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Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Last call for submissions


 

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):

1.
Central to their beliefs is the doctrine of separation from evil and, to this end, they separate themselves to some extent from the world.

 

2.
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.

 

3.
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;

v. voting 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

viii. as a result of other restrictions, not attending university.

 

4.
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

 

5.
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.

 

6.
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.

 

7.
The Commission noted that the history of the PBCC reveals schisms and changes of practice introduced in an unstructured way by different leaders.

 

8.
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.

 

9.
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.

 

10.
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 trusteesare 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  andwill be able to vouch for the credentials of its author.

Responses should be sent to:ebcompliance@outlook.com

 

 

15 January 2014 

12 comments:

  1. Today I received confirmation that my local MP has written to the Chief Executive of the Charity Commission for the second time this year, detailing further continuing problems with the PBCC and their representatives.

    My MP, along with the Charity Commission have been copied into all relevant correspondence I have had with Messrs Christie, Hazell and Reiner in attempting to resolve many issues involving harm and detriment and I am most grateful to have the support of a Parliamentarian in the face of disparaging indifference from the PBCC and their representatives.

    As someone who sometimes struggles to care for a disabled spouse, I see no compassion, care, help offered or interest shown by the church (including close family members) we were both born and brought up in. On the contrary, we have been threatened with legal action by their lawyers.

    I would appeal to any aggrieved person who has not yet registered a complaint, to do so. Maybe there are only a few of us, but be encouraged that it only took a handful of stones to bring down Goliath.

    Any right thinking person must be nauseated by the reaction of the PBCC to the recent drowning in Australia, who have so swiftly turned tragedy into a world-wide PR exercise.

    PBCC if you are going to tell a story, tell the whole story. The victim, apparently unable to swim himself took a reckless and foolhardy decision to go kayaking with his very young daughter without wearing personal flotation devices. The police have confirmed that had he worn one, he would have survived. Yes, he served in the RRT since it's inception. Why not tell the world when that was then? Barely two years ago.

    I, for one, would not wish assistance from anybody's Rapid Relief Team ( Yes, even Billy Graham has one too) showing such gross misjudgement of health and safety issues.

    Mark R Elliott


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    Replies
    1. There is more than a few more of us Mark.Problem is we already have so many other things weighing on our minds.

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    2. And I haven't ? Folks here who know my home situation will understand that.

      Mark R Elliott

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    3. Mark .Did anyone say that you haven't.Some people will handle situations better than other people will do.I was not attempting to take a poke at you.I was suggesting a reason why more may not be involved.Im now questioning why i bothered.

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  2. Feeling nervous or cocky, Leo?

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  3. Let's be honest here - the EB will get their charitable status confirmed simply because they want it far more than the general public and ex members don't want them to have it. Regardless of whether they deserve it or not (they don't) they will get it - there's literally a handful of people who care enough to be proactive. Just sayin.

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    Replies
    1. More might feel more able to become more proactive,if they were not already struggling to deal with other problems.You seem to prejudge these people as simply not caring.Just saying

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  4. "Struggling to deal with other problems" - kind of underlining the point made previously. If this issue was THAT important surely "other problems" would be put to one side for an hour or so to submit complaints etc to the Charity Commission?

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    Replies
    1. Some ex members may find that their mind no longer function so well.How in the hell do they put that to the side

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  5. To submit a complaint does not involve a lot of work- simply state in what way the Exclusive Brethren have harmed you since January this year. Have they stopped you seeing your parents? Your children? Stopped you going to a relatives funeral? Harassed you with lawyer's letters? Put defamatory material about you on line? Ignored letters or emails from you to them? Let you leave them but put a gagging order on you? Spied on you? Some of these things have happened to me and I will be putting in a report but some evidence has vanished from my laptop - oddly. Have they shown you compassion? Many people write their complaints on Facebook but won't submit them to this person who is collating things. Why not? If they have the time to write the stories on FB then they have the time to simply cut and paste them into a document to send off surely? Maybe I am missing something here. You can be anonymous if you wish remember. We will help you if your mind is no longer functioning so well - I know mine isn't and sometimes I do seek help with writing things down. IF you really want things to change then submit - if it needs editing or adding to the collator will get back to you and help you.

    Jill

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  6. In Devon The Bells Are Ringing

    The Preston Down Trust has proved to be a very interesting case, but it is only a small part of a much bigger picture.

    The Exclusive Brethren are believed to include about 15,000* members in the UK and operate well over 100 UK charities. These charities administer scores of millions of pounds each year - that is about 1 charity per hundred members*, administering around £7,000* per man, woman and child.

    This Christmas, the bells are ringing...

    ALARM BELLS!


    (* Estimated)

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  7. Draw the attention of the Charity Commission to your concerns with statistical evidence if possible.

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