(A third post in a short series on Presbyterian Church History)
When do you leave a church? What grounds justify forming a new one? American Presbyterians could learn a lot from their Scottish church forefathers who detested separatism.
Which Prophet called for the true Israelites to break from the idolatrous Old Testament Church? Which Apostle gave instructions to split from an immoral New Testament Church? Finding none, the Scottish Presbyterians kept their vows to their Church despite its corruption. Error in the Church was no reason to separate from it.
Separation was permissible only over the fundamentals of the gospel itself. They knew that separation is not the only way to testify against error. You don't leave a sick mother (the church, see Gal 4:26), you stay and help her to recover.
For more than 150 years the idea of a unified, visible Church of Jesus Christ had an immense hold on the Scottish Presbyterian mind. Apparently, very little of that mindset survived contact with the independent American spirit.