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Prof. William Cunningham


1805 - 1861

William Cunningham 1805 1861
©2016 Gazetteer for Scotland

William Cunningham 1805 1861

Church leader and Calvinist theologian, noted for his keen intellect and strong principles. Born in Hamilton (South Lanarkshire), Cunningham was educated at the University of Edinburgh and ordained into the Ministry at Greenock in 1830. In 1834, he moved to Trinity College parish in Edinburgh and became centrally involved in the Ten Years Conflict, a protracted struggle which led to the Disruption of 1843, when Cunningham, along with Thomas Chalmers (1780 - 1847) and Robert Candlish (1806-73) led a third of the Ministers out of the Established Church to form the Free Church of Scotland, free from patronage.

Cunningham was appointed to the Chair of Church History and Divinity in New College (Edinburgh), which was established by the new church to train its Ministers. He visited the USA to investigate American teaching methods. He went on to become Principal of New College in 1847, on the death of Chalmers.

One of the founders of the Evangelical Alliance, Cunningham had been awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Princeton in 1842. He was elected Moderator of the Free Church Assembly in 1859.

The Cunningham Lectureship was endowed at New College in his memory in 1862 and A Life of Cunningham by Robert Rainy (1826 - 1906) and J. Mackenzie was published in 1871.


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