Brethren Archive

Robert McMurdo

Born: 24th June 1858
Died: 4th June 1937

From L.O.I. Jun 52

Intro, Biographical Information, Notes etc:

Tom said ...
McMurdo was prominent in the strife and split between 'tight' and 'loose' brethren in Canada and USA around 1910.

Robert Baylis, in 'My People', p122 says; "The popular view apparently was that Robert McMurdo was the leading preacher representing the 'tight' position while Alexander Marshall the leader of those who taught the 'loose' position." ... but then seems to contradict that by quoting William McClure in 1914, "An assembly takes the ground that they can receive ministry from Mr. Marshall, and some others of their school, if I may be allowed the term, and also from Mr Teller, Mr Oliver, and others who have become known as 'tight.' For taking this stand, those who have been opposed to what has been called 'loose' teachings have been encouraged to leave and form another assembly Then Mr Marshall and Mr McMurdo are blamed as the ones who made the division. What do you think God will think of that kind of thing?"

Elsewhere ( someone says; "Robert McMurdo and Alexandar Marshal are generally considered the leaders of the "Old Paths" movement as it was called then. Old Paths principles produced the Gospel Hall circle we know today. Charles Ross, son of the pioneer Donald Ross was also persuaded toward Old Paths principles. But I don't know which Needed Truth articles affected them nor which authors wrote the articles."

p173, Baylis says that McMurdo stated the periodical 'Armor of Light' in 1914.

However Baylis I think is incorrect, and actually it was McMurdo who was very much against 'Old Pathism'. That so much is clear from reading any of his pamphlets and also the account below.

In 'Truths for our Day', 2011, Eugene Badgley gives more details of a conference in 1908 that precipitated the division in North America. It is understood McCurdo is the speaker he is referring to, "But, as Mervyn Paul said, “here on this side of the ocean all things continued as they had begun in harmony until the fateful day of May 24, 1908, for it was on that date in the conference in Warminster near Orillia, Ontario that a speaker opened the door for division that continues to this day. “On that dark day at the little country conference came an able speaker lately arrived from Scotland and sponsored by Mr. Richard Irving and some others. In a morning session he gave an address on the local assemblies throughout the world likening them to the stars in relation to the moon which in turn, as mere reflector of the light from the sun, he compared them to the church universal designed to reflect the glory of the Lord. Next he gave a passionate plea that there be no divisions among us, no schisms in the body, deploring the fact that if such great and godly Christians as Hudson Taylor were present, they would not be allowed to break bread…he continued pleading for more liberal views respecting the local assembly (it is clear he never grasped the truth of the scriptural ground of gathering). After ending his message, Mr. Robert Telfor immediately went to the platform and reviewed and examined each argument in the light of scripture; he skilfully and effectively dealt with them in every detail, but the damage had been done. Three years later in 1911, Mr. McClure made a proposal which is now commonly called the ‘middle-path policy’.” This policy ask us to accept any and all gatherings which profess to be gathered to the name of Christ as true assemblies, agreeing to disagree on all matters accept the fundamentals of the faith. So this proposal opened the way for change; this change was a gradual move to adopting the methods of the evangelical churches. This proposal echoed what Israel said in effect to Samuel in 1 Sam. 8:5:“We want to be like the nations about us.” "
Thursday, Feb 14, 2013 : 21:26
Tom said ...

"A few weeks after his conversion James was baptized by immersion and came into fellowship with the assembly which met in Bethany Hall, High Blantyre, this being the nearest to Burnbank at the time.
A movement was under way to form an assembly in Burnbank itself. Evangelists Frank Vernal, Alexander Livingstone and Robert McMurdo had held tent meetings during the summers of 1891-92. These were followed by meetings during 1893-4 arranged by a marine engineer called Storrie who hired a little hall near Burnbank Cross. As a result of all these efforts a number came to know the Lord, were baptized and added to the fellowship at Bethany Hall, High Blantyre.

In October of 1895 the believers in Burnbank decided to form an assembly. They hired the Lesser Burgh Hall near to Burnbank Cross and around 25 sat down to take the Lord’s Supper for the first time as a local church. Amongst the founding members were James Lees and his brother Willie."

The above excerpt from the biography of James Lees is very helpful and is especially interesting as showing that Robert McMurdo was actually preaching in 1891-1892 with Frank Vernal –an important figure in Needed Truth history, and the man whose name was the identifier of the Needed Truth splinter group in the division of 1905(approx.). It was 1893 when the NT division from OB’s culminated. So right at that time, throughout the whole of Scotland there was much febrile discussion of the questions of the constitution, government and reception policies of assemblies amongst the OBs.
Saturday, Feb 16, 2013 : 16:04
Tom said ...

"In 1912, there were three assemblies in the Vancouver area – the Seymour Street Gospel Hall, Vancouver, BC , Cedar Cottage Assembly, Vancouver, BC , and New Westminster Assembly, BC. At that time, a split occurred in the Seymour Street Gospel Hall on the issue of the ‘open table,’ the principle where any believer of clean life was welcomed regardless of other religious affiliations. The evangelists Robert McMurdo and Alexander Marshall espoused this view when they preached at Seymour Street Gospel Hall. A number who agreed with this position left and formed an assembly in the Mount Pleasant area. This included Will Rae, Frank Goff, and Weymss Reid. The group met in several locations before building the Mount Pleasant Gospel Hall in 1914."
Saturday, Feb 16, 2013 : 16:06
Lisa McMurdo said ...
Hello-I am Robert McMurdos great grand daughter. I have been trying to do some research on him. I do have a copy of "The Mystery and Ministry of Suffering" which my fathers uncle, Alfred Mcmurdo of Lancaster PA, had republished in 1924. I obtained this from a relative in Scotland.This gave me some insight into his philosophy. i do not know if any of you have seen this.This document identifies him as the creator of the Light and Liberty" magazine, and he was apparently published in the "Witness" as well, which I see some of you mention. I must admit I have no knowledge of the Brethren history and am a novice. My grandfather-Adam McMurdo's was also a minister, but i believe in the Congregationalist denomination. But he also had other occupations (this was during the USA Great Depression). I need to spend more time reading through some of what you have posted, but any insights, thoughts you have on this man are appreciated.
Wednesday, Sep 25, 2013 : 06:23
Tom said ...
Dear Lisa,

Thank-you very much for getting in touch, and sorry for the late reply!
Pretty much all I have at the moment has been put in above, though I am sure more information is findable, though maybe not easily.
I understand the magazine 'Armor of Light' which he started became 'Light and Liberty' after a few years - an important organ of the "chapel" OB's. It would seem likely a short biography may have been published in a magazine upon his death, though I have not seen one yet. Would be very interested in anything you do find. I might suggest your most likely avenue for research might be to contact the Library of Emmaus Bible School, which has a large stock of early USA/Canada stuff on OB history there would be significant stock there of pamphlets and other material about McMurdo. The Rylands List has some of his pamphlets in Manchester --there'd definitely be more in the USA, plus I suspect complete runs of "Armour of Light" and "light and Liberty" --which may also have some memorial articles on him at the time of his death.

Let me know if I can be of any more help!
Wednesday, Oct 2, 2013 : 16:47
Jamie Lees said ...
All very interesting!

I am the great grand niece of James Lees and live in Canada. I am doing research on my uncle and am looking for articles or notices that may have been written about his eight and a half months spent preaching in Canada and the USA in 1926. The cities and towns that he visited are mentioned in the book written about him. Please do get in touch if you know of any publications that may have info about James Lees and his travelling and preaching companions in 1926.

Incidentally, the book, which is still available on used book stores on line is called James Lees - Shepherd of the Lonely Sheep of Europe.
COOPER (RANSOME W). Published by Pickering & Inglis, London, 1959.

Best Regards,
Jamie Lees
Wednesday, Dec 17, 2014 : 20:01
Dan said ...
I'm looking to contact the Lisa McMurdo who posted here five years ago. I have information about Robert McMurdo that I would like to share with her. Please advise if you can help.
Wednesday, Jun 6, 2018 : 22:59
Tom said ...
Hi Dan, I do occasionally get asked about contact details for people and as you will understand I always check with the person requested first before giving on details. Maybe you could email me, and if your information on Mr McMurdo is of general interest, then would be glad if you could post it here too.
Tuesday, Jun 12, 2018 : 22:35
Lisa McMurdo said ...
Tom-did you ever hear back from Dan? I was wondering what info he had?
You may give him my email. Thanks
Lisa McMurdo
Tuesday, Nov 13, 2018 : 11:31
Tom said ...
HI Lisa, No I didn't sorry. If he gets in contact again I will do.
Wednesday, Nov 14, 2018 : 18:57
Marty said ...
Robert McMurdo died 4th June 1937, age 78, 11 Months & 11 days.
Friday, Jan 11, 2019 : 06:32

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