The History of a denomination: VI.
The United Free Assembly of 1905 did not meet in the Assembly Hall at New College. The Law Lords' decision in the Free Church appeal case had awarded the name of the Free Church of Scotland (which readers are reminded is what the case was actually about, not money) to the 'Wee Frees', the present-day Free Church. It was decided that the Free Church majority had legally joined the United Presbyterian Church en masse and therefore the Free Church property belonged to those who had not done so.
The howls of anguish from the United Free Church side may be imagined. It was avowed that the Lord Chancellor's nefarious plot to despoil the United Free Church had succeeded. The small body of Free Churchmen who had been awarded the property, it was said, would have no way to use it, they would fail completely... all sorts of libels and slanders, which we shall not repeat here but brush under the carpet of history, were uttered and circulated. The 'Legal Free Church' as the UF Church contemptuously nicknamed those who desired to uphold their right to a noble name, were depicted as grasping, rapacious Highlanders who wanted to take everything. Panics were created, the faculty of the Glasgow and Aberdeen Colleges took fright that they would be turned out of their buildings...
They were not. In fact the Free Church was most interested in establishing their identity with the Free Church of the Disruption. Had they not done this they would have been turned out of their churches even when no-one in the congregation supported the United Free Church. The UF Church was not interested in compromise, and their reaped the result. Part of the identity of the Disruption Free Church, however, was the 'Citadel', New College and the Free Assembly Hall on The Mound. Thus when the time came for the Assemblies of 1905 it was the Free Church Assembly who met in the vast Assembly Hall (one hundred in a space built for fifteen hundred) and the United Free Church had to meet in the old United Presbyterian Synod Hall (pictured at the end of its existence). Old Uinted Presbyterian ministers ensured that old Free Churchmenen did not get lost in the labyrinthine passages of the building - which had been adapted from several distinct buildings, including a theatre.
Once again Robert Rainy was Moderator. A masterly leader (some said 'evil genuis') Rainy was seen as the man for the hour. A great deal of shouting was done, mostly denouncing the other side (over whom some had been gloating in anticipation only two years previously). Over this we think it best to cast a veil. Mr. Reith thought differently in 1933, but some of the things that were said about the Free Church we think were foolishly said.
The Church and State debate was further reduced now that the possibility of reuinon witrh the Church of Scotland was becoming a real possibility. The old guard such as Rainy saw disestablishment as the only way to that, but younger men were beginning to think differently. What if they could have freedom AND establishment of some sort?
But really the 'Free Church Crisis' gripped the Assembly. Of the outcome we shall read, God willing, next time.
Labels: United Free Church