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DUNEDIN PRESBYTERY., Issue 8003, 4 September 1889
The Presbytery of Dunedin met in the hall of the First Church this day, the moderator (Rev. D, Dutton) presiding. CHALMERS CHURCH. A petition was received, signed by forty members and three adherents of the Church of Otago and Southland, in connection with matteis concerning Chalmers Church. It set forth that at the Presbytery’s meeting on June 19 a resolution was passed finally disposing of the affairs of that congregation that had been dealt with by a committee appointed for the purpose of conferring with them. That at the meeting of July 4 the Rev, J, G. Smith moved a resolution asking that that resolution be rescinded. In the discussion of the motion the mover dilated at great length on what he called the “unconstitutional and immoral ” conduct of the congregation in the matters of hymns and instrumental music and of the title to its pro perty, and also on the unconstitutional conduct of the Presbytery in passing the resolution first referred to. That the Presbytery almost unanimously lejected Mr Smith’s motion, only himself and hia brother-in-law voting for it. That Mr Smith, on various occasions, expressed regret at the fate of hia motion, and his intention of bringing the matter up again. That accordingly, he, on August 7, gave notice of the following motion“ The Presbytery finds that the action of the Chalmers Church congregation in inserting, without permission asked or received from the Presbytery, a clause in the title deeds of their church excluding therefrom in perpetuity the use of instrumental music, constitutes (1) a violation of the terms on which this congregation was admitted to union with the Presbyterian Church of Otago and Southland; (2) an infringement of the administrative authority of the Presbytery of Dunedin; and (3) an unwarrantable restriction of the freedom of conscience of individual members of the Presbyterian Church.” That, as Mr Smith had not at the proper time appealed against the decision of the Presbytery, his right to appeal is gone and his proposed motion ultra vires. That Chalmers Church had received no notice of the proposed motion, which contained so serious a charge against in. That the proposed motion is a reckless and ignorant attack on congregational rights. That Mr Smith does not come into Court with clean hands, but while seeking to take the mote out of the eye of the congregation is wholly forgetful of the beam in his own eye, inasmuch as none of the property belonging to North Dunedin congregation is held under the trusts of the Model Trust Deed, and yet large sums of the general funds of the church have been granted respecting it. That throughout this entire wretched controversy Mr Smith’s conduct towards Chalmers Church had been of a nagging, worrying, and unmanly character, and calculated to bring disgrace on the Presbyterian Church pi lity. Wherefore, Laving reason to believe that in the aforesaid matters Mr Smith was not acting in a brotherly and Christian spirit, the memorialists, for the purpose of suppressing further spread of scandal, prayed the Court to disallow any further opening up of the matter and prevent Mr Smith’s proposed motion from being discussed at the present or any future meeting of the Presbytery. A number of the signatures appeared under the following reservation“ We, the following members and adherents of the church, not having knowledge of the matters stated in the above petition beyond newspaper reports of proceedings of the Presbytery, do fully concur in the prayer of the petition, believing that Mr Smith is taking improper advantage of hia position as a member of the Presbytery.” Before the petition was read, the Rev. Mr Will remarked that he was not sure that the Presbytery could receive the petition, for he had read it over ami found there were soma things in in it that, ho thought, should not come publicly before it. He would suggest that a small committee be appointed to read it »nd report on it. It contained language that should not appear in any memorial laid before the Presbyterymotives were imputed, and expressions of an unbecoming nature were used. It would have been easy to clothe the petition in becoming language. It was worthy of notice that all of the torty-threo signatures, with one exception, were those of people who admitted that they had been influenced solely by newspaper reports. Mr J. Wood, one of those who had signed the petition, rose to make an explanation as to the signatures, but was ruled to have no loons standi.
The Rev. Mr Will, continued that the petition contained language that was unwarrantable. In his opinion Mr Smith had acted in a manly and gentlemanly spirit, though perhaps he might have said things that he should not.
The Rev. Mr Bohrik seconded the motion, remarking that there were no grounds for the statements in the petition. Mr Smith had acted quite constitutionally, and he (the speaker) had not the slightest sympathy with the base insinuations made against him. The people who had signed the petition should never have been allowed to expose themselves as they had done. The Rev. Mr Cameron said that the motion did not go far enough, and he would be in favor of adding to the motion “ that the signers of the petition be called to the bar and censured ” The Rev, Mr Riley opposed any addition to the motion, which he agreed with. The petition presented a great amount of gossip gathered from the streets, and he held that as Christian men and gentlemen the Presbytery should put down its foot and say that no petition worded Hk« this should be received.
The Rev. R. SUTHERLAND thought that members were showing too much heat; he thought that the petition ought to be read and the petitioners heard. The motion was put and carried on the voices.
The Rev, Mr Smith then moved his resolution, first thanking tho Presbyteiy for the manner in which it bad espoused bis cause and put a stop to the insinuations that had been made against him. He had no grudge against the people of Chalmers Church, nor did his motion contain anything of a persecuting nature towards them. It simply told them that they had committed a blunder, and that they ought not to do it. The Rev. Mr Gibb, said he wou’d second the motion pro fofnuti, as he had previously done. He supposed he would hear more about his “brother-indaw,” but he might say that he had little sympathy with the motion, He admitted that Mr Smith’s argument was good and sound, but considered that tho matter should have been left alone.
A long discussion ensued, and at 1.45 p.m. the meeting adjourned till three o’clock.
DUNEDIN PRESBYTERY., Issue 8003, 4 September 1889
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