Scotland, Church of

views updated May 29 2018


The origins of the Church of Scotland are not to be found in 1560, but much earlier, if not with the Scottish Lollards, at least shortly after Martin Luther's Theses of 1517. The passionate treatise on the Word by Patrick Hamilton (burned for heresy Feb. 29, 1529) and the more irenic works of Alexander Alane (150065, renamed Alesius by Melanchthon), were influenced by contact with Marburg and Wittenberg. With George wishart's translation of the Swiss Confession of Faith can be seen the beginnings of that influence from Zurich and Geneva, later so pervasive (see confessions of faith, protestant). The name of Alesius was associated with Philipp melanchthon and the augsburg confession [and therefore with John Macalpine (Machabaeus, d. 1557), later to be one of the panel of translators of the Danish Bible] and at the same time with the English Service Book. There was a period in 1543 when it looked as though an English version of the Reform might have been adopted by the Regent James Hamilton, Earl of Arran (d.1575), well-suited to the role of "godly prince" in the place of the See of Rome. After Luther's death, the leadership of the Reform having passed over to John Calvin, this, plus traditional Scottish associations with an old ally, helped to reinforce French intellectual influence at a time when, under Mary of Lorraine, French political influence was being resisted. The Lords of the Congregation, who banded together under John Knox's inspiration in 1557, accepted the theological leadership of Geneva without a precise idea of what it might mean, and the first underground "privy" kirks used the English Prayer Book. It is quite clear that the Catholic catechism of 1552 did not appreciate how rapidly the position was changing.

Role of the "Godly Prince." Even the men who drew up the First Book of Discipline of 1560, though trained abroad, were not all necessarily enthusiasts for a single church order. Knox himself underlined the diversity of current opinion; of his collaborators, John Row (1525?80) had long been an agent in the Roman Curia, John Douglas a medical graduate of Paris, and John Willock (d. 1585) a correspondent of Heinrich bullinger. Hence it would not be correct to envisage presbyterianism as existing from the date of the 1560 Reformation Parliament that abolished papal jurisdiction or to deduce that the removal of the medieval Mass meant the removal of all medieval practices and habits of thought. The Scottish Reformers, Knox among them, still hoped for a "godly prince" or a "godly magistrate" (more applicable to the self-contained municipalities of Geneva or Strassburg than to the contemporary Scottish burgh) to preside at their General Assemblies. The new superintendents were like the old bishops "writ small"; as a matter of fact, one of the superintendents had the title archbishop of Athens before seceding from Rome.

Mary Queen of Scots continued to adhere to Rome, however, and could not function as "godly prince." The Lords were slow to digest Genevan ideas, and the First Book of Discipline's idealistic projects for social and educational service remained as yet paper projects. Policy, if not theology, suggested that conformity to England was preferable to conformity to Geneva. After Mary's deposition, her Protestant half brother, James Stewart, Earl of Moray (d. 1570), settled the succession and the Establishment and strengthened the lay patrons, failing to make adequate provision for traditional Church responsibilities, such as the hospital services. The General Assemblies, originally to be councils of the people of God investigating His will for the nation, were not permitted to acquire that role either by the regents or by James VI, Mary's son and successor. As a result, the Kirk drifted into the next century uncertain about the relation of the higher secular powers and its main assembly.

The Two Kirk Parties. The Presbyterianizing process was accelerated by the arrival from Geneva after Knox's death of Andrew melville. Replacing the notion of the king as prince with that of the king as vassal in the Kirk, in his Second Book of Discipline he devised a new constitution in which superintendent, bishop, and minister were titles of the same pastoral office. In addition to the local kirk with its Kirk Session court, the ministry was to be strengthened with the new court of the Presbytery (at first a sort of "deanery" gathering for the spiritual "exercise"). Melville had the support of the younger ministry, collaborating to secure their stipends and their role as welfare officers, but also embracing a program of political agitation. The principle of conformity with England, which Moray and later James Douglas, Earl of Morton (d. 1581), had sponsored and which it became increasingly King James's policy to foster, was overthrown, and the claim of the middle and lower classes stressed, in the face of that of the nobles, the bishops, and the Crown. Thus were formed the two Kirk parties and later the two Kirks, episcopalian and presbyterian.

Struggles of the Presbytery. In all this conflict over ministerial parity, even after James VI became King of England as well (as James I, 160325), the actual worshipers were little involved, until the Perth Assembly of 1618, under royal pressure, attempted to enforce a more English type of liturgy, an attempt taken up again by Charles I (162549) in the so-called Laud's Liturgy. The result was the 1638 National Covenant, whereby signatories from all citizen categories, while emphasizing their loyalty, rejected bishops and episcopal worship. Soon, however, by the Solemn League and Covenant of 1643, they were involved in asserting "the Crown Rights of the Redeemer" in the rest of the United Kingdom, becoming apostles of intolerance of any spiritual kingdom except a Presbyterian one. The Westminster Confession (1648), a subordinate standard of faith, was a product of this league. After the Cromwellian Union (1654), the Stuart kings continued their exercise of divine right in conjunction with episcopal divine right. They were opposed by the covenanters, the Bible-dominated and Bibleinspired mystics who were persecuted with a harshness the memory of which is hard to obliterate. With the arrival in 1688 of William of Orange and the ejection of the Episcopalian "curates," William Carstares (16491715) arranged a marriage of convenience whereby the leaders of the Presbyterian rebels became courtly adherents of the Crown Establishment, and as such were in time to breed their own dissenting families.

Question of Patronage. In Queen Anne's reign (170214), the problem of lay patronage raised problems in a pro-Hanoverian kirk, that time was slow to solve. The Moderates, an enlightened, but somewhat cold, remote, and ineffectual group, had the task of persuading the passionate religious rebels to put their trust in princes. They made the Establishment culturally respectable at the cost of alienating popular religion, so that an "associate" presbytery and "secession" and "relief" kirks mushroomed up beside the Establishment. The French Revolution and industrial change aggravated such problems as pluralities, antiquated parochial divisions, and seat rents (the synod, which still exists, is based on medieval divisions); and Thomas Chalmers (17801847) led the agitation against patronage generally, which led to the exodus from the 1843 Assembly of over one-third of the ministry, impoverishing both Kirk and university. Some goodwill returned when the Patronage Act three decades later restored power to the congregations. Problems of extension, of the "voluntary principle" as against state control, and of reunion were to occupy the new century; and in 1900 the Free Church (except for a remnant called "Wee Frees") joined with the United Presbyterians to form the United Free Church, which in 1929 (except for the inevitable remnant) reunited with the Church of Scotland.

Twentieth-Century Trends. The postWorld War II period saw the release of the controversial "Bishops Report" regarding which, as in Knox's day, there were diverse opinions. Although many would have deplored the attempt to identify the Church with its institutional structure or were more interested in the newer theological approaches, for others the Kirk was growing from the grass roots upward, and the Presbytery was the nucleus of ecclesiastical authority, the final court of decision. There was a new stress on: (1) the Cup as well as the Book that rejoins Calvin rather than 17th-century Eucharistic practice; (2) a new search for dignified worship, and not only on the part of the Iona Community; this was founded in 1938 by George Macleod (b. 1895) to rebuild the ancient abbey of iona; and (3) a departure from the narrow moralism and windy rhetoric of the earlier days. Many of the original threads of incipient Presbyterianism were still recognizably there and make of the modern Church of Scotland a more complex structure than ecclesiastical polemics have generally allowed.

Bibliography: d. mcroberts, ed., Essays on the Scottish Reformation, 15131625 (Glasgow 1962). j. t. cox, ed., Practice and Procedure in the Church of Scotland (2d ed. Edinburgh 1939). j. knox, History of the Reformation in Scotland, ed. w. c. dickinson, 2 v. (New York 1949). j. h. s. burleigh, A Church History of Scotland (New York 1960). a. r. macewen, A History of the Church in Scotland, 3961560, 2 v. (London 191318). w. d. maxwell, A History of Worship in the Church of Scotland (New York 1955). g. d. henderson, The Claims of the Church of Scotland (London 1951). g. donaldson, The Scottish Reformation (Cambridge, Eng.1960). d. shaw, The General Assemblies of the Church of Scotland, 15601600 (Edinburgh 1964). g. donaldson, The Making of the Scottish Prayer Book of 1637 (Edinburgh 1954). h. j. wotherspoon and j. m. kirkpatrick, A Manual of Church Doctrine, ed. t. f. torrance and r. s. wright (2d ed. New York 1960). m. b. macgregor, The Sources and Literature of Scottish Church History (Glasgow 1934), standard work. r. s. louden, The True Face of the Kirk (London 1963).

[j. durkan/eds.]

Church of Scotland

views updated May 23 2018

Church of Scotland. The church claims continuity from Ninian and Columba. Although the Scottish Reformation's first impact was lutheran, the return of John Knox from Geneva in 1559 led to the Church's reconstruction on presbyterian lines, a process not completed until 1690. In between kirk and crown battled as to whether Scotland's ecclesiastical system should be presbyterian or episcopalian. Presbyterianism was advanced by the first General Assembly (1560), the first presbytery (Edinburgh 1581), agreed by the monarch (1586) and ratified by Parliament (1642). Its popular status was affirmed by the National Covenant (1638), the Solemn League and Covenant (1643), and the Westminster Assembly (1643–52). Episcopalianism was advanced by the Stuart monarchs' steady preference, the imposition of the Prayer Book (1637), and the restoration of episcopacy (1660). The conflict was intensified by the assassination of Archbishop Sharp of St Andrews (1679), and resolved by the revolution of 1688: all ministers must subscribe to the Westminster confession. In the 18th cent. the now dominant church was weakened by secession; and the growth of two parties, one favouring the rights of patronage in ministerial settlements, the other favouring congregational rights, led to the Disruption of 1843, and the formation of the Free Church. Thereafter a pattern of reunion developed, although each one also resulted in a remnant. The secession and relief churches formed the United Presbyterian Church in 1847; the United Presbyterian and Free Churches became the United Free Church in 1900. At the same time patronage was abolished (1874), there was a significant liturgical revival, and the Church of Scotland Act (1921), which explicitly declared the church's spiritual freedom, paved the way for union with the United Free Church (1929), in the context of an establishment purged of what had fuelled earlier secessions. The General Assembly was now equally composed of ministers and elders, and women were admitted to both eldership (1966) and ministry (1968). If the church's membership accounted for under a quarter of the adult population by the 1990s, its cultural impact on the nation remained profound.

Clyde Binfield

Church of Scotland

views updated May 23 2018

Church of Scotland National non-episcopal form of Christianity in Scotland, adopting Presbyterianism by constitutional act in 1689. The Church arose as a separate entity during the Reformation. Under the leadership of John Knox, it abolished papal authority and accepted many of the teachings of John Calvin. The doctrinal position of the Church is based on the Scottish Confession (1560) and the Westminster Confession of 1643. The highest authority of the Church of Scotland resides in the General Assembly, presided over by an annually elected moderator. The Disruption of 1843 led to about one-third of its ministers and members leaving to form the Free Church of Scotland. The spiritual independence of the Church was recognized by an act of parliament in 1921, although this did not affect its status as the established Church in Scotland. The Church has c.850,000 members.

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