Monday, February 27, 2006

"Rainy wi'oot the Principal". XXV.

The United Free Church of Scotland had been formed in October 1900 by the union of the United Presbyterian church and the majority of the Free Church of Scotland. Both uniting Churches had taken their name and property into the United Free Church. For the United Presbyterians this was no problem, but a few Free Church ministers - twenty-seven in all - had refused to enter the union, and they were now faced with two options; either meekly surrender the name of the Free Church of Scotland, together with their meeting-houses, or claim, in court, to be the Free Church of Scotland. The minority chose the latter, putting in a claim to the Cpurt of Session declaring that they and those adhering to them represented the Free Church of Scotland and, as such, they claimed the whole land, property and funds belonging to the Free Church.
Some have criticised the minority for this. Could they not have been content with their buildings? Why did they have to claim everything when they were manifestly incapable of actually using the whole property of the Free Church? But such an objection misses the point. Just as the contest at the Disruption had not merely been about Patronage, but about the rights of the Christian people to choose their own ministers, the contest in 1900 was not really about physical property, but about something far more intangible - it was about a name. It just happened that the only way the minority could make good their claim to that name was to lay claim, in the courts, to all the property held in that name.
This was why the minority felt they could not accept the offers that had been hinted at at the last minute by the United Free Church, and the result was painful. In a counter-claim the United Free Church, unwilling to give the name of the Free Church of Scotland to the minority, claimed the Church buildings that remained in the hands of the minority of the Church. There would be no quarter until the courts had given the name of the Free Church of Scotland to one or the other. Then, and only then, could the question of who ought to have which church buildings be dealt with.
Rainy and the United Free Church felt secure. They had the second-biggest Church in the whole country, almost as big as the Church of Scotland (many U.F. Churchmen claimed that the U.F. Church was larger than the Church of Scotland). How could twenty-seven ministers possibly have their claim for a small majority of that Church's property?
So it seemed that Rainy had triumphantly reached the climax of his long career, and could look forward to spending the rest of his ministry in quiet, maybe even writing the biography of Augustine that he had been intnding to write for so long.
In 1901 he celebrated the jubilee of his ordination, and he resigned, with regret, the New College chair of Church History, which he passed on to Professor A.R. MacEwan. MacEwan had been Professor of Church History at the United Presbyterian college in Edinburgh, which had been closed and its professors distributed among the old Free Church Colleges. Rainy retained his principalship of course, and therefore his place in the councils of the United Free Church.
ainy recieved gifts and accolades from the New College, the Assembly, and the United Free High Church, where he had been a minister. Rainy was overwhelmed by so many tokens of esteem. But after the joy was to come more trouble; the United Church was not to remain at peace.
Next time, God willing, we shall see what it was that first disturbed the peace of the Union.



Blogger C G said...

Talking to Martin Grubb last night about you but didn't know your name - can't find it anywhere online either! Could you oblige? Thanks...

8:39 am  
Blogger Highland Host said...

My identity is a closely guarded secret. But Mr. G. Charmley. is close enough.

2:19 pm  

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