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peculiarly deserving the prompt and liberal aid of members of the Church, in order to deliver the parties responsible for an onerous debt which, in their altered circumstances, they are not able to discharge, earnestly recommend the case to the support of those who may be able to give effective aid ; and trust that parties connected with the congregation, who may appeal personally for such aid, will meet with due encouragement. The Assembly also hope that the appeal will be vigorously and speedily prosecuted.” He would add that it was extremely important that the recommendation should be instantly and vigorously followed up by the Presbytery and congregation.
Dr Gibson seconded the motion, and said this case deserved the strongest recommendation of the Assembly.
Dr M LAUCHLAN stated that one of the members of the congregation was at present in Edinburgh, and would receive any contributions that might be made towards this object. From a generous friend he had received £20, and would be glad to take as much more as they liked to give. The motion was cordially agreed to.
CASE OF INNELLAN. The Assembly took up the case of the reference from the Presbytery of Dunoon and Inverary, respecting the election of a minister by the congregation at Innellan. This case arose out of the proceedings in connection with the election of a minister to supply the vacancy occasioned by the resignation of the Rev. J. J. Muir. A congregational committee reported a leet of five candidates, but being divided in opinion, made no recommendation, leaving the decision to the congregation. Three of the candidates were proposed accordingly, viz.-Mr Archibald M.Murchie, assistant to the Rev. Mr Munro, Rutherglen ; Mr J. M. Porteous, and Mr David Kay. Mr Kay having received only 9 votes was struck off, and a second and final vote being taken, Mr M‘Murchie had 27 and Mr Porteous 25 votes. The majority craved the Presbytery to proceed with a call in favour of Mr Porteous. The minority opposed, and the majority agreed to the suggestion of the Presbytery to withdraw both candidates, and proceed with a new election. The result in this case was, that Mr Kay was elected by 22 votes against 20 given for Mr Alexander Carrick. Four of the minority acquiesced, making a majority of 10 for Mr Kay. The Presbytery, finding that the proceedings had been irregular in several respects, in particular, that there had been no meeting of the congregational committee held, and no sufficient means adopted to ascertain the state of feeling throughout the congregation and among the summer adherents previous to proceeding to an election, and that there was still a considerable want of harmony, threatening to issue in serious and permanent division, declined to proceed in the moderation of a call; and further, considering the critical condition of the congregation at present, and the difficulties involved, refer the case, in hoc statu, for advice to the General Assembly.
MR ELDER stated the reference. He trusted that the peculiarities of the case would justify the Presbytery in having brought it up to the Assembly. Innellan is a watering place on the Clyde, which has sprung up into a charge of considerable importavce in the Free Church. The permanent population is small, the communion roll numbering about 55, whereas the summer population amounted to several hundreds, several families of the highest respectability having villas, either as feuars or holding leases of their houses, and residing there during a considerable portion of the year. It is becoming more and more a habit with gentlemen in business in Glasgow to reside, during a great part of the year, at the coast, and the facilities for travelling are naturally increasing this state of things from season to season. It has therefore been a growing conviction with those who have considered this matter that some provision in a reasonable way ought to be made, in the case of a vacancy such as this, for taking into account the mind and feeling of those who, for a great part of the year, are dependent for ordinances on these charges, and who may be the largest contributors for the support of ordinances. He thought he was quite warranted in saying, that if it had not been for the peculiar character of this place, in the above respect, it never would have been a sanctioned charge of the Free Church, and if anything should occur to alienate these summer residents, feuars, and others, they could not contemplate the keeping up of that charge at all
. The Presbytery, having regard to this element, as would be seen from the extract minute of 20 January, had agreed, with consent of parties, to the addition to the ordinary committee of the congregation of four-ultimately it was six-of those summer residents to be a consulting committee, with the ordinary committee, in selecting candidates. There was then an election reported to the Presbytery, on 3rd April, when it was manifest there was such a serious division that the Presbytery felt it impossible to go on with a call, and both candidates were withdrawn. At the second election, as per minute of 16th May, a report from the interim moderator of session showed a painfully divided state of things in the congregation, such irregularities having occurred as meetings of session and deacons' courts in absence of the interim moderator, where no minutes were taken; and the fact that no meeting at all of the committee was called previous to the election, so as to ascertain whether there was such a degree of harmony as to warrant the congregation in going forward to an election. It would be for the Assembly to judge whether those irregularities were such as to vitiate the election, and this was one point on which the Presbytery sought advice. Then there was the fact that, while only a majority of ten appeared for Mr Kay, there was a memorial from the minority outstanding stating that the peace of the congregation would be seriously disturbed, if not permanently injured, by bis settlement; and it was only right to say that some of the memorialists stated that this was not from any personal objection to Mr Kay, but mainly owing to proceedings connected with bis election. And, again, some of their United Presbyterian friends who had been the warmest supporters of the church at Innellan, in consequence of the existing state of things, had taken steps to set up a United Presbyterian Church there, at which a considerable portion of the Free Church congregation have been attending since this second election. In stating this fact he did not mean to throw any injurious reflection upon that body, but, looking at it in another point of view, it certainly had a serious bearing upon the prosperity and permanence of this congregation at Innellan. He hoped, then, the Assembly would sustain this reference and give wise advice on the question how the Presbytery were to deal with the case ; for he was convinced more and more that unless
means were devised, by legislation or otherwise, to meet the peculiar circumstances of cases where the congregations were upheld largely by summer visitors—and to take that element in some reasonable way into account in many instances, such charges must go down or be reduced to mere preaching stations. He should be glad to see a deputation of that House sent down to meet and advise the Presbytery and congregation, in the hope that, by God's blessing, the harmony and prosperity of the congregation may yet be secured.
Dr CANDLISH–Would it serve the Presbytery's purpose, and tend to good, if the General Assembly were to appoint two or three assessors to strengthen their hands in dealing with the case.
Dr M'INTOSH-I think, if I may venture to speak for my brethren, that that is just what we desire.
Mr R. C. SMITH, Glasgow, asked how many of those summer visitors were permanent residents from year to year ?
Dr M‘Intosh said the number of parties who resided at Innellan for two, four, or six months of the year was very large. The ordinary winter congregation is about 80, while in summer the church, which accommodates about 400, is full. Some of those summer visitors are also the warmest supporters and have been the most liberal contributors to the funds since the church was built.
Mr ELDER was not prepared to state the exact number resident from year to year; but out of a total of £196 contributed by the Innellan congregation, he was enabled to state that £143 was contributed by the summer visitor class.
In reply to Dr Gibson, Mr ELDER said-Mr Thomson, who took an active part in objecting to the call to Mr Kay, had his name put on the communion roll by the kirk session in March last, and that no objection to it had been stated when the roll was attested by the Presbytery. But he understood Mr Thomson had resided for a considerable part of each year at Innellan for the past eleven years, and had assisted as an elder there, though an elder also in St Matthews, Glasgow. He has been a most liberal supporter of the cause at Innellan.
The reference was then sustained, and parties removed from the bar.
Dr BUCHANAN said, it seemed to him that the questions put hardly presented the case in the aspect in which it was most necessary to look at it,-namely, whether the circumstances of the congregation being such as Mr Elder had clearly pointed out, they must not, with reference to its actual circumstances, deal with it as an exceptional case. But for summer visitors, it appeared that the congregation would number only about eighty, with a communion roll of fifty-five. He supposed there would be no doubt in the minds of any in that House that the Assembly would not have constituted a congregation so limited in numbers into a regular charge. Though it would have been necessary that some provision should have been made for that limited body of people, he could not imagine that the Church would ever feel itself warranted in constituting such a small body into a sanctioned charge, unless there were room for such speedy growth as he believed the limited extent of the native and permanently resident population at Innellan would not allow. A charge of this kind, then, made up largely of summer visitors, is very peculiarly placed ; and if you are not to consult the wishes and feelings of this class—if you altogether ignore that element, the Church would surely be acting in a very foolish and unreasonable manner, and one very likely to defeat the object you have in view in placing a minister there. It seems clear that you must consult their wishes and desires in some reasonable measure; or, that if you are determined to consult only the constant resident population, you will have to reduce the congregation to a mere preaching station. He was quite prepared to move that the Assembly should appoint assessors to be associated with the Presbytery in dealing with this case, which is an exceptional case, and requires delicate and peculiar handling. It is the first of the kind that bas come before the Assembly, and it might be desirable that some principle could be fixed upon for their guidance in such cases; and with that view, though he would be content to add nothing more to the motion, the House might do well to indicate its mind as to the way in which the case should be dealt with for the guidance of the assessors, and not leave it to be supposed that they are to be shut up to the ordinary rule in dealing with congregations.
Dr Gibsox seconded, but on the understanding that he did not concur in all the views expressed by Dr Buchanan. The Presbytery seemed to have thought proper to take up the case very much in relation to the parties who were residents in the district, thus allowing them so far to control the regular congregation. Now, he could not admit that principle. And he maintained, as knowing the district well, that Innellan was entitled to have a Free Church maintained for its population, taking into account the previous history of the congregation and their distance from another Free church. By the course proposed—that of admitting occasional residents to a controlling voice-ihey were introducing a very dangerous principle, the cvils of which had been already exemplified in Arran.
Dr CANDLISH said, it was of importance to keep in view that if it had not been for these summer visitors, it was doubtful whether this church at Innellan would ever have been sanctioned as a charge at all. This is also important as regards the future, for, without in the slightest degree saying tbat the summer visitors are to override the residenters-very far from that-in calling a minister in the ordinary way, it is important these should be informed, else that may raise the question as to the duty of the Church at no distant day, if they shall shrink into a small number of residenters, of their being continued upon the equal dividend.
Dr Giesos—They are not upon the equal dividend ; they make application to be put upon it at the present moment.
Dr CANDLISH–Well, it may affect that application very materially. (Laughter.) The question then may be raised whether they are to continue a full ministerial charge or be reduced to a station. But, as urged by Dr Gibson, it would seem as if the case was put in this way, that it was not possible to get a Gaelic-speaking probationer who would be acceptable to both the residents and the summer visitors. (“No Gaelic.") Well, an acceptable one among all their probationers." (Hear, hear.) Surely it was possible to accomplish this. He saw no better course than that proposed by Dr Buchanan.
Mr Rose, Poolewe, said, I wish to disabuse the mind of this Assembly of an erroneous impression under which it evidently labours in regard to the conduct of the Innellan congregation. The impression on the mind of the Assembly is, that the native portion of this congregation is evidently unreasonable, and utterly disregards the interests of the summer visitors in the matter of choosing a minister. I wish most distinctly to state that this is not the character of this congregation. Since they were sanctioned as a ministerial charge, the congregation has had three ministers. In each of these settlements the native portion of the congregation not only considered the interests of the summer visitors, but entered into these settlements very much out of deference to their claims. The district, so far as the native population is considered, though thinly peopled, is a Gaelic-speaking one. There is no Gaelic-speaking minister of the Free Church between Dunoon and Glendonell. Though this was the case, the native portion of the congregation waived their claim to a Gaelic-speaking minister, and agreed, in the interests of the summer residents and visitors, that an English-speaking minister should be settled among them.
Consequently Mr Smith, late of that congregation, was settied, and after a ministry of several years, which was highly satisfactory to both sections of the congregation, he went to Australia. Mr M.Donald, now of Nairn, was then called, and in this call also full consideration was given to the interests of the summer visitors. After a ministry of only eleven months—a ministry acceptable to all parties concerned—a call was presented to Mr M'Donald from Nairn, and the Presbytery of Dunoon and Inverary almost urged upon Mr M‘Donald the acceptance of that call. The last settlement that, viz., of Mr Muir, was almost entirely out of deference to the summer residenters and visitors. But Mr Muir's health gave way, and he was obliged to resign. Thus, Moderator, the past history of this congregation has, in the particular of consideration for the summer visitors, been most exemplary ; and such being the case, it is not right that an entirely different impression regarding them should remain on the mind of the House, and that they should be spoken of as if in reality they were a most unreasonable and impracticable handful of people.
Mr SOMERVILLE, Glasgow, suggested the appointment of a committee to visit Innellan, and that they should be instructed to bring up a report on the general principle involved.
Dr Begg said the proposal to send assessors was better than appointing a committee with such instructions, which was a step that would require serious consideration. While he admitted that the feelings and wishes of all parties should be consulted, they must hold by the divine rule of the people choosing their own minister, and must not imperil that principle. The impression upon bis mind from reading the papers was, that they had been giving these summer residents a sort of formal position in the election which they really could not hold; and no good could come from giving them an indefinite position which they had not the power nor the right to use. For example, the committee of the congregation were to have a consulting committee of four or more of those summer residents. That, he thought, was going too far, and was a step that tended to bring up the very difficulty it was desirable to avoid. (Hear.) The feelings and wishes of the summer residents should have been consulted without this formal step, which might seem at least to be an interference with the rights of the congregation. Another difficulty had arisen from going on with the election at all when so many divisions evidently existed; they all knew that when people got into that position of expressed division, it is extremely difficult to get a right state of feeling brought about again,