Thursday, March 15, 2007

The history of a denomination: XXVI.

(Blogger's playing silly beggars, so no illustration today)
1926 was notorious as the year of the General Strike, when the Trade Unions tried to overrule constitutional government and hold the country to ransom by a mass walk-out. It was over before the Assembly met, ended as Mr. Baldwin said, by "the triumph of commonsense." The Socialists had planned to bring down the government, and although they succeeded in costing the United Kingdom millions, they failed. There was no revolution.
The Assemblies were somewhat disturbed by the strike. They had to meet on the arranged days, but the strike affected public transport. Officials of the Assemblies arranged to meet on 18th May to transact necessary business, then the Assemblis were adjouned until 22nd June. In fact the strike only lasted from the 4th to the 12th of May, and the Assemblies were able to resume on 1st June.
The Moderator of the United Free Assembly in 1926 was Dr. George Herbert Morrison of Wellington Church, Glasgow (it has already been noted that the cities were over-represented among the Moderators of the United Free Church). Dr. Morrison was a Glasgow man, educated at the University and the United Free Church College there.
The 1926 Assembly, as well as being affected by Communism, was also affected by feminism (though at that time there was no thought of calling it Evangelical). Four Presbyteries, one in the mission field, sent an overture to the Assembly concerning the ordination of women to the eldership and ministry. Although claiming to be based on Scripture, the arguments in favour of the motion noticable ignored the Bible passesages that did NOT work in their favour. One man, Dr. Frank Knight, argued that 'lalein', the Greek verb rendered 'speak' in I Corinthians 14.34 meant 'to chatter'. One wonders how competent Dr. Knight's Greek really was if he thought that!
The Assembly did not just dismiss the proposal, but it was thought to be the wrong time to be dealing with such a serious matter, since the United Free Church was considering union with another Church that was not even considering the matter. After a healthy debate the question was dropped and the feminists were left unsatisfied.
The miners' strike was still going on when the Assembly met, and they recieved a deputation from the Scottish miners made up of three Socialist MPs. The deputies were less than honest with the Assembly, apparently forgetting that many of the delegates in the Assembly knew as much as they did about the miners - if not more. They knew many miners did not approve of the strke and were opposed to the policy of the Trade Unions. The Moderator politely thanked the deputies for their address, expressed sympathy with the miners, and explained that the United Free Church of Scotland could not pass an opinion on the situation.
Stanley Baldwin himself visited the 1926 Assembly and spoke to them, expressing his sympathy with them for seeking points of agreement rather than disagreement. The Moderator thanked Mr. Baldwin and presented a bouquet of flowers to Mrs. Baldwin.
Dr. McCallum of Larkhall (near Glasgow), Moderator of the Church of Scotland, came with the greetings of his brethren. He said that the friendly conference between the two Churches had developed into a genuine 'courtship', and the Auld Kirk was only waiting for the United Free Church to 'name the day'. The Church of Scotland was now free from state control, what more was there to hinder Union?
As Dr. Henderson was incapacitated by the infirmities that would ultimately end his life, the report of the Conference Committee was given by Principal Martin of New College. Once again, as in 1900, the Principal of New College would lead the Union campaign - but Robert Rainy had hardly been the man who would lead a movement towards union with the Church of Scotland!
The Church had been polled on the question of Union, and the turnout had been low. It seemed most members of the United Free Church did not really care what their Church was called! Even in congregations which had voted against the union less than half of the membership had voted. Some of this was undoubtedly due to members who did not actually attend Church at all,, but that still left a lot of apathetic members. Martin pleaded to and end of 'ecclesiastical disputation'. The deliverance of the Assembly approved the report and proposed to appoint a special committee of a hundred members to prepare, in conjunction with a Church of Scotland committee, a provisional basis and plan of union.
Of course there was opposition. 285 congregations had declared against Union and 475 were, in the opinion of Mr. A. M. Smith of Moffat, 'seriously divided' (according to a very generous definition of 'seriously'). It was observed by a member of the Conference Committee that he had already heard all the speeches on the opposition side several times. The vote was 631 in favour of going forward and 115 for delay.
The Conference Committee was discharged, and in its place was appointed a new Committee. Offcially it retained the old name, but in fact it was known by a new name - the UNION Committee.

God willing, next time we shall see how that committee, and the rest of the Church, conducted itself through the Assembly of 1927.



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