Monday, April 02, 2007

The history of a denomination: Epilogue.

The history of the United Free Church of Scotland from 1900 to 1929 is very instructive. The thread that runs through it all is that of the United Free Church's relationship with the Church of Scotland. Open hostility in 1900, when the Church of Scotland was rarely referred to by its own name, and disparagingly called 'the Establishment' mellowed into friendship, and friendship became Union! What had once been the leading party, the advocates of disestablishment, became irrelevant and embarassing. The reversal was almost total! Those who had been for leaving the dissenters in 1900 without property or funds or name found themselves the dissenters in 1929.

Just as the Union of 1900 had been seen as a triumphant new beginning, so was the Union of 1929. And in both cases the expected revival did not happen. Why? Well, just as George Reith of Edinburgh said that the dissenters of 1929 might have been better called 'the Disunited Free Church', agreed in little else beyond their opposition to Union, so those who went into the Union disagreed on every point except for the desirability of Union! Liberals who denied the inerrancy of Scripture mingled with stanch Westminster Calvinists. It was a Union in organisation only, not in mind or in heart. In effect, the blessing of God was being asked on that which He had not commanded. The Church of Scotland experienced the same decline as other British denominations. Many of the fine buildings owned by the United Free congregations that went into the Union, but also by Church of Scotland congregations, are now closed. Some have found alternative uses that retained their original interiors and character, most have been gutted and turned into offices or flats or houses. Others are derelict. Some have been demolished. On each is written the old word ‘Ichabod’. The glory has departed.
Am I saying that revival can only be expected in doctrinally orthodox circles, that we need to have our theology right before God will grant a revival? Certainly not! But we cannot BRING ABOUT a revival by ignoring God’s commandments. The main instruments in the revivals of the 18th century in England were ministers in the Church of England, a body which had lost its way.
But what I am saying is that organisations can never replace God’s presence in the Church, and THAT is what we need.



Post a Comment

<< Home