1934 Church Minister rejected by congregation

1930s Interior of Old Parish Church

1930s Interior of Old Parish Church

In March 1934, a most unusual situation arose over the appointment of a new minister for Blantyre (Old) Parish Church. By 203 votes to 53 the congregation openly rejected the candidate selected as sole nominee by the vacancy committee. The situation was most unusual as the congregation had experienced 2 sermons by the stand-in, trial minister.

In November 1933, Rev. C. S. Turnbull had retired after 47 years as minister of the church, the longest standing minister in the church’s history, a record that remains unbroken.  A vacancy committee, fully representing the congregation was appointed to make inquiries regarding a successor. After some time they were able to reduce a big list of applicants to 40, and finally, by a narrow majority, the committee agreed to recommend a “certain minister” for the approval of the congregation. This minister conducted both services in the church on 2 Sundays. According to Church laws the vote of the congregation must be taken within 24 hours of his appearance in the pulpit, and accordingly vote was taken on Monday when the committee’s nominee was rejected by 203 votes to 53, which is far short of the membership of the church.

It would seem the congregation did not take to the new proposed candidate, which may be understandable given the long service his predecessor had put in. The committee then put forward another candidate to the congregation for their acceptance and Rev Archibald McKenzie was drafted in as permanent new minister.

I wonder if such practices still occur in churches throughout Scotland.

On social Media:

  • Elizabeth Weaver Nowadays there are so few applicants for posts, and so many unfilled vacancies, that a congregation’s choices are severely limited. I’m pretty old – in fact our grandparents were married by Scrimgeour Turnbull and our parents by Rev McKenzie – and in those days, the ministry was seen very much as a career choice for nice middle class boys. For those days, it wasn’t a bad job – people looked up to ministers, so they didn’t bother them too much, ministers had a lot of say in local matters, and they got a house and a decent stipend. By the 60s, things were changing and life wasn’t so comfortable. The minister wasn’t on his pedestal any more and the job – sorry, calling wink emoticon – suddenly didn’t seem to be attracting so many applicants.

  • Alasdair Gordon Congregations still vote by secret ballot for or against. Usually, the vote is positive but it is not unknown for a sole nominee to decide s/he will not accept the call if s/he feels there are too many “against” votes. The people of Scotland fought long and hard over two centuries for the right to call the ministers of their choosing as distinct from the choice of the local laird.

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