THE Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland has called for a freeze on the use of “Wee Frees”, which he branded an “unnecessary slur” on the denomination.
Rev Dr Iain D Campbell, who is minister of Point Free Church on the Isle of Lewis, spoke out about the continued use of the “outdated and offensive stereotype” in reference to the Free Church.
The term was coined in 1900 in reference to the minority of Free Church members who chose not to merge with the United Free Church of Scotland.
The Moderator said: “None of the men who led the Free Church in 1900 and refused to enter the dreaded Union are alive now.
“In fact, I’m not sure that any of the church members of 1900 are still alive.
“We belong to the denomination with the same name as they had, but I can’t see any sense in referring to us by the same nickname by which they were known 112 years ago.
“I’m not so sure that ‘Wee’ is a suitable nickname for a denomination that is represented throughout Scotland, has its main offices in Scotland’s capital, maintains a consistent presence on the mission field, and organises camps for hundreds of children each year.”
Dr Campbell also pointed out that there was no Gaelic translation for ‘Wee Free’, which he believed meant that news coverage about the denomination was much more accurate and understanding of its work.
The Moderator continued: “It seems that once you put the label ‘Wee Free’ onto something, it can justifiably be the butt of any joke, and truth doesn’t come into it.
It’s a bit frustrating when the wider media churns out the most ridiculous and meaningless names for a church; I can’t imagine any other religious body receiving the kind of treatment with which the Free Church has had to put up for years.
“Sticks and stones break our bones, and names hurt us.
“So be it; I’m still impressed with the role a denomination like ours can play within the wider church in Scotland; and at the end of the day it is our relationship with Christ and with others that is going to make a difference.
“That will never be the stuff of headlines. It doesn’t make people laugh.”
The Free Church of Scotland has been on Facebook and Twitter for some time now, and last summer become the first British denomination to advertise on Facebook.
As well as hosting a camps programme which attracts over 400 youngsters each summer, the denomination boasts some of the biggest congregations in Scotland including Stornoway Free Church on the Isle of Lewis, Dowanvale Free Church in Glasgow and Smithton-Culloden Free Church in Inverness.
Meanwhile, Free Church of Scotland ministers on Skye have written to their MSPs urging them to reverse the decision to lease the shooting and fishing rights on Raasay to a stalking firm in South Ayrshire.
Raasay Crofters Association are furious at losing the rights after 18 years, saying the decision has resulted in “the end of an era” on the island.
The association represents 11 active crofters on the island and has held the lease since 1995, paying an annual fee of £650.
The Free Church of Scotland ministers argue that the benefit to the local community far outweighed the £2,000 which the crofters lost the bid by, and were also critical that the decision was made by unelected civil servants.
The letter to MSPs reads: “We were disappointed to hear from a Scottish Government minister that at the end of the day the money was the issue.
“We urge you to do all in your power to reverse this decision.
“The Free Church has historically supported crofters’ rights against oppressive landlords. We consider this recent development a gross injustice against the local crofters of Raasay.”
The ministers who signed the letter were Rev Donnie G MacDonald, Portree, Rev John MacLean, Trotternish, Rev Gordon Matheson, Strath and Sleat Free Church, and Rev Daniel Sladek, Duirinish.