Category Archives: Relgion

Hillsong, Exclusive Brethren, Scientology and other cults

A brotherhood creates dependency in the system.  I felt the links to control. The consciousness of Christ in my understanding is love and love – shares, cares, reveals and heals.  Unconditional love places no conditions on love. Jesus existed prior to the church. HIs message was love.  I don’t think he would have been into politics as it is the art of perception management.  He was about authenticity as an example. The political system was set up as secular so no religion would impose its doctrine on the people.  In Iran the Ayatollah imposed Islam on a creative and artistic people.  I am not against Islam at all, but when any religion fuses with the State then the people are forced to adopt the religion, that is not freedom. It is women that typically have the most challenges as they are seen as typically less and there are strong beliefs of their place in society.  I am glad I found that higher power in my life, it didn’t come through religion as I was raised an atheist, it actually came through bullying, aggression, hardship and my deep search for truth.  I wasn’t seeking this power, but I found it as truth was my deepest desire, then I was no longer a seeker.  In my world I follow no religion, I just follow my heart and know there are no mistakes.  I am at peace with people following whatever inspires them, it may not be a higher power and I am fine with that as we are all one.  We are indeed the one song singing.  S/he may sing as an atheist, s/he may sing as a Buddhist, or a politician, or a lawyer, a street sweeper, a mother, a child, dancer, plumber, artist, Muslim – such is diversity within unity. The real harmony is smiling at the contrast and knowing we are same same but different and that the contrast is what brings us home. That is the essence of harmony.

I feel to explore this topic as I am singing the one song. 

Exclusive Brethren, Sexual Abuse and Donations to the Liberal Party

In the public interest. This article raises the issue of the link between religious influence and politicians in a secular nation state and how this impacts the larger secular society. 

Courtesy of The Age.

A plea for victims to speak out about abuse

It takes courage to expose scandals, particularly those involving allegations of sexual abuse, which continue to be whitewashed by powerful religious organisations such as the Exclusive Brethren. Michael Bachelard (Good Weekend and Saturday Age, 18/6) is to be congratulated for holding no punches.

I left this secretive sect in 1968 but, decades later, I cannot forget the impact of hearing confessions of sexual misdemeanours broadcast by the perpetrators over a public address system to the captive congregation, which often numbered many hundreds of shocked souls. Witnesses present on those occasions will remember that any notion of reporting these matters to the authorities would not be countenanced. The confessors would be forgiven or not by the church elders at their whim. Everyone in the congregation understood that the Brethren constituted the highest “court” in the land. Victims from those far off days who read this and still bear the shame should take heart from Bachelard’s compelling articles and speak out about their trauma.

Illustration: Cathy Wilcox.

Illustration: Cathy Wilcox.

It is no surprise that the Exclusive Brethren has gone into damage control and employed public relations spin doctors to launch denials and threats. This is proof of their lack of conscience and desperation to retain tax benefits and generous government handouts for their schools. Not all the bluster and bravado in the world, most notably their re-branding to the name of Plymouth Brethren Christian Church and claim to charitable works, can alter their sordid history.

Bachelard reveals the extent of the Brethren’s history of donations to the Liberal Party. Will the Prime Minister follow his predecessors in counting the Exclusive Brethren among his friends and take their tainted money, or will he take the moral high ground and distance his party from any association with this extremist Christian sect? The federal election is in crucial countdown mode. The message to Malcolm Turnbull is clear. He needs look no further than the 2007 election when the sitting prime minister lost his seat of Bennelong, in no small part due to the reaction of voters over revelations of the Liberal Party’s secret dealings with the Exclusive Brethren.

Joy Nason, Neutral Bay, NSW

The underhanded nature of political funding

Politicians clearly have no shame. The fact that the Liberals accepted “secret co-ordinated donations” from the Exclusive Brethren highlights the underhanded nature of political parties, especially when it comes to funding their operations. There appears to be a lack of moral standards, both on the part of donors and recipients. This story should have been emblazoning on page one. The $26.6million in government funding for the Brethren’s private schools is the icing on the cake. This is reprehensible in light of the parlous state that our government schools are in. Anyone who thinks this is acceptable needs to have their moral compass mended because theirs is broken. I am sure that the Labor Party has its cosy arrangements with various organisations, too.


David Legat, South Morang

Union funding wrong. Brethren funding OK.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull condemns the Labor Party for receiving money from trade unions yet defends funding to his own party from the secretive Exclusive Brethren. Also, Mafia figures donated tens of thousands of dollars to the discredited NSW Liberal Party fundraising vehicle, the Millennium Forum, as part of an ultimately successful campaign to allow a known criminal to stay in Australia (The Age, 29/6/15). Rather hypocritical, don’t you think?

John Cain, McCrae

Our two-tiered system


I retired 10years ago after a long career teaching in government secondary schools. Schools were better resourced under Labor governments (state and federal) than when the Coalition held the reins. The combination of the Kennett government and Howard government broke the state system’s back through the former’s assault on schools, and the latter’s less direct, but just as impactful, unequal funding of elite private institutions.

The last school I taught at touted for international students, and the main motivation was money. Little preparation was made for their educational needs. I felt angry and ashamed. Now, in order to gather more funds, teachers in government schools are being “rented out” to private schools (The Age, 17/6). I am despondent that education in this country has perhaps become the most divisive, two-tiered system in the Western world. Until we have one public education system, fully resourced and invested in by all Australians, we can not mature as a nation.

Meg Stuart, Forest Hill

Educating our youth

Maybe Victoria’s crime statistics (The Age, 17/6) would not be so bad if the young people concerned were in a school or TAFE institute, being educated with a view to getting a worthwhile job, or in an apprenticeship. Labor has pledged to establish 10 new “tech schools” (The Age, 27/4). It should open more. Also, the old technical schools should never have been shut down.


Lorraine Bates, Surrey Hills

Behind the Exclusive Bretheren in Australia

In the public interest.

Behind the Exclusive Bretheren in Australia

Behind the Exclusive Bretheren in Australia

Behind the Exclusive Brethren was written in 2007, when the Exclusive Brethren’s political activities were attracting the attention of the mainstream media. The ABC’s Four Corners aired a story that year about the Brethren’s dealings with the Liberal Party, revealing that senior sect members had met with John Howard and Peter Costello and provided the party with financial support. The program also revealed a long history of the sect making significant financial contributions to conservative political parties around the world.

The revelation caused a minor political controversy during the 2007 election campaign. Labor Leader Kevin Rudd was critical of the Liberal Party’s dealings with the sect, labelling it an “extremist cult [that] breaks up families”. Greens Leader Bob Brown added the organisation was, “so heartless in excommunicating forever from their families, people who leave it.”

Howard defended the meeting on the basis that the Brethren were a “lawful organisation, and as Prime Minister [you meet] an enormous number of organisations.” Likewise, Costello defended himself adding, “[it would be a crime] if a Member of Parliament refused to meet somebody on the basis of their religious convictions”.

Although it had a history spanning well beyond 100 years, there was very little documented on the Exclusive Brethren at the time Michael Bachelard wrote the book. This was largely due to the Brethren’s secrecy and litigious nature.

For Bachelard, this was enough to make him want to investigate further. “When I tried myself to contact them… I just met this stone wall… journalists are paid to be curious and this piqued my curiosity,” he says.

He says in the text that his interest in the sect was initially sparked by, “an innocent enough question from [his] editor: would the Exclusive Brethren be participating in the Victorian State Election?”

“The answer, I quickly discovered, was ‘yes’,” he wrote. His subsequent news article prompted a ‘blizzard’ of responses from people whose lives had been affected by the Brethren.

“I felt that there was a really interesting conjunction between the terrible personal stories I was hearing about how badly people were being treated by this group and the fact that they seemed to be so politically well connected,” he says.


Behind the Exclusive Brethren covers a great deal of information about the sect and their place within Australian society. Whilst the catalyst for Bachelard’s investigation was the sect’s political connections, the text goes well beyond that one aspect.

It discusses all the interconnected aspects of Brethren life, including its past, theology, leadership and business practices.

A reccurring theme through the text is the doctrine of separation, the theological position of the Brethren which states that its members should stay separate from the ‘impurities of the world’. In practice, this means followers cannot access mainstream media (such as the internet or television), eat with ‘worldly’ people or have membership with any ‘worldly’ groups, such as insurance agencies or trade unions.

The worst effect of the doctrine is that ex-members (whether they are excommunicated or leave themselves) are cut off from family and friends still in the sect. Children are told their ex-Brethren parents are ‘wicked’ and efforts of ex members to reunite with loved ones are met with slammed doors.

The text also deals with the business savvy nature of the sect’s current leader Bruce Hales. Within the Brethren is a sophisticated network of corporations. These companies provide each other with financial support (at no interest) and are centralised by a Brethren organisation which leases its equipment to the businesses.

Built into this network are Brethren schools (who also receive significant contributions from the Federal government), logistics companies and even healthcare funds.

Their political campaigning is covered extensively in the text, quoting documents sent between the sect and politicians as well as noting where special policy changes have been made for them.

The Brethren’s litigious nature is discussed towards the end of the text, detailing how the sect has used the legal system to get their way in defamation actions and child custody proceedings. Bachelard notes that the Brethren have a large fund set up to bankroll legal proceedings, which was significant for him given the potential outcome of their reaction to his book.


For the average reader, the entirety of Behind the Exclusive Brethren is revelatory. The fundamental aspects of Brethren life, its structure and theology are unfamiliar to most Australians; details of such are likely to shock them.

The more significant revelations however revolve around the ‘conjunction’ between how people were treated in the sect and their political connections.

The text tells of several stories where families have been broken by the Brethren’s doctrine. The most significant is in the Albury chapter of the book, where a church elder sexually abused a girl. The mother of the child was subsequently shunned from the sect when she decided to take the story to police. This story alone gives a chilling? impression of what life is like inside the Brethren.

Another significant revelation is the strange anti-intellectual pedagogy that exists within the Brethren schooling system. The schools strongly discourage students from going on to university, where the lifestyle is regarded as sinful. Instead students are encouraged to go onto apprenticeships and gain technical qualifications. Topics required to be taught in State curricula such as evolution or sex education are merely glossed over.

The text goes into detail about how these schools are able to exploit legal loopholes to get maximum funding from the Federal Government.

Correspondence with Federal members of Parliament is also put under a microscope. Documents detailed how the Brethren successfully lobbied the Howard Government on topics such as school funding. In a letter to then Attorney General, Phillip Ruddock, the Brethren tried to persuade him to include a provision for what was in effect an entrenched pre-nuptial custody agreement in his ‘Parenting Plans’ legislation.

Writing Style:

Throughout the text, Michael Bachelard adopts a simple, straightforward method of writing. The book as a whole benefits from this decision, as the writing style is easily adapted to the changing mood. It provides consistency in a book that regularly jumps between emotional topics such as family breakdown and academic ones such as politics and theology.

In the more emotional parts of the book, Bachelard’s writing style has the effect of letting the stories speak for themselves. There is the feeling that he does very little on his own behalf to evoke emotion from the reader, which is the point. The text presents itself as a balanced, dispassionate and authoritative work and the writing style supports this.

Bachelard himself said the style of the book was adopted with the possibility of defamation action in mind. “I felt that the tone of the book needed to be as dispassionate and as fair as I could make it… I needed to not unnecessarily inflame anger in the Brethren,” he said.

“Even though it was something that I was angry about, I tried not to let that come through and instead just report the facts as they were because that would minimise the chance of them having a cause to sue me,” he said.


Michael Bachelard was able to draw information on a wide range of sources, even though there was very little secondary literature on the Brethren at the time.

His initial contacts were through the correspondence he’d received in response to his articles in The Age.

“I was contacted by a former member of the Brethren who had broad contacts with the wider ex-Brethren community and led me into those contacts,” he said.

He’d also discovered a website (which is mentioned throughout the text) which was run by ex-Brethren members for ex-Brethren members. It included transcripts of Brethren sermons, correspondence between church elders and other church documentation.

However, most important for Bachelard was the website’s forum, which was set up for ex-members to discuss the damage the church had done to their lives. The forum was another significant source of contacts for him.

When interviewing ex-members, Bachelard had to be mindful of strong emotional impact the Brethren had had on their lives. “I had to be aware of the level of psychological sensitivity that many of them had, particularly those who’d lost family members, had children they hadn’t seen for twenty years and such,” he said.

“I tried to treat those people with a great deal of respect and integrity… without exception I ran by everything I was going to write about them,” he said.

The author also needed to protect his sources in a few circumstances. “The reasons for people not wanting to be identified varied from not wanting to reopen the psychological can of worms that they’d lived with to not wanting their own families who are still within the Brethren to be punished for having them speak out,” he said.

Where this would normally impede journalistic work, it doesn’t here. It is sufficiently explained in the text why people wish to remain unidentified and it furthers the notion that the Brethren exercise such a stranglehold on peoples’ lives, even after they’ve left.

Other sources range from official church documents and ministry to publicly available material such as Hansard records, case law and previous reporting on the sect.

Legal/Ethical dilemmas:

Michael Bachelard always kept the threat of defamation action in mind while writing the book. It was well documented in the text that the Brethren were litigious and had a substantial funds set aside to bankroll legal actions.

“They made threats that I was defaming them, they made a threat claiming I was in breach of a New South Wales court case, which was inaccurate, but they made the threat nonetheless,” he said.

“I was aware of the strong possibility of defamation action if I was to overstep the mark in terms of accuracy or fairness; in defamation law you are able to defend yourself on the grounds of truth,” he continued.

He therefore considered whether each allegation he made would be sufficiently provable in court. “There were a few things that I thought to be true, in fact that I was convinced were true, but that I couldn’t put in the book because I couldn’t prove they were true,” he said.

The sexual abuse outlined in the Albury chapter also presented some legal concerns. “There was a legal question about to what extent I could identify the perpetrator of the child sexual abuse… that morphed into the legal consideration about whether or not I was identifying the victims of that abuse, which is illegal under State law,” he said.

Ethically, Bachelard says he was grounded in two fundamental journalistic concepts which were, “telling the truth as far as you could establish it” and “treating interview subjects with respect”. The latter was especially significant when he interviewed members of the Brethren, knowing the way the church would be portrayed in the book.

“I had an interview with [a senior member of the church] and I’d done an on the record interview with him… I sent him a list of quotes that I’d be using as a matter of courtesy and to see if there were any corrections he wanted to make, but he didn’t,” he said.

The fact that the Exclusive Brethren didn’t (or rather, couldn’t) pursue any formal action against the author is a testament to his rigorous adherence to the journalistic method. The constant checking of facts and his fair, dispassionate reporting resulted in a piece Bachelard could stand behind and few could stand against.


Behind the Exclusive Brethren is a prime example of the journalistic process. It set out to cover a topic which was obscure and largely undocumented but still of interest to the wider Australian community. The Brethren lifestyle revolves around an interconnected web of businesses, theology, bureaucracy, politics and psychological intimidation. The text covers all bases sufficiently, giving a comprehensive view of the sect.

Michael Bachelard gathered sources logically; gathering contacts from those in the know and from places populated by people who were most likely to want to speak out (like the internet forum). The circumstances of his interview subjects often required him to exercise a greater degree of sensitivity and not reveal their identities.

As a whole, Behind the Exclusive Brethren accomplishes what it sets out to do: reveal what life is like in the secretive, mysterious sect.


Bachelard, M. 2008, Behind the Exclusive Brethren, Scribe Publications, Carlton North, Victoria.

Interview with M Bachelard, author of Behind the Exclusive Brethren, 25 May 2010.

Howard defends meeting the Exclusive Brethren 2007 [radio program], PM, ABC Radio National, 22 August. The Truth Will Set You Free,, viewed 20 May 2010, .

The Exclusive Brethren Christian Fellowship: An Open Documentary of Their Life and Faith, The Exclusive Brethren, viewed 20 May 2010, <>.

The Brethren Express: Four Corners 2007, television program, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Sydney, 15 October.

Exclusive Brethren: A Current Affair 2008, television program, Nine Network, Sydney, 30 September.

Who Are the Exclusive Brethren?

Courtesy Wikipedia.


Exclusive Brethren

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Brethren Church
Classification Protestant
Orientation Plymouth Brethren
Polity Connectional
Region 19 countries
Founder John Nelson Darby
Origin 1848
Separated from Plymouth Brethren (N.B. The Open Brethren and the Exclusive Brethren, which emerged from the schism, dispute which party was responsible for it).
Separations numerous schisms.

The Exclusive Brethren are a subset of the Christian evangelical movement generally described as the Plymouth Brethren. They are distinguished from the Open Brethren from whom they separated in 1848.[1]

The Exclusive Brethren are now divided into a number of groups, most of which differ on minor points of doctrine or practice. Perhaps the best-known of these, mainly through media attention,[2] is the Raven-Taylor-Hales group, now known as the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church, which maintains the doctrine of uncompromising separation from the world based on their interpretation of 2 Corinthians 6 and 2 Timothy 2, believing that attendance at the Communion Service, the ‘Lord’s Supper’, governs and strictly limits their relationship with others, even other Brethren groups.

These brethren have one fellowship in some nineteen countries — including France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, Egypt, and Argentina, but they are more numerous in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and North America[3][4] where they are referred to just as the Exclusive Brethren or Brethren.


The Plymouth Brethren split into Exclusive and Open Brethren in 1848 when George Müller refused to accept John Nelson Darby’s view of the relationship between local assemblies following difficulties in the Plymouth meeting. Brethren that held Muller’s congregational view became known as “Open”, those holding Darby’s ‘connexional‘ view, became known as “Exclusive” or “Darbyite” Brethren.

Darby’s circular on 26 August 1848, cutting off not only Bethesda but all assemblies who received anyone who had ever attended Bethesda, was to define the essential characteristic of “exclusivism” that he was to pursue for the rest of his life. He set it out in detail in a pamphlet he issued in 1853 entitled Separation from Evil – God’s Principle of Unity.[5] But a tension had existed since the earliest times, as set out in a letter from Anthony Norris Groves in 1836 to Darby (who was not a believer in adult baptism):[6]

Some will not have me hold communion with the Scotts, because their views are not satisfactory about the Lord’s Supper; others with you, because of your views about baptism; others with the Church of England, because of her thoughts about ministry. On my principles, I receive them all; but on the principle of witnessing against evil, I should reject them all.

For most of his life, Darby was able to hold the exclusives together by his great learning and tireless activity, although several longtime members had seceded after accusing him of similar errors about the nature of Christ’s humanity of which he had accused Benjamin Wills Newton.[7] The Central Meeting in London (London Bridge) would communicate with the other assemblies and most difficulties were eventually smoothed over.

But shortly before he died in 1882, things started to fall apart. It all started from an initiative in 1879 of Edward Cronin, one of the Dublin founding members, that paralleled Darby’s initiation of a new assembly at Plymouth thirty years before. Some members had left a failing assembly in Ryde and Cronin travelled down to break bread with them. When he reported back to London, different assemblies took differing views of his action. Though Darby was sympathetic in private he attacked him fiercely in public. By 1881 an assembly in Ramsgate had itself split over the issue and the division, over an issue not of doctrine or principle but church governance, became irrevocable.[8]

The excluded party became known as the “Kelly Brethren”, although William Kelly remained devoted to the memory of Darby and edited his collected papers. But after another division in 1885, three years after Darby’s death, when a London assembly excommunicated a brother in Reading over the “standing” of a Christian, the minority in the resultant split (Stuarts) adopted a more “open” approach to fellowship, as did those who followed Grant in America.

A more serious split occurred in 1890 around the teaching of F. E. Raven of Greenwich. “The seceders from his communion falsely accused him of denying the orthodox doctrine of the union of the Divine and the human natures in the Man Christ Jesus – not indeed in a Unitarian, but in a Gnostic sense.”[9] After furious strife in which the leading opponent was William Lowe, many of the remaining assemblies in Britain stayed with Raven but those on the continent separated whilst the American assemblies were split.

20th century[edit]

Not all of the people remaining in fellowship with Raven agreed with him and this led in 1908-9 to further splits, initiated by actions of the Glanton assembly in Northumberland over dissensions in the neighbouring Alnwick assembly. Once more assemblies had to decide which side to support and this included those as far away as Melbourne, Australia. Thus the Ravens and the Glantons were established. In the same year a festering disagreement in Tunbridge Wells led to a minor breakaway from the Lowe group by a number of assemblies.[10]

A further division took place in 1970. By this time, James Taylor, Jr. had come to control what had been the Raven group. At a meeting in Aberdeen, Scotland, on 25 July, a clearly drunk Taylor publicly insulted members, calling them “bums”, “bastards”, and other such names. That weekend, he was allegedly found in bed with a married woman, both of them naked. His host published a long letter of protest which was sent to the New York assembly. Taylor immediately rejected both accusations as lies and the incident definitively divided the Brethren membership worldwide. Very few based near the scene of the events stayed in fellowship with Taylor — only two families in Aberdeen and 200 out of 3,000 members in Scotland remained. Altogether, over 200 such assemblies in England, Scotland and Ireland seceded from the Taylor group, according to a 1971 listing.[11]

Others, especially those further afield, believed Taylor’s line that he was a pure man and that this incident was used by God to expose his enemies.[12] Following this incident, those who separated from Taylor “rolled back” the changes in doctrine and practice that he had introduced, reverting to the teachings that had been followed in the time of his father, James Taylor, Sr., who had led the movement from 1905 till his death in 1953. This fellowship further fragmented in 1972, and the party which broke away has since further sub-divided.

However the history of Exclusive Brethren is not only one of division. Eventually several of the groups realised that the divisions caused by personalities clashes or ecclesiastical issues were no longer relevant and reunions occurred. The Kelly and Lowe groups reunited in 1926 to form the Lowe-Kelly group, in 1940 with most of Tunbridge Wells and in 1974 with the Glantons and are sometimes known as Reunited Brethren, though there was a further split in 2000 and their ageing congregations have often not been replenished and are dwindling. Most of the Grant party threw in their lot with the Open Brethren in 1932.[13]

Most Exclusive Brethren have traditionally been described as “Darbyite” as they adhere in the main to the original doctrines and teachings of John Darby, and do not accept the concept of a doctrine that evolves through the teachings of successive leaders. Neither do they accept the concept that teachings of church leaders are authoritative, divinely sanctioned, and binding on those in fellowship, as is the belief of the Raven/Taylor/Hales Brethren.

General overview[edit]

At one time, all Exclusive Brethren groups believed that there was a necessary unity of the local church or assembly, but some who once were in fellowship with the Raven/Taylor/Hales group have become independent companies modifying their requirements for receiving members to suit individual conscience. Amongst such groups views concerning their way of life and relationships are frequently affected by the varying standards in the general community.

This is expressed practically in different ways by the different groups, but matters of fellowship and church discipline used to be generally not merely questions of local responsibility; such decisions would have been accepted in all meetings. Exclusive Brethren were therefore sometimes described as Connexional Brethren, as they recognised an obligation to accept and adhere to the disciplinary actions of other associated assemblies. For example, where one of their branches had excluded a person from Christian fellowship, that person remained excluded from all other branches, who must then treat the excluded person as a leper (according to the book of Leviticus Chapter 15). This is still the practice amongst the Brethren and no doubt would be claimed by other independent assemblies.

There are common threads throughout all Plymouth Brethren groups, most notably the centrality of the Lord’s Supper (Holy Communion) in the weekly calendar as well as the format of meetings and worship: the distinctions between the many groups are generally not well understood by non-members. The adjective exclusive has been applied to the groups by others, partially due to their determination to separate from and exclude what they believe to be evil. Exclusive Brethren usually disown any name and simply refer to themselves as Christians, brethren, those with whom we walk, those in fellowship with us, or the saints. However, the Raven/Taylor/Hales group being the most universally identifiable has attracted the term Exclusive Brethren and accepted its application to themselves as meaning, the exclusion of, or withdrawal from, evil.

Dissecting the history and branches of the Exclusive Brethren, particularly in the 20th century, can be a challenge as there has been no formal mechanism for documenting their movement’s history.

Beliefs and structure[edit]


This notice indicates that the meeting room is a registered place of worship and gives contact details. (Five Oak Green Meeting Room, Kent).

With the exception of the hardline Plymouth Brethren Christian Church (PBCC), Exclusive Brethren differ very little from the Open Brethren on theological issues, both holding the Bible as their sole authority in regard to matters of doctrine and practice. Like the Exclusives, Open Brethren have traditionally based much of their doctrine on the teachings of John Nelson Darby. With few exceptions, particularly in regards to whom to accept into fellowship, exclusive brethren have continued to hold the same beliefs that inspired the early Plymouth Brethren.

The centrality of the Lord’s Supper (Holy Communion) is one of the primary linking threads between the different Brethren groups; however, it is also one of the primary differentiators between the various Exclusive Brethren sub-groups: there are exclusive groups which receive all professing Christians to communion, and there are exclusive groups which restrict access to communion to those who are known to be in their fellowship. The PBCC are generally regarded as having the most stringent and uncompromising views on this. However, only two of their services are closed to those who are not members in good standing, the Lord’s Supper and the monthly Care Meeting, with well disposed members of the public free to come into Gospel Preachings and other meetings.

Most Exclusive Brethren groups have no formal leadership structure. In many assemblies, matters up for debate may be discussed at special meetings attended solely by adult males called, in some groups, “Brothers Meetings”. As a result, schisms can occur in the Brethren over disagreements about church discipline and whether other sister groups in other locations have authority to intervene in these disagreements. There are often global family connections due to the emphasis among members to marry within the Exclusive Brethren, and family connections often influences which side of the issue members will take. The PBCC avoid this trend by having a structured leadership with a central authority figure which has maintained unity through the upholding of a universal standard.

Some Exclusive Brethren assemblies “commend” men who are dedicated to the work of preaching. Although they usually do not receive a salary, gifts are often given to them by the separate assemblies where they preach and teach.

Exclusive Brethren do not generally name their meeting rooms or Halls except by reference perhaps to the road, e.g. Galpins Road Meeting Room, Mallow Street Hall. The meeting room or Hall is often referred to as “The Room” or “The Hall”. Notice boards give the times of Gospel Preachings with a formula such as “If the Lord will, the Gospel will be preached in this room Lord’s Day at 6.30.” Meeting rooms of the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church, perhaps the most hardline of the Exclusive Brethren groups, have notice boards indicating that the building is a place registered for public worship and give a contact number for further information.

Unlike the Open Brethren, whose assemblies usually do not have an official membership, Exclusive Brethren are more particular about affiliation, as people who wish to break bread must be affiliated with a “home assembly” to which they are responsible in terms of lifestyle choices.


Hymns are a vital part of the worship of Exclusive Brethren. One of the unifying features in each of the different branches of the Brethren is a common hymnbook. The first collection used among the united assemblies was, “Hymns for the Poor of the Flock,” from 1838 and again in 1840. Another such hymnbook, used by Exclusive Brethren (Tunbridge-Wells and Ames) dating back to 1856 is called, “Hymns and Spiritual Songs for the Little Flock,” the first edition of which was compiled by G.V. Wigram.

A revision was made in 1881 by J.N. Darby. The Little Flock hymnbook has gone through many different editions in different languages. In modern times one of the more commonly used English hymn books in British and North American assemblies is The Believers Hymn Book. Most branches of Exclusive Brethren use one of the many editions of the Little Flock Hymn Book. All editions come from the same source: J.N.Darby’s hymnbook of 1881 which drew on earlier work by George V. Wigram.

Some Exclusive meetings seat accepted men (men who are “in fellowship”) in the front rows toward the table bearing the emblems, with accepted women behind the men, and unaccepted men and women toward the rear. Other Exclusive meetings seat accepted men and women together (so spouses can be seated together), and unaccepted men and women towards the rear in the “Seat of the Unlearned” or “Seat of the Observer”.

Women in Exclusive Brethren gatherings quite commonly wear a headscarf or “mantilla” (a lace/doily-like Spanish veil) on their heads. It is a fairly common misconception that Exclusive women characteristically wear a shawl over their heads, though some women may have resorted to this. They do however always cover their heads when praying.


It is difficult to number the Exclusive Brethren, with the exception of the Raven/Taylor/Hales group, of which there are approximately 46,000 [14] meeting in 300 church assemblies in 19 countries, with strongest representation in Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, and North America.[3][4] Other Exclusive groups now number only 2–3,000 in the UK but there are larger numbers on the European continent and also in North America.

Film portrayal[edit]

The Exclusive Hales branch of the Plymouth Brethren are portrayed in the film Son of Rambow as trying to restrict the creativity and freedom of the film’s main character. The Plymouth Brethren are also featured in the book Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey, and in the film adaptation. Oscar is raised by a strict Plymouth Brethren father and rebels by becoming an Anglican priest.


Some have suggested that the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church (PBCC), the subgroup of the Exclusive Brethren that has attracted the most media coverage, can be categorized as a cult because of its policy of separating itself from other orthodox denominations and because it prohibits radio and television, limits the use of computers and discourages socializing with people outside the movement.[15][16]

Critics of the PBCC have accused it of using cult techniques by controlling all aspects of its members’ lives.[17] The group’s control over its members is such that many who have left the group have had trouble adjusting to life outside. To help with this problem, several websites have been set up[by whom?] to assist people who have left the church to adjust into mainstream society.[18]

Involvement of members of the Exclusive Brethren Church in New Zealand in electioneering led to criticism in the context of the 2005 New Zealand election funding controversy.

Notable Exclusive Brethren[edit]

N.B. This is a list of individuals associated with various branches of the Exclusive Brethren for at least a part of their lives. It includes, but is not limited to, members of the hardline Plymouth Brethren Christian Church.


  1. ^ “Exclusive Brethren”. Reachout Trust. 9 January 2008. Archived from the original on 16 November 2010. Retrieved 16 May 2010. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help); Cite web requires |website= (help)
  2. ^ The Exclusive Brethren-Cult Documentary
  3. ^ Jump up to: a b “Who are the Exclusive Brethren Christian Fellowship?”. The Exclusive Brethren official website. The Exclusive Brethren. Archived from the original on 13 January 2013.
  4. ^ Jump up to: a b Halpin, Tony (21 March 2005). “Top marks for sect schools that shun the modern world”. The Times. London: Times Newspapers Ltd. Retrieved 16 May 2010.
  5. ^ Darby, John Nelson (26 August 1848). Separation from Evil – God’s Principle of Unity. Retrieved 19 December 2013.
  6. ^ Groves, Anthony Norris (10 March 1836). Letter to John Nelson Darby (PDF). Retrieved 10 June 2012.
  7. ^ Neatby 1901, pp. 117–128
  8. ^ Neatby 1901, pp. 137–148
  9. ^ Neatby 1901, pp. 153–6
  10. ^ Noel 1936, p. 570ff
  11. ^ “List of Non-Taylorite Meetings 1971” (PDF). Retrieved 26 January 2014. Cite web requires |website= (help)
  12. ^ Bachelard 2008, pp. 7–13
  13. ^ Dronsfield, W. R. (1965). “The “Brethren” since 1870″. Retrieved 13 June 2012. Cite web requires |website= (help)
  14. ^ The Plymouth Brethren Christian Church, archived from the original on 13 January 2013
  15. ^ “The Plymouth Brethren”. Cite web requires |website= (help)
  16. ^ “Plymouth Brethren FAQ”. Archived from the original on 18 May 2016. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help); Cite web requires |website= (help)
  17. ^ Denholm, Matthew (25 September 2006). “Exclusive Brethren school kids ‘brainwashed. Archived from the original on 8 July 2010. Retrieved 4 August 2010. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help); Cite news requires |newspaper= (help)
  18. ^ “Archived copy”. Archived from the original on 14 January 2012. Retrieved 16 March 2008. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help); Cite web requires |website= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  19. ^ Lorna Sage; Germaine Greer; Elaine Showalter (30 September 1999). The Cambridge Guide to Women’s Writing in English. Cambridge University Press. p. 48. ISBN 978-0-521-66813-2. Retrieved 24 October 2010.
  20. ^ “Patricia Beer”. 21 May 2015. Archived from the original on 22 November 2010. Retrieved 24 October 2010. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help); Cite web requires |website= (help)
  21. ^ “Professor Peter Caws”. Retrieved 20 April 2017.
  22. ^ The Times, Feb.21 1977 – Crosland’s obituary
  23. ^
  24. ^ Aleister Crowley
  25. ^ Lineham, Peter J. (1990). “Deck, James George”. Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. 1. Retrieved 10 September 2017.
  26. ^ “The Brethren Writers’ Hall of Fame”. Retrieved 24 October 2010. Cite web requires |website= (help)
  27. ^ “Cult Help and Information – Roots of Hendricks’ religion traced”. Retrieved 24 October 2010. Cite web requires |website= (help)
  28. ^ “Detriment and Harm”. Laurie Moffitt. Retrieved 21 May 2015. Cite web requires |website= (help)
  29. ^ “An Interview with Garrison Keillor”. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  30. ^ “Charles Henry Mackintosh Bio”. Retrieved 24 October 2010. Cite web requires |website= (help)
  31. ^
  32. ^ “Roger Panes – Confirmed Murder/Suicide – – PBCC”. Retrieved 26 May 2017.
  33. ^ Ngaire Thomas. “Behind Closed Doors”. Behind Closed Doors. Archived from the original on 3 June 2010. Retrieved 24 October 2010. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help); Cite web requires |website= (help)
  34. ^ “GV Wigram Bio”. Retrieved 24 October 2010. Cite web requires |website= (help)

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]


  • J. L. C. Carson, The Heresies of the Plymouth Brethren (London, 1862) Free Download 19mb
  • W. Reid, The Plymouth Brethren Unveiled and Refuted (Second edition, Edinburgh, 1874–76) Free Download 17mb
  • T. Croskery, Plymouth Brethrenism: A Refutation of its Principles and Doctrines (London, 1879)
  • A. Miller, Plymouthism and the Modern Churches (Toronto, 1900)
  • R. Stott, In the Days of Rain (Fourth Estate, UK, 2017) Winner of the Costa Biography Prize 2017.
  • R.Stott, In the Days of Rain: A Daughter, A Father, A Cult (Spiegel and Grau, US, 2017)
  • Michael Bachelard, Behind the Exclusive Brethren (Scribe, 2009)

Religious Exclusive Brethren Funding Politics

In the public interest. Courtesy of the ABC.

Former member reveals ‘Brethren Express’ money trail


A former member of the Exclusive Brethren has revealed the secretive religious sect has been transferring large sums of money across the world, possibly to fund political campaigns in Australia and the US.

In recent years Brethren leaders have met with numerous Liberal ministers, including Prime Minister John Howard.

Now ABC TV’s Four Corners program has revealed that tens of thousands of dollars in Brethren cash have been transferred around the world in envelopes.

Former Brethren member Don Monday says some of the money was used to fund the 2004 election campaign of US President George W Bush.

The program also suggests the Brethren are actively lobbying for the Howard Government, although sect leader Bruce Hales has barred his followers from voting themselves.

Mr Monday says he brought less than $10,000 in cash to Australia in 2005 for distribution to the Brethren.

And he says he knows of other people who have also brought large sums of money to Australia, possibly breaching Customs regulations.

“I would’ve known of people that said they’ve carried as many as 40 and 50 envelopes and some of those would’ve had probably as much as $1,000 to as little as $50 in them,” he said.

“The Brethren would normally, on a monthly basis, give gifts to Mr Hales as well as other people in responsible positions, and that money would be carried by what we jokingly would’ve called the ‘Brethren Express’.

“It would all be transferred in in envelopes by people who were travelling.”

But Exclusive Brethren elder and spokesman Phil McNaughton denies Mr Hales has used the money to fund political campaigns.

“He would use that to distribute to the needy amongst the Brethren and for other purposes at his discretion,” he said.

Mr McNaughton says he does not know just how much money has been handed out.

“In envelopes of cash are distributions of church giving, that was set on by the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians,” he said.

“It is the the church plate that individual churches may wish to distribute to persons engaged in the work of the glad tidings.

“It is money given on trust. It is to be spent in furthering the work of the Lord.”

Watch the Four Corners report at 8:30pm on ABC TV.