HL Deb 07 April 1876 vol 228 cc1384-6

THE EARL OF MINTO moved that there be laid before the House Copy of— Regulations, framed and enacted by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, to be observed in the election and appointment of Ministers" under the powers conferred upon them by the Patronage Abolition Act; also for returns for each parish in Scotland, in which a vacancy has been filled up or is in the course of being filled up, under any such regulations or interim regulations of the General Assembly stating certain particulars [according to a tabular form set forth in the Motion.] The noble Earl said, that he was induced to move for these Returns because, as he understood, a great abuse had arisen under the Patronage Abolition Act, by reason that a large number of mere boys and girls, from the fact of their being communicants, had obtained votes in the election of ministers. He thought that such a system was very apt to create a scandal in the Church, and that the power had, in fact, been exercised in a very unprecedented and extraordinary manner. It appeared to him that the effect of the abolition of Church patronage in Scotland had reduced the Church of Scotland to the condition of a Dissenting body.


explained that it was impossible to give the Returns in the exact form in which they were moved, because, by the lapse of time, any Return given this year would be perfectly fallacious two or three years hence. Of course it would be quite practicable to give the Regulations of the General Assembly for the election and appointment of Ministers, and some of the other information required, which he had no objection to produce.


said, that he entirely disagreed with his noble Friend behind him (the Earl of Minto) that the power which had been given by Parliament to the General Assembly to create new constituencies had been exercised in an extraordinary and unprecedented manner. It was by his Amendment in the Patronage Abolition Act that an alteration was made in the clause relating to the constituency. The Act of Parliament defined the constituency. The Bill, as originally drawn, gave the election of the minister to the communicants. In the Amendment he had moved, the words "communicants and adherents" were inserted in the clause. Therefore Parliament having supplemented the communicants by the addition of those persons who were to be constituted adherents, it would have been illegal for the General Assembly to have left out that addition. He believed that the General Assembly in the regulations they had issued had acted strictly in the spirit of the Act. The noble Earl complained of scandals. He did not consider that the scandal was so bad as it was under the former system, when a patron could appoint any minister by his own vote, and he was glad to take this opportunity of saying that he had had some opportunity of personally ascertaining the effect of the alteration in the mode of election to one of the livings of which he was formerly the sole patron. Nothing could be more orderly and calmer than the election which had been conducted by the congregation; and though he could not deny that congregational election might give rise to some difficulties, there would be fewer scandals than under the former system. He contended that the Church of Scotland was now far more national than she was, and that the General Assembly was now more national than any other ecclesiastical assembly.

Motion amended and agreed to.