Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Should you feel that the PBCC are breaching the terms of the new agreement evidence of such is being collated

Exclusive Brethren/Plymouth Brethren Christian Church and the UK Charity Commission

On 3rd January 2014 the UK Charity Commission (CC) issued a major document (http://www.charitycommission.gov.uk/media/591398/preston_down_trust_full_decision.pdf) in which they set out their reasons for originally refusing charitable status to the Preston Down Trust (PDT)and subsequently for agreeing to accept a future application.

It is not known if the Exclusive Brethren/Plymouth Brethren Christian Church (EB/PBCC) has yet made an application. All EB/PBCC trust applying for charitable status would have to comply with the conditions set out by the Charity Commission.

The CC document is a powerful indictment of the EB/CC. The proposed trust deeds require that comprehensive rewrite of EB/PBCC teaching and practice is required. The CC has made it clear that granting charitable status is provisional iethat it is subject to review in approximately one year to ensure that all aspects of the proposals have been fully embraced.

It is quite evident that the CC has long thought that the EB/PBCC do not fulfil the requirements of providing, on balance, a public benefit which would enable the church to enjoy charitable status. At no time has the CC tried to tell the EB/PBCC what they can or can not believe or practice but as the statutory guardian of registered charities it is entitled, on behalf of the UK public, to be careful about endorsing by way of public subsidy activities which are considered harmful and detrimental.

In making its conclusions the CC considered the evidence of independent experts, ex-members and other interested parties as well as the trustees of the PDT. It is quite clear that there has been a huge body of evidence which has informed the CC view and which has formed the basis of the restrictionsimposed upon the EB/PBCC. The CC also took into account the recent activities of the EB/PBCC in its attempt to demonstrate that it carries out charitable activities. The CC has a statutory duty to consider all aspects of applications which come before it.

I apologise for the length of this document but it is important to avoid over-summarising. I also recommend that if possible people should read the entire CC judgementI acknowledgethat this may not be possible in all cases so I have attempted to make this paper reasonably comprehensive whlst retaining some level of brevity.

In its review, the CC have highlighted the following concerns(the words in italics are the CC’s own words):

Central to their beliefs is the doctrine of separation from evil and, to this end, they separate themselves to some extent from the world.


The Commission was concerned that the manner in which the expressed purposes of the PBCC is carried out may change over time due to the exposition of the teachings contained in the Holy Scriptures by named ministers of the Lord in the Recovery and their successors in the future. The issue was whether the purposes could be said to be sufficiently certain and definite so as to be able to determine that they are exclusively charitable for public benefit. The possibility of the tenets and practices changing in the future means that, even if the tenets and practices as currently expounded are for the public benefit, subsequent expositions by the current or future Minister of the Lord in Recovery might not be for the public benefit.


On the evidence, the Commission determined that this doctrine (i) resulted in both a moral and physical separation from the wider community and (ii) limited interaction between the Brethren and the wider public. Examples of restrictions imposed on members are in the following areas:


ieating/drinking with non-members;

ii. joining in worship with another faith;

           iii. joining in association with non-members, joining professional bodies, unions, owning shares in a company, being in a business partnership with non-members;  

iv. living in adjoined premises;

vvoting or holding positions in town councils;

vi. marrying outside of the PBCC;

vii. children participating in a number of school activities including school dinners and religious worship; and

viiias a result of other restrictions, not attending university.


The Commission noted that the doctrine of separation operates not only in a moral sense as submitted by the PDT but also in a physical sense. The Commission’s evaluation of the evidence supported the view that physical separation is a manifestation of the doctrine of separation which is a central doctrine to the PBCC. Accordingly, the level of interaction with the public is limited to some extent by the very nature of PBCC’s doctrines and practices


The Commission also had regard to the Disciplinary Practices, which also result in physical separation as well as giving rise to issues of detriment and harm.


In addition, the evidence presented to the Commission demonstrated changes in practice which gave rise to a concern as to whether it is possible to be certain as to the nature of the doctrines and practice and whether these are sufficiently certain and will continue into the future so as to be able to conclude that they may be exclusively charitable.


The Commission noted that the history of the PBCC reveals schisms and changes of practice introduced in an unstructured way by different leaders.


In making its representations PDT indicated that some of the allegations must be of an historic nature but did acknowledge past mistakes in relation to its Disciplinary Practices. They further demonstrated a willingness to make amends for these and to do what they could as a Christian organisation to ensure, as far as it was consistent with its religious beliefs, it would act with Christian compassion in the future, particularly in its dealings with disciplines of the Disciplinary Practices and in its relations with former members of the Brethren.


Having fully considered all of the available evidence albeit untested by cross examination, the Commission concluded, on balance, that there were elements of detriment and harm which emanated from doctrine and practices of the Brethren and which had a negative impact on the wider community as well as individuals. In particular the nature and impact of the Disciplinary Practices and the impact of the doctrines and practices on those who leave and on children within the PBCC may have consequences for society.


The most serious detriment and harm related, in the Commission’s view, to the allegations of the treatment of ex-Brethren and to the Disciplinary Practices. The Commission asked that the PBCC address these issues, which they were willing to do. After discussion with the Commission, the PBCC acknowledged that its doctrines and practices should be explicit and integral to its trusts and could address the allegations made against it.


Unusually, the PDT deed of variation to their trust includes a statement of “Faith in Practice and below are some details:


i.The principle of separation is set out which confirms that it “involves drawing away from the world in a moral sense, rather than in a physical sense” and permits inter-personal communication and social interaction with non-Brethren (including former Brethren) and service to them because we seek to do good to all in the world, as opportunities arise.”


ii. Living a Christian life is upheld “We seek and are encouraged to live exemplary lives in all our relationships with others in the wider community (including former Brethren), in accordance with the teachings of Holy Scripture.” “Holy Scripture commands us to be good neighbours to others, and deal with all other people (including former Brethren) openly, honestly and fairly and consistent with these principles, we should give our time and money to assist those in need in the wider community, in so far as reasonable given our abilities and available resources.”


iii. The concept of showing compassion to others is set out: “As Christians, we are to follow the example of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, and show compassion to others… We are expected to care for those who are receptive to such care in our own community, but then also in the wider community (including former Brethren), to the best of our abilities and within our resources.”


iv. Compassion is to be shown in relation to Disciplinary Practices – “When church admonition is necessary, due provision will be made for the welfare of the church member who is under review. This should cover emotional, health, family and financial considerations… The Holy Scriptures require the practice of admonition and discipline to reflect justice and fairness


Compassion is to be shown more generally in the treatment of individuals – “No action should be taken in any way to treat vindictively, maliciously or unfairly persons whether within or outside the community, including those who were within the community and who are leaving or have left the community


Support for those who leave the PBCC is expressly provided for – “Where persons seek to leave the community, reasonable assistance should be afforded to them in terms of support and/or financial assistance relating to employment or other matters, where they have been dependent on the community for that support.”


The importance of maintaining relationships when a person leaves is recognised – “Reasonable steps should also be taken in these cases (consistent with and subject to any legal requirements applying to the persons involved and the human rights of the persons involved) to allow the continuation of family relationships where a family member has left the community, including providing access to family members, in particular children.


The ability of former Brethren to attend funerals is confirmed – “Where a person within the community dies, the principle of separation allows members of the extended family of the deceased, including former Brethren, to attend their funeral service.”


Where young people do decide to attend university there may be a severing of ties so individuals are not in fellowship for the period of their studies. They may decide to return as members following their studies


If the trustees do not comply with the trusts, the Commission will be able to regulate on the basis of a breach of trust. If the trustees are unable to comply with and carry out the trusts, the Commission may regulate on the basis that a cy-près occasion has arisen and the trust property will be applied for charitable purposes of a similar nature.


This means that in the event of a failure to comply, the trust once established cannot simply revert to a private organisation without oversight but would be taken over and operated in a way which does operate for charitable purposes.


It is essential that compliance is monitored. It is not known what systems and processes the CC has in place to monitor compliance. It is therefore important that a channel is established to compile report all known breaches.

The following information would be needed as a minimum:

1.Your name (this will not be revealed)
2. The name of the person making the breach
3. Time, place, date of the breach
4. A brief description plus copies of any written documentation (please retain all written communications)
5. What your expectation of the contact was if the breach arose from personal contact.

Since it is quite possible that this will lead to presentation to authorities it must be capable of being said under oath at a tribunal/court. Whilst UK charitable law clearly applies only within the UK, the behaviour of the EB/PBCC anywhere in the world indicates whether or not they are complying with the requirements of their own trusts, especially since the individual with the deciding voice on all things belongs to their universal leader who is an Australian citizen.

The person who provided you with this information sheet will be able to verify that this is bona fide  and will be able to vouch for the credentials of its author.

Responses shoud be sent to: ebcompliance@outlook.com


  1. You can't change us.
    The PBCC are not for turning.

    John Freeman

    1. If that is true, it implies that the Preston Down statement of Faith in Practice is only a sham, that its authors don’t mean it, and it was only an exercise in deceit. I do hope you are wrong.

    2. John Freeman...You are now part of the evidence; unless you clarify.


  2. I hope John Freeman had his tongue in his cheek when he wrote that - if not …… well I too hope he is wrong

  3. Anyone who believes that the PBCC will do anything at all to redress its core and inherent practices and sins is a fool. They have paid lip service and that is where it will end. They got what they wanted. If there was any intention to change- why did they slam the door again after the 'Period of Grace"? This is what they do. They'll give more to charities and other innocuous things that don't really affect them - but that will be it.

  4. I doubt many of us think they will change but they are about to enter into a binding agreement. If you have specific evidence that they have breached this agreement please report it.

  5. For fifty years I've hoped that this group of Exclusive Brethren would one day decide to turn their back on the interpersonal separatist directives of James Taylor Jnr and treat every non-Brethren person 'openly, honestly and fairly', without malice, vindictiveness or unfairness.

    The English Charity Commission now requires this of the PBCC and it seems to me that it's a change that will have to emerge from bottom up within their fellowship. Regretfully, I have no confidence that Bruce D Hales will formally and explicitly institute the adjustments required. Ordinary decent, courteous 'sisters' and 'brothers' must begin to effect this change and cease to treat non-Brethren people as 'worldlies', 'unclean associations', 'spiritual fornicators' and unwanted table companions.

    The bar is set high and the expectation is that members of the PBCC, including their senior elders, will now treat every non-Brethren person 'openly, honestly and fairly'.

    What I'm not clear about is whether all the members of the PBCC have been given the full 55 page decision document which the Charity Commission has placed in the public domain. It's essential reading if change is ever to take place.

    If the senior elders of the PBCC are in any way preventing or discouraging their membership from accessing and studying this document it would be reasonable to conclude that the PBCC has already infringed the spirit of the Charity Commission's requirements.

    I hope my anxieties in this matter aren't in the least justified.

  6. I doubt that any of us think that the EB/PBCC have had a change of heart. Their press release regarding the CC verdict indicates that the leadership are still peddling untruths. It is clear that they were brought kicking and screaming to the table: hence the long delay and last minute 'agreement'. I am assuming that they are thinking in their usual arrogant way that this was written by some silly civil servants who if they hadn't wasted their time getting a university degree they could have got a real job making pots of money flogging overpriced computers. I am assuming that they think that signing is just a way to get nuisances off their back. They were also probably very afraid of having to tell their half truths, fabrications and downright untruths under oath in a court of law.

    But they have indicated that they will sign up to a binding agreement. Whether or not the CC can adequately monitor compliance is open to doubt. But agreement it is and if they can be shown to have broken it they stand to have their assets transferred to a real charity which would take on the proper charitable purposes for which it was intended.

    This is where we have an important job to do. It is easy to say from the sidelines that the CC have been taken in and, as has happened, call people who think all is not lost fools. It is easy to say the CC are spineless and the EB have them beaten.
    It is easy to say that breaches are happening but do nothing. But we really must report each and every breach otherwise it is possible that the EB will get away with it. At the moment, they are more under scrutiny and measure against real standards than at any time in their rather sordid history. Let's hold them to it!

  7. If the Hales EB what most expect them to do, try to hide the Charity Commissioner's decision and the requirements from the flock, then what is their next step? They will probably breach the terms several times each day, but if the CC are to only review it in a year, it could be that in that period they could try another stunt. Perhaps sell up and move north of the Scottish border. Or organise their own destruction (Jones, Koresh, style). Are they hoping that the CC will just never get around to checking them? Will they lean heavily on the wordings to try and weasel out of it? Will they blame the rank and file for the breaches so the leadership can pretend that it wasn't a church thing, just individuals doing what they want? Are they confident that if the CC do confront them in a year that the EB will have a stringer will, more money, and more determination than the CC, so will grind them into backing off? I don't know what they plan to do, but most people who know the EB are suggesting that the only certainty is that they will not, sadly, comply with the requirements.

  8. The Charity Commissioners are too astute to have swallowed uncritically the Brethren’s assurances, but as civil servants they couldn’t just say, “We don’t believe you.” They were obliged to give the EB the benefit of the doubt, at least for a probationary period, and they were obliged to avoid the expense of court proceedings for as long as possible.

    But they are also obliged to see that taxpayers do not get swindled, and that the public see fair benefits in return for the tax revenue forgone. To achieve that, we may need more collaboration between the Charity Commission and HMRC. At the moment, I don’t see how the small and questionable public benefits conferred by the EB can begin to compare with the vast tax concessions afforded to their many trusts.

  9. From Marion Shanley (CC) 5 minutes ago:

    "The position is that we will only enter PBCC meeting halls onto the register of charities if they revise their trusts in line with that of PDT. It is for each meeting hall to consider how they proceed."

  10. The PBCC are on the straight n narrow path and getting them to divert, is a bit like asking a blind man to safely rewire a house.
    Sooner or later, the CC will probably drop the whole thing from fear of sparking off another grinding case which could drag out for years and years.
    There also remains the unanswered question as to exactly how the CC can effectively police the so called PBCC./CC agreement? It has already cost a large sum of money to get to this point. Do they really have the time or resources for another fruitless confrontation or even a court case. You get my drift?
    Now what?


  11. #notapublicbenefit You are 100% right. The PBCC are not going to be diverted from freedom of worship or the path of separation and therefore those who don't like it must concede defeat.
    I personally see the PBCC doing an absolutely splendid job and don't know why their status came into question. They came up trumps.

    John Freeman

    1. The Brethren’s freedom of worship has never been under threat. It is only their tax concessions that have been at risk, and from what you say it looks as if they will remain at risk. The Charity Commission has made it very clear that the past behaviour of the Brethren does not qualify their trusts for charitable status and they will need to change. If they only say they will change but don’t, then they will still not qualify.

    2. There appears to be more than one #notapublicbenefit. John Freeman-Handel has latched onto the other one's comment with that usual breezy, self assurance and bluster adopted by Exclusive Brethren (PBCC Ltd) sycophants/members/ex members. Not sure what this "splendid job" alludes to; and if you don't know why their/your status came into question, you need to do a spot of research, or self examination, depending on your membership status. If "coming up trumps" is the ignominy of being put on probation and being informed by a secular group of the need to be more Christian and compassionate, then you have a strange idea of a winning hand (I assume you don't play cards, though).

      However, you must be congratulated on, once again, providing evidence that it is not appropriate for an organisation such as the PBCC Ltd to receive tax concessions from a public from whom they have disengaged, particularly when so much of their activities is based on the creation of wealth through business and a complicated arrangement of "Trusts".


    3. Actually, I now admit the PBCC have come up trumps and I think they have fared very well in the face of such unjustified criticism.
      It would also appear they do hold the most cards and play the game fairly.
      Also, I haven't been able to prove they avoid tax because no evidence has been shown or found to warrant such speculation.
      Hmm, better check with the Inland Revenue before I make further assumptions based on gossip. Sorry my silly mistake and I'll never do it again. Maybe I need to sit down and think about where I have been wrong myself. Now there's a thought.


    4. You are so right...emphatically, not a public benefit....Just to clarify matters, it does not say in the above comment that the PBCC avoids tax, only that there are the creation of Trusts. These are "tax efficient" devices and, as such, help create wealth for the organisations and individuals involved. The average person does not have the benefit of these tax saving vehicles. Many people regard the artificial and complicated arrangements involved in Trust creation to be immoral, especially when there as an uneasy mix of business and religion, as revenues are selfishly withheld from essential services such as the NHS, Education, and so on.

      Regarding playing the game fairly, I rather thought the PBCC had quite a record of being rather duplicitous, whether it is meddling in politics, or constant shifting of goal posts in order to achieve their financial ends. After all, there can't be too many organisations who start a process and then suddenly re-brand in a late bid for respectability. Rather like suddenly discovering ways of proving public benefit which were quite good fun, good publicity and didn't actually engage with anyone in real need.

      No, sorry to disappoint, it is the received opinion the freshly minted PBCC did not come out of this process smelling too fresh and clean. A lack of Christianity and compassion, aired in public, still doesn't look like a winning hand, to me. Let us hope they will play the game in future, make reparations for past misdeeds and develop a sense of morality in future.

  12. John Freeman - I expect individuals will hold members of the PBCC to their statement that they will deal with all non-members "openly, honestly and fairly".

    I'm certainly looking forward to being treated in that way. It will mean that I'll be requiring them to rethink their principle of not sharing a cup of tea with me or inviting me to a meal/accepting an invitation to have lunch with me - because I'm not a sexually immoral person or greedy or a reviler, robber or idolater, nor am I a drunkard. I'd like my PBCC friends and acquaintances to be open, fair and honest about that.

    1. I agree Joan.
      One of the ways we will assess their willingness to change will be if we call on a near relative who is in the EB we will expect to received with civility and not turned away at the front door.

    2. Sorry to be so negative, but I suspect that the HEB will not change at all. They will probably not tell the flock about the CC decision, de-whitelist any websites where that information is published, carry on as usual, not apply for any further trusts, stop the charitable giving they started in 2012, and weasel around saying things like, "it was an individual exercise", "it is a Preston Down matter", and "we can't lower the standard". Why do I think this? Well if they were genuine about their commitment to compassion, forgiveness, and correcting past wrongs, we would have seen some of it already. As far as I have heard, this has not happened. They have been asked to audit the detriment that they have caused, but they haven't. I also know the HEB style: they will lie, lie, lie to get what they want financially - then try to blame, distort, lie, bribe, conceal, and threaten their way out of it when it goes wrong. To tell the flock what he has personally agreed to in order to keep the government money rolling in would expose the Great Men myth.

      If they were Christians (or just decent people) they would; seek to put right past wrongs, open their meeting rooms to the public, stop idolising a power-hungry money-loving furniture salesman, encourage education, respect the rights of others, and embrace their families and extended families.

  13. So if you come across bad behaviour, please report it. Unless we tell the authorities, no-one will.

  14. In 1978 the Mormon Church was in a similar predicament, threatened with loss of its tax-free status if it continued its racial discrimination. So it changed its doctrine and decided it was all right for black men to become priests. This was rather similar to the way the Preston Down dispute has been settled, with a church agreeing to adopt better moral standards in order to qualify for tax breaks. In the case of the Mormons, they actually kept their word and did allow black priests, but some observers doubt that the Hales Brethren intend to keep their word.

    Which reminds me, did the Charity Commission know that the Brethren have a tradition of banning marriages between black and white races? That alone could put their charitable status in doubt.

  15. Interesting comment...

  16. I doubt that the Mormons had their own evil Doctor attempting to chemically castrate gay people either, like the PBCC did. Craddock covered Hales's back in the ensuing court case and took the flak without naming those responsible. It's what the Hales family have always excelled at, getting others to take the blame for their own very crass actions. It's the behaviour of bullies and cowards.

    Tell your fawning masses the truth Bruce Hales. You have just been forced into a massive climb down. Touting about a 'complete victory' makes you sound like one of your uncle Bruce's father-in-law's BOOBS.