The Church of Scotland (, (スコットランド・ゲール語:Eaglais na h-Alba)), known informally by its Scots language name, the Kirk, is the established church of Scotland.〔(Queen and the Church ), royal.gov.uk. Retrieved 5 July 2015.〕 Protestant and Presbyterian, its longstanding decision to respect "liberty of opinion on matters not affecting the substance of the faith" means it is relatively tolerant of a variety of theological positions, including those who would term themselves conservative and liberal in their doctrine, ethics and interpretation of Scripture. It is legally the national church.
The Church of Scotland traces its roots back to the beginnings of Christianity in Scotland, but its identity is principally shaped by the Reformation of 1560. As of December 2013, its pledged membership is 398,389,〔 or about 7.5% of the total population – though according to the 2011 national census, a significantly higher 32% of the Scottish population claimed some form of allegiance to it (see Religion in Scotland).
While the Church of Scotland traces its roots back to the earliest Christians in Scotland, its identity was principally shaped by the Scottish Reformation of 1560. At that point, many in the then church in Scotland broke with Rome, in a process of Protestant reform led, among others, by John Knox. It reformed its doctrines and government, drawing on the principles of John Calvin which Knox had been exposed to while living in Geneva, Switzerland. In 1560, an assembly of some nobles, lairds and burgesses, as well as several churchmen, claiming in defiance of the Queen to be a Scottish Parliament, abolished papal jurisdiction and approved the ''Scots Confession'', but did not accept many of the principles laid out in Knox's ''First Book of Discipline'', which argued, among other things, that all of the assets of the old church should pass to the new. The 1560 Reformation Settlement was not ratified by the crown, as the monarch, Mary, Queen of Scots, a Catholic, refused to do so, and the question of church government also remained unresolved. In 1572 the acts of 1560 were finally approved by the young King James VI, the son of Queen Mary, but the Concordat of Leith also allowed the crown to appoint bishops with the church's approval. John Knox himself had no clear views on the office of bishop, preferring to see them renamed as 'superintendents'; but in response to the new Concordat a Presbyterian party emerged headed by Andrew Melville, the author of the ''Second Book of Discipline''.
Melville and his supporters enjoyed some temporary successes—most notably in the Golden Act of 1592, which gave parliamentary approval to Presbyterian courts. James VI, who succeeded to the English throne in 1603 as James I, believed that Presbyterianism was incompatible with monarchy, declaring "No bishop, no king" and by skillful manipulation of both church and state, steadily reintroduced parliamentary and then diocesan episcopacy. By the time he died in 1625, the Church of Scotland had a full panel of bishops and archbishops. General Assemblies met only at times and places approved by the Crown.
Charles I inherited a settlement in Scotland based on a balanced compromise between Calvinist doctrine and episcopal practice. Lacking the political judgement of his father, he began to upset this by moving into more dangerous areas. Disapproving of the 'plainness' of the Scottish service he, together with his Archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud, sought to introduce the kind of liturgical practice in use in England. The centrepiece of this new strategy was the Prayer Book of 1637, a slightly modified version of the Anglican ''Book of Common Prayer''. Although this was devised by a panel of Scottish bishops, Charles' insistence that it be drawn up in secret and adopted sight-unseen led to widespread discontent. When the Prayer Book was finally introduced at St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh in mid-1637 it caused an outbreak of rioting, which spread across Scotland. In early 1638 the National Covenant was signed by large numbers of Scots, protesting at the introduction of the Prayer Book and other liturgical innovations that had not first been tested and approved by free Parliaments and General Assemblies of the Church. In November 1638, the General Assembly in Glasgow, the first to meet for twenty years, not only declared the Prayer Book unlawful, but went on to abolish the office of bishop itself. The Church of Scotland was then established on a Presbyterian basis. Charles' attempt at resistance to these developments led to the outbreak of the Bishops' Wars. In the ensuing civil wars, the Scots Covenanters at one point made common cause with the English parliamentarians—resulting in the Westminster Confession of Faith being agreed by both. This document remains the subordinate standard of the Church of Scotland, but was replaced in England after the Restoration.
Episcopacy was reintroduced to Scotland after the Restoration, the cause of considerable discontent, especially in the south-west of the country, where the Presbyterian tradition was strongest. The modern situation largely dates from 1690, when after the Glorious Revolution the majority of Scottish bishops were non-jurors, that is, they believed they could not swear allegiance to William II while James VII lived. To reduce their influence the Scots Parliament guaranteed Presbyterian governance of the Church by law, excluding what became the Scottish Episcopal Church. The Covenanters, disagreeing with the Restoration Settlement on various political and theological grounds, most notably because the Settlement did not acknowledge the National Covenant and Solemn League and Covenant, also did not join the Church of Scotland, instead forming the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland in 1690.
Controversy still surrounded the relationship between the Church of Scotland's independence and the civil law of Scotland. The interference of civil courts with Church decisions, particularly over the appointment of ministers, following the Church Patronage Act of 1711, which gave landowners, or patrons, the right to appoint ministers to vacant pulpits, would lead to several splits. This began with the secession of 1733 and culminated in the Disruption of 1843, when a large portion of the Church broke away to form the Free Church of Scotland. The seceding groups tended to divide and reunite among themselves—leading to a proliferation of Presbyterian denominations in Scotland.
The British Parliament passed the Church of Scotland Act 1921, finally recognising the full independence of the Church in matters spiritual, and as a result of this, and passage of the Church of Scotland (Property and Endowments) Act, 1925, the Kirk was able to unite with the United Free Church of Scotland in 1929. The United Free Church of Scotland was itself the product of the union of the former United Presbyterian Church of Scotland and the majority of the Free Church of Scotland in 1900.
Some independent Scottish Presbyterian denominations still remain. These include the Free Church of Scotland—sometimes called 'The Wee Frees'—(formed of those congregations which refused to unite with the United Presbyterian Church in 1900), the United Free Church of Scotland (formed of congregations which refused to unite with the Church of Scotland in 1929), the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland (which broke from the Free Church of Scotland in 1893), the Associated Presbyterian Churches (which emerged as a result of a split in the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland in the 1980s) and the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) (which emerged from a split in the Free Church of Scotland in 2000).
The motto of the Church of Scotland is ''nec tamen consumebatur'' (Latin)—'Yet it was not consumed', an allusion to Exodus 3:2 and the Burning Bush.
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