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Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland

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Title: Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland  
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Subject: Religion in Scotland, Cameronian, Bahá'í Faith in Scotland, Buddhism in Scotland, Hinduism in Scotland
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Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland

Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland
Classification Protestant
Orientation Reformed Presbyterian
Theology Reformed
Governance Presbyterian
Origin 1690
Separations 1876 Majority joined Free Church of Scotland
Congregations 4 established congregations & 1 Church plant
Members 250 Attendees
Official website

The Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland is a Christian denomination. It is the original church of the Reformed Presbyterian tradition (commonly known as the RP's). The RPCS formed in 1690 when its members declined to be part of the establishment of the Church of Scotland. In 1876 the vast majority of Reformed Presbyterians joined the Free Church of Scotland, and thus the present-day RPCS is a continuing church. There are currently congregations in Airdrie, Stranraer, Stornoway, Glasgow, and a church plant in Edinburgh opened in 2011.


Reformed Presbyterians believe that the supreme standard for belief and practice is the Bible, received as the inspired and inerrant Word of God.

Reformed Presbyterian theology is apostolic, Protestant, Reformed (or Calvinistic) and evangelical. There is a desire to maintain in its depth and purity the Christian faith handed down from the beginning, thus the church holds The Westminster Confession of Faith as her subordinate standard. The basic principles of the denomination are not different from those held by many other churches. The prominence that Reformed Presbyterian theology gives to the kingship of Christ is reflected in worship and politics, for example through a cappella singing of the Psalms only in corporate church worship. They also believe that the nation is under obligation, once admitted but now repudiated, to recognise Christ as its king and to govern all its affairs in accordance with God's will.

The constitution[1] of the church states: "[The RPCS] wishes to present a positive testimony to the gospel in general, and to Reformed and Presbyterian principles of religion in particular, in Scotland and throughout the world. In other words, the church is not, primarily, a protesting church – although it is that – but a confessing church: a church which seeks to be a living, positive, and witnessing church, striving to fulfil her mission which she understands as being nothing less than to ‘go and teach all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you’ (Matthew 28:19,20)."


The National Covenant of 1638 in Edinburgh's Huntly House Museum. Believed to be the original from which copies were made.

Reformed Presbyterians have also been referred to historically as Covenanters because of their identification with public covenanting in Scotland, beginning in the 16th century. In response to the King's attempts to change the style of worship and form of government in the churches that had previously been agreed upon (covenanted) by the free assemblies and parliament, a number of ministers affirmed their adherence to those previous agreements by becoming signatories to the "National Covenant" of February 1638 at Greyfriars Kirk, in Edinburgh. It is from this that the Blue Banner comes, proclaiming "For Christ's Crown & Covenant", as the Covenanters saw the King's attempt to alter the church as an attempt to claim its headship from Jesus Christ. In August, 1643, the Covenanters signed a political treaty with the English Parliamentarians, called the "Solemn League and Covenant". Under this covenant the signatories agreed to establish Presbyterianism as the national church in England and Ireland. In exchange, the "Covenanters" agreed to support the English Parliamentarians against Charles I of England in the English Civil War. The Solemn League and Covenant asserted the privileges of the "crown rights" of Jesus as King over both Church and State, and the Church's right to freedom from coercive State interference. Oliver Cromwell put the independents in power in England, signalling the end of the reforms promised by Parliament. When the monarchy was restored in 1660, some Presbyterians were hopeful in the new covenanted king, as Charles II had sworn to the covenants in Scotland in 1650 and 1651. Charles II, however, determined that he would have none of this talk of covenants. While the majority of the population participated in the established church, the Covenanters dissented strongly, instead holding illegal worship services in the countryside. They suffered greatly in the persecutions that followed, the worst of which is known as the Killing Times, administered against them during the reigns of Charles II and James VII.

In 1691, Presbyterianism was restored to the Established Church in Scotland. Because there was no acknowledgement of the sovereignty of Christ in terms of the Solemn League and Covenant, however, a party of dissenters refused to enter into this national arrangement (the “Revolution Settlement”), on the grounds that it was forced upon the Church and did not adhere to the nation's previous covenanted settlement. These formed into societies which eventually formed the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Scotland. Meanwhile, when persecution broke out after Charles II had declared the Scottish Covenants illegal, tens of thousands of Scottish Covenanters had fled to Ulster, between 1660 and 1690. These Covenanters eventually formed the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland.

After the Revolution Settlement, all of the few remaining Covenanter ministers joined the Established Church in 1690, leaving the "United Societies" without any ministers for sixteen years. For those sixteen years the Dissenting Covenanters maintained their Societies for worship and religious correspondence . The Societies numbered about twenty, with a general membership of about seven thousand.

At the end of the sixteen years, Rev. John Macmillan, minister of the parish of Balmaghie, a man of rare force of character and strict integrity, who had tried in vain to persuade his fellow presbyters and Churchmen to return to the Covenant ground that they had abandoned, and who had suffered deposition for his persistency, was offered, and accepted, the officer of minister to the Dissenting Societies (1706). His labours amongst the widely scattered sections of the Cameronian body were richly blessed.

In 1743, another minister, the Rev. Thomas Nairne, who had left the Established Church and joined the Associate Presbytery, came over to the Societies, which were then was constituted the Reformed Presbytery. The Church increased in numbers, and in 1810 the Presbytery was divided into three—the Eastern, Northern, and Southern Presbyteries—which met the following year as the first Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland. In that same year, the Irish and North American Reformed Presbyterian Churches, daughters of the Scottish Church, were also strong enough for each to constitute its first Synod.

Global RP Church

The Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland maintains relationships with the following other churches that use the name "Reformed Presbyterian Church":

North America

The Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America comprises 89 congregations in the USA and Canada, including a number of church plants. The Church has a: theological seminary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a third level College, Geneva College, in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, a publishing arm, and a nursing home also in Pittsburgh.


Links with the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland have been especially strong over the past 300 years. The RPCI has 36 congregations and three church plants, mostly in Northern Ireland. It has its own theological college, a bookshop, and a nursing home.


The Japan Presbytery - Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America was established as a mission work of the RPCNA and is a presbytery of the North American church. It has four congregations and one church plant. It operates a theological college and a bookstore in the city of Kobe.


There are three congregations in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Australia, which was a church planted by the Irish RP Church.

Foreign missions


The Scottish Church has a direct input into the mission work in Nantes, France via a mission committee which operates under the oversight of the Irish and Scottish RP Churches.

Sudan and Cyprus

The RPCS takes an active interest in these mission works operated under the oversight of the RP Church in North America.


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External links

  • Official site
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