s principal body for the training of ministers prior to ordination.

Across Ireland congregations seek build God’s Kingdom in their community, growing in faith as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, so that the Good News of the Gospel can be shared.


At home and overseas

PCI is committed to bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to people of all ages across Ireland and the wider world.

Today PCI has partnership links with indigenous churches, Christian institutions or international mission agencies in more than 25 countries around the world. It also supports 36 adults who are engaged in mission in varying ways serving in 12 countries.

The Church has an active ‘social witness’ demonstrating God's love in action by ministering to the physical needs of people. PCI provides services for a diverse range of people in 17 locations across Ireland. This includes supporting and caring for older people and people with a learning and physical disabilities. The Church also works with people with addictions and with offenders.

PCI is committed to building a more peaceful society. It also seeks to make a unique contribution to life on the island of Ireland, by giving voice to the concerns of many people, both within and outside the Church, engaging with government and speaking out on national and international issues.

If you are looking for a local congregation see the Find a Church section...