Published online by Cambridge University Press: 06 February 2009
During the Great War, leaders in the two major Presbyterian Churches in Scotland – the established Church of Scotland and the United Free Church – struggled to provide moral and spiritual leadership to the Scottish people. As National Churches which together claimed the adherence of the large majority of the Scottish people, the two Churches were seen as responsible for interpreting the meaning of the war and defining war aims, as well as for offering consolation to the suffering and the bereaved. At the beginning of the war, leaders of the two Churches had been confident of their ability to fulfil these national responsibilities. Both Churches had experienced a flowering of theological and intellectual creativity during the forty years before the war, and their colleges and theologians had exercised profound influence on the Reformed tradition throughout the world. Both had been active in the ‘social gospel’ movement, with their leaders advancing bold criticisms of the social order. The two Churches, moreover, had been moving toward ecclesiastical union when the war began, a union which their leaders hoped would restore the spiritual and moral authority of the Church in a covenanted nation.
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