Skip to main content
Select Source:

Scotland, Church of

Church of Scotland, the established national church of Scotland, Presbyterian (see Presbyterianism) in form. The first Protestants in Scotland, led by Patrick Hamilton, were predominantly Lutheran. However, with the return of John Knox from Geneva, the Scottish Reformation came under the influence of Calvinism.

Following the signing of the First Covenant in 1557 by the great barons and other nobles, Parliament abolished (1560) the jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland. A Reformed confession of faith was adopted, and the church was organized along Presbyterian lines. The first general assembly of the church met in Edinburgh, and the First Book of Discipline (1560) was drawn up. The Second Book of Discipline (1581) was ratified by Parliament in 1592.

This definitely settled the Presbyterian form of polity and the Calvinistic doctrine as the recognized Protestant establishment in the country. But under James VI (from 1603, James I of England) and the other Stuart rulers who followed, periods of restored episcopacy interrupted the progress of the new organization and were accompanied by confusion and protest.

In 1638 the National Covenant, a promise to defend the Reformed religion, was signed; in 1643 the Solemn League and Covenant was signed in England as well as Scotland. In 1647 the Westminster Confession was accepted. In 1689, with William and Mary on the throne of England, religious liberty was secured, and the Act of Settlement (1690) ensured the establishment of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. Confirmation of its status was made in 1707, when the kingdoms of Scotland and England were united.

Questions regarding the connection between church and state caused division and resulted in secessions from time to time, but there was no diversity in faith. The notable early secessions were the Original Secession in 1733 and the Relief in 1761. The most extensive break occurred in 1843, when the Free Church of Scotland was formed under the leadership of Thomas Chalmers. In 1847 the United Secession Church joined with the majority of the congregations of the Relief Church to form the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland. In 1900 this body merged with the Free Church to form the United Free Church of Scotland, which in 1929 rejoined the Church of Scotland. However, some remnants of the Free Church and the United Free Church did not return.

Milestones in the separation of the church from the state were the transfer (1872) of church schools to civil authorities and the abolition (1874) of ecclesiastical patronage. The spiritual independence of the Church of Scotland was recognized by Acts of Parliament in 1921 and 1925. A merger proposed in the 1960s between the Church of England, the Church of Scotland, the Presbyterian Church of England, and the Episcopal Church of Scotland did not take place. The church has about 640,000 members (1999).

Bibliography

See J. H. S. Burleigh, A Church History of Scotland (1960); R. S. Louden, The True Face of the Kirk (1963); G. Donaldson, Scotland—Church and Nation through Sixteen Centuries (2d ed. 1972); J. Kirk, Patterns of Reform (1989).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Scotland, Church of." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Scotland, Church of." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 24, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/scotland-church

"Scotland, Church of." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved October 24, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/scotland-church

Church of Scotland

Church of Scotland. The church claims continuity from Ninian and Columba. Although the Scottish Reformation's first impact was lutheran, the return of John Knox from Geneva in 1559 led to the Church's reconstruction on presbyterian lines, a process not completed until 1690. In between kirk and crown battled as to whether Scotland's ecclesiastical system should be presbyterian or episcopalian. Presbyterianism was advanced by the first General Assembly (1560), the first presbytery (Edinburgh 1581), agreed by the monarch (1586) and ratified by Parliament (1642). Its popular status was affirmed by the National Covenant (1638), the Solemn League and Covenant (1643), and the Westminster Assembly (1643–52). Episcopalianism was advanced by the Stuart monarchs' steady preference, the imposition of the Prayer Book (1637), and the restoration of episcopacy (1660). The conflict was intensified by the assassination of Archbishop Sharp of St Andrews (1679), and resolved by the revolution of 1688: all ministers must subscribe to the Westminster confession. In the 18th cent. the now dominant church was weakened by secession; and the growth of two parties, one favouring the rights of patronage in ministerial settlements, the other favouring congregational rights, led to the Disruption of 1843, and the formation of the Free Church. Thereafter a pattern of reunion developed, although each one also resulted in a remnant. The secession and relief churches formed the United Presbyterian Church in 1847; the United Presbyterian and Free Churches became the United Free Church in 1900. At the same time patronage was abolished (1874), there was a significant liturgical revival, and the Church of Scotland Act (1921), which explicitly declared the church's spiritual freedom, paved the way for union with the United Free Church (1929), in the context of an establishment purged of what had fuelled earlier secessions. The General Assembly was now equally composed of ministers and elders, and women were admitted to both eldership (1966) and ministry (1968). If the church's membership accounted for under a quarter of the adult population by the 1990s, its cultural impact on the nation remained profound.

Clyde Binfield

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Church of Scotland." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Church of Scotland." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 24, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/church-scotland

"Church of Scotland." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Retrieved October 24, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/church-scotland

Church of Scotland

Church of Scotland National non-episcopal form of Christianity in Scotland, adopting Presbyterianism by constitutional act in 1689. The Church arose as a separate entity during the Reformation. Under the leadership of John Knox, it abolished papal authority and accepted many of the teachings of John Calvin. The doctrinal position of the Church is based on the Scottish Confession (1560) and the Westminster Confession of 1643. The highest authority of the Church of Scotland resides in the General Assembly, presided over by an annually elected moderator. The Disruption of 1843 led to about one-third of its ministers and members leaving to form the Free Church of Scotland. The spiritual independence of the Church was recognized by an act of parliament in 1921, although this did not affect its status as the established Church in Scotland. The Church has c.850,000 members.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Church of Scotland." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Church of Scotland." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 24, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/church-scotland

"Church of Scotland." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved October 24, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/church-scotland