Monday, April 10, 2006

A Simple Explanation of who the Exclusive Brethren are

Charles A Wallace asked who the Exclusive Brethren are and how I came to be working for some of them.

The Exclusive Brethren are the more rigid wing of the Plymouth Brethren movement, which emphasises the unity of all Christians and the the role of the Holy Spirit in leading worship (that is not to say that the other wing, the Open Brethren are not sometimes just as rigid).

The split between the Open Brethren and the Exclusive Brethren took place in 1849. J.N. Darby, the most prominent man in the early Brethren and the founder of the Dispensational system, was concerned that B.W. Newton was behaving in an authoritarian manner in the Plymouth assembly of Brethren. After a period of tension, he separated from fellowship with that assembly. It was later discovered that Newton was teaching suspect things about the person of Christ. He had taught that Christ took on the guilt of both Adam and Israel as a result of the Incarnation.

Several members of the Plymouth assembly were received into fellowship at the Bristol assembly. This assembly was under the eldership of George Muller, the famous founder of Bristol orphanage. When Darby challenged this, the elders at Bristol issued a statement known as the Letter of the Ten. This explained the principles on which they had judged the reception of those individuals from Plymouth. It denied the need to judge the teaching of the Plymouth assembly. Darby encouraged other assemblies to condemn this position. Muller declared in response that nobody who held Newton's errors would be accepted into fellowship. However, the majority of assemblies agreed with Darby that this was not good enougth, because there was no withdrawal of the principles of the 'Letter of the Ten' or any admission that the original judgment had been wrong.

Those assemblies that sided with Darby became known as Exclusive Brethren, while those who sided with Muller became known as Open Brethren.

The schism is made a little complicated by Muller's claim that he was visited by Darby after he condemned Newton's errors. Darby allegedly offered reconciliation to Muller. However, Muller claimed that he lost his temper and said that Darby had 'behaved very wickedly' and that he had no further time to spend dealing with the issue. Darby allegedly left in anger. While Darby does not appear to have denied that he met Muller on this occasion (as some Exclusive historians claim), he denied that this conversation took place as reported by Muller.

The Exclusive Brethren differ from the Open Brethren in that they reject the notion of assemblies being independent and uphold the necessity of assemblies acting in unity. They also reject the appointment of elders today. They have varying postions on the reception of Christians to the Lord's Supper. In theory, at least they accept that all Christians have the right to participate in the Lord's Supper, but they will not accept Open Brethren, as they consider them to be upholding evil because of the events of 1849.

There have been many splits in the Exclusive Brethren. Most divisions accept the baptism of infants.

The main party of Exclusives, the Raven/ Taylor group has moved in a remarkable direction. It departed from the teaching of Darby in denying the Eternal Sonship of Christ and adopting the Apollinarain heresy, that Christ did not have a human soul.

The Raven/ Taylor division turned into a cult in the sixties. Its leaders began to wield enormous power over members, enforcing silly rules, such as the bans on pets and facial hair. Those who do not comply are excommunicated and are forbidden any contact with family members who remain in the fellowship.

The Raven/ Taylor Exclusives are very secretive. They do not sell their publications to the public and non-members are not allowed to attend their services without prior appointment. Female members are recognisable by their headscarves and members of both sexes are recognisable by their glum faces and grim expressions. When you get to know them, you find that they do have a sense of humour. They enjoy alcohol.

I work in the office of a company owned by Raven/ Taylor Exclusives. I found the job at the same time that I started researching Darby, which is incredible.

The company is officially against computers, because of the sect's rules, however, they make heavy use of computers through the intermediary of self-employed non-members, just like Jews paying Gentiles to light their fires on the Sabbath.


Kc said...

Matthew just an observation based on what I've learned from you and I mean no disrespect to any but there seems a great desparity between their doctrine and their practice. Is that how you see it?

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

I would have to say that it is a little vague. Which doctrines in particular?

I think I understand what you are getting at. There is a great irony in the fact that a movement that places such an emphasis on unity ends up getting into such banal schisms. Believe me, some of them really are banal.

However, given that the Exclusive Brethren believe that the Church is in ruins, it ought not to be a surprise to them that their own movment ends up in ruins.

Every Blessing in Christ


Kc said...

You were correct and I'm sorry for being vague. Irony is exactly what I was thinking. Thanks for the insight Matthew.

Carey said...

Thanks for further explaining that, Matthew. Very interesting.

Charlie Wallace said...

Thanks, Matthew.

Being in America, I've really never heard of the Brethren, or that may just be my ignorance of church history. What an interesting account. So, in the '60's they were cultish but now they are not viewed as so? What changed?

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Thanks, Carey.

Charles, there are Brethren of all sorts in the USA.

You misunderstand me. The Raven/ Taylor Exclusives are still pretty much a cult. They just moved in that direction very rapidly in the Sixties.

Every Blessing in Christ


Redeemed said...

So many different denominations, much too many.

Carey said...

Yeah, I hate it.

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

The Brethren are fundamentally opposed to denominations. They meet simply as Christians.

Carey and Sarah, I would respectfully suggest that if you have accepted membership of your Baptist churches, you are contributing to the problem of denominations.

Every Blessing in Christ


Jenson's Blog said...

One of my best friends left the Exclusives and later became born again (truly by the grace of God).

His first reaction? To buy a TV!

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Thanks for visiting, Jenson.

I dare say that if a Fundamentalist Baptist converted to the Exclusive Brethren, his first reaction would be to buy a bottle of whisky.

Every Blessing in Christ


Carey said...

I'm not Baptist and I do not belong to any denomination. The church I currently attend is non-denominational.

J. Wendell said...

Hi Matthew,

Thank you for the survey, I am most familiar with the Grace Brethren, and the United Brethren, I have heard of the Exclusive Brethren, but not the Raven/ Taylor Exclusives. This is very interesting. George Muller was an example to me in many ways (i.e. what I have read of him).

With respect to you, and to some groups of Baptists, biblical Baptists are NOT a denomination at all, biblical Baptists are NOT protestant, NOR reformed. I am aware that there are good folks that disagree with this assessment, but it would be most improper to speak of the Baptist Church.

Baptists are distinct because they are not among "denominations" that protested the institution of Roman Catholicism. They were never a part of that anti-Christian system at all. Neither do biblical Baptists feel a need to reform that which never was a biblical church.

Sorry to have rambled, I think I will have to do a post on this sometime.

I am delighted that you are back.

Every blessing in Christ back to you,
brother John

J. Wendell said...

I meant to say Grace Brethren, and Plymouth Brethren (sorry).

Redeemed said...

I believe a Christian ought to belong to a church.

I know the Lord wants me to be part of the church I attend now, becuase He led my mom and I to it. I will not go against His will.

Besides, I don't attend my church because it is a certain denomination, but because it is a Bible Believing church and doctrinally sound.

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Carey. That is good.

However, a lot of churches that call themselves non-denominational are essentially sectarian.

As soon as a group of Christians call themselves a church, draw up a list of members, write a statement of belief and appoint leaders, they have created their own little denomination.

The Exclusive Brethren are an off-shoot of the Plymouth Brethren.

I do not think the Grace Brethren have any direct connection with the Plymouth Brethren.

With respect to you John, Baptists are essentially sectarian because they meet and claim to form churches of those who believe in the baptism of believers only.

While I uphold the Baptist position on baptism, I think it is very strange to claim to be a church while excluding those in the Church of God who see differently on the issue of baptism.

You must worship where you feel God has lead you.

I believe the Lord lead me to my present congregation, even though I fundamentally disagree with their structures.

You belong to the Church of God for whom Christ died.

It is unscriptural to talk about belonging to 'a church'. There is only one church, though it is found in different geographical localities.

If I visited Montreal, I would be in the church in Montreal, though no particular body in that city could today claim to be the church in Montreal.

I hope none of my above comments came across as harsh.

Every Blessing in Christ


Redeemed said...

Actually, Matthew, I agree with you!

You just explain things clearer than I do.

Charlie Wallace said...

"As soon as a group of Christians call themselves a church, draw up a list of members, write a statement of belief and appoint leaders, they have created their own little denomination."

You're absolutely right, Matthew.

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Charles and Sarah, I am glad you both agree with some of what I am saying.

God Bless


Carey said...

Yeah, I agree. My parents are members, but I am not. I am very independent... maybe too much so.

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Carey, I am glad you agree.

Barefoot Guy said...

I love George Muller!
His stuff has impacted me in such a deep way, I don’t think I even understand it. I have read most of his books and have been so encouraged by his personal walk with Jesus. He was something special.

I am a musician and GM has inspired many of my songs. I would be honored if you would check out my music on my site. All my music is free for download. Anyway, I just thought that I’d share.

“All my music is free for download.”

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Muller was a pretty inspiring chap.

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Anonymous said...

I'm doing an assignment on the Exclusive Brethren sect in New Zealand and I was wondering if any one knows how members are initiated into the sect. I'm aware that house baptisms take place but are there any other rituals etc that take place for initaiation.

Thanks Kristina

Celestial Fundy said...

Not much to offer I am afraid.

Anonymous said...

How do the Brethren convert non members? Do they believe in missionary work? And can you just turn up to their Sunday meetings to investigate?

Matthew Celestis said...

There are different groups of Exclusive Brethren. The moderate Kelly-Lowe-Glanton Brethren do missionary work and people are free to attend their meetings.

The Raven-Taylor Brethren gave up doing overseas evangelism in the mid-Twentieth century. They do street evangelism, however. You can't just turn up at their services. You need to make a phone call and a prior arrangement to attend their meetings.