History of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland

The reformation in Scotland was more thorough than in other countries. The Presbyterian Church timeline begins with the Church of Scotland.
Assembly Hall, Edinburgh where the Protest of 1893 took place

The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland has maintained a presence at locations across Canada for over 100 years. Including at various times Ontario, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Regina, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. At present we have a well-established congregation in Chesley, Ontario.

The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland is the constitutional heir of the historic Church of Scotland of the Reformation.

The Church of Scotland

The reformation in Scotland was more thorough than in any other country, which led to thoroughly reformed doctrine, worship, practice and government in the Church of Scotland formed in 1560. Ever after, the Church of Scotland (along with the Church of Calvin’s Geneva) was the most Scriptural of the Reformation churches. Frequently, she had to contend for the purity of her testimony in face of state intrusion into her worship and government. At one period of her history, thousands of Covenanters willingly laid down their lives rather than deny these Scriptural standards which the nation had covenanted to uphold. The Church of Scotland adopted the Westminster Confession of Faith in 1648 as her subordinate standard. When the final persecuting period ended, the Church of Scotland was re-established with freedom to worship and govern again according to Scriptural standards.

The Free Church of Scotland

The Church of Scotland gradually declined in spirituality and some of her freedoms were given away. A worldly and spiritually lifeless, though outwardly orthodox, ministry obtained a majority position in the church for many decades. However, after the rise of an evangelical and faithful party the church resisted state intrusion upon her discipline and the right of the people to choose their own ministers. The Free Church was formed by these Evangelicals who finally broke away from the Church of Scotland in 1843. This ‘Great Disruption’ took place to preserve the spiritual independence of the Church from state intrusion.

Declaratory Act

Although formed with a galaxy of eminent and godly ministers, the Free Church soon began a serious spiritual decline. This led eventually to the acceptance of those who denied the inspiration of Scripture, the divinity of Christ. Finally in 1892 the Free Church passed a Declaratory Act to relax the strictness of subscription to the Westminster Confession of Faith. As a result, in 1893, after attempts to repeal the Act failed, a lone and relatively obscure minister, Rev. Donald Macfarlane, protested, and thereby separated from the Free Church. The Rev. Donald Macdonald of Shieldaig and an elder joined Mr. Macfarlane to form the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, taking with them the original constitution of the 1843 Free Church. Later they approved the Deed of Separation from the Free Church at the first Presbytery held at Portree in August 1893. Many other people, mainly in the Highlands of Scotland, severed their connection with the Free Church of Scotland and joined the new church.

The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland

The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland retains the strict subscription to the Westminster Confession of Faith that the Free Church had abandoned. Furthermore, it maintains that the separation in 1893 was justified and necessary. Therefore, the Free Presbyterian Church is entitled to be regarded as the true spiritual heir of the Reformation Church of Scotland of 1560, over 450 years later.

The twentieth century saw immense changes in the professing Christian Church, which was overrun with liberalism, postmodernism and error. Notwithstanding, the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland has sought to maintain the doctrine, worship, practice, and government she inherited in 1893. Her position is essentially that of John Knox and the Scottish Reformed Church of 1560. This in turn was based on the position of the New Testament church in the days of the Apostles.

Free Presbyterian Witness in Canada

The main congregations of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland in Canada have been in Ontario, Winnipeg and Vancouver. Other locations of worship groups included Saskatoon, Regina, Calgary, and Edmonton.

See here for the Free Presbyterian witness in Ortario and here for British Columbia.  

Winnipeg

Rev. Donald Beaton visited Winnipeg in 1907 and commenced church services, which continued until 1973. During this time the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland congregation in Winnipeg opened a mission hall in 1915.

Saskatoon

The Rev. M. Morrison conducted services in Saskatoon during 1924 and a number of Deputies visited until at least 1940. In addition to Saskatoon there were also a few people belonging to the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland in Regina.

Calgary

The Rev. J.R. Mackay visited Calgary in 1914 and the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland witness there continued at least until 1972. In addition to Calgary there were also groups in Innisfail and Edmonton.

Learn more about the Scottish Churches Timeline.

See also Articles on Scottish Church History page and Rev Neil Cameron’s Memoir.

In addition, find out more on the unique witness of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland. Our Free Presbyterian Heritage by Rev. D. Beaton

We also invite you to learn more about our theology and our worship . You can learn more about the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland as a global denomination by visiting the website.

Publications on History of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland

History of the F.P. Church – Part 1 (1893 -1933)Rev. Donald Macfarlane, Raasay, afterwards advanced to the table and read the following protest:“Whereas by the action of the General Assembly of 1892 in passing the Declaratory Act into a law of the Church, and by that Act being retained in her constitution, the Church, in our opinion, ceases to be the true…

Sermons by Past Ministers

Free Presbyterian PulpitThis book, issued by  the  Publications Committee of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland,  contains  a selection  of sermons by  ministers  of  this church  who  have ended  their days  of service in the  world. They accepted the Bible as their infallible, supreme standard and the whole doctrine of the “Westminster Confession of Faith” as founded upon the Scriptures.Election, predestination, the…