Saturday, 11 January 2014

A most interesting comment from the Law & Religion website



To describe the PBCC’s acknowledgment of its past mistakes as “interesting” would be an understatement. It remains to be seen, however, what immediate effect the Commission’s decision will have on the PBCC’s “doctrine and practices” in relation to “those who leave the PBCC”. William Shawcross, Chairman of the Commission, was quoted as saying that he hoped that “the organisation’s new explicit focus on compassion and forgiveness will help allay the concerns of people who remain uncomfortable with some of the practices of the PBCC”. So does the extract on “Separation” quoted above mean that the PBCC might now end its discipline of not eating or drinking with those who are not members of the Church, on the grounds that those practices have been part of its “past mistakes”?

It will also be interesting to see what degree of revision of the PBBC’s practices the Commission will require before accepting a revised governing document. But, in any case, the Commission will monitor the Preston Down Trust’s future compliance and assess any serious individual concerns or complaints about the Trust, in line with its risk framework and usual practice. A spokeswoman for the Commission said that a review would take place “around a year after the trust is registered” – a process expected to be complete in the next couple of months. The review would not look at whether the decision to register the Preston Down Trust had been correct, but only at whether or not the Brethren were complying with the new deed.

1 comment:

  1. The Law & Religion blog is a good one to follow operated by Frank Cranmer (Quaker) & David Pocklington (Anglican) blogging about current issues in law & religion from a non-sectarian, academic perspective @FCranmer

    Well done Laurie on getting a mention in another Civil Society article as per below

    Charity Commission to review Plymouth Brethren practices next year
    Governance | David Ainsworth | 10 Jan 2014

    The Charity Commission will conduct a review in around a year’s time to confirm that the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church is complying with a new trust deed, a spokeswoman for the regulator said today.

    The Commission yesterday confirmed that it would register as a charity the Preston Down Trust, a congregation of the Brethren, if it accepted the new deed.

    A spokeswoman for the regulator said the review would not look at whether the decision to register the Preston Down Trust had been correct, but only whether the Brethren were complying with the new deed. She said the review would take place “around a year after the trust is registered” – a process expected to be complete in the next couple of months.

    The Brethren practice a strict doctrine of separation that does not allow them to eat and drink or socialise with non-members, and former members have complained that this prevents them from having contact with family within the Brethren.

    The Commission has also received complaints from former members about the disciplinary practices of the Brethren, which include refusing contact with current members who have broken their rules.

    The new deed includes a statement of “faith in practice”, which lays down rules governing how Brethren interact with one another and those outside their group. It says the Brethren will give “reasonable assistance” to anyone wishing to leave their group, and will “allow the continuation of family relationships” between former and current members.

    Campaigners who have collected evidence of harm caused by Brethren practices said that the new deed and the review were positive steps.

    Baroness Berridge (pictured), a Conservative peer who in 2012 called for a “Church-led inquiry” into the Brethren, said the Commission should be “commended for their hard work” and praised “for being the first statutory authority to put on public record that there were elements of detriment and harm” in Brethren practices.

    Berridge said that she “would warmly encourage anybody who has been separated from family members who remain within the Exclusive Brethren, to re-establish contact and report any concerns to the Commission” and that she remains “keen to support those who feel that their lives have been adversely affected by the doctrines and practices of the Brethren”.

    Laurie Moffitt, a former member of the Brethren who has campaigned to raise awareness of issues around detriment and harm, said that he was encouraged by the decision.

    “It’s good that they have been held to account,” he said. “The Commission has taken a sensible step.”

    The Plymouth Brethren Christian Church said in a statement that its members were “hugely encouraged and comforted” by the decision that “the Charity Commission has agreed that the doctrines and practices of our church advance religion for the public benefit”.