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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).
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Free Church of Scotland (Scottish Gaelic: An Eaglais Shaor)[1] is that part of the original Free Church of Scotland that remained outside of the union with the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland in 1900. It remains a distinct Presbyterian denomination in Scotland to 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 Scotland to 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, 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 with most being found in the Gaelic-speaking districts of Scotland.

The initial problems were obvious: her congregations soon grew in number, but were far apart; there were not nearly enough ministers; the church was treated in a hostile manner by the United Free Church; work was conducted under considerable hardship and there was little success in appealing to the general popular sentiment of Scotland. However, the revenue of the church gradually increased; in 1901, the sustentation fund was able to support only 75 ministers, but by 1903 it maintained 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, but also claimed its assets. After attempts at agreement failed, the matter ended in the Scottish courts. The litigation was initially decided in favour of the Free Church, but in the end the issue was settled by Parliamentary intervention.

The life of the church

The St. Vincent Street Church, Glasgow, designed by Alexander "Greek" Thomson is owned by the City of Glasgow and currently rented to a Free Church of Scotland congregation.

In 1906, a Free Church College was re-established in Edinburgh and 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 Free Church 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. As of 2000, it has a community of about 12,000 including some 5,000 communicants, and is evidencing a greater effort to bring the Gospel to bear upon an increasingly secular society.

The church maintains its strong commitment to the Westminster Confession and 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 psalter in modern English was published in 2003. Its offices and theological 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 in character, presenting its understanding of the Christian message, namely that Jesus Christ is sole Lord and Saviour. New churches continue to be planted, most recently in Dunfermline and St Andrews in Fife. 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).

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.

2000 events

The Free ChurchLogo

From the 1980s there was dissatisfaction with the manner in which allegations against Professor Donald Macleod of 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, the Free Church Continuing 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.[2] The Continuing Church 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, and various on Prince Edward Island.



Cameron, N. et al. (eds) Dictionary of Scottish Church History and Theology, Edinburgh T&T Clark 1993.

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