Free Church of Scotland (post-1900)
:"This article concerns the Free Church of Scotland after 1900. For the Free Church of Scotland existing during the 19th century, see
Free Church of Scotland (1843-1900)."
The contemporary Free Church of Scotland (
Scottish Gaelic: "An Eaglais Shaor" ) [ [http://www.smo.uhi.ac.uk/gaidhlig/faclair/sbg/lorg.php?facal=Free%20Church&seorsa=Beurla&tairg=Lorg&eis_saor=on&tus_saor=on Scots Gaelic translator] Sabhal Mòr Ostaig] is that part of the original Free Church of Scotland that remained outside of the union with the United Presbyterian Church of Scotlandin 1900. It remains a distinct Presbyteriandenomination in Scotlandto this day, and is commonly referred to (in Highland English, and mostly by outsiders) as The Wee Frees, though this nickname is sometimes used for the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland(also occasionally known as "The Wee Wee Frees" ).
Aftermath of the union of 1900
In 1900 the Free Church of Scotland united with the
United Presbyterian Church of Scotlandto form the United Free Church of Scotland. However, a minority of the original Free Church remained outside of this new union.
The protesting and dissenting minority at once claimed to be the legitimate Free Church. They met outside the Free Assembly Hall on
October 31, and, failing to gain admission to it, withdrew to another hall, where they elected Colin A Bannatyne as moderator and held the remaining sittings of their Assembly.
It was reported that between 16,000 and 17,000 names had been received of persons adhering to the anti-unionist principle. At the Assembly of 1901 it was stated that the Free Church had twenty-five ministers and at least sixty-three congregations. However, her congregations were largely in the Gaelic-speaking districts of Scotland.
The initial problems were obvious, her congregations soon grew in number, but were far apart and there were not nearly enough ministers. The church was treated in a hostile manner by the United Free Church, and her work was conducted under considerable hardship. Nor was she successful in appealing to the general popular sentiment of Scotland. However, the revenue of the church gradually increased, her sustentation fund was in 1901 only able to support 75 ministers, but from 1903 onwards 167.
The Free Church case
After the union of 1900, the United Presbyterian Church and the continuing Free Church, not only contested the legacy of the Free Church of 1843-1900, they perhaps more importantly also contested its assets. After attempts at agreement failed, the whole matter ended in the Scottish courts. The litigation was initially decided in favour of the Free Church, but in the end the matter was settled by Parliamentary intervention.
The life of the church
By 1906, a Free Church College had been re-established in Edinburgh. By 1925, there were 91 ministers and 170 congregations, in 12 Presbyteries. The general magazine of the Free Church is "The Monthly Record" and there are magazines for young people. Two of the professors in the Free Church College began a theological journal the "Evangelical Quarterly" in 1929, but in 1942 control passed outside the church initially to Inter Varsity Fellowship. Today the College offers degrees in conjunction with the University of Glasgow.
Post-1945, the FC engaged with the wider evangelical cause, but after its growth in the early decades, it began a statistical decline that, except for a short period in the 1980s, has continued to this day. Currently it has a community of about 12,000 including about 5000 communicants, and is evidencing a greater effort to bring the Gospel to bear upon an increasingly secular society.
The church today maintains its strong commitment to the
Westminster Confessionand Reformed Theology. It continues in the traditional style of Scottish Presbyterian worship, chiefly the sole use of the Psalms in metrical form, sung unaccompanied. A complete Psalterin modern English was published in 2003. Its offices and College remain on The Mound, Edinburgh, although the denomination no longer holds the original Free Church College buildings.
The Free Church continues to be Evangelical, presenting its understanding of the Christian message, namely that Jesus Christ is Lord and Saviour. New churches continue to be planted, most recently in Dunfermline and St Andrews. There has been an increase in the numbers applying to the Free Church ministry, and studying in its Saturday course (provided by the Free Church College).Fact|date=October 2008
The Free Church of Scotland belongs to the
International Conference of Reformed Churches. It has maintained an extensive missionary commitment for its size, with former missions in India, Peru and South Africa now having self-governing status. There is a close relationship with the Presbyterian Church of Eastern Australia.
From the 1980s there was dissatisfaction with the manner in which allegations against Professor
Donald Macleodof the Free Church were handled. No allegations were ever proven against Professor Macleod. In January 2000, following charges of contumacy, over twenty ministers were removed from their pulpits. These and other ministers now form the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing)(FCC). They are approximately 20% of the ministerial strength of the pre-2000 Free Church of Scotland.
Following their departure, FCC sought a declarator from the Court of Session as to ownership of the central funds and properties of the Church. In a landmark decision, Lady Paton dismissed their action without granting absolvitor [http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/opinions/2005CSOH46.html] . The FCC then marked their intention to appeal Lady Paton's opinion, but ultimately chose not to proceed. In March 2007 The Free Church of Scotland proceeded to take legal action at Broadford, in the
Isle of Skye, seeking to reclaim the church manse.
There are over 100 congregations throughout Scotland as well as two in London and five in North America. Some of the congregations are: "Bon Accord (Aberdeen); Coigach; Ayr; Back,Isle of Lewis; Dingwall & Strathpeffer; Dundee St Peter's; East Kilbride; Edinburgh - Buccleuch & Greyfriars, St Columba's, Leith; Golspie; Glasgow - Dowanvale, St Vincent Street, Govanhill; Inverness - Free North, Greyfriars & Stratherrick, Smithton Culloden; Knockbain; London City; Cobham; Rosskeen; Scalpay; St Andrews; Dunfermline; Kirkcaldy; Tain; Ullapool; Paisley; Elgin and Forres."
Cameron, N. "et al" (eds) "Dictionary of Scottish Church History and Theology", Edinburgh T&T Clark 1993.
* [http://www.freechurch.org/ Official website]
* [http://www.freescotcoll.ac.uk/ Free Church of Scotland College]
* [http://www.freechurch.org/churches/websites.htm Congregational Websites]
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