Rutherford House emerged from discussions in 1981 between The Rev William Still, minister of Gilcomston South Church, Aberdeen and the Rev Dr Sinclair Ferguson, a Church of Scotland minister and well-known theologian. The vision was to establish a centre for evangelical scholarship, which would seek to engage the Church and the divinity faculties, from a Reformed and evangelical perspective. It was anticipated that the Warden would provide theological and other support to the Crieff Fellowship, also founded by Mr Still. A Board of Trustees was appointed, chaired by Mr Still, which was responsible for the overall mission and direction of the House. A Council was also formed, responsible for the day to day work of the House.
A property was purchased (17 Claremont Park, Leith) and this provided space for the library, as well as overnight accommodation. The original library consisted largely of the books given to Rutherford House by Myrtle Anderson-Smith, the widow of Gordon Anderson-Smith, a fine evangelical scholar who died tragically young after a long illness. In 1983, Dr Nigel Cameron was appointed the first warden of the House, and he occupied the post for approximately ten years. One significant emphasis during this period was medical ethics, a particular interest of Dr Cameron. In this early period, the House was involved in publishing books, as well as pamphlets on topics of debate within the Church. The Rev David Searle became the second warden, continuing the publishing of the House and encouraging those who came to live and study in the House, for short periods of study leave. One significant emphasis during this period was on providing support and encouragement for young ministers, as well as organising conferences and training for ministers, elders and others. Mr Searle retired in 2003 and the Rev Dr Bob Fyall became the first ‘Director’ of the House, a post which he held for four years. During Dr Fyall’s tenure, there was a re-emphasis on the House as a centre for evangelical scholarship, engaging with the churches and the theological colleges, from a Reformed and evangelical perspective.
After Dr. Fyall’s departure, the Trustees took the difficult decision to sell the Claremont Park property, yet to move forward by re-thinking the vision and appointing a new Director. In June 2008, Dr Jason Curtis was appointed and, subsequently, the House leased a new property in Edinburgh’s city centre. During Dr Curtis’ tenure the emphasis was on church revitalisation, using a range of materials. Dr Curtis also helped to broaden the interest in the House beyond its primary constituency of the Crieff Fellowship and worked with many ministers and churches in independent evangelical churches, as well as those in mainstream churches beyond the bounds of the Church of Scotland. Dr Curtis served for four years.
After Dr Curtis left, the decision was taken not to appoint a new Director immediately. Instead, the Trustees agreed to drive the business of the House forward, each being responsible for one aspect of the work. The Trustees also agreed a new mission statement: ‘The purpose of Rutherford House is to help people to think biblically and theologically.’ It was agreed that RH would work primarily with congregations, elders, ministers and academics, although willing to consider other possible ventures which were appropriate to the mission statement.
The Trustees worked hard to develop the various strands of RH’s ministry and to ensure RH was on a solid financial footing, had offices appropriate to its work and had a clear mission. The Trustees are grateful to God for his leading and guiding through several difficult years until this position was reached. In 2012, Rutherford House moved to offices within Palmerston Place Church and the search began for a new Director. Initially, this search was unsuccessful and the position had to be re-advertised. Finally, in September 2015 Dr David McCaig became Director of the House and served for six months before receiving a call to ministry within the Baptist Church.
In February 2019, the Rev Professor Andrew McGowan was appointed as Director of RCRT, with a new office being set up in the Highland Theological College in Dingwall. Rutherford House has always had close relations with HTC and indeed, when Rutherford House sold Claremont Park, the Rutherford House library moved to the Highland Theological College.