The RP Church of Scotland traces its descent back to the Scottish Reformation of 1560.
We are also known as the ‘Covenanters’ due to our continued adherence to the National Covenant of 1638, and the Solemn League and Covenant of 1643. The latter was sworn by the Parliaments of England and Scotland, along with many people in England, Scotland and Ireland. It shaped the work of the Westminster Assembly, which produced the Westminster Confession of Faith, Directory for Public Worship, Form of Church Government and Larger and Shorter Catechisms. This was the high-water mark of the Reformed Church of Scotland. Apart from the Bible itself, these remain the key documents of our denomination.
The RPCS has never split from another denomination.
Much of the good work of the Scottish Reformation was undone in 1660 with the restoration of Charles II and episcopalian church government. The nation itself rejected the Stuart kings in 1688, but Covenanters saw the ‘Glorious Revolution’ as anything but. The Revolution church was built on compromise, allowed State control over the church and ignored the Covenants. Those who remained committed to the full Covenanted Reformation refused to join what they saw as a new church (today’s Church of Scotland) and existed as a network of ‘societies’ with only one minister (from 1706) until 1743, when the Reformed Presbytery was established. The Covenanters were joined outside the National Church in 1733 by the Associate Synod (Seceders), and 1843 by the Free Church, among others. In the words of one early Free Church minister, ‘To the radical defects of the Revolution settlement we can trace all the subsequent corruption and declension of the Church of Scotland’.
For more in-depth resources on this history of the denomination, see the RPCS Archive page.