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The Disruption

A schism within the Church of Scotland which occurred on 18 May 1843 in Edinburgh during the Church's annual General Assembly. Led by Dr David Welsh, some 190 ministers left the Assembly, the Church of Scotland's governing body, to form the Free Church of Scotland with THOMAS chalmers as its first Moderator. Their first act was to prepare a deed of demission whereby all signatories resigned their livings and privileges in the established Church; the deed was signed by 451 ministers. In 1847 a Free Church College was founded in Edinburgh to train men for the ministry, by which time the movement had 700 churches of its own and was a recognized force in religious politics. The Disruption, as it came to be known, had its origins in the Patronage Act of 1712 which restored to patrons of ecclesiastical benefices the right of presentation of a minister to a parish, a move that threatened the traditional rights of congregations to elect their own ministers. The arguments continued throughout the 18th century, during which there were several secessions from the Church as congregations refused to accept ministers chosen for them by patrons. The belief that the Church should not be trammelled by political interference in its governance gained ground in the 19th century, culminating in the Disruption, and the establishment of the Free Church, which relied on its own membership for its support, spiritual and financial; this was a significant move in Scottish church history and one that influenced Scottish cultural life. Many of the leading members of the kailyard school owed their spiritual allegiance to the Free Church of Scotland.

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