18th May 1843

“The Disruption” splits the Church of Scotland

Who has the right to appoint a minister of the Church? That was the question that led to a destructive schism in the Church of Scotland, and the formation of the Free Church of Scotland by those who disagreed with the established order.

The Church Patronage (Scotland) Act 1711 allowed patrons of the church, who had a financial interest in the way it was run, to choose who should be appointed a minister in the parish they supported. The Church of Scotland, in general, didn’t approve of this right but, at the same time, it didn’t make too much of a fuss, perhaps because it didn’t want to upset the sources of income that allowed it to do its work.

Disagreements over selections

However, this willingness to work with the patrons wasn’t universal throughout the Church, with some Church officials believing that a minister should be selected by the congregation, rather than his paymaster. By 1834, this group was in the ascendancy. The General Assembly passed the Veto Act, under which a minister could only be appointed if the majority of households in a parish approved.

But, by the early 1840s, the tide was turning, and the Veto Act was declared illegal and the patrons’ right to nominate their preferred candidate was reinstated. At this, almost 40% of the Church of Scotland’s existing ministers left and formed the Free Church of Scotland. This split is what became known as The Disruption.

A new church

“We observe, that a movement has been made in Glasgow, by some of the Conservative non-intrusionists, in favour of a settlement of the Church question, or at least a suspension of the secession scheme, in the hope that it may yet be found possible to obtain sanction of Government to some plan for adjusting existing differences,” reported the Aberdeen Press and Journal on 22 February 1843. However, it continued that “the non-intrusionists, generally, would seem to regard their ultimate secession as certain. Under this impression, a circular has just been issued stating the arrangements necessary for the contemplated schism. The dissenting church is to be called ‘The Free Church of Scotland’.”



Other events that occured in May

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