Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The history of a denomination: XXV.

The Assembly of 1925 met in a very different political atmosphere. The Socialist government was no more, and the Prime Minister was Stanley Baldwin, a Tory (see picture). The country was politically stable again, and the Church of Scotland (Property and Endowments Act) 1925 had been passed and recieved the Royal Assent (this is more of a formality than anything else), clearing the second of the main obstacles to Union out of the way. The United Free Church had stood for 25 years and celebrations were planned -especially since few expected she would have fifty years, much less a centenary, in her present state. Perhaps a 'rump' of a United Free Church would see fifty, but not the united Church as it stood in 1925.
The Moderator in that memorable year was Dr. James Harvey of United Free Lady Glenorchy's, Edinburgh, Senior Principal Clerk of the Assembly.
Of the extra £20,000 needed by the Church's foreign missions, £18,000 had been raised. However £11,000 of expected income had fallen away due to a decrease in income from invested legacies. The Committee was intensely worried, but once again they were enabled to continue, making savings in administration and other matters that did not interfere with the work of overseas mission.
James Barr resigned from his post as Home Mission Secretary due to his victory in the general election. He had stood as Independent Labour candidate for Motherwell and won easily, defeating the sitting member, a Communist who had sealed his doom by sending a telegram reading 'Motherwell has declared for Moscow' to the Russian Soviet after the victory that had put him in place. Motherwell immediately declared against Moscow at the next opportunity. Barr's engergy was thrown into his work as an MP, but he remained the leader of his party in the Assembly, trying to use his position at Westminster to affect the Union plans.
Field-Marshal Earl Haig spoke to the Assembly on behalf of the British Legion, calling on their support for the institution of November 11th as Rememberance Day. The Church agreed.
Brotherly love from the Church of Scotland was in evidence at the visit from 'over the way'. One of the Church of Scotland Commissioners, Lord Sands, freely confessed that he had in his early days come to hate the Free Church with a violent hatred. That old hatred had passed away - as hatreds on the other side had. Abroad the Church of Scotland and United Free Church congregations in Central Africa had united, and at home the Church of Scotland was in full control of its property. Union negotiations proper could now begin. The Churches sought to prepare for a formal Union process most saw would begin in 1926, if a two-thirds majority in both Churches after consultation thought that the main obstacles had been removed.
James Barr moved an amendment denything that they HAD been removed and in his speech he threatened secession. Dr. Henderson declared that the obstacles to union WERE removed, the door was open - all they had to do was step through it. It would be a matter of the two Churches acting together. The state, he said, would be no-where. It was a speech worthy of a Moses - and like Moses, Dr. Henderson would not enter into the rest of his people - this was his last Assembly.
The vote was taken, and James Barr's motion was defeated. More hearteningly, the vote was only 104 in favour of James Barr.

In his closing address the Moderator referred to the history of the United Free Church, a history soon, it was hoped, to merge again with the Church of Scotland from which it had been separated. How this movement went in 1926 will be, God willing, or subject next time.



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