John Kennedy and the Development of Evangelicalism in the Scottish Highlands, 1843–1900
Macleod, Alasdair Johnston
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Between the Disruption in 1843 and 1900, the evangelical Presbyterianism of the Highlands of Scotland diverged dramatically and enduringly, in theology, worship, piety and practice, from that of Lowland Scotland. That divergence was chiefly the product of change in the Lowland Church, as evangelicals increasingly rejected Calvinistic theology, Confessional subscription, church establishment, conservative practices in worship, high views of the inspiration of Scripture, and emphasis on Divine sovereignty in evangelism. This thesis addresses the question why this divergence occurred: why did the Highlands follow so different a course with regard to this process of change? In addressing the question, the thesis argues for the significance of the leadership of John Kennedy (1819–84), minister of Dingwall Free Church, the ‘Spurgeon of the Highlands’. The thesis demonstrates that by his preaching, writing and ecclesiastical leadership Kennedy helped to guide the trajectory of evangelicalism in the Highlands in a conservative direction that continued to emphasise the authority of Scripture, Divine sovereignty and the need for personal self-examination, and that maintained sacramental practices reflecting these priorities. In his historical and biographical writings, Kennedy challenged readers of his own day to uphold the same priorities as the historic Highland Church, and the thesis shows that he helped to build a new confidence and cohesion around its distinctive practices in opposition to trends in wider evangelicalism. In his leadership of the Highland part of the constitutionalist party, the thesis proves that Kennedy was significant in forging a resolute commitment amongst the majority of the Highland Free Church in opposition to any change to the constitutional position of 1843. In various controversies, Kennedy consistently opposed movements for change, and helped to unite the Highland people of the Free Church in general opposition to the revolutions of the Victorian Church. These he saw as a single movement of departure from the Reformation heritage that he was determined to maintain. The thesis concludes that Kennedy’s legacy was evident in the divergence between Highland and Lowland evangelicalism during his own lifetime, but even more so in the divisions of 1893 and 1900, when his heirs took up separate institutional forms to maintain these principles.