The history of a denomination: XVIII.
The Assembly of 1918 did not meet in the glow of peace, but amidst the crash of nations. The war had apparently just taken an alarming turn for the worst. The German armies had mounted their last great offensive, and once again shells were bursting in the streets of Paris (see illustration). The Allied forces in Western Europe found themselves 'with their backs to the wall,' as General Haig put it.
The United Free Assembly met under this cloud. It seemed that the war was far from over.
The moderator was Dr. Robert J. Drummond of Edinburgh, the youngest Moderator the Church had ever had. At thirty-five he seemed far TOO young to some, but to others he was a sign that the old guard were on their way out.
Some were anxious that he would dress as Principal Hutton and John Young had - in ordinary ministerial garb. They need not have worried, youthful though he was, Drummond had regard for the traditions of the Assembly and made a splendid Moderator.
In his address he spoke of the peace that was sure to come. The country, he emphasised, would be talking about reconstruction. For the Church the aim was rededication. But like too many of his generation, he was under the delusive spell that mankindf would learn reason and sense from the war, and that utopia was just around the corner. Events would prove otherwise. Another worrying trend he himself called attention to - attendance on the opening devotions of the Assembly was falling off again.
The greatest shock to the Church in the period since the last Assembly was the death of James Denney. He died relatively young and very much unexpectedly. His place was filled up by Dr. Archibald Henderson.
Although the war was not yet over, it was felt best to resume negotiations with the Church of Scotland concerning future union. The question of the lawfulness of ANY official church-state connection at all was the great sticking-point, but the movement would not stick for long!
The question of women in the Church had been raised very much as the war had highlighted in a way the Suffragettes couldf not the importance of women in the state. It was moved before the Assembly that there was no bar to women in the diaconate provided they were not ordained. This was apparently not due to any great desire among United Free Church women to serve as deacons, but due to the concern of some members of the Assembly that many men who would otherwise have served as deacons had perised in the War.
The matter of female suffrage also came up. The Women's Society of United Free St. George's petitioned the Assembly concerning the instruction of women newly granted the vote in the use of their new responsibility as Christian voters. The Assembly unfortunately rushed into a scheme without actually thinking it through.
The final noted sight at the Assembly of 1918 was David Lloyd-George. The Prime Minister paid a visit to the Assemblies that year. He was not impressed by the United Free Church. For its part the United Free Church was far too impressed by David Lloyd George.
And there, on the verge of peace, we must leave them until next time when, God willing, we shall see how the United Free Church met that peace.
Labels: United Free Church