Tag Archives: Free Church of Scotland

Another Free Church of Scotland minister departs over the Psalmody debate

Rev. Donald Macdonald

The Rev. Donald Macdonald has departed from the Free Church of Scotland because of the denomination’s recent decision to allow uninspired hymns and musical instruments in worship.

“Rev Donald Macdonald, who preached for decades at Carloway and is a past moderator of the denomination, said he is thoroughly convinced that  contentious policy to drop the 100-year-old tradition of instrument-free, psalm-only singing “is unscriptural, does not have the positive sanction of Scripture and is, therefore, sinful.”

The Lewis  man who has been a minister for 47 years is severing ecclesiastical connections with the Free and is joining the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland (RPCS) which now holds Sunday services at the Coulnagrein prayer house in Stornoway.” (from the Hebrides article, link below)

The BBC story is here.
The following is reported from the Hebrides News website found here:
Rev. Macdonald’s resignation letter is here:
Rev Donald Macdonald resignation letter in PDF:

From Hebrides: “Mr Macdonald slammed the Western Isles Presbytery for “changing course” and “progressing the agenda for change.”

He stressed: I feel that the Church, and especially my own Presbytery, now leave me no option but to resign from its ministry, notice of which I now, with great sadness and regret, submit, and do so without any sense of ‘violating any duty or committing any sin.’

In his resignation letter, Mr Macdonald said:  “This has been the hardest decision I have ever had to make and one that I never thought I would have to make – especially at this late stage in my life after 47 years in the ministry of the Free Church and all of them as a member of this Presbytery.

“I have not come to my decision lightly or in haste. Neither am I motivated by a petulant and defiant spirit that cannot accept defeat: this matter is far too serious for such superficial and infantile reactions.

“I have come to this painful decision after much soul-searching, reading, consultation, meditation and prayer. I can see no other honest and honourable course of action.

Mr Macdonald said the worship changes was “unscriptural.”

He said: “No new compelling biblical arguments have been produced in any of the debates.”

He believes the decision was “unconfessional and unconstitutional.”

Mr Macdonald criticises the new “sham” optional vows which is “supposed provision for the relief of the conscience of any office-bearer who is not in agreement with the new mode of worship now allowed is either a delusion or a deception.”

He said: “That the Free Church for which our Fathers fought and suffered in the 1900s should come to such a sorry pass grieves me beyond words.

“I had hoped, along with many others, that this Presbytery would have taken a stand and hold the line but, sadly and unbelievably, this has proved to have been a vain hope.

“Not only has the Presbytery not withstood the onslaught, it has now headed the van in progressing the agenda for change since it was the Overture from this Presbytery that secured the approval of the Assembly for the supposed conscience-relieving clause.

“A wind of change has most certainly blown through this Presbytery in the past two years to such an extent that I can scarcely believe that it is the same Presbytery. ”

UPDATE: Here is an interview with Rev. Macdonald…

Rev David Karoon leaves the Free Church of Scotland for the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland

The Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland (RPCS) is reporting the following on their website:

“Presbytery met on Saturday the 2nd July and accepted Rev. David Karoon’s application to become a minister in the RPCS. Rev. Karoon was previously a minister in the Free Church of Scotland. ” found here

The Hebrides News gives the following information here on 7/7/11:

“A number of Western Isles worshippers seem set to quit the Free Church and set up a Stornoway branch of a rival denomination in protest of its controversial introduction of hymns and music. A small cohort of about 20 or so disaffected Free Church worshippers, drawn from about eight island households, are expressing varying degrees of interest in breaking away from the long established Hebridean denomination to join a proposed Lewis-based church plant of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland (RPCS). Rev David Karoon who has resigned as minister of Arran Free Church has joined the Reformed Presbyterian and will take services in Stornoway.  He applied after resigning the Free Church pulpit. A Reformed Presbyterian spokesman confirmed: “Presbytery met on Saturday the 2nd July and accepted Rev David Karoon’s application to become a minister in the RPCS.” It is believed at least one elder has resigned from Stornoway Free Church with a view to joining the rival denomination. Dissidents may look towards the Reformed Presbyterians because they offer exclusive psalm singing and a clean history untainted by bitter splits or breakaway churches which litters the ecclesiastical landscape in Presbyterian Scotland. The tiny Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland (RPCS) is now on its way to double its number of churches as a result of the internal anger within the Free Church over ditching exclusive psalm singing and no musical instruments. Admittingly the RPCS only had two small constituted churches in Scotland. The high profile Rev Kenneth Stewart of North Uist and Glasgow – who left the Free over the hymns row – previously criticised the Free Church for “abandoning its constitutional heritage.”  But Rev Kenneth Stewart is now heading a brand new third congregation in the Hebridean area of Westend Glasgow. It took 140 years for it to become the first Scottish RP church plant when it was officially constituted on 22nd May. Just 40 days later, Stornoway seems to be next on the list.”

and also here on 7/7/2011:

“A number of disaffected Free Church members have invited the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland (RPCS) to commence regular Sunday services on Lewis. One possible venue is the small prayer meeting house on Perceval Road in Culnagrein, Stornoway. Rev David Karoon is due to start regular Sunday services from this weekend. The island parishioners are breaking away from the Free in favour of the RPCS services. If interest grows sufficiently a permanent RPCS church may be constituted  and a permanent minister would then be sought. The development  follows the Free Church’s controversial decision to accept hymns and music. Last week, Mr Karoon, who comes from Singapore, resigned as pastor of Arran Free Church because he was opposed to it abandoning its traditional psalm-only stance.  He then applied and was accepted as a minister with the Reformed Presbyterians. A Reformed Presbyterian spokesman confirmed: “Presbytery met on Saturday the 2nd July and accepted Rev David Karoon’s application to become a minister in the RPCS.” Rev Andrew Quigley, minister of the Airdrie RP Church and presently preaching in America, said the Scottish RP Church’s decision to plant a church in Stornoway was taken because a number of Christians asked them to do so. He added that it was a decision motivated solely by a positive desire to proclaim the Gospel. He said: “Our goal, by God’s grace and for His glory, is to see sinners converted to Christ and become committed followers of the Lord.” It is believed at least one elder has resigned from Stornoway Free Church with a view to joining the rival denomination. The tiny Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland (RPCS) is now on its way to double its number of churches as a result of the internal anger within the Free Church over ditching exclusive psalm singing and no musical instruments. Admittingly the RPCS only had two small constituted churches in Scotland. But Rev Kenneth Stewart, of North Uist and Glasgow, is now heading a brand new third congregation in the Hebridean area of Westend Glasgow. The church, the first new Scottish RP church plant in 140 years, was formalised on 22nd May. Formerly at Stornoway and Scalpay and, for past ten years or so, at Dowanvale Free in Glasgow, the 48-year-old previously said his position as Free Church preacher was untenable given the determination of so many in the church to drive ahead the contentious change. Though he was last on Lewis recently on behalf of the RPCS he will not be on the island on the run up to the new church services.”

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

UPDATE on Rev. Kenneth Stewart: Pastor resigns over the issue of Exclusive Psalmody…

The Rev. Kenneth Stewart of Dowenvale Free Church of Scotland

I haven’t seen any other official reports of this, but the Hebrides News is reporting the following:

“Well-known Free Church minister Rev Kenneth Stewart is quitting the Free Church over the controversy to introduce hymns and music into worship services. Rev Stewart – a fierce critic of the hymn-singing move  – has resigned his post as a minister and would also sever his links with the denomination. Crucially, the North Uist-raised preacher is not expected to lead a split in the church nor encourage his congregation to follow him though he will highlight his own reasons for going.   He is expected to seek a new home as a pastor in another Scottish Presbyterian church. His actual departure date has not been revealed.”

The full report can be found here.

The Rev. Kenneth Stewart was one of the ministers who objected to the recent ruling of the Plenary Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland that will allow the use of hymns and musical instruments in the denomination. Rev. Stewart’s objection can be found here in a previous post. 

Recently, I found a fairly detailed report of the proceedings by the Rev. Peter Wallace, an OPC minister who attended the Plenary Assembly. It can be found here.

A Response to the Decisions of the Plenary Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland

The Rev. Kenneth Stewart of Dowenvale Free Church of Scotland

The Rev. Kenneth Stewart provides a response to the recent Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland that voted to allow the singing of uninspired hymns and instrumental music in worship. This is a well written and very informative response that I recommend for your reading.

A Response to the Decisions of the Plenary Assembly

Here are a few selections:

“The situation now created is a mess. I will say something on its practical implications below, but it should give pause for thought that our vow on worship (which is part of our constitution) is now officially committing us to uphold two mutually exclusive views on worship as both being biblical. We now solemnly vow to uphold uninspired hymns as being both commanded and forbidden! The fact that we could enshrine such a legislative position in our constitution is worthy of several adjectives but ‘remarkable’ will have to do for now.”

 “This brings us rather neatly to the novel and convenient idea that by binding us to ‘purity of worship as presently authorised and practised in this church’ our forefathers meant to leave the form of worship an open question, something to be decided at any given time by the church. In other words, anyone taking the vow would be required to commit themselves to what was, effectively, an unknown. Surely, a little serious reflection should expose the absurdity of requiring a solemn vow to an unknown practice! After all, how could the person taking the vow know what would be ‘presently authorised and practiced’ in, two, five or ten years time and how then could he pretend to swear to it?”

 “The church to which we belong, in continuity with its Reformed heritage and practice, could only find express authority for singing psalms. These psalms could arguably include the ‘scripture songs’ of the Bible which are, of course, psalms themselves. (These are the ‘scripture songs’ which the 1707 Assembly gave consideration to singing, not ‘paraphrases’ or ‘hymns’). This is why the Westminster Confession, in its chapter on worship, specifies the ‘singing of psalms’ as an element of worship.” 

“As was pointed out on the floor of the Assembly, the list of worship elements offered by the Confession is not a suggestive list but an exhaustive one. In other words, it does not say ‘worship consists of things like this of which there may be many others besides’, but, ‘all this and nothing else is worship’. That is why the Assembly produced a psalm book, rather than a psalm/hymn book for singing. This Confessional position of psalm singing was what was ‘authorised and practiced’ when I took my vow and, indeed, when Mr Robertson took his. I promised, as he did, to assert, maintain and defend this, and not allow anything that is subversive of it. He now believes that I should have no difficulty in switching the subject of my allegiance to the permission of accompanied uninspired songs.”

“It seems to be the case that Mr Robertson is completely ignoring what my vow requires me to do: it now requires me to believe that our new position (psalms and hymns permissible) is ‘founded on the Word of God and agreeable to it.’ I am now supposed to follow no ‘divisive course’ from this position.”

“Put simply, a vow to uphold purity of worship as presently authorised and practised is not the same as a vow to uphold whatever practice the church authorises. Can Mr Robertson not see the difference?”

“On the contrary, as in the areas of doctrine and government, the church meant to bind itself for all time in its worship practice. Some people profess to find this horrifying. I fail to see why. If the church can bind its government to perpetual Presbyterianism (because that’s what it finds in the Bible) and bind its doctrine to perpetual infant baptism (because that’s what it finds in the Bible), I fail to see why it cannot bind its worship to perpetual Psalm singing (because that’s what it finds in the Bible as well). As in the areas of doctrine and government, the church meant to bind itself in public worship, for all time, to what could be proved expressly from scripture with no addition whatsoever.”

“Sadly, I think it is all too obvious why the Barrier Act was sidestepped, against the advice of both Clerks: it was put rather eloquently by one of the speakers, proposing change, who asked ‘What is the point of putting this back down to Presbyteries when we know what the result will be?’ I think that question reveals it all. It indicates very plainly that the main motive for sidestepping the Barrier Act was to rush through what was felt to be possibly out of step with the views of a majority of office bearers. This is clearly contempt of established church procedure as well as contempt of office-bearers.”

“The church is clearly, and with astonishing accuracy, repeating all the mistakes of the 19th century. And it should be a source of wonder to all that the Free Church is looking for her examples in public worship to the era of the Moderates (which introduced the paraphrases, only officially authorised for one year, in the 1780’s) and the era of Rainy (which introduced hymns and musical accompaniment in the 1870’s and 1880’s respectively). It shouldn’t be forgotten that the church which chose to do this was a church which fragmented shortly afterwards.”

“The Free Church needs less sniping at its constitution, more confidence in her heritage, history and message, and an aggressive reaching out with it to a needy country. The country isn’t fed up of psalms: it needs to hear and understand them. It is astonishingly typical of the so-called ‘progressives’ in the Free Church to reject what is in fact just coming back into vogue: all over the world, there is a resurgence of psalm singing and when that world most needs our witness to the exclusive use of the Songs of the Covenant King, we downgrade and compromise them.”

“The Lord is sovereign, and who can doubt that he is shaking the Scottish churches? This shaking will be done in God’s way and in God’s time, and who amongst us knows how the ecclesiastical landscape may look when he is done with it?”

Rev Kenneth Stewart (Dowanvale Free Church)

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:
FC_Statement.pdf

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?