Hot off the press from Abishag:
I have just laboured through the Preston Down Trust final decision document http://www.charitycommission.gov.uk/media/591398/preston_down_trust_full_decision.pdf and it bothers me if I'm honest.
It bothers me because while the Brethren meticulously document their raison d'etre, qualifying every verse and passage of scripture as being gospel and the reason for their (dubious)behaviour and supposed good character. But it's all crap when you melt it down.
It's hard to nail what is fundamentally - nay fatally- wrong with the whole thing. You become so flabbergasted trying to tell the truth about it - that you cannot find the right words. It's akin to saying something like - 'Yes -I did run over the old lady in the street - but I was on my way to taking water to a man someone said was thirsty.' It's like the two RSPCA vans colliding and killing both drivers on their way to stop a dog fight. Theexecution is far worse than the end endeavour.
A church is supposed to disseminate the values and principles of Christianity. It is supposed to do good and help mankind. It is supposed to set an example based on the example of Jesus Christ - or if you are Jewish - the goodness of God. As set out in the good book. But - the Brethren don't. They say the world is evil - as are the people in it. Except them. 40,000 righteous souls in a sea of 5 billion others. Non-chosen ones. There's no escaping this anomaly. There's your bottom line right there.
To be perfectly honest the Brethren - the Exclusive and nowrebranded Plymouth Christian varieties - were half decent people up until the late 1950's. But then it all changed and the fallout began. They took a tiny little line in 2 Timothy 2 and put their own bent on it - which no other translator of the bible has and no other church did - and they hold that as the cornerstone of their belief. Not even the translator - John Nelson Darby whose bible they follow and hold sacrosanct - took this interpretation. Today - he too would be thrown out of their church. He was a 'worldly' man. No question about it. Let's face it - he didn't believe in separation from the world. So their founder would not even survive today. Imagine that! If that's not flawed doctrine I want to know what is.
And that little line which they say tells them that they should totally separate from the evil that is the world and everyone in it - is the killer. It has cost them thousands of followers - destroyed thousands of families and caused more heartache than anything else in their rocky history.
Yes we destroyed thousands of families - but we think we are all going to heaven as a result!
How do you know?
Because the bible tells us so!
But the bible also tells us to do all sorts of things that are not acceptable in today's world. If we took the bible letter for letter, we would be slaying people with the jawbone of an ass and sleeping with concubines.
Yes- but you have to take it in context.
So why do you take some bits in context and not others.
Because that's what we do. It's all about interpretation.
So you take the brainwave of a man - your leader at the time -who turned out to be extremely mortal - in that he subsided into passages of bad language and alcohol induced ravings and covetous periods where he was found in highly suspicious circumstances with another man's wife - as being gospel do you?
Yes. Now you have it!
You didn't think - maybe we should have thrown this fellow outat the time - his behaviour is well documented and quite objectionable? I mean - you even have it on tape!
Noooo - he was the man of God.
Who said so?
Er- we are not sure - but we think he did.
And this tiny little translation glitch (and much laterinterpretation tweak) by a grumpy disenchanted Irish, ex-Anglican clergyman in the 1800's -which you did not even identify yourselves until 1959 - is the single thing that has caused so much grief and has destroyed thousands of families around the world for the past 55 years.
The Plymouth Brethren CC response -clearly does not identifyor articulate sufficiently the enormous damage it has done for generations - to so many people around the globe. The Charities Commission needs to bear this in mind- this is not just a British thing- it is global. And it has ramifications globally.
If you boil it all down -in life there are few things that are more important than your family. It is the anchor which binds us all. It is the thing that most go home to. It is the place we go when troubles surface. When people die. When people get married. When babies are born. Be ye black, white, brindle or Asian - nothing is as important as your family. Ask every billionaire and he will always say 'family first - business second'. It is the place you go when there is nowhere else to go. That's how God designed families. It was what he meant when he said "Honouryour father and mother." I've had dogs that I knew better than my parents.
The Plymouth Brethren CC say that this is not true. Families are expendable. Families are to be ignored unless they fit our blueprint. We will even ignore passages of scripture like "let no man cast asunder the sanctity of marriage" if it suits us. And we ignore such religious standards regularly.
And here's the rub. If a man is a murderer or a violent man, or awholesale fornicator (and trust me - the Brethren have had their fair share of those too) or a pedophile or a common criminal - there are grounds to be thrown out of something like a church. And to perhaps - separating him from his family.
But in the Exclusive/Plymouth Brethren Christian Church world - a man does not have to do any of these things to lose his family for life and his home, his business and his birthright. All he has to do is look sideways. He can be thrown out for a vague feeling of non- compliance from another man who doesn't perhaps like him. He could be thrown out for wanting to introduce a mobile phone or a computer to his business. He can be thrown out for reading too many newspapers or listening to a radio. He can be thrown out because someone feels that he might be wanting to be more important than someone else. Tall poppy syndrome is rampant in the Brethren. If someone is more successful than someone else (unless he is the Man of God or one of his henchmen) - he might be on a slippery slope to oblivion.
This is NOT FICTION! This is fact. I can give you dozens of examples of their separation criteria. Try these for size:
A Brethren brother (they are called brothers) is driving past a beach and thinks he sees a family from another locality sitting on that beach having a picnic. So he dobs them in and they are thrown out. It wasn't them but that doesn't matter in the Brethren. They were in fact in a total other place that day. But their axe had fallen.
A brother says to his wife in bed- 'Geeez I wish we had a computer in our business to keep on top of the accounts'. Shedobs him in for the thought and he is thrown out and never seeshis kids or wife again. He loses his business and his home. (20 years later - it is almost mandatory to have a computer in a Brethren business and you should buy it from the leader of the church as well or risk being thrown out for going elsewhere for it.)
A kid who has found and is excelling at a normal job, is forced to leave and to work for Brethren businesses and the experience is not good. They are unfair, mean, at times cruel and the position is soul destroying. So he goes and gets a job with a reputable 'worldly' company. He gets thrown out for that and never sees his parents or siblings again. He loses his birthright and is treated as unclean.
A brother is told that the 'Man of God' wants to look at his business books. He tells them that he already has an accountant - so they throw him out for the 'insult'. He loses his wife and kids. He fights them through several courts and wins. But he never sees his kids as a father should -again - the church makes sure of that. Sadly there are hundreds of similar cases.
I could go on with dozens more but it might only confuse a group like the Charities Commission.
The Brethren are silently laughing at the Charities Commission. They aren't about to change their hard and fast rules- but they will bend rules temporarily and pay lip service through their PR gurus and Lawyers. They will wait till all the fuss dies down and they will continue to enjoy the benefits of being a registered charity and so-called religious organisation.
But they can never meet the broader stated expectations of the CC and they never will. They don't intend to either. Theirs is the highest power in the land and they say so too.
And here's the insanity bit. They say they hate the world. But they love it when it comes to making money and business. They thrive on it. They had an audit of sorts in 2003 and realised that they had treated an awful lot of people very wrongly. So they sought them out and said so. But when those people who had been thrown out and had their lives wrecked did not immediately return to their fold- they were immediately ignored again. A few even got to see their parents or children again - very briefly. But that benefit was withdrawn with no explanationas well. Their arrogance is legendary.
The insanity is that their brand of Christianity does not add up. It flies in the face of much of scripture. It defies both logic and humanitarian beliefs. It ignores basic human kindness and principles. Principles like having a family. Principles like seeing your kids. Principles like having your family's assets under your control and not that of a third party - like the head of the Brethren church who just happens to lead a flamboyant lifestyle. It is INSANE because it flies in the face of Christianity itself.
It's been a long time for me and many others. And a day does not go by when I don't think of my now deceased parents and my siblings. I never got to talk to them as an adult. It's been so long I scarcely knew them. I did not get to hear their news. I was not told they were dying. I was glared at and shunned at my father's grave site. I did not know how to mourn his passing. I did not get to be - a son. I was just what the Church had branded me. A 'disaffected opposer.' A non-person. But they don't care about that. They got my inheritance. They got my family. They were the winners.
And that is what they are telling people in their world right now. We won the Charities Commission fight! God has answered our prayers! The world will always have to bend to the will of God.
The Charities Commission in Great Britain had the opportunity to right many wrongs with their decision. They chose to take a safe and conciliatory road. One that did not escalate into a major time wasting legal battle. The people they were looking at - who desperately wanted to be registered as a Religious Charity, threw well in excess of a million and a half pounds at their case. They screamed about their efforts helping people in the community - something they have only half heartedly done for a handful of months now. Up until then they did not give to charity on the instructions of their leader.
Sure they do all this now - but they let their own kids rot outside their communities. They gave me and hundreds like me no assistance - no counseling- no support - no money and no advice. Just a cardboard suitcase with three changes of underwear and a toothbrush. They don't even give you basic respect. Even if they were wrong for throwing you out in the first place. Which is why - when I think back on that fateful day when I was 18- I can still see and smell that bus shelter I spent the night in - on my first day alone in the real world. Thrown away by a ridiculously vindictive and insane decision by the Brethren. And they wonder why you don't love them and why you choose to see them for what they are today.
Like I said- they are insane. And the Charities Commission should have spent a bit more time talking to those who have been so cruelly affected by them and a little less time listening to their madly assembled and dishonest PR hype.