Friday, February 02, 2007

The History of a denomination: XIV.

The Assembly of 1913 was presided over by Principal James Iverach of Aberdeen. In many ways Iverach was like Rainy - a rather elusive figure in his utterances, and unquestionably brilliant. Iverach was one of the supporters of 'academic freedom' in the Free Church Colleges - an academic freedom that paid scant regard to the Bible and preferred human philosophy to the Oracles of God! He was utterly impatient with all criticism of what was going on in the colleges.

There was no sign as yet of the European crisis that was about to burst on the scene. Indeed the Assembly actually sent a message to the Kaiser congratulating him on the marriage of his daughter and expressing the hope that the peaceful relations between Germany and Great Britain might be for ever preserved unbroken.
Many United Free Church ministers had studied in Germany, after all, and it was German liberal theology that was responsible, humanly speaking, for the theological down-grade in the Church. Once war had broken out in 1914 many of these men would distance themselves from Germany, but in 1913 there was no such desire.
A Chinese Christian, General Chang, Military Secretary to the Republical government of China, appeared before the Assembly, seeking their support in his efforts to persuade the British Government to stop the Opium trade and to remove all opium stocks from the treaty ports. It is a cause for shame that this nation was ever involved in such a massive drug-running operation. Of course the Assembly agreed to give what support they could - no Christian body worthy of the name could have done less.
Union matters continued to loom large in the Assembly. The mechanism of the United Free Church moved exceeding slowly, but it was caution in a good cause. The Church of Scotland had conceded that union was only possible on the platform of Spiritual Independence (the principle on which the Disruption of 1843 had taken place). The Church of Scotland was willing to adopt a new constitution on this basis. Having adopted the constitution they would go to parliament seeking, not ratification, but recognition of the fact. They wanted the United Free Church to assist in the framing of this new constitution.
The United Free Church stood at the brink of union, and some United Presbyterian and Free Church old hands hung back. The whole question of Establishment remained. Dr. Whitelaw moved that the statutory connection of Church and state be put out of the question. James Barr of Glasgow, former Free Church minister and a socialist, was one of the leaders of the disestablishment party, and he was vehement in upholding his position. But Whitelaw dropped his amendment to the motion accepting the Church of Scotland's offer, and an amendment asking that the relation of the future united Church to the state be clarified was adopted.
A sign of things to come was seen when the Church of Scotland Moderator for that year, Dr. Wallace Williamson, visited the United Free Assembly on its last day. "Our brethren are over the way (in the Church of Scotland Assembly Hall) discussing the things concerning the Kingdom, and here am I; and I have never been over the way to say 'God bless you,'" he said had been his though. So he had resolved to come - and there he was.

A war was coming, but there would be one more Assembly before it came. God willing that will be our subject next time.



Post a Comment

<< Home