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Free Church of Scotland

Free Church of Scotland. This issued from the Disruption of 1843, when those unable to accept the infringements of the Church of Scotland's right of self-government which the Auchterarder case (1838–9) highlighted seceded under Thomas Chalmers (1780–1847). The result can be regarded as a dramatic tribute to voluntaryism (and Scottish middle-class affluence), or a wasteful duplication of resources: 500 ministers, 600 schools, 700 new churches by 1847; missionary work in India and central Africa; ministerial training renowned for its intellectual rigour. Under a powerful Edinburgh leadership, this church, claiming continuity from the Reformation's Church of Scotland, and retaining the Westminster confession and longer and shorter catechisms, steadily moderated its theological conservatism. It affirmed its political liberalism, developed a centralized financial system new to presbyterianism, and united with other presbyterian secessions: the original seceders (1852), the Reformed Presbyterian Church (1876), and the United Presbyterians (1900), thus forming the United Free Church which joined with the Church of Scotland in 1929. Inevitably each union bred its rump. The Free Presbyterians seceded in 1893, alarmed at the Declaratory Act of 1892, which modified the binding force of the Free Church's original formularies, and a remnant (the ‘Wee Frees’) has survived the union of 1900, confirmed in its property by the Free Church case (1904), conservative in theology, strong in the Highlands, and active in missions to India and southern Africa.

Clyde Binfield

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Scotland, Free Church of

Free Church of Scotland, the secessionist Presbyterian church established as a result of the great disruption of 1843 in the Church of Scotland. The cause of the separation lay in the demand of the laity for a voice in matters of patronage. Previously abolished, patronage had been restored in 1712; protests and remonstrances resulted. In cases brought up for decision, civil and ecclesiastical courts disagreed with each other. The intrusion of ministers upon unwilling congregations became a serious issue. Congregations everywhere were divided. In 1843, after 10 years of conflict, a body of nonintrusionists in the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland signed a protest, withdrew, and constituted themselves the first Assembly of the Free Church. Thomas Chalmers was their leader and organizer. Over 470 ministers (out of 1,200) and professors who formed the center of the movement signed a deed of demission, giving up their claims to any benefits of the Established Church. There was no divergence from the accustomed doctrine, discipline, or worship. New College at Edinburgh was established by the Free Church. All but a minority of the Free Church entered a union (1900) with the United Presbyterian Church as the United Free Church of Scotland. In 1929 most rejoined the Church of Scotland. Those who did not objected to state recognition of any church. This group of 70 congregations continues to be known as the United Free Church of Scotland.

See K. R. Ross, Church and Creed in Scotland (1988).

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Free Church of Scotland

Free Church of Scotland Grouping of Scottish Presbyterians formed as a result of the secession of nearly one-third of the membership of the established Church of Scotland in the Disruption of 1843. In 1900, all but a small minority of this Free Church joined the United Presbyterian Church to become the United Free Church of Scotland. In 1929, after the acceptance of the Church of Scotland's spiritual independence, the United Free Church of Scotland reunited with it. The tiny Presbyterian minority who had opposed the initial union retained their independence and kept the name United Free Church.

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Free Church of Scotland

Free Church of Scotland: see Scotland, Free Church of.

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