This diagram is taken from the Collins Encyclopaedia of Scotland with some fairly minor changes. Although not specifically aimed at genealogists this is an excellent resource with small articles on places and people as well as other aspects of Scotland.
The top of the diagram starts about 1700 and shows only the Church of Scotland and the Cameronians as having had a prior existence. There are also the Episcopal Church of Scotland and the Roman Catholic Church which would be represented as two straight vertical lines going from top to bottom of the diagram. The churches shown could be classed as presbyterian but the Baptists and some others are omitted. I should also say that some texts I have read do not fully agree with the diagram
see diagram

ANTI-BURGHERS see Secession Church

This group broke off from the Free Presbyterian Church in 1989. An elder of the church, Lord Mackay,was also Lord Chancellor which is the highest judicial office in England. He attended the (Roman Catholic) requiem masses for two of his very good friends. After all most people attend weddings, funerals of other denominations without hypocrisy as a token of love for their friends or the departed. Nevertheless he was excommunicated. There was at the time considerable debate both within and out of the church.


BURGHERS see Secession Church

Called after Richard Cameron (c1648-1680) a schoolmaster from Fife and a covenanter. He refused to recognize the rule of Charles II and after a brief period of exile was killed by royalist troops in Ayrshire. His followers, known as the 'Society People' formed themselves in local societies and by 1690 numbered several thousand. They rejected any State interference in Church matters. Their three ministers left them for the established church but in 1706 John Macmillan became their minister and carried out an active itinerant ministry and the term 'Macmillanite' was sometimes used to replace that of 'Cameronian'. It was under his leadership that in 1743 they set up a presbytery at Braehead called the Reformed Presbytery. They refused yet to take part in civil affairs. Many members of the Reformed Presbyterian Church joined the Free Church in 1876.

It could be said that the Church of Scotland dates from 1560 when the Scottish Parliament decided that the protestant Confession of Faith should be be the only authorized creed of the Scottish Kingdom. Others claim that the Church dates from 1690 over a century later. In the next decade after 1560 Prelacy had been re-established only to be abolished by a General Assembly of 1638. After the Restoration of Charles II he rescinded the act in favour of the National Covenant and abolishing the prelatical hierarchy. In 1688 after the flight of James II and the usurpation of the throne by William the situation changed and by 1690 the church had been re-established by the state as a Presbyterian body. Although from this time the Church of Scotland was truly the established church it was the relation between church and state that was to lead to secession and Disruption in later years.

The first Covenant was that of 1557. In all its appearances the Covenant was basically an assertion of religious freedom although it times it was an instrument of repression. What are normally thought of as the first Covenanters were those who supported the 1638 Scottish (or National) Covenant. This was a protest not just about the changes Charles I was imposing on the church, but also because of the manner in which they were imposed by Charles without reference to the Scottish Parliament or to any sort of free assembly. They went on to demand both a free Parliament and a free Assembly. The term is also applied to their spiritual heirs who opposed the re-introduction of episcopacy in 1662 after the Restoration.

Solemn league and Covenant of 1643
After the first battles of the Civil War both King and (English) Parliament appealed to the Scots. A convention and a General Assembly accepted the overtures of the English Parliament and the resultant treaty took the form of a Solemn league and Covenant. The English wanted to think in terms of a civil league and the Scots in terms of a religious covenant. It set out to preserve the reformed religion in England, to extirpate Popery and prelacy, to maintain rights of parliament and the King's personal authority in preservation of the true religion and liberties of the kingdoms. After English armies had gained the ascendancy and had the King in their power they lost interest in sticking to the terms of the Covenant.

After the crowning of Charles II (at Scone in 1651) the power of the Covenanters declined. For a time Scotland was occupied by Cromwellian forces. but after the occupation moderates had come to realize that the ambitions of the Solemn League were unobtainable. Nevertheless many were convinced by the notion that an oath taken by the whole nation in the presence of God and to God was a binding thing which could not be loosed by either Protector or King.

James II/VII regarded loyalty to the Covenant as treason as the Covenanters (The Society People) accepted no King but Christ. The last of their ministers James Renwick was taken and executed in 1688. Then came the revolution which led to William of Orange usurping the throne. The revolution settlement established a Kirk based on the act of 1592 in structure and on the Westminster Confession in doctrine. The Cameronians refused to accept an uncovenanted church but they were few in number. Their three remaining ministers were admitted to the established church but the members still held aloof and obtained the adherence of two ordained ministers. In 1743 they established themselves as the Reformed Presbyterian Church proclaiming itself to be the only true Kirk of the Covenanters.

This church is not established but is part of the world-wide Anglican Communion and would consider itself the true representative of the medieval church, and teacher of the Catholic Faith. After the Reformation in the mid-1500s to 1690 prelacy had a chequered history in Scotland but in the last years of the 17th century the Church of Scotland was finally fully established as the state church with a presbyterian structure. The years immediatley following were difficult and many episcopal clergy were thrown out of their livings although the degree of oppression varied widely and some were left undisturbed for many years. Later they had a structure of seven bishoprics which took titles from, or combining, the names of the medieval sees. It was one of its bishops that consecrated the first bishop for the USA in 1784.

This church came into being in 1843, formed by dissenting members of the established Church of Scotland. Outwardly the schism was over the patronage issue. Since 1712 wealthy landowners (the heritors) had been able to appoint ministers to the parish church and many others thought that ministers should be chosen by 'the people'. The issue in reality went deeper as there was within the established Church a moderate group and an evangelical group. The moderates generally favoured establishment, were broad-minded, and cultured. The evangelicals tended to be stricter with Calvinistic tendencies and urged adherence to the Westminster Confession. An excellent book The People of the Great Faith by Douglas Ansdell describes the Highland church in the 18th to 20th centuries and discusses the great influence that the evangelicals had in the area in the years preceeding the Disruption. Many evangelical preachers were active in the area and were often at odds with the established ministers of the parish.
In 1900 most members united with the United Presbyterian Church to form the United Free Church. Although the union was totally acceptable to the United Presbyterian Church it was opposed by a small minority of the Free Church. This small group endeavoured to claim rights to all the property of the Free Church. In 1901-2 the courts ruled against them but in 1904 the House of Lords reversed this decision, creating an almost impossible situation in which government had to intervene. The United Free Church in its turn re-united with the established Church of Scotland in 1929, though again a tiny minority stayed apart. This minority agreed that the for the first 5 years following they would be known as "United Free Church of Scotland (continuing)" to distinguish themselves from the pre-1929 church and for this reason they were called the "Continuers". Most of their objections to union were because they were opposed to Establishment of religion under the State
The Free Church was split again on 21st January 2000. 31 ministers who faced suspension walked out of a meeting in Edinburgh to form a breakaway group. They were members of The Free Church Defence Association which was set up about 4 years previously to fight the trend towards liberalism and to address issues of immorality and heresy within the church. They accuse some of the church's members as being so 'earthly-minded' as to want to sing hymns instead of psalms. TOP OF PAGE

This was formed by Free Church dissidents in 1893 the immediate cause being the Free Church Declaratory Act which the dissidents believed to have altered the beliefs on which the Free Church was founded. In 1889 a Commission had been set up to resolve the doubts and 'scruples' that some ministers had regarding the Westminster Confession. The Declaratory Act which resulted distanced the Free Church from strict adherence to the Confession and allowed it to determine for itself the substance of the reformed faith. The dissidents regarded the act as legitimising or legalisation of all the backsliding that had characterised the previous twenty years in the Free Church.

see under Cameronians

NEW LICHTS see Secession Church

OLD LICHTS see Secession Church

This term describes a method of church government. "Presbyter" means "elder" and Presbyterianism means the government of the church by elders. The Kirk Session is made up of the elders who rule over the spiritual affairs of the congregation and the ministers who teach and rule. It is the duty of every member to care for the church and to further its activities by financial support, choosing ministers, management of its affairs etc. Many of the Presbyterian churches have no set prayers books or liturgy, and there is an emphasis on the ministry of the Word.

Developed from groups that seceded from the Church of Scotland in the 1700s and in 1847 united with the United Secession Church to form the United Presbyterian Church

Remnants of the Roman Church survived throughout especially in the Highlands and Islands. The hierearchy was not restored until 1878. In the 19th century immigration from Ireland gave rise to a large increase in RC congregations, as for example in Glasgow.

The breakaway group of 1733 was led by Ebenezer Erskine and the main source of disagreement was patronage. The Patronage Act passed by the state enabled the landowners to place the ministers of their choice. The Secession Church believed that this right belonged to the people. To the doctrinal statements of belief the church required that its ministers subscribed to both the Long and the Short Westminster Catechisms. In 1747 the Secession Church split again. This was because of a religious clause in the oath (which was basically directed against Jacobites) required of all burgesses in Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Perth. This division gave rise to the Burghers and Anti-Burghers. At the end of the century, from 1799 to 1806) these two groups each split again into Old Lichts (or Lights) and New Lichts. This was over the jurisdiction of the civil authority over the Church. The two groups of New Lichts merged about two decades later into the United Secession Church.

UNITED FREE CHURCH see under Free Church

This church was marked by an especial zeal for foreign missions and constant opposition to all state aid to the the church on the grounds that this necessarily led to state control. In 1900 it united with the Free Church to form the United Free Church which eventually was re-absorbed back into the Church of Scotland in 1929

Formed from the union of the 'New Lichts factions of the Burghers and Anti-Burghers in 1820. It united with the Relief Church in 1847 to form the United Presbyterian Church

I must again state my debt to the book The People of the Great Faith by Douglas Ansdell from which I have quoted frequently as well as from material on the web.

Last update 19/03/2001