On Young People, Their Future – and Some Thoughts on the Exclusive Brethren

After attending the graduation ceremonies of two of my daughters in Dublin in recent weeks, I have been thinking about how difficult it is for young people to make a living in this current era of unemployment and widespread cutbacks. Most parents are apprehensive when their children set out to go to university – but then so thankful when they complete their degrees, accomplishing that goal they had set for themselves three or four years earlier. The Christian parent will pray for their son or daughter, in the knowledge that there is a much more important goal… they pray that their children will ultimately own the Lord Jesus Christ as Lord of their lives.

Of course we have concerns during the years they attend university. We wonder about the company they keep and the influences that permeate their lives from all quarters – but we cannot keep young people locked away forever from the outside world, whatever our strongly held principles.

If we truly know the Lord, we pray – and we continue to pray in faith for our children until the Lord takes us Home.

With this in mind I have been thinking in recent days about a religious sect known as ‘the Exclusive Brethren’ and just how difficult it must be for young people who are born into one of these homes where legalism seems to be the order of the day.

Exclusive Brethren young people are not permitted to have a third level education and many of them invariably end up working for a company or business which is run by their parents’ church colleagues. The Exclusive Brethren broke away from the ‘Plymouth Brethren,’ the latter having had its beginnings in Dublin in 1830, but formed its first congregation in Plymouth in 1831. John Nelson Darby, one of the original prominent preachers, separated from the Plymouth Brethren to form the Exclusive Brethren which is today governed by the Australian Bruce Hales who is known as ‘the elect vessel.’

Some previous ‘elect vessels’ have been very controversial indeed, but what is most serious is the cult-like influence that they have over their members who amongst other prohibitions, are not allowed to eat or drink with those who are not of their persuasion. They must live in detached houses and pets are also prohibited. If young people decide that they do not want to be Exclusive Brethren, they are ostracised by their loved ones within the church. Today the Exclusive Brethren have spread throughout the world and have a presence in most European countries, while church buildings are built in such a way as to deter visitors. How far removed this is from the example of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Master Soul winner, who ate with publicans and sinners!

One afternoon I was walking down the street in a local town, when I spotted two young ladies in headscarves. I had often seen other ladies dressed similarly and was curious to know what religious denomination they belonged to. (At that point I knew nothing about them.) I somehow got talking to one of the girls, although her friend was a little reluctant to talk to me at all and kept her distance. Obviously married quite young, they were pushing young children in buggies. As I listened to the girl who spoke to me about their beliefs, I also told her of my own personal experience of coming to know the Lord as Saviour. However, when I asked her of her personal experience, I learned that she had none at all. “I believe what I believe because this is what my parents brought me up to believe,” she told me. I came away from that brief conversation with a terrible feeling of sadness. This young girl had told me of all the ‘don’ts’ in her life but she evidently had no living personal relationship with the Lord Jesus as Saviour. She dressed modestly, lived without all the modern trappings of this life and perhaps even prayed and read the scriptures – but she appeared to have no joy and no knowledge of sins forgiven, no life of faith – but one of works alone.

As I looked at my photographs of the young graduates of Trinity College, Dublin just recently, I thought of Edward Cronin, a young medical student in that same college over 180 years ago and how he was the one to start meeting with others for the ‘breaking of bread’ in a private house, because he was refused communion unless he joined one of the dissenting churches. John Nelson Darby then entered the equation but he was to draw others away with him, over a disagreement about prophetic interpretation. From 1848 the Brethren became two distinct groups; the open Brethren held to the principles upon which they were founded but the Exclusive Brethren became increasingly cult-like, with one central figure dictating how member families were to lead their lives.

There have been many schisms throughout all factions of the Brethren movement, but today I pray for members of the Exclusive brethren and I especially think of the young people who are brought up within the system. Yes, and I pray too for my own children whom I love dearly – and for all children and young people, whether they have had the opportunity to go to college or not, in the knowledge that “except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchmen waketh but in vain.” (Psalm 127v1)

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6 Responses to “On Young People, Their Future – and Some Thoughts on the Exclusive Brethren”

  1. One In Christ Jesus Says:

    Elizabeth, I don’t know if you realise but your blog on the Exclusive Brethren on 27th Nov 2012, is a very timely one. The Exclusive Brethren are currently in huge dispute with the Charity Commission over the Charity status of their Meeting Halls, in respect to public access and community integration. This is a current story and has been debated in the UK Parliament and the House of Lords. When the Exclusive Brethren were notified of the CC decision back in June 2012, they started a huge PR Campaign.

    They changed their website from theexclusivebrethren.com on the 8th Nov to a new site called theplymouthbrethrenchristianchurch.org. If you look at the details they are completely missing out the fact of the 1848 division in the Plymouth Brethren. Their submissions to Parliament have been full of half truths and mis leading information. They have tried and succeeded so far in courting the rest of the religious press into supporting them by using the un true scaremongering tactic of claiming that the decision of the CC could affect all churches. It will not, as the CC have been at pains to point out. They are using every tactic they can to develop the perception they are just like other churches and are just Christians obeying the Bible. They have taken to calling their meeting halls “Gospel Halls” to again confuse authorities.

    By changing their name they are using it to disguise who they really are and re write their own history. There sole aim is to confuse authorities into thinking they are more like the “Open Brethren” churches, that’s why they refuse to mention the 1848 division and that why they have changed their name

    More details can be found at

    This is a hot topic in the UK Religious community, and it has got the Ex Exclusive Brethren and genuine Christians who know what the group is really like, very annoyed. The levels of deciet and mis information are quite amazing for what is supposed to be and they claim it themsleves, a Christian Church.

    Those who have suffered and been “withdrawn from” just for leaving the closed community to go to another Christian church, those who have lost wife and children as a result of being “withdrawn from”, those who have not spoken to or seen relatives for over 30 years because they are inside the community and are not allowed to associate with former members. They are not allowed to eat or drink with former members, those who arent in their communiy and that includes “other Christians” !. Those who have lost houses and jobs, those who have suffered emotional and psycological asbuse and intimidation – all of this is being hidden.

    It is amazing to witness the claims being made that “they just follow the bible”, when those that know the group, know they also follow the rules and interpretations of the bible from past and current leaders such as FE Raven and James Taylor Snr or James Taylor Jnr. They have even inferred they just follow the King James Bible when those that know the group, know they will only use the JN Darby version in their meeting halls. They claim they only “seperate from evil” when those that know the group, know they “seperate from all others, not with us” and that includes other Christians !

    Its so sad how extremists like this can twist the Scriptures. If only they would practice Romans 15 v7

    Thank you for speakign the truth in your article
    Christian Blessings to you

  2. readywriterpublications Says:

    Dear “One in Christ Jesus”… Thank you so much for your comment – and all the information that you have given about current developments in the Exclusive Brethren. I was not aware of this at all but in recent days for some reason I had been thinking about them and wondering about that organisation today. I recall years ago my mother’s story about a young girl she knew who lived close to her old home; this girl refused to eat in the company of her parents which I thought was just terrible and not at all scriptural.
    I find the recent events you have described very interesting… the fact that they have changed their name in a PR effort to retain their charity status etc. My heart goes out to young people who are born into the system and I sincerely pray for this organisation as a whole – that they would see the truth and be set free… “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” (John 8v36)

    In Christ,

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Thank you for these words. Our children are in the Lord’s hands and we must trust Him to guide them.

    This verse is very special to me. Our new Pastor gave it to me after learning of our difficult experience leaving a PB assembly.

    If you would like to respond privately, I would be glad to share more with you.

    God bless you,


  4. readywriterpublications Says:

    Dear Anonymous,

    Thank you so much for your comments and for the contact.
    I will be in touch with you shortly.


  5. John J. Jones Says:

    My son put his trust in Christ at the age of 16. Two years down the road he was becoming a bit indifferent; then at age 18 he went to university and joined the Students Christian Union and suddenly he found himself in a fellowship of 500 other young Christians, and it turned his life around. This year he celebrates his 50th birthday, and remains a very committed Christian, heavily involved in his local baptist church. Going to university and joining the Christian Union was the making of him in more ways than one. Four years later he left with his M.Sc

  6. readywriterpublications Says:

    Hello John,

    I am so glad that it went well for your son all those years ago, as those teenage years can take their toll on everybody!
    When we pray earnestly for our children, committing them to the Lord, we know that we are praying in His will and that He will work out circumstances in their lives for their protection and His glory.
    Thank you for your comment,

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