Posts Tagged ‘bruce hales’

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

November 27, 2012

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)