Free Church of Scotland

Part of the Scottish Church seceded (divided) from the Church of Scotland in the Disruption of 1843. It called itself the Free Church of Scotland.
The Free Church was formed by Evangelicals who broke from the Church of Scotland in protest against what they regarded as the state's encroachment on the spiritual independence of the Church.
The first task of the new 'Free' Church was to provide income for the initial 500 ministers and places of worship for the congregations. From 1843 this denomination hoped to be the national church of the Scottish people, and set the ambitious task of establishing a representation in every parish in Scotland (except in the Highlands, where this proved difficult.) The church building programme produced 470 new buildings within a year and over 700 by 1847. Manses and over 700 schools soon followed. This program was made possible by extraordinary financial generosity, which came from the Evangelical awakening and the wealth of the emerging middle class.
The Free Church created a Sustentation Fund, the brainchild of the church's founder Thomas Chalmers, congregations contributed to this according to their means, and from this fund all ministers received an 'equal dividend' and provided a modest income for 583 ministers in 1843/4, and by 1900 was able to provide an income for nearly 1200. This sharing and centralisation of resources was previously unknown within the Church of Scotland. However the Church of Scotland later adopted this.The educated ministry was seen as important within the Free Church, but because the Church of Scotland controlled the divinity faculties of the universities, the Free Church had to set up its own colleges. New College was opened in 1850. Christ's College and Trinity College followed later. The first generation of professors were enthusiastic proponents of Westminster Calvinism. This did not last long, as theologians such as Dr A. B. Bruce, Marcus Dods and George Adam Smith began to teach a more liberal understanding of the faith. 'Believing criticism' of the Bible was a central approach taught by William Robertson Smith. Attempts were made between 1890 and 1895 to bring many of these professors to the bar of the Assembly on charges of heresy, which failed, with only minor warnings being issued.

In 1892 the Free Church, following the example of the United Presbyterian Church and the Church of Scotland, passed a Declaratory Act relaxing the standard of subscription to the confession, with the result that a small number of congregations and even fewer ministers (mostly in the Highlands) severed their connection with the church and formed the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland.

 In 1900 the Free Church itself divided, with a portion of it joining the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland. The enlarged United Presbyterian Church of Scotland later re-joined the Church of Scotland in 1929! The remaining part is what is known as the Free Church of Scotland today. It is Presbyterian and Calvinist.

Links
Free Church of Scotland

Church of Scotland

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