Free Church of Scotland votes to allow hymns and musical instruments in worship

Well, by now the news has gotten around that the Free Church of Scotland has voted to allow for the use of hymns and musical instruments in their churches. For the cause of Biblical worship, this is certainly a disappointing decision. I cannot comment on the state of the Free Church itself, though I don’t have a favorable impression that they’ve been a strong church in recent years. I could be wrong.

For those who haven’t heard, this is the statement from their website:

Worship Statement (Updated)

November 20, 2010

Free Church of Scotland Decides to Allow for the Singing of Hymns and the Use of Musical Instruments in its Congregations

The Free Church of Scotland, at a special Plenary Assembly, which took place on 18th and 19th November, decided to give liberty to its congregations to sing hymns and use instruments, if individual Kirk Sessions so choose. The special Assembly, which consisted of all its ministers with an equal number of elders, met in Edinburgh and debated over whether to overturn the 100 year old prohibition, which has identified the Free Church as a psalm-singing church.

The debate over its form of worship has lasted for the last five years, since the Moderator at that time, Rev. Donald Smith questioned the prohibition of musical instruments in its services. 

The main motion which came from the Church’s Board of Trustees sought to retain the “status quo”, which is the ”avoidance of uninspired materials of praise and musical instruments”, but give more flexibility in understanding as to what is meant by that. But this motion was opposed by Rev. Alex MacDonald, who proposed that the Free Church give liberty to individual congregations to sing scriptural hymns, as well as psalms, if their elders so chose.

The debate, which lasted Thursday evening and most of Friday, was harmonious throughout. Rev. MacDonald’s motion carried by a majority of 98 to 84.

A statement intended for Free Church congregations regarding its decision (including the exact finding of Assembly) on sung praise can be found by clicking this link:

We’ve seen this type of decision many times in the recent history of the church. The end result of allowing hymns usually ends up with the exclusion of the Psalms altogether. It also means an openness to other questionable practices into the worship of the church.

What are your thoughts on this recent decision?


2 thoughts on “Free Church of Scotland votes to allow hymns and musical instruments in worship”

  1. It is a sad thing to see, but it seems as though it has been coming for a while. When the head of the institution that trains a church’s pastors publicly opposes Biblically regulated worship, it does not bode well for the church. Perhaps we may learn something about the high standards which we must demand from our doctors of theology.

  2. To clarify the ecclesiastical situation in Scotland, I should point out that the Free Church of Scotland suffered a major breach of ranks in the year 2000, exactly one hundred years after its previous split. The quarrel was over a case of discipline following allegations of immoral behaviour that the majority sought to evade. It prompted the ejection of a substantial minority who ‘reconstituted’ the Church under proper discipline but took the name ‘Free Church of Scotland – Continuing’ for administrative purposes. Most of these ejected men were on the strict subscriptionist side of the Free Church so with their exodus the defecting majority gained asendancy in the denomination and after a mere decade and despite much acrimony they have managed to push through one of their pet schemes- ditching the old Presbyterian worship. Some of their ministers are on public record as regarding the pope as a Christian brother whose book on Jesus is one of the best ever penned; others are open to ordaining women to the diaconate if not the eldership. With a new, criminally lax attitude to ordination vows- which they seek to raise into a virtue rather than a grievous sin- one wonders what will slip next in the Free Church of Scotland.
    Not unnaturally some of the remaining conservatives in their ranks are highly disturbed by the blatant disregard of solemn vows and simmering tensions are surfacing . Question is- will they have the nerve and spiritual backbone to see their duty through, having compromised thus far as to allow this to fester to such a pass?

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