UPDATED April 16, 2011: Rev. Kenneth Stewart to the RPCS…

The Rev. Kenneth Stewart, formerly of Dowenvale Free Church of Scotland

The following is from the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland website.

“The RPCS has received an application from Rev. Kenneth Stewart (formerly minister of Dowanvale Free Church of Scotland) to be received as a minister in the RPCS.” found here

And later as of April 16th:

“Rev. Kenneth Stewart, upon his assent to the ordination vows of the RPCS, became a minister in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland on Saturday the 16th April.”

Any thoughts?

Thanks to Connor Quigley for bringing this to our attention.

Some previous posts on this topic here and here

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20 responses to “UPDATED April 16, 2011: Rev. Kenneth Stewart to the RPCS…

  1. The Hebrides News has an article about Rev. Stewart’s application to the RPCS, here:
    http://www.hebrides-news.com/scottish-church-31311.html

  2. Sharon,

    Thanks so much!

    Here is a selection from the article that gives some information on the current ministry of Rev. Stewart:

    “A statement from the Reformed Presbyterian Church confirmed: ‘The RPCS has received an application from Rev. Kenneth Stewart (formerly minister of Dowanvale Free Church of Scotland) to be received as a minister in the RPCS.

    If developments, which are gathering a rapid pace this week, are fruitful, it could double the Scottish membership of the Reformed Presbyterians almost overnight.

    Currently its has only about 100 regular worshippers between it two constituted churches in Airdrie and Stranraer.

    The Gardner Street congregation is about 45-strong but that would be swollen by disaffected worshippers drifting from mainstream churches.

    Even if the split by the Gardner Street Church of Scotland does not take place, the RP is likely to set up a fellowship body in the westend of Glasgow led by Rev Stewart, similar to its informal worships in the southend of the city, with the aim of seeking a permanent church building.

    But developments being played out over the next few days will be watched closely by thousands of traditional churchgoers who may be contemplating leaving the major denominations following contentious breaks with practices.

    The Church of Scotland has been wounded after it ordained a gay minister into an Aberdeen pulpit while the Free Church is facing an internal challenge for sanctioning hymns and music into services.

    In contrast, the Reformed Presbyterians offers exclusive psalm singing and a clean history untainted by bitter schisms or breakaway churches which litters the ecclesiastical landscape in Presbyterian Scotland..”

    Very helpful article dated 3/31/2011. Follow the link to read the article if you get a chance.

  3. Ewan W. Wilson

    If Mr Stewart is accepted into the Reformed Presbyterians then one can only wish him well in his new sphere and pray a blessing on this surprisingly vibrant last outpost of native Lowland, EP Presbyterian worship.
    I am not aware of what the reference to Gardner Street Church of Scotland is all about. Perhaps someone could enlighten us? It used to be a pocket of Highland Church of Scotland calvinism and was regarded as the main centre of Church of Scotland Gaelic worship in Glasgow. To hear that it has been hit with division is saddening. However if it means the more conservative escape to Regulative Principle worship, perhaps that is the Lord’s doing.
    The Reformed Presbyterians also still have, I believe, their old congregational building in the Lanarkshire town of Wishaw. It would be good to see this restarted for these old Covenanting areas in the central belt are now spiritual wastelands. Of course this would prove a much tougher proposition, and more obscure and probably a lot less thankful a task , humanly speaking than going to a district like Partick in Glasgow’s west end that already has about five calvinist presbyterian congregations- Crow Rd Free Church Continuing; Crow Road Free Church residual; Dowanvale Free church residual; Free Presbyterian St Jude’s and some CofS evangelical/kind-of-reformed such as Gardner St, Partick South and Partick Trinity.
    I’m sure there will be many in the Continuing Free Church disappointed that Mr Stewart did not feel led to return to his ecclesiastical roots in the Free Church where I’m quite sure he could have pursued a fruitful ministry. Perhaps he felt a bit uncomfortable with the prospect of rejoining those from whom he parted in 2000, especially given the perception that he contributed to that ejection. Still, my own sense of the prevailing feeling in our side was that reconciliation would have been a token of favour.
    However if he is accepted into the Reformed Presbyterians we pray the Lord will richly bless whatever doors He opens for this denomination with a long and honourable history.

  4. Ewan,

    I suppose we can only guess why Rev. Stewart chose to go to the RPs over the Free Church Continuing. Perhaps we might see some discussion of that difficult decision by Rev. Stewart at some point in the future. I am curious as well. Of course, I believe both groups to be fine denominations who are worthy of our attention here. I would love to hear more about the “differences” between the two, primarily to have more of an understanding of the future of the church in Scotland. We are all interested to learn more about the denominations that uphold the principles of biblical worship.

    Is there a significant difference between the RPC and the FCC?

  5. Don’t think the Rev Stewart would be welcome in FCC circles after the role his family played in the storming of the Grimsay Free Church on the Lord’s Day!

  6. Bothy,

    I confess my ignorance in matters related to the Free Church and the formation of the Free Church Continuing. I, like others interested in biblical Psalmody, would like to learn more about the denominations in Scotland that sing the Psalms.

    We are interested primarily in discussions that are in some way connected to Psalmody and/or matters of worship or confessionalism. I don’t really know what happened here or there or who did what to whom, nor do I really want to take any sides in the matter.

    Perhaps Rev. Stewart had personal reasons for choosing one denomination over the other. I don’t know. I am interested to know more about the different groups because people contact me through the website looking for places to worship. It would be nice to know the strengths and weaknesses of these groups to be able to give good counsel to our brethren who are looking for a good church.

  7. Connor Quigley

    @Mark
    It is difficult to say what the differences between the RPCS and the FCC are doctrinally speaking. One because the doctrinal differences are so small and secondly because the RPCS testimony is currently under revision.

    I can only see two differences (there may be more). Firstly the RPCS has historically held the covenanting position that the National and Solemn League and Covenants are perpetually binding in their obligation on the Church and the nation of Scotland. As I understand, the FCC believes these covenants were nullified at some point. Secondly, the previous RPCS testimony in effect prohibited members from standing for election or voting in elections.

    But, given these two things are in fact not really acted upon, (eg. Members are not disciplined for voting.) Their presence in the revised testimony is dubious. If they are omitted the already very small confessional differences between the FCC and RPC would be non-existent.

  8. Connor,

    Thank you, that was very helpful. The distinctions you pointed out are issues that may seem insignificant to some people, but we in the Psalm singing world know how great a matter these “small” things can truly be.

  9. Ewan W. Wilson

    Connor Quigley’s observations would pretty well match my own on the major differences between the two denominations. The major doctrinal ‘sticking point’ would be the necessity of avowing the old Solemn League and Civenant for church membership and whether that Document can demand virtually permanent authority over the church for succeeding generations.
    Historically the Reformed Presbyterians never entered the Revolution Settlement Church of Scotland as established by William of Orange in 1690. The Free Church of Scotland, on the other hand, claims descent from the 1690 Establishment and indeed to be the better preserver of that inheritance than what is now recognised as the national Church of Scotland but which is a ‘mongrel body’ dating from sneaky changes in adherence to the Confession of Faith in 1910 and then in the 1920s so as to effect church union with the liberalised United Free Church of Scotland. The present Church of Scotland dates directly from that Union in 1929.
    Perhaps less obvious differences between the Continuing Free Church and the RPs in Scotland do exist: arguably the FCC is less ‘relaxed’ than her small Lowland sister, and issues such as Bible Versions and even dress sense might be a little tricky, though the FCC is not entirely unified on such matters itself, but is distinctly more conservative in its prevailing ethos.
    The issue of the behaviour of certain relatives of Mr Stewart during the 2000 ejection would not, I am perfectly confident, be at all an objection from many or any in the FCC. Obviously a move back to the FCC might have initially elicited a little wariness but I know for a fact many FCC folks – elders, ministers and members- still regard him warmly and would have happily worked to overcome awkwardness in no time.
    However to the RPs it seems he is going and we trust it will in the Lord’s kindness prove very beneficial to both parties. It would be wondeful to see the last vestiges of RP faithfulness to the Reformed Gospel in the Lowlands further boosted under God’s mysterious providence in this.

  10. UPDATE: As of Saturday the 16 of April 2011 Rev Kenneth Stewart is a RPCS minister without charge.

    Not looking to start a discussion here on the covenants Ewan, but just to clarify. At what point doest the FCC believe the covenants stopped being binding?

    I would agree the RPCS is visibly more relaxed than the FCC, but how many of these differences actually testimonial (if you know what I mean)? For example RPCS encourages its congregations to use the ESV and the RPCI psalter but neither is a necessity, if a congregation wanted to use the AV and the 1650 psalter they could. Is the case the same but reversed in the FCC or is every congregation required to use the same psalter and Bible translation?
    I would say the RPCS’s flexibility around matters of conscience makes it very easy for any incomers to fit in. It would be a horrible disaster if a matter like the choice of Bible translation lead to a split in a denomination. It would likewise be a great shame if a similar matter barred the way for blessed unity.

  11. Ewan W. Wilson

    Connor,
    On the matter of the Solemn League and Covenant and the perpetuity of its ‘bindingness’ I’d only say that in so far as that document expresses timeless Biblical Truth and Principles then it still carries authority; however its expression of those truths are not binding. The Church of Scotland is bound only to the Westminster Confession as subordinate standard and even then it does not require of its members to adhere to every dot and comma in it; only its office bearers must confess it unreservedly as the expression of their own personal faith. This ensures we do not debar a fellow believer from the Lord’s Table over issues such as baptism.
    On the Free Church Continuing and its attitude to Bible versions ans psalters, I recall shortly after the 2000 Reconstitution a General Assembly was asked to confine the denomination to the AV alone. This move was voted down. In practice, however, most congregations use the AV in public worship and there is a great deal of support for the Trinitarian Bible Society amongst us. However at least one minister strongly disapproves of studied archaism in the pulpit and even finds the AV ‘ritualistic’. He does not advocate critical text versions, however. The new King James Version is probably the only other version used in a FCC pulpit. The 21st Cent AV might be a good candidate but it seems quite unavailable nowadays in the UK.
    I do think Bible version usage should be carefully controlled by Assembly. So far as I am aware, the only Psalter used is the venerable 1650 one. Again I doubt we’d allow a ‘free-for-all’ as uniformity in worship is a highly important tenet and the metrical versions must be kept as true to the original as possible. Loose paraphrases would be entirely unacceptable. And at a practical level straying too far from Common Metre, Short Metre and Long Metre would present too great a challenge to our precentors and congregations at present!

  12. Ewan W. Wilson

    I have just heard that the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland ( majority, defecting) have voted NOT to refer their controversial decision on hymns down to presbyteries through the Barrier Act. This will doubtless disappoint a good few in the FCoS but it is hardly surprising. A very powerful caucus have been determined to ram this measure through and seem to have succeeded, at least in their church courts. However the way this has been achieved may well leave a bitter taste in many of the more conservative mouths.
    Prof Macleod argued the Plenary decision changed nothing and was ‘not binding’. Rather bizarrely meaningless argument to make but a tactic innovators have regularly made down the years- this or that Act will be merely ‘permissive’. Of course the thing is binding- it binds office bearers NOT to promote exclusive psalmody. It means hopeless division; some Sesions may find themselves with elders and minister out of step. As Dr Begg warned years ago it is a recipe for anarchy. Interestingly there was also a Memorial from some 70 young people expressing their grave concern over the departure from EP. The Assembly seems to have voted late on to receive this but do nothing more about it. Presumably they must think such a patronising nod in the direction of the dissenters will quell further ructions. It remains to be seen. The innovators are probably desperate to put this beyond debate in order to try to attract in disaffected Church of Scotland folks after the Established Kirk’s awful decision to tolerate impenitent gay ministers and elders.
    Much prayer for a clear lead forward to the Reformed in both denominations is urged.

  13. Ewan,

    Wow, interesting information. Thanks for bringing it to us. I am certainly interested to hear that “there was also a Memorial from some 70 young people expressing their grave concern over the departure from EP.” I would love to see a copy of this Memorial if anyone knows how we could find it.

  14. Ewan W. Wilson

    Mark,

    I only learned of its existence myself from their denominational website yesterday evening! I haven’t seen its contents but assume it must be similar to the main Memorial from the general membership and ‘dissenting’ ministers and ex Moderators of General Assemblies.
    One remark made in connection with the young people’s Memoeial was that though 70 youngsters may not seem a lot it was worth bearing in mind that these seventy names would represent approximately seventy families having their loyalty to the Free Kirk severely tested.
    I doubt very much that this consideration would carry much weight with the defectors- they have their eyes on an apparently much more alluring prize- Church of Scotland, hymn singing evangelicals needing to find a less obviously anti-Scriptural Church now that the Kirk had decided to admit known impenitent homosexuals. Indeed on this score the Rev David Robertson, leading defector, thinks the Plenary is a triumph. Indeed Robertson has been so offensive in his campaign to change things the Monthly Record of the Free Church saw its circulation plunge under his editorship as he unabashedly used it to plug innovation and so alienated many of the more conservative in the Free Kirk. They have obviously panicked at the loss of confidence such an abrasive approach has produced and voted in the more conservatively acceptable, Dr Malcolm MacLean. Still, Dr MacLean seems content enough with the innovations. One can well see why Rev Kenny Stewart realised the game was up and deprted when he did. A precious few voices are still left trying to raise a rear guard action against what they see as an unConstitutional action but I think myself it is too little, too late and too feeble. The Free Church has been lost to EP and done it by devaluing their office bearing vows. What next? Female ordination? Evolutionary theory an option? The Pope and Popery no longer anti-Christ? Pentecostal practices in their midst? All of these swirl around just under the radar but show up from time to time.

  15. Ewan W. Wilson

    Having decided yesterday not to pass the Plenary decision against EP down through the Barrier Act to presbyteries, the General Assembly seemed to have finished with the issue. However today it went on to discuss the Memorial of dissent as a separate issue. It seems after some acrimonious exchanges the Assembly realised it had better at least receive the Memorial or risk a real backlash of frustration. It evidently did so but grudgingly and with critical remarks on its wording and imputed latent threats. Evidently it is guilty of divisiveness!!!

  16. Ewan W. Wilson

    Today I just have learned that the first Church of Scotland minister to resign over the pro-gay decisions of its General Assembly is the Rev Roddy MaxRae of the remote Highland Parish of Glenelg. In announcing his forthcoming departure, the Rev MacRae specifically mentioned the Free Kirk ( by which he meant the EP rejecting majority and not the Free Kirk Continuing, I presume) will be a potential destination for many Church of Scotland sickened evangelicals. It also emerged that the Free Kirk had made its historic offices, adjacent to the Church of Scotland Assembly Hall on the Mound, available to dismayed conservative evangelical commisioners so that they could discuss possiways forward. It seems at this stage that a unified exit strategy is highly unlikely with many of the dissenters nevertheless too timid or too appalled that to face the fact that at long last their denomination’s Bible rejection has come home to roost. It is all very well for some of these ‘Confessional’ men to say they can still operate within the formal structures of the Kirk but at a remove, semi-detached, as it were. The practicalties of that seem inoperable- how to keep separate discipline, or how to train up suitable candidates for the ministry, if half in/half out the Kirk?!!
    This current debacle will truly sift the declining Church of Scotland which has for years been depriving many of its most loyal members of Gospel light.
    At least with the Free Kirk continuing minority we had a good legal case to stand on if we wished to claim legal possession of our buildings, for the majority were arguably defecting from our common Scriptural Constitution and procedures. The dilemma for the CofS evangelicals is that they have been content to remain in a body that makes no clear adherence to an infallible Bible. That root compromise may well prove fatal for any ( unlikely!!) move to claim buildings and property.
    Still, there does seem to be a sufficiently substantial number of evangelicals that if they decided to act in concert would take a huge proportion of the Kirk’s income with them . Such a ‘Disruption’ step away from the Kirk and all its property entirely might be very costly but it also might just be the very sacrifical action the Lord would own before a watching nation. Much prayer is required. Sadly in all this EP seems long lost to most of one’s fellow countrymen. Most of these Kirk evangelicals despise EP.

  17. Ewan, you are amazing. Thank you so much for keeping us updated on what is going on over there. I am not surprised to hear the great disruptions that are happening in our own day because of the abandonment of our Reformed Presbyterian traditions. Listening with great interest from across the pond.

  18. Ewan W. Wilson

    Hi, brethren!
    I must update you on developments on the heels of the Church of Scotland gay minister debacle.
    A second minister has resigned his charge and as a minister of the Church of Scotland. The Rev Andrew Coghill of the Lochs Parish on the Island of Lewis ( stronghold of the Free Church of Scotland) has announced to his congregation that he will demit the charge in August.
    Mr Coghill has been one of the most vigorous defenders of the Reformed faith within the Kirk and even on traditionally the ultra conservative Isle of Lewis he has been far more prominent in defending the faith publically than his Free Kirk counterparts. They seem to have been more anxious ‘to modernise’ the Free Kirk than offer any robust defence of the presbyterian values that until recently held such sway on the islands. The Free Kirk Stornoway minister, the Rev Iver Martin, a leading proponent of ‘toleration’ on ditching EP has even at one point refused to condemn golfing on the Lord’s Day. Such a timid response to Sabbath desecration would have been unthinkable in his predecessors. The Rev Iain D. Campbell also sold the pass to the hymn innovators on the expedient ground that EP was losing the denomination young people!!
    It is no surprise or coincidence, then, that much forthright public protest against encroachment of anti-Christian ethics and local laws has fallen not to these men but to the Church of Scotland minister in the little ‘back-water’ parish of Lochs-Crossbost.
    Alas, Mr Coghill as a man of principle has come to feel the Church of Scotland is no fit place for any Reformed people, with its outright attacks on Holy Scripture on the floor of the General Assembly – at least one commissioner asserted they ‘knew better than the Bible’ on homosexuality and should ‘just put it to one side’! In 2009 another minister outrageously boasted on the floor of the Assembly about the benefits of pre marital sex that he and his wife had enjoyed to the great amusement of far too many the commissioners, and little condemnation from the evangelicals. At a meeting of evangelicals/Reformed following the decision to tolerate immorality in pulpit it became clear to Mr Coghill that despite two whole years for the evangelicals to prepare for such eventuality there was distinct coolness about acting decisively and of course little or no organisation or planning on how to go forward speedily. Instead there was much feet dragging and even further ‘wait and see’ till 2013 this time, with gays already in the ministry prior to 2009 now officially approved.
    Little wonder Mr Coghill has felt compelled to wipe the dust off his feet. If his fellow evangelicals quail or go back from similar swift action I fear the CofS will simply slide into out and out liberal oblivion. Men of the stature of Dr Philips in the Tron Kirk in Glasgow, possibly THE leading ‘Reformed’ congregation of the Church of Scotland have thus far proved very disappointing in giving a clarion call lead. Retreating into a huddle within the denomination is sheer irresponsibility and God will judge. The foundations are already being shaken. Not a corner of Scottish Presbyterianism has been exempt from severe trials and siftings in recent decades, save possiblt the Reformed Presbyterians whose greatest test has been numerical decline; pray the Lord will ultimately work all these realignments for the spiritual recovery of our land.

  19. Ewan W. Wilson

    Some further developments on the Church of Scotland front after its pro gay Assembly.
    Following the resignation of the Rev Andrew Coghill from the Church of Scotland ministry, there have been rumours of further departures of some retired clergy and the premier Reformed congregation, the Tron Kirk in the city centre of Glasgow on its website http://www.thetron.org has a very forthright and astringent newsletter from its minister, the Rev Dr William Philip. However he manages to stop just short of outright intimation of intention to ‘secede’. This has fallen to his colleague in Aberdeen, the Rev Dominic Smart, of Gilcomston South Parish, arguably the ‘home kirk’ for all those calling themselves Reformed in the Church of Scotland. It was in this congregation the well known Rev Willie Still ministered for over 50 years till the late 90s when Mr Smart was called to the charge. Therefore for Gilcomston to announce its serious intention to take a congregational vote on whether to depart the denomination could be seismic. If Gilcomston does decide to depart I rather suspect the central liberal elite will be

    trembling in their boots in case others follow and it becomes a landslide. This will of course leave the Kirk fully in the hands of those liberals but it has to be said

  20. Ewan W. Wilson

    Sorry, my last post seems to have ended abruptly owing to some glitch!
    I was saying that it has to be said that even with some sizeable Reformed/evangelical congregations and even evangelical districts of neighbouring parishes, when it comes to the ‘official voice’ of the Kirk, it is almost uniformly and depressingly liberal. The Kirk’s official magazine, Life and Work, is in the hands of awful and quite blatantly partisan liberals and most of the Kirk’s chaplaincies need to be compromisers, though maybe not quite on the scale of the Church of England’s clerical wretches, such as the Archbishop of Canterbury.
    Anyway, the Gilcomston announcement has stated that if they do leave they will pause and take stock before deciding on future denominational destination..possibly the EP rejecting side of the Free Kirk, though that is far from definite.

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