The Response of the Church of Scotland (Auld Kirk) to social change, 1870-1914, with special reference to the work of the Christian Life and Work Committee.

Grubb, George Darlington Wilson (1984). The Response of the Church of Scotland (Auld Kirk) to social change, 1870-1914, with special reference to the work of the Christian Life and Work Committee. The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.000100f0

Abstract

The development and structure of The Church of Scotland (The Auld Kirk) during the period 1869 - 1914 was crucial for its future success or failure in the 20th century. It was during this period that there was a realisation within the Church that Scotland had changed radically in several ways; a basically rural community had now become influenced by the industrialisation process which created problems of population movement, deprivation and squalor in the large cities, and the loosening of traditional links with the established Church.

The Christian Life and Work Committee of The Church of Scotland, under the influence of The Reverend Professor Archibald Hamilton Charteris, Professor of Biblical Criticism at Edinburgh University, sought to analyse the problems, and to provide some of the answers for the age.

Its method and practice was to send out 'Queries' to Presbyteries and Parishes, and then bring before the General Assembly positive actions to be taken, to create a missionary Church, relating the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the condition of the people.

From the first tentative proposals in the early l870's came a programme for re-structuring the Church and creating organisations and activities for the members. Its concept of mission transformed the Auld Kirk with a new evangelical fervour, and a series of practical enterprises of which the Deaconess Training Centre and Hospital were the highlights.

The success of the Committee, if judged by its influence on the Church, was immense, and the present organisation of the Church of Scotland can be traced to the decisions taken during the 1875 - 89 period. However, with hindsight it is possible to see that the Auld Kirk, along with the other denominations in Scotland, was unable to ask the basic theological questions concerning the nature of the Church in its relationship to capitalism, work and poverty. It touched upon some of the issues when it discussed 'alienation' of the poor, but it was unable to move from its traditional theological position which regarded poverty as a sin, and thrift as a virtue. It was this inability to relate the Gospel to the needs of the people, which resulted in the Church losing the working class.

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