History, Roots & Heritage

In 1843 the Free Church of Scotland was formed when around a third of ministers in the Church of Scotland resigned because of state interference in its internal affairs.

The Disruption, as it came to be known, was the culmination of many years of disagreement over how much influence the State could have over the Church.

Under a system known as Patronage, landowners could nominate ministers of their choosing to congregations, regardless of whether the congregation wanted them or not. This was considered by many, particularly evangelicals, as being totally unacceptable.

They understood the historic position of the Presbyterian Church in Scotland to be that the Church and State were independent in their own spheres and they should not interfere in each other’s areas of authority, but rather help one another for the Christian good of Scotland.

Finally, after all other options had been exhausted, almost all of the evangelical ministers in the Church of Scotland resigned their charges, and formed a new denomination: The Church of Scotland, Free; which was later renamed the Free Church of Scotland.

The new denomination quickly set to work building churches, manses, schools, and seminaries. By the end of their first year, 470 churches had been built. Home and Foreign Missions were also of great importance to the Church, with missionaries being stationed throughout Africa, India, and throughout the colonies.

In 1900, the vast majority of the Free Church of Scotland joined with the United Presbyterian Church to become the United Free Church of Scotland. However, 27 ministers and around 100 congregations did not enter into the union, and continued as the Free Church of Scotland.

After several lengthy court cases, it was decided by the House of Lords in 1905 that this remnant which had remained outside of the Union of 1900 were the true heirs of the church of 1843, and were the Free Church of Scotland.

The denomination currently has over 100 congregations across Scotland, as well as congregations in North America and London and sister churches founded by mission work in India, Peru and South Africa. The Church has a full time seminary in Edinburgh for the training of its ministers and other Christian workers.

The Free Church is in fellowship with many other Reformed churches throughout the world and stands firmly in the tradition which accepts the Bible as its supreme standard and the Westminster Confession as its subordinate standard. Central to worship is the preaching of the gospel – the good news of salvation through the sovereign grace of God in His Son Jesus Christ.