What is the difference between the Free Church of Scotland and the Free Church of Scotland (con)

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Doulos McKenzie

Puritan Board Freshman
I was just wondering what the differences were between the Free Church of Scotland and the Free Church of Scotland (continuing) and also why did they split?

Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
Free Church: Solid, traditional Presbyterians.
Free Church (Continuing): Solid, very traditional Presbyterians.


Puritanboard Amanuensis

* The Right of Continued Protest

by Free Church of Scotland (Continuing). Booklet. 32pp. (2013). Price: £2.50 each for 1-9 copies and £2.00 each for 10 or more copies (inc. p&p).

A document prepared by the Legal Advice & Property Committee of the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) at the request of the General Assembly and in consultation with Presbyteries. It demonstrates that the right of continued protest, which was denied at the time of the division of 2000, was exercised freely at earlier times and is founded upon the Headship of Christ. The document draws the following six conclusions:

"a. The right of protest has its basis in the foundational doctrine of the Headship of Christ which is explicitly taught in Scripture and in the subordinate standards of the Church.

b. The right of protest has been a long-recognised right within the Reformed Church in Scotland and has been exercised particularly when important issues affecting the character and constitution of the Church have been at stake.

c. The right of protest has a continuing aspect which carries with it not only the right to continue protesting within the Courts of the Church but also to campaign outside these Courts to gain acceptance of the position expressed in the protest.

d. The continuing character of the right of protest was freely recognised by General Assemblies of the Free Church in the Nineteenth Century when protesters were free both to submit renewed Protests and to campaign outside Church Courts without fear of being disciplined.

e. Conversely, General Assemblies and Commissions of the Free Church in the period leading up to the Division of 2000 denied the right of continued protest in either of its forms and proceeded unlawfully to discipline and eventually to suspend those who sought legitimately to exercise it.

f. Experience of the right of continued protest in the Free Church of the 19th century provides benchmarks for its use to relieve the conscience, to act consistently with the ordination vow, to safeguard the constitution and to preserve the unity and peace of the Church."


Puritan Board Graduate
All of what has been said above is correct, but I'll add my thoughts to try to fill some of the gaps.

The Free Church (Continuing) holds to the original constitutional principles of the Free Church of Scotland. The residual Free Church (hereafter, RFC), on the other hand, has abandoned many of these principles in order to move in a more "progressive" direction.

Probably the most important example is the matter of confessional subscription. The FC(C) requires all its ministers and ruling elders to subscribe to the entire WCF as their personal confession, without allowing exceptions. The RFC, on the other hand, is tolerant of views at loggerheads with the Confession.

Also, the RFC allows a number of different worship practices and views, while the FC(C) sticks to the classical Presbyterian understanding of the regulative Principle. The issues related to this are, of course, exclusive Psalmody vs. man-made hymns, a capella singing vs. unauthorized instrumentation, and man-made holy days.

I'd hate to pick on a single RFC minister/congregation, but one need look no further than David Robertson, minister of St. Peter's Free Church in Dundee. I just went over to his blog to see if I could find anything relevant to this post, and on the first page, I found images of Christ and a description of what the Easter (!) service was like at St. Peter's Free Church (where they sing uninspired hymns, and play guitars and such). None of this is acceptable in the FC(C).

While one may look at all of this and say, "What's the big deal? This stuff goes on in conservative American Presbyterian churches all the time," we should remember that seventeen years ago, when the split happened, the Free Church didn't have any of this going on. They have changed drastically, despite having been trained up in sound Reformed principles, and despite having taken ordination vows which prohibited this sort of thing.

I don't mean to condemn the folks in the RFC or to act as if they are the outright enemies of Christ. All I mean to say is that they should know better. They have the witness of the Reformation, the Second Reformation, the Secession, the Disruption, and the anti-union party (Union of 1900, that is). They have broken their vows, and disinherited themselves of the principles of the Scottish Reformation. I do not count them as enemies, but would want to admonish them as brothers (2 Thessalonians 3:15).
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Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
d. The continuing character of the right of protest was freely recognised by General Assemblies of the Free Church in the Nineteenth Century when protesters were free both to submit renewed Protests and to campaign outside Church Courts without fear of being disciplined.

That observation is interesting. I know of one brother whom a certain "Reformed" denomination excommunicated for having written e-mails criticising a synodical decision rejecting his appeal. He was deemed worthy of summary rebuke and excommunication (a few weeks later) simply because the mere writing of correspondence in protest at the decision of a church court was deemed to be insubordination. All he was doing, however, was protesting against the toleration of gross heresy, unconstitutional tyranny, and injustice on the part of the synod.


Puritan Board Freshman
I've listened to a lot of FCC stuff over the years - all has been very edifying. I remember Rev. Gavin Beers talking about churches abandoning exclusive psalm singing at a conference awhile back. I assumed he was talking about the group that broke off from the FCC.


Puritan Board Graduate
Everyone else may have forgotten this thread by now, but I ran across something today that I thought was worth posting on here. In my above comment, I gave my perspective on the differences between the denominations and the rapid change that occurred in the RFC after the division.

Here is a view from the other side of the aisle. In my opinion, the author's narrative of the events raises a number of disconcerting issues, without any commentary from the opposing viewpoint. This is from David Robertson's blog (2015):
Whilst I enjoyed moving to St Peters in Dundee and gradually seeing a dying congregation revived, the 1990’s was a dreadful decade in the denomination that almost killed us. A declining church struggled with internal infighting over discipline, the future direction of the church, money and how we coped with a changing ecclesiastical and civil culture in Scotland. This resulted in the split of 2000 and the forming of the Free Church (Continuing)- yet another Presbyterian church claiming to be the true heirs of the Scottish Reformation! Despite the dire warnings of a third of the Church leaving, we lost less than 10%, although we did lose 26 ministers. Whilst it was painful, and we lost some good people, overall it turned out that much of it was ‘blessed subtraction’ – we lost a number of people who were significant hindrances to the development and growth of the church. As a result the dam was broken and the church actually advanced 20 years in two.

The 2000’s were a decade of re-building and some renewal. We had major issues to deal with – the most important in a structural sense were worship, the college, mission and finance. We began to face up to all of these, with a number of leaders and thinkers stepping up to the mark. At a personal level I felt that if the Church had not reformed and renewed by my 25th year in the ministry (2011) then it would have been over. However things did change. Dramatically. Not just with the stunning decision over worship but also in a more realistic attitude to who we were and what needed to be done. The worship decision was stunning not only because of the result (which no-one expected), but the way it was done and the fact, that despite all the direst predictions, there was not another split in the church.


Puritan Board Sophomore
This is the same minister who unfortunately phoned a radio show to welcome the previous pope to Scotland, stating that the pope was "right about Christ," whilst welcoming him as a "fellow Christian" Here. These comments barely caused a ripple in the Free Church.
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