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The Question of Obedience and the Formation of Confessional Identity in the Irish Reformation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review



Publication details

JournalArchiv fur reformationsgeschichte-Archive for reformation history
DateAccepted/In press - 9 Mar 2020
DatePublished (current) - 16 Oct 2020
Issue number1
Number of pages27
Pages (from-to)143-169
Original languageEnglish


This article explains religious change in Ireland in terms of the crown’s call for obedience in a well-order commonwealth. It takes the position that religious Reformation was not initially presented as a choice between distinct confessions. Instead, it consisted of a call to obey the ordained head of the commonwealth and a call to return to an original truth. This meant the space for dissent or opposition was extremely small. On this basis, the article argues that dissent from the crown’s position was only able to emerge in Ireland because two competing definitions of obedience emerged. The Old English stuck fast to an original call for commonwealth reform, which was about understanding how God had structured society by following the rules set out in English law and by the Church. In contrast, New English reformed protestants emphasized the need for God’s saving grace and conscience-based reform as the basis of obedience. Here the Old English became aware that they held to a different idea of obedience and reform, which allowed them to articulate a separate religious identity using their own language of obedience.

    Research areas

  • Reformation, Ireland, Confession, Choice, Obedience, Commonwealth, Old English, New English

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