Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The history of a denomination: XXI.

The Assembly of 1921 was somewhat overshadowed by the miners' strike and the situation in Southern Ireland - practically a civil war.
The Moderator of the 1921 Assembly was Rev. Mr. Adam Philip of Invergowrie, whose only distinction was that of having been minister of the Free (and later United Free) Church there for forty years. It is a striking indication of the undue influence of the cities that Mr. Philip was the only country minister appointed Moderator in all the thirty years of the United Free Church. Mr. Philip's father, rev. Dr. George Philip, had been Thomas Guthrie's successor in Free St. John's (the building now called Free St. Cloumba's), Edinburgh. Adam Philip had been one of those ministers who prop up the Church, the men who live and work far from the attention of men, and yet who do, in many cases, far more good than half the D.D.'s ever created.
The Assambly had to appoint a new Principal to the Glasgow College. They chose Professor William M. Clow of the College.
Church Union was a matter that had been before the United Free Church from its inception. Many had looked upon it as the beginning, the nucleus, of a united Scottish Church. So when a proposal from the Church Of England was brought before the two Assemblies of the Church of Scotland and the United Free Church, proposing conference with a view to closer co-operation and unity, it was seen as a great thing, and a desirable thing. Of course there could be no immediate action on the plan (and the Anglo-Catholic insistence on episcopal ordination and apostolic succession would eventually ruin everything), but it was accepted as a good sign.
Of more lasting importance were the dealings between the two Presbyterian Churches. The Government had laid a bill before pariament a bill to recognise the Church of Scotland's spiritual independence in her new constitution, and both parties were sympathetic to the Church's claims. The United Free Assembly only had to express approval of the bill and wait for a further bill that would deal with the 'temporalities' of the Church, property, endowments and so on. The desire of the majority was that they would so be dealt with the the Church should be absolute mistress of such property as Parliament should declare to be hers.
Dr. Henderson presented the report of the Union Committee with great enthusiasm. At eighty-four he could now see that great union gleaming ahead of him, and the vision excited him. He moved that the Church welcome the Parliamentary bill, and assumed that the Parliament would swiftly introduce another bill to set the Church of Scotland free from any remaining restraint.
It was not welcomed by all. James Barr contended that, before ANY union negotiations could be entered into, the Church of Scotland had to be disestablished and disendowed. As such it was completely irrelevant. The deliverance of the committee had nothing to do with the question of the negotiations for union, but with the conditions for such negotiations to take place. While James Barr gave a moving and eloquent speech, it was a speech that had little to do with the matter in hand. Instead he spent his time criticising state endowments.
James Barr's motion was ineffective.
The College Committee that year submitted a reconstructed curriculum for Divinity students. As well as trying to shorten the course, they wanted to introduce two new subjects (!!!), namely Sociology and Paedagogy. Since no-one in the Assembly could pronounce the latter Principal Martin had no trouble convincing them to send the revised curriculum back to whence it came for fuller consideration.
A group of socialists in the United Free Church Social Problems Committee presented a gradiose scheme for co-ordinating the affairs of all the various Church Committees dealing with public affairs and morals. The scheme had every advantage except one - that it was quite unworkable. In fact the members of the committee were labouring under the delusion that the Church must take care of all society's social problems. There is in fact only one social problem before the Church AS SUCH, namely how to preach the Gospel to those who are perishing. It is the Gospel itself, not welfare schemes, that will reform society and guide christian governors in their duty under God.
These socialist dreamers were defeated.
The Temperance Committee was also disappointed (as were many would-be bootleggers) that the government was dragging its heels over prohibition.
As the Assembly closed the Moderator called it to affirm the God of the Bible and to fight for His Kingdom.
As for wht lay ahead, that will be our subject, God willing, next time.



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