Sunday, 20 October 2013

A very recent encounter.

Wow… in case anyone has started to hope the EB might be changing or opening up… please read the following. 

They might be happy to give food to strangers in earthquakes, pay for park benches and post Scriptures on Facebook – but they still at their core revolve everything around their ‘Separation from the world’ principle, especially when it concerns the biggest threat to their status quo, any ex-members like myself… I got married earlier in the year (without any of them attending of course) and wanted my husband to meet my grandparents before they get too old and pass away without meeting them. We knew they might refuse to see us if we phoned first, so just turned up on their doorstep. It was good to see them, despite an awkward, brief, over the threshold of the door conversation – capped off by my Grandad refusing to let hubby take a picture of me with them. It seems that this is a compromise of the Lord’s separation standards?! 
I was pretty teary and gutted at the stupidity of the whole situation, and we decided to go to a local café to recuperate over a latte. We were sitting there for a short while when I stood up and asked my man to come with me to look in the next door shop. We were half way through our coffees so looking back it was extremely bizarre timing, whether you believe in chance or God, Something I believe arranged this – we stood up, stepped outside the café door and UNBELIEVABLY, at that exact moment, my mother who hadn’t seen for about four years, and my little sister who I hadn’t seen for five years, were walking RIGHT past in front of us!! 
I dropped my coffee and bag, and ran to their retreating backs. I reached out, turned my sister around and fell onto her, embracing her, holding her, sobbing into her and she also was crying so much, but also I was looking at her face as I couldn’t believe it was her. If she wasn’t with my mum I don’t know if I would have recognised her; she had changed so much in face and body since I had left. It was a terrible feeling, like a time warp. Even worse was the stuff she was saying, PBCC lines like ‘come back to us, stop helping ex-brethren and come back to us’. This confirmed my worst nightmares, that she did think that I was a monster – my baby sister, who I had loved and cared for so much, who I had protected and one of the biggest reasons I struggled to leave because I couldn’t stand the thought of not being around to care for her!! – here she was looking at me, a different child, in mind and in body, now a young woman looking at me as if I was the monster, something with scales, something to draw back from!
My mum was pulling at my little sister, so close to me so I reached out to embrace her too, oh if I had arms to scoop them both up! But to my shock and disbelief, she had no tears and pulled away from me, saying ‘no, no we cannot, I will not hug you when you are helping ex-brethren, when you have your letter up on that website. Come back to us, but until then…’ Her big brown eyes that I love so much were not soft like melted chocolate but were hard like black stones, her words sounded so adamant, so bitter and angry with me they were like a knife in my heart. My desparate mind scrambled with disbelief and confusion. What could I say? She was pulling my sister away, what could I say in a split second? I grabbed her arms and stared her full in the face, saying Mum, God IS WITH ME! HE IS OUTSIDE OF THE EB! And repeated it to my sister, but Mum was pulling her away and next thing I know is all I can see is their backs as they hurry away. I don’t care about the fact we are in the middle of the street, or the people at the tables, I just break down and howl… 
What does this feel like? How can you describe it to people who haven’t experienced this pain, caused by the hands of the PBCC and their cruel doctrine? It is like going about your daily business, and then suddenly a normal looking person turning around and actually they are a zombie that turns on you, tears at your heart and runs off leaving you for dead. It is like a grave shattering open in front of your steps, and a face frozen into your memory suddenly being in front of you again –living and breathing but changed by time so that you can only just recognise them. It is like paddling in a lovely lake, then a loch ness monster lashing at you from nowhere, the sky blackens, the world shakes and then they disappear again and the birds start singing, the sun is shining but the trauma sits on your soul like a terrible nightmare you had that no-one else can see. 
I am afraid to share this, because my family may see this because the PBCC have a network of people who monitor anything ex-members say and report back to families and to priests. I am afraid of more anger and bitterness from my family. It destroys me to have them think that I am evil and to hate me for sharing publicly of my journey. But I have something that compels me and is greater than that fear and devastation. I utterly believe that truth should be not hidden. Truth should be shouted from the rooftops. Truth should be a flag held high no matter how many gunshots those holding it up take. It is hard to get to this place – before all this, I would have said that family came first and foremost no matter what. Now I have seen the power of the lies and the brainwashing and manipulation of the PBCC that my family is trapped in, I will say that TRUTH comes first and foremost no matter what. Why? Why this, when it causes my family so much added trauma and pain. Why not die quietly without raising this flag, when it upsets them so? Because it is only as they see truth will they ever recognise as counterfeit the flag they have waving in the wind. It is only TRUTH that can ever, ever set them free. 
The PBCC say they hold Scripture in high regard. Perhaps they have cut this verse out, as they have cut out ex-members faces in their photographs; “those who won't care for their own relatives, especially those living in the same household, have denied what we believe. Such people are worse than unbelievers.” (1 Tim 5)
I was shown a quote today which says much; “(There are) three marks of false love, by which its falsity is exposed. They are the mark of limitation (something is withheld), the mark of control (manipulating people), and the mark of detachment (we remain self-sufficient, unimpaired, unhurt). By contrast, authentic love is characterized by limitless self-giving, risk-taking with no certainty of success, and a vulnerability which is easily hurt…” (Canon William Vanstone)
Let us keep giving them our love, keep risk-taking with no certainty of success, and despite the hurt let us keep loving… All of you on this journey are in my thoughts.


  1. That is a very moving report. Thank you for sharing it, whoever you are.

    Thank you too for Canon Vanstone’s wise words. Genuine love is unconditional, inalienable and unfailing. I like to believe there is some genuine love of this sort among the Brethren, but they have to harbour it like a guilty secret, because they have been trained to make their love conditional upon toeing the line and obeying their Pope. One tendency of Jim Taylor’s ministry about abandonment, for example, was to suppress genuine love of the sort described in 1 Corinthians 13.

  2. William Vanstone was absolutely right in his comment about love.

    In the Christian tradition the truth that matters above all else is love. The apostle Paul characterised love as patient, kind, not arrogant or rude. Love hopes all things and dwells with faith, "and the greatest of these is love".

    Jesus prioritised love of God, neighbour and opposer, and he taught that all the law and the prophets (the teachings of the Hebrew Bible) were summed up and fulfilled in the supreme commandment of love.

    My heart goes out to the writer of this piece. We've all experienced Exclusive Brethren disdain in one way or another, but authentic love takes risks and tries to contact and embrace the Exclusive Brethren members who have rejected us. The author of this piece did just that and it's an encouragement to us all.

  3. Very moving story - how brave of you to share it.

    The verse you quoted in the Darby bible reads:
    "But if any one does not provide for his own, and specially for those of [his] house, he has denied the faith, and is worse than the unbeliever." 1 Tim 5v8

    If there are any brethren reading this blog, what do you make of this chapter. What do you make of what happened to this person in the story told here? Do you really hope to bring us back into the brethren by treating us in such an unchristian way like this?

    You have the gift of story telling - and are so brave to speak out here and in others places. Courage and love to you

  4. That quotation has set me looking for more written by William Vanstone. It seems his best known book is Love’s Endeavour, Love’s Expense. I have only found one brief review of it.

    According to Robert Tessmer, “the book consolidates a life-time of reflection on the Love of God by a much-celebrated British writer and theologian who eschewed the life of academia for that of an urban (Anglican) parish priest.

    Vanstone's reflection is that true love gives everything it has, to the point of being spent, while simultaneously allowing the object of its love to be and become in complete freedom.”

    What? Did someone say Freedom?

    1. Wow that is fascinating. Thank you for sharing that!

  5. Here's a hymn by William Vanstone which we sing at church:

    Morning glory, starlit sky,
    soaring music, scholar’s truth,
    flight of swallows, autumn leaves,
    memory’s treasure, grace of youth:

    Open are the gifts of God,
    gifts of love to mind and sense;
    hidden is love’s agony,
    love’s endeavour, love’s expense.

    Love that gives, gives ever more,
    gives with zeal, with eager hands,
    spares not, keeps not, all outpours,
    ventures all, its all expends.

    Drained is love in making full,
    bound in setting others free,
    poor in making many rich,
    weak in giving power to be.

    Therefore he who shows us God
    helpless hangs upon the tree;
    and the nails and crown of thorns
    tell of what God’s love must be.

    Here is God: no monarch he,
    throned in easy state to reign;
    here is God, whose arms of love
    aching, spent, the world sustain.

    W H Vanstone (1923-1999)

    1. Wow, that is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing this too. :-)

  6. Jesus said: "love your enemies" he loved sinners enough to die for them.

    "but God commends his love to us, in that, we being still sinners, Christ has died for us." Rom 5:8 (Darby Version)

    Lower down we are told that we were justified while still enemies.

    I certainly feel for the original poster, having also been shunned by loved ones.

    Certainly not the teaching of Jesus.

  7. I salute your courage in so many ways, poster. It is good to let truth & love shine out of our broken hearts, I think. Keeping quiet (as the HEB want us to) means burying a piece of one's heart, and while that is the valid choice of some, I don't find heart burial long-term to be a particularly healthy state... though sometimes the energy & courage it takes to shine one's light gets to be a bit hard to find! Onya, mate, and hugs to the broken-hearted on both sides of that Brethren-constructed separatist fence.

  8. Thank you for writing so eloquently about what most of us have gone through at one time or another when dealing with our family who are still involved with the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church (Hales Exclusive Brethren). Being treated like that by family and those who were supposed to be your friends is a hurt that never goes away and that has no way of healing because they continue to act in a totally unchristian like way.

    Withholding contact with our family is nothing more than psychological torture in an effort to force us to key-toe to their way of thinking and that is why we can not keep quiet. They can not be allowed to continue to torture people and get away with it and certainly not while claiming they are a charity, pretending they are doing good for mankind in general, and yet doing harm psychologically to those who have left.

  9. I am not EB but recovering Ex Christian Fundamentalist...
    Very Moving Story and my heart goes out to the writer... :'(

  10. Joan do give ear plugs to those nearby when you "sing" in church?

  11. Are Exclusive Brethren and Plymouth Brethen the same denomination? I always thought they were different.