our loss, his gain

An obituary here of Rev Donald MacLean, 1915-2010.

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7 thoughts on “our loss, his gain

  1. Also a brief notice on BBC Alba – http://www.bbc.co.uk/scotland/alba/naidheachdan/story/2010/08/100816_donald_maclean_.shtml

    Obviously it’s in Gaelic, so here’s a rough translation (open to correction)

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Death of Rev Donald MacLean

    Rev Donald MacLean, one of the most famous ministers in the Highlands, died in Inverness on Friday. He was 95 years old.

    Mr MacLean was born in Glasgow in 1915.

    His father was from Coigach and his mother from Raasay, where they would often visit in his young days. (?)

    Mr MacLean spent twelver years as minister of the Free Presbyterian Church in Portree after the Second World War.

    He was then in St Jude’s Church in Glasgow for many years.

    Mr MacLean was still taking services in Inverness until a short while ago after going to stay in the town when he retired. (?)

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  2. There is a vast archive of his sermons in St Jude’s, going back at least to the early 80s, and various people still have old reels of his sermons from the 60s and 70s. But mostly not digitised.
    There are also a few on the FP site, which is not well organised and not very searchable, as well as not providing particularly comprehensive coverage of the ministers (we do have more than two men who preach of a week). (Most ministers i think are recorded but through either lethargy or lack of technological savvy the recordings don’t always readily appear online.)
    This is the first one i came across but there are some more as well from the 90s if you keep scrolling through – http://www.fpchurch.org.uk/Sermons/Sermon.php?id=149 – this one says it was preached on a Saturday, which suggests it would have been one of the preparation services for the Lord’s Supper on the following day. Haven’t listened to it myself so don’t know how good/representative it is.

    He was very theological in his preaching and consistently pointed to the person and work of Christ. The glory of Christ’s person in his mediatorial office, and the glory of his redemptive work. He had absolutely no time for liberal theologians and barely bothered to engage them unless with a scathing put-down, but before your jaw had time to drop he would whisk you away with huge energy and enthusiasm to adore some other aspect of the person or work of the Redeemer or some utterly rock solid promise of God that you could venture your soul on for eternity. He was also very gentle in dealing with people’s spiritual experience, the fears of the flock, people’s lack of assurance. And needless to say he steered majestically between the twin perils of arminianism and hyper-calvinism and preached the free offer. To sum him up, he was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.

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  3. Here is John MacLeod’s obituary of him in the Herald today, by kind permission of the author (it’s not available online).

    ======================
    The Reverend Donald MacLean, for forty years Free Presbyterian minister of Glasgow, died after a short illness in Inverness on Friday evening. He was ninety-five years old, and best remembered for his part in the censure of Lord Mackay of Clashfern, in November 1988, after the Lord Chancellor – an Edinburgh elder Church – had attended Requiem Mass.

    Mr MacLean was so vast a figure, and around so long, that his death has shaken his Church. He had been a communicant member for over seventy years and a minister for over sixty – so long that, when he began his trade, it was alongside two colleagues ordained in the nineteenth century.

    Mr MacLean was of robust Highland stock: his father was from Coigach and his mother from Raasay. But little Donald was born in a Gorbals tenement in 1915; and, though a Highlander by blood and a Free Presbyterian by upbringing, he was a Glasgow boy, whose classless ascent and chaffing good humour reflected the best of his native city.

    Of keen mind and a head for numbers, Donald MacLean trained for accountancy and talked warmly always of his old boss Thomas Galbraith, later the first Lord Strathclyde and sire of a noted Tory dynasty. His son, ‘Tam’ – whom the old man outlived by several years – was the very last Conservative MP in Glasgow, whose career never recovered from the Vassals affair in 1962; Tan’s own son, the present Baron Strathclyde, is Leader of the House of Lords

    MacLean never shed Galbraith’s West End polish or humane Unionist politics and – with such sponsorship and his own talent – might well have become a Glasgow MP, and perhaps more.

    But, at the age of nineteen, Donald MacLean came to an emphatic faith in Christ and, in November 1937, was received at St Jude’s as a member in full communion. After war service as a Royal Navy officer – its bearing and unflappability never left him – he trained for the Free Presbyterian ministry and, on 30th December 1948, was ordained and inducted to the charge of Portree. He shortly married Grace MacQueen of Inverness, who passed away in 2008 after nearly sixty years of serene union; they had four children.

    On 14 June 1960, Mr MacLean was inducted as minister of St Jude’s, Glasgow. He would serve the city for forty years and the St Jude’s pulpit – which he commanded like an admiral, with emphatic gesture and an extraordinary but delicious voice – was where Mr MacLean exulted as logic on fire, in a celebrated teaching ministry.

    But he did great service besides to his wider Church. For nearly thirty years, from 1958 to 1986, he was Theological Tutor, training dozens of Free Presbyterian ministers – many of whom he sadly outlived. And, from 1977 to 1990, MacLean served besides as Clerk of Synod, the most powerful office in the denomination.

    These were gruelling years, as those determined to hold to the historic Free Presbyterian witness, with the highest standards of membership and commitment, battled a rising, self-consciously progressive faction, dominated by minted laymen who did not appreciate Christian scrutiny as to how precisely they made their money.

    It was this tension – far more than the issue of the Mass – which in 1989 finally split the Church, with the losers peeling away to form the ‘Associated Presbyterian Churches’, with grand talk of ‘global evangelisation.’ It was complicated by Mackay’s high office – which made many humble Church adherents naturally go weak at the knees – and his own personal, cuddly popularity; MacLean himself by contrast, like any effective leader, could readily be portrayed in contrast as abrasive and bossy.

    But Free Presbyterians genuinely believe the Mass so blasphemous no Protestant should countenance it with his presence (the theology, though involved, is venerable and coherent) and had for almost a century sent formal protests when any public figure was reported attending one. Mackay himself, as a past Synod clerk, had personally signed several. He knew the score.

    It is generally forgotten that as recently as 1985 the Queen herself intervened to prevent the Prince and Princess of Wales attending a Papal mass in Rome – the Free Presbyterians are not a lunatic-fringe – and MacLean was also troubled by a fundamental fairness. Church discipline should apply impartially to all, be the member a Cabinet minister in London or an apprentice-joiner on Lewis. (Part of MacLean’s stature was his unfailing decency to and for little people.)

    It was on this firm basis that MacLean led the prosecution at the Southern Presbytery in 1988 and, month later, at the 1989 Synod, starkly defended its position – with journalists hanging out of the pews – in public. ‘I find it very difficult to believe,’ he rasped, ‘that the Lord Chancellor of a Protestant country, with a Protestant Queen on a Protestant throne, has any obligation by reason of his office to go to a Popish Mass.’ Synod agreed with him – by five votes. Mackay floated out of the Church and the revisionists stormed out to launch the APC.

    In fact, within months the APC were struggling to find preachers for the Isle of Skye; only a tiny rump survives and most have ended up in the Church of Scotland.
    For his resolve, Mr MacLean – a formidable ecclesiastic – was widely vilified, to the great distress of Grace and the children: twenty years later, events and an enduring Free Presbyterian unity have fully vindicated his judgement.

    A man of consummate professionalism – sparing habits, keen organisation, and immaculate wardrobe – Mr MacLean subsequently abandoned all his offices and concentrated on his preaching, only demitting St Jude’s in 2000 when doctors regretfully announced he should no longer drive. But he never really stopped preaching – he took at least one service even in 2010 – and, latterly in the Church’s care-home at Inverness, he was a sparkling, much-loved presence, retaining all his faculties to the end.

    Our country has lost more than we realise in Mr MacLean – son of a far more mobile past, when a characterful boy from a Glasgow slum could reach the top of his profession; of a generation when our ablest men naturally thought of the Christian ministry; of a time when churchmen were not generally effete, sappy and eager to be loved.

    Mr MacLean will be remembered for his theological acumen, acute personal discipline, a prodigious capacity for work and a faith and vision that was profoundly Christ-centred.

    He was naturally robust; and never suffered fools gladly – always a hazard, in churches apt to abound in them. But ‘Donnie’ MacLean was besides handsome, stylish, and manly, and of a sheer joie de vivre that sparkled the more even in great old age, and made him delightful company. As he liked serenely to say, every storm is followed by a calm.

    ENDS

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  4. That is a fantastic obituary from John MacLeod. I knew pretty much nothing about Rev. MacLean, but I do know that the church desperately needs more people like the person described in that obituary! May God continue to bless the courageous stand for the gospel exhibited by people like Rev. MacLean and by the Free Presbyterian Church!

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