Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Diary of a Brethren boy

An interesting resumee by Ex-Hales Exclusive Brethren member Craig Hoyle


  1. The Roman Catholic hierarchy in Scotland commissioned an independent report led by Dr Andrew McLellan, a former Moderator of the General Assembly of the [Protestant] Church of Scotland, into child abuse within the Scottish Roman Catholic church. Yesterday this report was published and the Scottish Roman Catholic leaders made a response, beginning with a profound apology to all the victims and survivors of past abuse. Dr McLellan and his eleven person commission urged the RC church to "address past wrongs" and ask for "forgiveness".

    Yesterday I also read Craig's account (above) of his reunion with his grandfather and I tried to understand the complex processes behind the splitting-up of this Brethren family. Inevitably, I began to wonder whether Bruce D Hales and the leaders of the PBCC are ever going to "address past wrongs" and ask for forgiveness.

    I know how difficult this will be. Only last month I was asked by a senior PBCC 'brother' to "forget" (his word) about the time when a PBCC 'brother' behaved in a courteous and pleasant way towards me (in 2004) and instead "understand" why that same 'brother' has since been rude, dismissive and indifferent to me. It was almost as if I was being advised that PBCC members view conventional politeness to a non-Brethren person as an aberration while discourtesy is seen as virtuous behaviour because it's based on separation. (In 2006, Bruce D Hales commended his father's teaching that if brethren get too close to a non-Brethren person it is likely that they will be "defiled".)

    Since the early 1960s when, as Craig's article states, these Exclusive Brethren cut themselves off from normal association with non-Brethren people, I've hoped that one day they would realise that James Taylor Jnr's misleading teaching would only cause the kind of heartbreak and abuse which no Christian community should ever enact or cover up.

    When are the PBCC going to address the wrongs of the past fifty-four years, seek forgiveness and determine never to behave like that again?

  2. I watched a program on the EB the other night and found it interesting. At the end when the church was asked to comment they said that "separation is moral not physical". But if that's the case why couldn't ex-members see their families and friends? Why did the girl featured in the program have to leave her family to leave the church? Why can't members share a wall or a sewer with non members? Can anyone help?

    1. The Brethren have two quite contrasting sets of written policies concerning separation. They have the statement of Faith in Practice that they produced to appease the Charity Commission and they have the separation ministry founded largely on the dictates of Jim Taylor Jr.

      Faith in Practice says separation is moral rather than physical, whereas Jim Taylor says separation is legal, moral and physical.

      Faith in Practice says those who leave will still be cared for, whereas Jim Taylor’s extensive ministry on abandonment was taken (even in the last few years) to mean that those who leave should be abandoned.

      Faith in Practice says excommunication will only be used for serious misdeeds wholly at odds with basic scriptural teaching, whereas Jim Taylor and his supporters established the practice of excommunication of anyone who questioned the authority of the current leader.

      Faith in Practice says they should interact with non-members openly, honestly and fairly, whereas Jim Taylor imposed a culture of secrecy, distrust and avoidance of non-members.

      The statement of Faith in Practice in fact amounts to renunciation of great swathes of Brethren ministry. I could make this list much longer.

      It is easy to understand how the ordinary members of the EB are confused, and don’t know which set of policies they are supposed to follow. The leaders can hardly rule on that question explicitly because it would mean choosing between an explicit rejection of Jim Taylor and an explicit defiance of the Charity Commission; between undermining the mythological status of “these great men”, or putting at risk their tax concessions.

      So, as in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, the leaders try to pretend that the rules have not changed, and the followers don’t know what to think. As with many Brethren contradictions, it’s probably easier for them, on balance, not to think.

  3. In 1970 thousands of members of the Exclusive Brethren (the PBCC didn't exist then) were excommunicated and family members were physically separated from one another and are to this day. They were excommunicated, not for any wrongdoing but simply because they refused to give 100% allegiance to James Taylor Junior whose conduct and behaviour rendered him unfit for Christian fellowship.
    The PBCC as they now wish to be known (no prizes for guessing why!) are now trying to re-write or ignore their sad history since 1960.
    It would be refreshingly honest if they were to say we are deeply sorry that we went in a wrong direction in 1959/60 and our practice of separation from that time has been at variance with the teachings of the bible. We now teach that separation is moral and not physical. I am not holding my breath that the foregoing is likely to happen.
    They are gradually boxing themselves into a corner from where it will be difficult to convince any thinking person of their credibility.

  4. It wasn’t unheard of for nineteenth century brethren to apologise for, or require the withdrawal of, some of J N Darby’s intemperate and unhelpful published statements; and there is documentary evidence that brethren sometimes challenged his behaviour to his face.

    When in the mid 1830s J N Darby published a tract claiming that every clergyman contributed to the sin against the Holy Ghost, many people were offended. One of the new Irish converts to Brethrenism, the Rev’d Charles Hargrove, issued a rebuttal saying, “Seeing the offence it has caused, I would it had never appeared; ... in excitement from unreasonable opposition, Mr Darby may have said things, and given offence that I am sorry for; and for which, I believe, were he now by me, he would authorise me to express his sorrow.”

    Ten years later, in 1848, J N Darby issued his ‘Bethesda Circular‘ in which he worried about the door being opened to the “infection of the abominable evil” at the Bethesda (Bristol) Brethren assembly. Many brethren were appalled by these sentiments and in the end, a few years later, a meeting was held when brethren asked J N Darby to withdraw his circular. In 1853, he wrote that he had withdrawn it for the sake of the brethren, but that he personally wanted to abide by what he’d written.

    A few years later, J N Darby’s inappropriate behaviour in a brethren household in Bath in 1855 was challenged by a number of brethren and they also requested a meeting to sort things out. On 5 January 1857, George V Wigram, upset about J N Darby’s intransigent attitude in this damaging situation, wrote to him, “I would God you were softer and more patient to the feeble, but if that cannot be, stand in your rugged individuality alone before God & under Christ.”

    It ought to be possible for brethren today to emulate their nineteenth century predecessors by challenging the teaching of their leaders. In particular, it’s not unreasonable to wonder why thoughtful and informed brethren haven’t asked Bruce D Hales to consider the damage that’s ensued from James Taylor Jnr’s false teaching about separation.