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DUNEDIN PRESBYTERY., Issue 7949, 3 July 1889
A meeting war held to-day, and attended by the following '.—Ministers; Revs. J Gibson-Smith, Dr Stuart, A. Greig, J. M. Sutherland, J. Kirkland, A. M. Finlayson, R. R. M. Sutherland, J. Ryley, W. Campbell, D. Borrie, A, Cameron, E, J. Porter, J. M. M'Kerrow, D. Dutton, J. M. Fraser, A. Don, J. Gibb, and W. Will. Elders: Messrs W. Hutton, T. De Lacy, W. Reid, and D. Thomson, THE MODERATOKSHIP, The Rev. D. Dutton was appointed Moderator for the ensuing six months, and took the chair; but was granted leave of absence for the day, having a prior engagement. The Rev. J. Gibson-Smith took the chair. COMMISSIONS. Commissions were received from the Mosgiel Kirk Session, appointing James Campbell Hodges, and from the Mornington Kirk Session, appointing James Scoular, to represent them in the Presbytery and Synod during the current year. DR MACGREGOR, Rev. Dr Stuart said that Dr Macgregor found himself so fatigued that he was not able to attend the Presbytery to-day. The members, however, would have an oppor tunity of hearing him in the evening at Knox Church, COMMITTEE ON STATISTICS. Rev. J. Gibson-Smith reported that only one member of committee besides the convener turned up at the time appelated, and that therefore nothing had been done. Rev. D. Borrie moved that the question be relegated to the four town ministers; but It was resolved to continue the Committee until next meeting, BOOK OF PROCEDURE. The Presbytery then continued consideration of the Book of Procedure, but before proceeding far Rev. A. Cameron said that if the Presbytery sat until the members were grey in the head they would never be able to make anything out of the present book. The best thing thoy could do would be to base their rules of procedure on those of the Presbyterian Church of England, which were well arranged and easily understood. He would move—“ That the Presbytery proceed no further with the examination of this Book of Procedure, and recommend the Synod to adopt the Book of Order of the Presbyterian Church of England, with such alterations as may be found needful; and that the alterations recommended at previous meetings be held in retentm," Rev. J. M. M’Kerrow seconded the motion, which was agreed to without further discussion, CHALMERS CHURCH. Early in the morning’s proceedings, the Rev, J. Gibson-Smith gave notice that he would move at next meeting —“ That the resolution of Presbytery adopted on the 19th June, re Chalmers Church, be received.” The resolution is as follows“ That the report [of the deputation] be received, and the Presbytery regret that the deputation failed to attain the end for which they were appointed.” The ordinary business of Presbytery having unexpectedly come to a conclusion, it was agreed that this question should be taken up at once. Rev, J. Gibson-Smith thereupon brought forward his motion, and in a somewhat lengthy address argued that the action of Chalmers Church in inserting a clause in their title-deed excluding the use of hymns and instrumental musio in public worship was a violation of the terms upon which the church was admitted to union, and that the Presbytery had acted unconstitutionally in permitting this infringement of the terms of union. The Rev. J. Gibb seconded the motion pro forma. Rev. J. Ryley opposed the motion. He held that Chalmers Church had as good a right as any individual to have a private property, and to act as they had done in relation to that property. Chalmers Church had a right to a grant from the Synod like any other church, but they said they had concieutious scruples against the use of hymns and instrumental music, and would not take the grant on the terms offered, and if the Presbytery interfered with their action they would be saying that they did not regard the consciences of the Chalmers Church people. When a congregation asked the Presbytery for no funds, the Presbytery had no right to say what it was to put in its title-deed. This seemed to him only a bit of miserable persecution. He for one was thankful to see Chalmers Church flourishing, and rejoiced to see them standing by what was to them a question of principle. After further discussion,
Rev. J. Gibson-Smitii said that if allowed to do so he was quite willing to withdraw his motion and move for the appointment of a deputation to expostulate with the Chalmers Church congregation.
Rev. J, M. Frazer said it was now too late to do so. Before the congregation took their present action at all they took legal advice upon the matter, and were advised that they were acting within their rights. Dr Stuart advised the Presbytery to let Chalmers Church alone. They were doing good work and preaching the Gospel to numbers of people who were not reached by other churches. Let these peculiar people alone, he said, and they would perhaps come round in time.
Rev. J, Gibb thought they were making a deal of a very little matter. For his part he could not work up any enthusiasm in the matter. At the same time he thought that the action of Chalmers Church was foolish and suicidal, as tending to put the church outside popular sympathy and the currents of modern church life; and he therefore thought that those who were moving in the matter were really the best friends of the church.
The mover expressed himself ready to withdraw the motion, but the Rev. J. Ryley objected, and others agreed that it was Setter the matter should go to the vote. Rev. J. Gibson Smith, in reply, said he never dreamed that he should have made a speech in that hall in defence of constitutionalism, and it was to him a strange position to find himself twitted with being an upholder of red-tapeism, for his instincts were all the other way. But he believed that there was a principle at stake he believed that Chalmers Church was violating its constitution—and in the face of all opposition he asked whether it was right that the Presbytery should take no action in the matter. Presbyterianism was not so deeply rooted as that it could afford to let its principles go by the board in such a manner, and if they allowed things to go on in this way it would bo very hard for ministers and congregations to accord much reverence to the authority of the Presbytery in the future.
The motion was then put to the meeting. Fifteen hands were held up against it, and the motion was declared to be lost. The Presbytery rose at 1.20 p.m.
DUNEDIN PRESBYTERY., Issue 7949, 3 July 1889
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