The Free Presbyterian Church in South Australia
Back in 1968, a number of Christians on lower Eyre Peninsula began meeting for fellowship in the Lord in their homes each Sunday. Originally, having no full time pastor, those who gathered together relied heavily on tapes of faithful men preaching the gospel, and had visiting preachers and lay preaching from time to time.
One of the visiting preachers was Pastor W. J. Chinnery of the Knoxville Bible Jubilee Church in Adelaide, who urged the people to form a fellowship with a constitution and doctrinal statement. Responding to this, on Sunday 4th May 1969, the Eyre Bible Fellowship officially came into being.
The meetings continued to be held in private homes until late 1974 when it was decided to meet weekly at the Edillilie Hall where a Sunday school had already begun.
As the fellowship continued to rely on tapes of gospel preaching they used a number from the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster. Through this, as well as the visits of Rev. John Douglas and Rev. Fred Buick, it was unanimously decided in October 1976 to make application to join the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster. This was approved by the presbytery on 26th November 1976.
The Free Presbyterian Church of Port Lincoln began in the city under the ministry of Rev. Fred Buick on 1st Jan 1978 in the home of the late Mrs. Elizabeth Feltus. Morning services were held each Sunday in Port Lincoln and the blessing of God was known at those meetings.
Under the ministry of Rev. Fred Buick and the subsequent lengthy ministry of Rev. Michael Patrick, the work in the city continued to prosper. A permanent church building for the congregation was therefore found and purchased on Forbes Street. The church met together there until 2023 when the congregation moved to the current building on Matilda Street.
The Lord has been pleased to maintain the work and the regular public worship of God continues each week to this day.
The History of the Free Presbyterian Church as A Denomination
The story of our denomination starts on the other side of the world in Northern Ireland.
Early in 1950, the Committee of the Crossgar Mission Hall approached Rev. Ian Paisley to determine whether he would conduct a Gospel Campaign in the town in February 1951. The Campaign Committee, following fears that the Mission Hall would be too small, was granted the use of Lissara Presbyterian Church hall by the church session.
However, the Down Presbytery ruled that the mission should not go ahead. Just 90 minutes prior to a march of witness to advertise the mission, Down Presbytery held a special meeting to which Lissara’s Church Session were summoned. At this meeting the Moderator of Down Presbytery demanded that the Lissara Session reverse their decision to grant the use of the church hall to the missioners.
This move by the presbytery was seen as further evidence of the downward trend in the denomination. They could not believe that the Presbytery would ban a gospel mission in their own church hall. For two of the elders, Hugh James Adams and George K. Gibson this was too much. They refused what they saw as an anti-gospel demand by Presbytery officers to immediately cancel the gospel campaign. For this they were suspended.
Despite the Down Presbytery closing the doors of the hall to the preaching of the gospel, the mission went ahead in the Killyleagh Street Mission Hall and was blessed of God in the salvation of 94 souls.
Dr. Paisley speaking in the Crossgar Church in 1997 said, “My memory of those meetings was not the packed house that we had overflowing each evening, the great spirit of blessing and the joy of leading precious souls to Christ but it was of the continued sessions of prayer – one on Tuesday night and one on Friday night when we went on past midnight and past two o’clock in earnest intercessions before God. For a crisis would arise at the end of the campaign- back to the Church that put out the light of the gospel or outside the camp to bear reproach for the Lord Jesus Christ. That was the decision and choice that had to be made.”
The opening service and constitution of Crossgar Free Presbyterian Church was held on the 17th March 1951 and later that year the Presbytery of the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster was formed. From four congregations in that first year, the growth of the new church continued until its witness spread to all parts of Northern Ireland.
Today there are over one hundred Free Presbyterian churches and extensions throughout the world; in Northern Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, the Irish Republic, Australia, Canada, USA, Germany, Jamaica and Spain with missionaries in many other places. Recent years have seen the formation of sister Presbyteries in North America and Nepal.
This information has been summarised from www.freepresbyterian.org