This church was at the centre of the row over patronage, which in part led to ministers leaving the Church of Scotland to form their own church, the Free Church.
The parish of Marnoch is in the Presbytery of Strathbogie. The patron had chosen John Edwards, but the parishioners disliked him a great deal, so they voted 261 to 1 against the appointment. The 1838 Assembly rejected him, so the patron put up another candidate who was acceptable. Edwards got a ruling from the Court of Session preventing the induction of the new man. The 1839 Assembly told the Presbytery to obey the ruling. The Court then ordered that Edwards Mr Seven of the twelve ministers in the Presbytery went ahead with testing Edwards, ignoring the decision of the Assembly. The seven Mr and the Assembly appointed ministers to provide services in the seven parishes. The Court then forbade any preaching by these ministers in the buildings of the, so the ministers preached in the open-air. In February 1840 the Courts banned preaching in the open-air, which was not in their jurisdiction. Chalmers and others saw this as a first stage in the Civil authorities telling the Church what to preach etc. The open-air preaching continued without trouble.
The Court of Session had adopted a line of procedure that was at once arbitrary and unconstitutional. And now that Court interdicted, under the penalty of fine or imprisonment, all the ministers of the Church of Scotland from administering ordinances or preaching the Word in any of the seven parishes of Strathbogie, whose former incumbents had been suspended from office by the General Assembly for ecclesiastical offences. The Church saw it to be her duty to refuse obedience to an interdict, which hindered the preaching of Jesus and attempted to crush her constitutional liberties. Accordingly, ministers were sent to these districts, fearless of the result, and under their preaching the gross darkness of the region began to give way to the light of truth.
Many of the most distinguished evangelical preachers of the church went to these parishes, preaching in the open air or in any un-ecclesiastical edifice which was opened to them. The result was a very general spiritual revival throughout the district.