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Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland

Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland
Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, Glendale
Classification Protestant
Orientation Calvinist
Polity Presbyterian polity
Origin 1893
Separated from Free Church of Scotland (1843-1900)
Separations Associated Presbyterian Churches (separated 1989)
Congregations 45 world wide (29 in Scotland)
Members 1200 in Scotland(Based on latest census figures)

The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland (Scottish Gaelic: An Eaglais Shaor Chlèireach) was formed in 1893 and claims to be the spiritual descendant of the Scottish Reformation: its web-site states that it is 'the constitutional heir of the historic Church of Scotland'.[1] It is occasionally referred to as the Wee Wee Frees (as distinct from the "Wee Frees", the post-1900 Free Church of Scotland)..[2][3]

The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland claims to be Reformed in doctrine, worship and practice, and says that all its actions are based on the Word of God: the Bible. The subordinate standard of the church is the Westminster Confession of Faith.


  • History 1
    • Split 1.1
    • Disunity in the Scottish Reformed church scene 1.2
  • Recent developments 2
  • Congregations outside the UK 3
  • List with congregations in the UK 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Timeline showing the evolution of the churches of Scotland from 1560

In 1892 the Free Church of Scotland, following the example of the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland and the Church of Scotland (1889), passed a Declaratory Act relaxing the stringency of subscription to the Westminster Confession of Faith, which was widely perceived as paving the way for unification with the United Presbyterian Church. This was met by a protest from the minister from the island of Raasay, the Rev Donald MacFarlane (1834-1926) who was later joined by one other minister, the Rev Donald MacDonald (1825-1901) of Shieldaig. The result was that a large number of elders and some congregations, mostly in the Highlands, severed their connection with the Free Church of Scotland and formed the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, along lines they considered to be more orthodox. By 1907 this body had twenty congregations and twelve ministers.

A few years after the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland (FPC Church) was formed, the Free Church of Scotland united with the United Presbyterian Church to form the United Free Church of Scotland, with a somewhat larger minority remaining outside the union and retaining the name Free Church of Scotland. Initially, some wondered if the two churches would merge, but this did not happen, partly because the grounds on which the later separation was based had been the Establishment Principle,[4] rather than the Declaratory Act, which had only been rescinded post separation by the Free Church of Scotland (post 1900).The two denominations took a different view of the 1892 Declaratory Act: the Free Church of Scotland did not regard it as having been a binding measure while the Free Presbyterians did.

In 1905 the Free Presbyterian Synod debated proposals for union with the post-1900 Free Church minority. The Synod declared that it would consider union with a church which held ‘the infallibility and inerrancy of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, and the whole doctrine of the Confession of Faith, both in her profession and practice’. The Synod’s assessment of the post-1900 Free Church was that ‘although she made ample profession in words’ nevertheless she ‘came far behind in her practice’. One major issue was the Free Church's employment of Dr WM Alexander, who had written a book which the FPs and some post-1900 Free Church conservatives believed to be ambiguous about the status of the Bible, as a lecturer in its college. A 1917 Free Church Reply to a FPC Statement of Differences stated underlined the fact that Dr Alexander had in 1905 withdrawn the book from circulation, expressed regret 'for any reflections which the book was fitted to cast on the infallibility of the Word of God' and in 1906 publicly reaffirmed his belief in the inerrancy of Scripture in these words: 'I cherish as more precious than life itself the absolute infallibility of the Word of God'. However a motion was carried at the 1918 FPC Synod which characterized the Reply as containing 'evasive statements and suggestions of compromise'.[5]

Some of the Free Presbyterian ministers preferred union with the post-1900 Free Church minority to maintaining a separate Free Presbyterian witness. In 1905 Revs John Macleod (Kames), Alexander Stewart (Edinburgh) and George Mackay (Stornoway) were accepted by the Free Church. In 1918, Revs John R Mackay (Inverness), Alexander Macrae (Portree) and Andrew Sutherland followed suit.[6]

A communion token from the Free Presbyterian Church.

The two denominations are often confused, though not as often as in the past: they were initially of a predominantly Highland back-ground, continue to share support for the Westminster Confession of Faith, and express a socially conservative outlook. However, the Free Presbyterian Church considers it a sin to use public transport to go to church on the Sabbath,[7] while the Free Church does not. The Free Church permits the use of modern Bible translations, while the Free Presbyterian Church prescribes the exclusive use of the Authorized Version in public worship (by resolution of the Synod in 1961 [8]).


In 1989, a splinter group formed the Associated Presbyterian Churches "following the perceived failure of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland to put into practice chapters 20 and 26 of the Westminster Confession of Faith",[9] following the suspension of Lord Advocate Lord Mackay of Clashfern as an elder for attending the Roman Catholic funeral masses of fellow judges. The Moderator of Synod at the time was a minister from Zimbabwe, the late Aaron Ndebele, an Ndebele.

The FPC continues to oppose many aspects of the Roman Catholic church including the mass. It also protests from time to time against figures in positions of authority and the Royal Family attending mass. It wrote to Prince Charles to complain of his presence at a requiem mass for a cousin in 2013.[10]

Disunity in the Scottish Reformed church scene

The Free Presbyterians believe that the denominations in Scotland adhering to the Westminster Confession of Faith should unite with it after repentance over historical retreat from the Confession. The FPC Catechism (the 2013 edition is an updated version of the original 1942-1943 edition) says: 'All Presbyterian Churches in Scotland claiming to represent the Reformed Church and who have caused or who maintain schisms contrary to the avowed Westminster Standards are bound to repent and to return to purity in doctrine, worship, government and discipline. The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland is not guilty of schism and claims to be the true heir of the Reformed Church of Scotland in doctrine, worship, government and discipline. While she certainly does not claim perfection, she maintains that all churches in Scotland should unite around her constitution and testimony'.[11]

Recent developments

Church extension work tends to be low-key and results to be measured in the long-term in the Free Presbyterian Church. It stresses the need for the Holy Spirit to work in the soul before any spiritual life will be present, the need for the church to provide Bible-based and Christ-focused preaching, emphasizes the need for a holy life by those who claim conversion, and encourages example as well as precept in evangelism. It has not emulated other evangelical churches in their approach to reaching the secular UK. Its Catechism explains: 'Many modern churches have drama, dancing, and music bands in their worship and use sport and social entertainment to attract and retain young people; but these things are of the world and should not be countenanced by the Church of Christ for promoting the interests of the kingdom'.[12]

Public pronouncements about the current state of the nation tend to combine concern about Free Presbyterian spiritual decline with fears of increased secularization of other Reformed churches. A recent report to the FP Religion and Morals Committee quoted from a FP Outer Isles presbytery report, but said the issues were relevant for many other parts of the country. 'We must acknowledge the low state of religion among ourselves' it said, adding of other denominations: '...we find that many professing Christians in the Churches are actively encouraged to continue their former worldly interest in professional and amateur sport, worldly music, entertainments such as the cinema, dances, use of public houses, concerts and ceilidhs, and that many speak and dress like the world with little distinction to be found between them and their former companions'.[13]

Congregations outside the UK

The Free Presbyterian Church has a Presbytery of Australia and New Zealand, with a number of congregations in both countries.[14] There are congregations in Gisborne, Auckland, Tauranga, Sydney and Grafton. In Ukraine, there is a congregation in Odessa.[15] In Singapore there is a congregation, and in Zimbabwe services are held in forty locations with their centres in Bulawayo, Ingwenya, Mbuma, New Canaan and Zenka. In North America there are two congregations in Canada, Vancouver, British Columbia, and Chesley, Ontario and one in the United States of America, Santa Fe, Texas.

List with congregations in the UK

Congregation Town Minister Image
Aberdeen Congregation Aberdeen Rev Douglas W B Somerset
Barnoldswick Congregation Barnoldswick, near [[Colne], Lancashire] Rev Keith M Watkins
Bonar and Dornoch Congregation Bonar Bridge Rev Neil M Ross (interim moderator)
Broadstairs Congregation Broadstairs (Kent) Rev John MacLeod (interim moderator)
Bonar and Dornoch Congregation Dornoch Rev Neil M Ross (interim moderator)
Dingwall and Beauly Congregation DingwallBeauly Rev Neil M Ross
Farr and Daviot Congregation Farr - Tomatin - Stratherrick Rev Douglas W B Somerset (interim moderator)
Fort William Congregation Fort William Rev Roderick MacLeod (interim moderator)
Gairloch Congregation Gairloch Rev Alfred E W MacDonald
St Jude's Church Glasgow Rev Roderick Macleod
Duirinish Congregation Glendale vacant
Edinburgh Church Edinburgh Rev David Campbell
Halkirk Congregation Halkirk Rev Neil M Ross (interim moderator)
Inverness Congregation Inverness Rev Douglas W B Somerset (interim moderator)
Kinlochbervie and Scourie Congregation Kinlochbervie Rev Neil M Ross (interim moderator)
Laide Congregation Laide (Rossshire) Rev Donald A Ross
Larne Congregation Larne Rev Keith M Watkins (interim moderator)
South Harris Congregation Leverburgh Rev Kenneth D Macleod
Lochcarron and Kyle of Lochalsh Congregation LochcarronKyle of Lochalsh Rev Donald A Ross (interim moderator)
London Congregation London - Whitechapel Rev John Macleod
Ness Congregation Ness Rev Allan W MacColl
North Tolsta Congregation North Tolsta, Lewis Rev James R Tallach (interim moderator)
North Uist Congregation North Uist (Bayhead) Rev Donald A K Macdonald
Perth Congregation Perth Rev David Campbell (interim moderator)
Portree Congregation Portree (Skye) Rev Iain Macdonald
Raasay Congregation Inverarish (Raasay) Rev Wiflred A Weale (interim moderator)
Applecross and Shieldaig Congregation Shieldaig Rev Donald A Ross (interim moderator)
Staffin Congregation Staffin Rev Wilfred A Weale
Stornoway Congregation Stornoway Rev James R Tallach
Bracadale Strath Congregation Struan vacant
North Harris Congregation Tarbert Rev J Bruce Jardine
Uig Congregation Uig (Lewis) Rev Allan W MacColl (interim moderator)
Duirinish Congregation Vatten (Skye) vacant
Ullapool and Lochinver Congregation Ullapool Rev Alfred E W MacDonald (interim moderator)


  1. ^ "Who We Are". Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland. Retrieved 26 February 2015. 
  2. ^ Peterkin, Tom (16 December 2002). "Spinster's £1m to Wee Wee Frees".  
  3. ^ Cramb, Auslan (13 April 2006). "The 'sinners' set sail for the Hebrides".  
  4. ^
  5. ^  
  6. ^  
  7. ^  
  8. ^ The Importance of An Approved Translation Of The Bible
  9. ^ "About the APC « AP Church". Retrieved 26 February 2015. 
  10. ^  
  11. ^  
  12. ^ A Catechism of the History and Principles of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland. FPC. 2013. p. 45. 
  13. ^ Proceedings of Synod Together With Reports and Accounts May 2014. FPC. 2014. pp. 14, 15. 
  14. ^ Ward, Rowland; Humphreys, Robert (1995). Religious Bodies in Australia: A comprehensive Guide (3rd ed.). New Melbourne Press. p. 86.  
  15. ^ "Главная - Свободная Пресвитерианская Церковь Украины". Retrieved 26 February 2015. 

External links

  • Official website
  • Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland in New Zealand
  • Grafton Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland
  • Sydney Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland
  • Texas Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland
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