Family Research – English, Scottish and Irish Genealogy


scotland’s churches

Four ecclesiastical traditions are largely responsible for shaping the history of the Christian church in Scotland. They are those of the Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Presbyterian and Independent churches.

The Roman Catholic can claim the most enduring association with Scottish history, but its dominant position was undermined by the Reformation in Scotland in 1560. Although the Presbyterian Church of Scotland can locate its origins in the events of 1560, it was 1689 before the Church in Scotland emerged clearly in its Presbyterian and Episcopal forms.

At this point the Presbyterian Church of Scotland was established by law, and in the years that followed the Episcopal Church had to contend with restrictive legislation and consequently lost considerable support. The Church of Scotland’s supremacy was somewhat frustrated by the persistence of the Roman Catholic and Episcopal churches in Scotland and further undermined by two secessions from the Church of Scotland in the eighteenth-century.

Further divisions and subsequent reunions resulted, and eventually two of these splinter churches came together in 1847 to form the United Presbyterian Church. This was only a few years after the Disruption of the Church of Scotland in 1843, which produced the Free Church of Scotland.

The Free Church itself was divided in 1893 and again in 1900. In 1893 the Free Presbyterian Church was formed from the Free Church and in 1900 the majority of the Free Church joined with the United Presbyterian Church to form the United Free Church. A significant minority did not participate in this union and retained the name of the Free Church of Scotland. The new church, the United Free Church of Scotland, united with the Church of Scotland in 1929, and yet again a minority remained outside and continued as the United Free Church of Scotland. More recently the Associated Presbyterian Churches separated from the Free Presbyterian Church in 1989, and in 2000 the Free Church (Continuing) parted company with the Free Church of Scotland.

The ecclesiastical category of Independent churches covers a wide and increasing number of churches. In Scotland their origins can mostly be found in the eighteenth-century and the main representatives of this tradition have been Baptists, Congregationalists and Methodists.

This tradition also includes Quakers, Brethren, Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Unitarians, United Reformed, Churches of Christ, Church of the Nazarene and the Salvation Army. (Please note that churches listed as Independent at Scottish Christian are free-standing churches usually formed in the 20th century.)

The Orthodox Church can also be include as another ecclesiastical tradition now located in Scotland, although it has not had such a long-standing link with, nor impact on, Scottish history as the other traditions mentioned.

Considerable formal and informal dialogue and co-operation between Churches Together developed during the 1980s and 1990s. These include the Scottish Church Initiative for Union (SCIFU) – proposed by the Scottish Episcopal Church and also involving the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church – now in its second consultative phase.

source-by Douglas Ansdell/

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