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The Plymouth Brethren is a conservative, low church, nonconformist, Evangelical Christian movement, whose history can be traced to Dublin, Ireland, in the late 1820s, originating from Anglicanism. Among other beliefs, the group emphasizes sola scriptura, the belief that the Bible is the supreme authority for church doctrine and practice over tradition. The churches are all independent, self-governing, local congregations, and there are no central headquarters or formal affiliation with any denomination. Although the group is notable for not taking any official "church name" to itself, the title "The Brethren," is one that many of their number are comfortable with in that the Bible designates all believers as "brethren". "Brethren assemblies" are commonly perceived as being divided into at least two branches, the "Open Brethren" and the "Exclusive Brethren".
- 1 History
- 2 Worldwide expansion
- 3 Characteristics
- 4 Other practices
- 5 "Open" and "Exclusive" Brethren
- 6 Influence
- 7 Notable Plymouth Brethren
- 8 Major collection of literature
- 9 Film portrayal
- 10 Criticism
- 11 See also
- 12 Notes and references
- 13 External links
The origins of the Brethren are usually traced to Dublin where several groups of Christians met informally to celebrate the Lord's Supper together in the Dublin in 1827–8. Of these the central figures were Anthony Norris Groves, a dentist studying theology at Trinity College, Edward Cronin, studying medicine, John Nelson Darby, then a curate in County Wicklow and John Gifford Bellett, a lawyer, who brought them together. "A circle was to be drawn just wide enough to include 'all the children of God,' and to exclude all who did not come under that category." They did not require ministers or even an order of service. Their guide was to be the Bible alone.
An important early stimulus was in the study of prophecy which was the subject of a number of annual meetings at Powerscourt House in County Wicklow starting in 1831. Lady Powerscourt had attended Henry Drummond's prophecy conferences at Albury Park and Darby in 1831 was espousing the same pre-tribulational view of the future as the charismatic but unreliable Edward Irving. Many of those who were to be important in the English movement came to these meetings, including Benjamin Wills Newton and George Müller.
The two main but conflicting aspirations of the movement were to create a holy and pure fellowship on one hand, and to allow all Christians into fellowship on the other. Following decades of dissent, and the expansion of Methodism and political revolutions in the United States and France, believers in the movement felt that the established Church of England had abandoned or distorted many of the ancient traditions of Christendom. To get away from the sectarianism of dissenters, people in the movement wanted simply to meet together in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ without reference to denominational differences. Early meetings included Christians from a variety of denominations.
The first meeting in England was held in December 1831 in Plymouth. It was organised primarily by George Wigram, Benjamin Wills Newton and John Nelson Darby. The movement soon spread throughout the United Kingdom. By 1845, the assembly in Plymouth had over 1,000 people in fellowship. They became known as "the brethren from Plymouth" and were soon simply called "Plymouth Brethren". The term "Darbyites" is also used, especially when describing the "Exclusive" branch where the influence of John Nelson Darby is more pronounced. Many within the movement refuse to accept any name other than "Christian".
In 1845, Darby returned from an extended visit to Switzerland where he had achieved considerable success in planting churches. Returning to Plymouth, where Newton was firmly in control, he disagreed with some details of the tribulation that was coming in a book that Newton had published. He also objected to Newton's place as an elder in the Plymouth meeting. But several attempts to settle the quarrel in the presence of other brethren failed to produce any clear result. Two years later, Darby attacked Newton over notes taken by hearers of a lecture Newton had given on the 6th Psalm. A fierce exchange of tracts followed and although Newton retracted some of his statements, he eventually left Plymouth and established another chapel in London.
Darby had instituted a second meeting at Plymouth, and in 1848 he complained of the Bristol Bethesda assembly, in which George Müller was prominent, that they had accepted a member from Ebrington Street, Newton's original chapel. After investigation of the individual, Bethesda defended their decision, but Darby was not satisfied. He issued a circular on August 26, 1848, cutting off not only Bethesda but all assemblies who received anyone who went there. This defined the essential characteristic of "exclusivism" that he was to pursue for the rest of his life.
The Exclusive Brethren have suffered many subsequent splits. McDowell records at least six. The Open Brethren also suffered one split (due to the autonomy of assemblies) which occurred at different times in different parts of the world. But both sides continued to expand their congregations, with the opens, with their emphasis on faith missions, expanding more rapidly than the exclusives.
The Brethren and other evangelical churches have been in decline in the UK since the 1950s, but the assemblies with more progressive approaches have grown. There has been a blurring of distinctions between some assemblies and other non-denominational and house church congregations. Some groups have abandoned earlier principles, such as rejection of a salaried ministry and insistence on women's silence. However those assemblies that have abandoned these principles, by allowing paid ministry and allowing women to teach openly from the pulpit, are often referred to as "Bible" churches by those retaining older Brethren views. The "Bible" churches look more like traditional non-denominational congregations.
Some fellowships maintain these distinctive principles while updating many traditions and practices, while others continue in much the same way as they have for most of the 20th century. The more traditional assemblies in the UK today can be found in Northern Ireland (where other denominations refer to them as 'Plyms'), Scotland, Northern England and parts of the South of England, like Hampshire. Outside the British Isles, the brethren have a large presence in the Faroe Islands, forming the largest non-conformist group amongst a population that predominantly belongs to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Denmark.
The Brethren movement is widespread in the United States and Canada, where it has spread through evangelistic endeavours, immigration from the UK and Commonwealth countries, and by attracting Christians from other backgrounds with its emphasis on Biblicism, centrality of the Lord's Supper and equality of all male believers under Christ, as well as its avoidance of denominational governance. Open Brethren congregations in America often are barely distinguishable from other evangelical denominations on the outside and often engage in joint efforts with other Christians in their communities. On the other hand, some previously thriving Brethren assemblies have seen dwindling attendances in recent years due in part to the lack of strong denominational loyalties and cultural discomfort with some brethren practices, such as head covering for women and silence of women in preaching and teaching in main services. In America, the designation of the building in which Open Brethren assemblies meet most often include the word "Chapel" in their formal name, combined with a biblical place name or principle or otherwise a local geographic feature—for instance, Bethany Chapel, Central Gospel Chapel, Park Road Bible Chapel, Riverview Believers Chapel. But unlike many other Christian groups, the names of Christian saints, (e.g. Paul, Luke) are rarely or never used. Closed groups, however, avoid "taking a name" to their group. A Closed group building is referred to as a "Meeting Room" or "Gospel Hall", and the word "Chapel" is avoided.
The expansion of the Plymouth Brethren outside of the UK started early, when Anthony Norris Groves left to become a missionary in 1829, first in Baghdad and then in India. Although his work as a dentist in the Godavari delta area of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu progressed slowly, it produced in time a flourishing movement of Indian Brethren with a particular emphasis in Kerala.
JN Darby's visits to Switzerland between 1835 and 1840 with critiques of Methodist perfectionism resulted in the establishment of meetings in Vevey in 1838 and Lausanne in 1840 drawn from some of the dissenting churches. Later he moved to France establishing outposts in the Montpellier region. During this time he was also translating the New Testament into French. "During the five years that followed Darby’s arrival in Lausanne, his principles spread far and wide in French Switzerland, and obtained some successes in Berne and Bâle."
The next move came from a visit by George Müller to a Baptist church in Stuttgart in 1843 at the invitation of a lady who had visited him in Bristol. "One or two of the elders having determined to reject him, a meeting "for the breaking of bread" was started in his private room the same evening. Seventeen persons were present." In 1854, Darby visited Germany with meetings being set up at Elberfeld and Düsseldorf among others.
Itinerant preachers carried both the open and exclusive brethren to North America after the middle of the 19th century. Darby made a number of visits in the 1870s and his emphasis on prophecy was influential. They continued to multiply and divide and currently number around 120,000 in 1,250 assemblies.
Because there is little central organization, it is very difficult to know how many there are today and estimates vary from 1 million to as many as 2.5 million attenders in 25,000 congregations. The vast majority of these are Open Brethren. The number of Taylor-Hales brethren is given as 46,000 and there are possibly as many again in other Exclusive groups. Piepkorn estimated the number of Open Brethren in North America in 1970 as 60,000 in 1,050 assemblies, with a total maximum of 10,000 Exclusives in 300 assemblies. In Germany there are a total of 40-45,000.
Brethren missionaries are still active in many parts of the world (1,223 from England, North America and Australasia) and there are assemblies in Chile, Dominican Republic, Peru and South Africa, among others.
The Plymouth Brethren are generally dispensational, pre-tribulational, premillennial in their theology and have much in common with other conservative evangelical Christian groups. They believe in the "Eternal Security" of the true Bible-believing Christian with each believer being subject to "grace" and not "law". In Open Brethren meetings each local assembly is independent and autonomous, so the characteristics of each may differ to a greater or lesser degree, which makes it difficult to describe distinctive characteristics. Exclusive Brethren meetings are more affiliated to one another, but characterising their meetings is made difficult because over the years they have split many times into many divisions.
Essentially, therefore, the Brethren have no central hierarchy to dictate a statement of faith, and even local assemblies tend not to give tacit adherence to any of the historic "Creeds" and "Confessions of Faith" such as are found in many Protestant denominations. This is not because they are opposed to the central sentiments and doctrines expressed in such formulations but rather because they hold the Bible as their sole authority in regard to matters of doctrine and practice. Like many non-conformist churches, Brethren observe only the two ordinances of Baptism and Communion.
Their notable differences from other Christian groups lie in a number of doctrinal beliefs that affect the practice of their gatherings and behaviour. These differences can be summarised as follows:
Avoidance of traditional symbols
Traditionally, meetings do not have a cross displayed inside or outside their place of worship as the focus is on Christ and the Word of God. The Plymouth Brethren view an unembellished room as more effective. Crosses are not typically placed inside homes or worn around the neck by these believers. Other symbols such as stained glass windows for their normal meeting hall have been traditionally discouraged. Their meeting places sometimes have Bible names, e.g., "Ebenezer," "Hebron," "Shiloh" and "Bethel"; sometimes they are named after the street on which they are found, e.g. Curzon Street Gospel Hall, Derby; sometimes after the locality, e.g. Ballynagarrick Gospel Hall. Some use the name Chapel instead of Gospel Hall.
The Brethren do not generally name their meeting rooms or Halls except by reference perhaps to the road, e.g. Galpins Road Meeting Room, Mallow Street Hall. The meeting room or Hall is often referred to as "The Room" or "The Hall". Notice boards give the times of Gospel Preachings with a formula such as "If the Lord will, the Gospel will be preached in this room Lord's Day at 6.30." Symington/Taylor/Hales meeting rooms have notice boards which indicate that it is a place registered for public worship and give a contact number for further information - see photograph.
Fellowship, not membership
Traditionally the assemblies have rejected the concept of anyone "joining" as a member of a particular local gathering of believers and the maintenance of any list of such members. Brethren emphasise the Christian doctrine of the one "Church" made up of all true believers and enumerated in Heaven in "Lamb's Book of Life", rather than by humans. However, as a practical matter, in the late 20th century many American Open assemblies began maintaining informal lists of those in regular attendance at meetings. This was often to comply with secular governance issues or to offer a directory of attendees for internal use. The Open Brethren emphasise that meeting attendance for the nonbeliever has no direct spiritual benefit (though it is hoped the individual may be influenced to convert). Nonbelievers are not to partake of the "Breaking of Bread", though this proves generally difficult to enforce in larger Open assemblies. Regardless, regular attendance for believers is felt to be an act of obedience to the New Testament command that they should not neglect the assembling of themselves together. Despite the Brethren's rejection of the term 'member', many observers use the term to refer to those who attend meetings. The concept of not having an official membership is not so clear cut among the Exclusives, as people who wish to break bread must be affiliated with a "home assembly" to which they are responsible in terms of lifestyle choices. Visiting brethren are usually expected to bring a "letter of commendation" from their "home assembly", assuring the group they are visiting that they are in fellowship and not under any form of discipline.
While much of typical Brethren theology closely parallels non-Calvinist English and American Baptist traditions on many points, the view on clergy is much closer to the Quakers in rejecting the idea of clergy. Many Protestant denominations claim adherence to the New Testament doctrine of the priesthood of all believers[1Pet 2:9–10] to varying extents. The Plymouth Brethren embrace the most extensive form of that idea in that there is no ordained or unordained person or group employed to function as minister(s) or pastor(s). The spiritual leaders of certain Plymouth Brethren assemblies or meetings are termed "Elders" (though this is never used as a title in any sense, particularly it is never used as a title of address), and sometimes more practical leaders, called "Deacons", are identified. The term "Elder" is based on the same Scriptures that are used to identify "Bishops" and "Overseers" in other Christian circles, and some claim that the system of recognition of elders by the assembly means that the Plymouth Brethren as a movement cannot claim full adherence to the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. However, this reveals a mistaken understanding of the priesthood of all believers which in the Assemblies has to do with the ability to directly offer worship, whether silently or audibly, to God and His Christ, at the Lord's Supper without any human mediator being necessary – which is in accordance with 1Tim 2:5 where it is stated that Christ Jesus Himself is the sole Mediator between God and men ("men", being used here generically of mankind, and not referring simply and solely to "males"). There is usually more than one elder in an assembly and although officially naming and recognizing "eldership" is common to Open Brethren (cf. 1Thess 5:12–13), there are many Exclusive assemblies that believe recognizing a man as an "elder" is too close to having clergy, and therefore a group of "leading brothers", none of whom has an official title of any kind, attempts to present issues to the entire group for it to decide upon, believing that the whole group must decide, not merely a body of "elders". (As in all Exclusive Brethren meetings, women are generally not permitted to speak at meetings at which the entire group makes "assembly decisions", and in many groups women may not attend these affairs.) As autonomous chapels there is no single doctrine on female participation in chapel services - some chapels allow women to take part on an equal footing to men, others do not.
Plymouth Brethren groups generally recognise from the teachings of the Apostle Paul's epistles that not all the believers in any one fellowship are suited to give public ministry such as teaching and preaching.
As a practical matter, many Open as well as Exclusive assemblies have come to embrace the need to financially compensate an individual who has made preaching and teaching his full-time occupation, and these people are sometimes salaried or, perhaps more commonly, variously compensated as the Lord's people provide. Such an individual may be termed a "full-time worker" (or a "labouring brother" or "on the Lord's work"). At a given assembly, there may be no full-time workers, or one or several. It is generally up to the elders and dependent on the availability of such an individual and the financial means of the assembly. Some Exclusive assemblies "commend" men who are dedicated to the work of preaching. Although they usually do not receive a salary, gifts are often given to them by the separate assemblies where they preach and teach. This practice is also quite common among the Open assemblies.
Traditionally, the assemblies have recognized New Testament passages that seem to deny speaking and teaching roles to women, except when working with children or with other women. Some women may also be full-time workers, but their efforts are often limited to these mentioned areas or to supporting roles. Women are generally not allowed to participate in individual speech during the "Breaking of Bread" meeting (i.e., gathering). (see Separate Roles of Men and Women)
As autonomous chapels there is no single doctrine on female participation in chapel services - some chapels allow women to take part on an equal footing to men, others do not.
It is not strictly accurate to say that the assemblies reject the ordination of women. The assemblies reject the concept of ordination altogether. As a substitute practice, a male full-time worker often receives a "commendation" to the ministry, or work, of preaching and/or teaching that demonstrates the blessing and support of the assembly of origin, but that does not connote a transfer of any special spiritual authority. In some groups, both men and women may be commended to various forms of ministry, or work, but again the role of women is limited. In recent years some American assemblies have loosened the rules on women participating, such as women singing, or performing, special music during the "family Bible hours" at their assemblies, though others have reacted by placing more emphasis on this traditional teaching.
Weekly "Remembrance" meeting
A distinctive practice of the Brethren is a separate weekly Communion meeting, referred to as the "Breaking of Bread" or "The Lord's Supper". Although specific practices will vary from meeting to meeting, there are general similarities.
- The "Remembrance Meeting" is usually held each Sunday morning (though some assemblies hold it in the evening).
- Where a meeting hall allows for the adjustment of furniture, the table bearing the communion "emblems" (bread and wine or grape juice) is sometimes placed in the centre of the room. Chairs may be arranged around the table in four radiating sections, all facing the table, although this is not a recognised standard.
- There is no order or plan for the meeting: rather the meeting is extempore; men (see The Separate Roles of Men and Women) will (as "led by the Spirit") rise and read or quote Scripture, pray, request a hymn to be sung or give a Christ-centered thought.
- Most assemblies do not have instrumental accompaniment to hymns and songs sung during the "Remembrance Meeting" but instead have men who "start the hymns" (choosing a tune, tempo, pitch and key and singing the first few words, with the rest joining in shortly thereafter). In some groups, musical accompaniment may be used at the other meetings (i.e., gatherings).
- Either at the beginning or toward the end of the "Remembrance Meeting" gathering, a prayer is said in reference to the bread concerning its portrayal as "the body of Christ", perhaps by an individual so appointed or (in a meeting where no one is appointed) by a man who has taken it upon himself.
- Generally a loaf of leavened bread is used as an emblem of Christ's body – though many assemblies use unleavended bread or matzos. After giving thanks for the loaf, it is broken and circulated to the quiet, seated congregation. Congregants will break off small pieces, or take small pieces of broken unleavened bread, as it is passed, and eat them individually (i.e. not waiting for a group invitation to consume it together). At this time, the worshipper usually engages in silent prayerful worship of the Lord Jesus Christ.
- As with common Christian practice, wine has been traditionally used at Brethren Remembrance Meeting s as the emblem of Christ's blood. Some individual meetings use grape juice, especially if someone in fellowship has had an alcohol problem in the past. The emblem of the blood is served after the bread has been circulated to the congregation and after it has been prayed over. In a similar fashion as each worshipper takes the "cup", so to speak, that individual again usually engages in silent prayerful worship of the Lord Jesus Christ.
- An offering bag, basket or box may be sent around after these two "emblems" have been passed, collecting money given voluntarily for use in maintaining the building, hall or room, to remunerate full-time or labouring members, or for distribution to the needy. In some cases an offering box may be placed at the door and not circulated.
- Because some assemblies do not encourage strangers to take Communion, it is the custom of those who are travelling to take with them a "letter of introduction" so they might be permitted to take Communion away from their home assemblies. These letters are typically read aloud to those present at the "Remembrance Meeting" and serve the purpose of introducing visitors to the meetings so that they can be made welcome and benefit from fellowship. These Exclusive and Open Brethren meetings operate what is termed a "Closed Table Policy". Any stranger arriving at such a meeting without a letter is allowed only to observe the meeting. Some Open assemblies welcome any who profess Jesus Christ as the Saviour and who give evidence of such after simple questioning by either one or more of the assembly elders or one or more of those ushering at that particular meeting. At some assemblies, a pamphlet explaining the Scriptural basis and purpose of the Lord's Supper is handed to visitors before they enter the main meeting room where the assembly is gathered preparing themselves for worship. This pamphlet explains to the visitor what they are about to witness and perhaps, if they so choose, be a participant in.
- Some Exclusive meetings differ from Open meetings in seating accepted men (men who are "in fellowship") in the front rows toward the table bearing the emblems, with accepted women behind the men, and unaccepted men and women toward the rear. Other Exclusive meetings seat accepted men and women together (so spouses can be seated together), and unaccepted men and women towards the rear in the "Seat of the Unlearned" or "Seat of the Observer".
Other Sunday meetings
Following the Remembrance meeting there may be one other Sunday meeting, or perhaps more. Whereas the purpose of the Lord's Supper is predominantly for worship, recalling the person and work of Christ, other meetings involve Bible teaching, evangelism and gospel preaching (among young and old). Sunday Schools and Bible classes are common. In ministry and Gospel meetings the congregation, seated in rows facing a pulpit or platform, sing hymns and choruses and listen to Scripture readings and a sermon preached by one of the brethren called to "preach". Bible teaching may be given either in the form of a ministry meeting in which a sermon is delivered or in a "Bible reading" or "Bible study" in which the men discuss a portion of Scripture.
Low-key offerings taken
The assemblies do not take an offering during the time their Sunday sermons are preached; but some, not all, do take an offering at the Breaking of Bread meetings. Only those in fellowship are expected to give. Tithing, giving 10 percent of one's income, is seen as commandment for Israel from the Old Testament law and not applicable to the Church. Instead, the amount given is left to the giver and is a private matter between the individual and the Lord.
One reason for not taking up an offering at all meetings is to avoid causing any unbelievers who may be present to think that they might gain a spiritual benefit by making a donation. Some assemblies never send an offering bag round the congregation, even at the Breaking of Bread meeting. They prefer to simply have a box or two located at the back of the meeting hall, thus avoiding even the appearance of solicitation for funds. Many assemblies operate a "back seat" or "guest row" during the Breaking of Bread so that neither the offering bag nor the emblems of bread and wine will pass down the row of those not in fellowship.
The role of "pastor"
See the comments on "No Clergy" above. Brethren assemblies are led by the local church elders within any fellowship and there is no office of "pastor" among Brethren churches, because the term "pastor" is not found anywhere in the original koine Greek language of the New Testament. So, there is no formal ordination process for those who preach, teach, or lead, within their meetings. Men who become elders, or those who become deacons and overseers within the fellowship, are ones whom have been recognized by others within the individual assemblies and have been given the blessing of performing leadership tasks by the elders.
Conversely, an elder should be able and ready to teach when his assembly sees the "call of God" on his life to assume the office of elder (1 Timothy 3:2). As stated in the New Testament, Brethren elders conduct many other duties that would be typically performed by "the clergy" in other Christian groups, including: counselling those who have decided to be baptized, performing baptisms, visiting the sick and giving spiritual counsel in general. Some Open assemblies, especially the larger assemblies in North America, have some men who are in salaried full-time ministry within the assembly, particularly if it's an elder who regularly preaches. Normally, sermons are given by either the elders or men who regularly attend the Sunday meetings; but, again, only men who the elders recognize have the "call of God" on their lives. Visiting speakers, however, are usually paid their travel costs and provided for with Sunday meals following the meetings.
Separate roles of men and women
No distinction is made in Brethren teaching between men and women in their individual relation to Christ and his "vicarious atonement" for them on the cross, or their individual position before God as believers. However, in most Brethren meetings the principle of "male headship" is applied in accordance with teaching found in several passages in the Bible, including 1 Corinthians 11:3, which says:
- "But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God."
"1 The Head of every man is Christ – no equality. 2 The head of the woman is the man – equality and subjection. 3 The Head of Christ is God – equality, yet subjection."
Thus most Brethren meetings reserve public leadership and teaching roles to men, based on 1 Timothy 2:11,12...:
- "A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent."
Also, 1 Corinthians 14:34,35 states, "Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church." (The reason for this has to do with acknowledging Headship: Headship and the head covering are seen by many as inseparable since the head covering is intended to teach the meaning of headship. See below for information on the head covering).
From this, Brethren teaching traditionally (there are regional exceptions) outlines a system in which the men take the "vocal" and leadership roles and the women take supportive and "silent" roles. In practical terms, what is traditionally seen is that the men are fully responsible for all preaching, teaching and leading of worship. Therefore, in most Brethren groups women will be heard to sing the hymns along with the group, but their voices will not otherwise be heard during the meeting. Often the men are, practically speaking, the only ones involved fully and vocally in all discussions leading up to administrative decision making as well. Within Exclusive groups in particular, matters up for debate may be discussed at special meetings attended solely by adult males called, in some groups, "Brothers Meetings".
The Head Covering:
As to the reason behind women covering their heads at meetings in some groups, 1 Corinthians 11:5,6 says:
- "But every woman that prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonours her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered."
The verse indicates that when a woman speaks in church (i.e. prophesies) she is supposed to have her head covered. The Brethren generally leave this part out in the meetings and have the women be silent while wearing head coverings.
For this reason, some meetings will be characterized by the women wearing head coverings ("loaners" in some assemblies are available at the back for women who have come without a covering). Head coverings typically take the form of a tam, beret or similar hat which can be more aptly described as a "head topping," rather than as covering the head in any real way. Sisters in Exclusive ('Jimite') gatherings quite commonly wear a headscarf or "mantilla" (a lace/doily-like Spanish veil) on their heads. It is a fairly common misconception that Exclusive women characteristically wear a shawl over their heads, though no doubt some women have sometimes resorted to this.
While that is an overly-simplified view of the head covering, understanding the purpose for the head covering comes from looking at 1 Corinthians 11:3&4, which says:
"3But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. 4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoreth his head."
Here is the "picture" that the head covering is supposed to display: the Head of the man is Christ, so the man's physical head needs to be uncovered to honor his Head, Christ is displayed. The head of the woman is the man, so the woman's physical head must be covered, men are not on display in the church. The woman's head covering and silence in the church shows that the men participating are not on display but rather that Christ is on display.
Over recent years the practice in some Open and Closed Brethren assemblies throughout the world have developed to leave questions of head coverings, levels of female participation and responsibility mainly to the discretion of individuals and groups. Concerning levels of female participation in prayer at the Lord's Supper: this is particularly true of assemblies in India which can trace their heritage back to the so-called brother Bakht-Singh assemblies where women are permitted to offer prayer at the Lord's Supper.
Some Brethren of both Open and Exclusive persuasion seek to be completely untouched by changing attitudes within society regarding the role of women. They view the abandonment of the traditionally practised doctrine of Headship as evidence of an overall apostasy (or moral deterioration) within Christendom and as leading to disorder and eventual anarchy within their fellowships.
Gatherings and meetings
Assemblies prefer to use the term "meeting" to describe their gatherings rather than "service". The term "service", to some, is normally associated with a service or something which is offered for a fee. Assemblies might also have weekly meetings which might include: preaching/teaching meetings, missionary reports, Bible studies and prayer meetings. There is frequently a Sunday School for children and youth groups for teens. Although women do not (usually) verbally participate in the Breaking of Bread meeting, in some groups they take part in Sunday School, teach classes, conduct ladies meetings and are generally very active in "Camping" ministry.
During the weekly Breaking of Bread meeting, hymns are traditionally sung unaccompanied by any musical instrument, though some assemblies may have instrumental accompaniment. In some assemblies, hymns sung during the other types of meetings are accompanied by piano or electronic organ, though this practice varies among assemblies. Other musical instruments are used at some assemblies. Some assemblies blend traditional hymns with contemporary "Praise & Worship" music accompanied by bands. One of the unifying features in each of the different branches of the Brethren is a common hymnbook. The first collection used among the united assemblies was, "Hymns for the Poor of the Flock," from 1838 and again in 1840. Another such hymnbook, used by Exclusive Brethren (Tunbridge-Wells and Ames) dating back to 1856 is called, "Hymns and Spiritual Songs for the Little Flock," the first edition of which was compiled by G.V. Wigram. A revision was made in 1881 by J.N. Darby. The Little Flock hymnbook has gone through many different editions in different languages. In modern times one of the more commonly-used English hymn books in British and North American assemblies is The Believers Hymn Book.
"Open" and "Exclusive" Brethren
The term "Exclusive" is most commonly used in the media to describe one separatist group known by other groups as "Taylor-Hales Brethren", who now call themselves the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church. The majority of Christians known as "Brethren" are not in any way connected with the Taylor-Hales group, who are known for their extreme interpretation of separation from evil and their belief of what constitutes fellowship. In their view, fellowship includes dining out, business and professional partnerships, membership of clubs etc., rather than just the act of Communion (Lord's Supper), so these activities are done only with other members. What other groups refer to as the "Raven" Brethren (named for prominent Exclusive leader Mr. Raven) seceded from the Raven-Taylor-Hales group and are less strict and isolationist. Exclusive Brethren groups that are not in any way affiliated with, nor as isolationist as the PBCC (the "Kelly-Lowe-Glanton" groups, for instance) are happier being called "Closed" rather than "Exclusive" brethren, so as to avoid any connection with these more militant groups.
There is also a distinction to be recognized between the Open assemblies, called "Chapels," and the Closed assemblies (not exclusive), called "Gospel Halls." To reiterate, neither of these groups is exclusive, but the Gospel Halls regard reception to the assembly as an important matter. One is not received to the Lord's Supper, but to the fellowship of the assembly. This is important because the Lord's Supper is for believers, not unbelievers. Some Chapels, on the other hand, will allow practically anyone who walks in and says he is a Christian to participate, based on the newcomer's profession of faith. The Gospel Halls would generally not use musical instruments in their services, whereas some Chapels use them and may have singing groups, choirs, "worship teams" of musicians, etc. The Gospel Halls would be more conservative in dress—women would not wear trousers in meetings and would always have their heads covered, while in most Chapels women may wear whatever they wish, though modesty in dress serves as a guideline and many continue to wear a head covering.
With the exception of the separatist PBCC, Exclusive Brethren differ on few theological issues. Some Exclusives hold to "Household Baptism" as opposed to "Believers' Baptism", which is practised by the Open Brethren. With the exception of the Lord's Supper, all assemblies welcome visitors to Gospel meetings and other gatherings. Some Open Brethren assemblies allow any believer to "break bread" with them, and are said to have an "open table" approach to strangers. Others believe that only those formally recognised as part of that or another equivalent assembly should break bread. Similarly, practices of reception among "Exclusive" assemblies vary, many tending to operate a cautious or "guarded" approach to reception and others being more liberal. It is felt by many Brethren that the mutual fellowship with bread and wine can be tainted by the inclusion of those whose hearts are not pure before God. Fellowship in the Lord's Supper is not considered a private matter but a corporate expression, "Because we, being many, are one loaf, one body; for we all partake of that one loaf." (1 Corinthians 10:17) A further verse that Brethren refer to is, "Shall two walk together except they be agreed?" (Amos 3:3) Many, both Closed and Open Brethren, hold that association with evil defiles and that sharing the Communion meal can bring that association. Their support text is from 1 Corinthians 15:33, "Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners."
A clearer difference between Open and Exclusive assemblies is in the nature of relationships between meetings. Open Brethren meetings are generally local assemblies that are autonomous but often informally linked with each other. Exclusive Brethren are generally "connexional" and so feel under obligation to recognise and adhere to the disciplinary actions of other associated assemblies. Disciplinary action normally involves denying the individual the breaking of bread (taking of communion) on Sunday mornings, and to varying degrees, dependent upon which kind of Brethren group it is, may also involve forms of formal social ostracism or shunning. (For instance, people placed "under discipline" may be asked not to attend any group functions which are purely social, and people may decline to eat with and shake hands with members who are under discipline.) One practical result of this might be that among Open Brethren, should a member be "disciplined" in one assembly other assemblies may feel free to allow the member to break bread with them (if they are not concerned by whatever caused the disciplinary action of the one in question). A numerically small movement known as the Needed Truth Brethren emerged from the Open Brethren, around 1892, partly in an attempt to address the problem of making discipline more effective.
Reasons for being put "under discipline" by both the Open and Exclusive Brethren include refusing to recant and disseminating what is, in the eyes of the fellowship, gross Scriptural or doctrinal error, and/or being involved in what is deemed sexual immorality (including adulterous, homosexual, or premarital sex). Being accused of irregular or illegal financial dealings may also result in being put under discipline. In Exclusive meetings, a member "under discipline" in one assembly would not be accepted (allowed to "break bread" or play an active teaching and worshipping role) in another assembly, as the Assembly generally respects the decisions made by the other Assembly. As Exclusives have developed into a number of different branches, often when there was not universal agreement among the assemblies in a specific case of excommunication, a particular act of discipline may not be recognised by all assemblies. Exclusives are also much more adherent to the shunning (or "shutting up") of the offending party, using instructions given for dealing with a "leprous house" in Leviticus 14:34–48 as guidance. In extreme cases, members may be asked to shun or divorce members of their immediate families (as described in Ngaire Thomas' book Behind Closed Doors).
Another less clear difference between assemblies lies in their approaches to collaborating with other Christians. Some Open Brethren will hold Gospel meetings, youth events, or other activities in partnership with Evangelical Christian churches, while others (and perhaps the majority of Exclusive Brethren) tend not to support activities outside their own meetings.
Since the formation of the Exclusives in 1848, there have been a great number of subdivisions into separate groups, but most groups have since re-joined with the exception of the separatist Taylor-Hales (otherwise known as 'Jimite' from their following of James Taylor Jnr at the division in 1970) groups who practise extreme separation and whom other Brethren generally believe to be a cult. This, and other Exclusive groups (Closed Brethren), prefer not to be known by any name and are only given such designations by non-members.
Both Open and Exclusive assemblies generally maintain relations within their respective groups through common support of missionaries, area conferences and the ministry of travelling "Commended Workers" or "Labouring Brothers."
The influence of the Plymouth Brethren upon evangelical Christianity exceeds their relatively small numerical proportion. The movement today has many congregations around the world.
Christian Missions in Many Lands (CMML), in the United States, Missionary Service Committee (MSC), in Canada, and Echoes of Service, in the United Kingdom, serve as support agencies for Brethren missionaries, helping with logistics and material support. These agencies help to equip and support those sent from local churches. Hudson Taylor, the founder of the China Inland Mission, kept strong ties with the Open Brethren, even though he was raised a Methodist and later was a member of a Baptist Church. The concept of "Faith Missions" can be traced back through Hudson Taylor, to the example of the early Brethren missionary, Anthony Norris Groves.
J.N. Darby, one of the original members and perhaps the most well known of the movement, wrote over 50 books including a translation of the New Testament and is often credited with the development of the theology of "dispensationalism" and "pretribulationism" which have been widely adopted in evangelical churches outside of the brethren movement. In the early twentieth century, Darby's writings have the greatest influence on the Little Flock of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee.
Many leaders of the contemporary evangelical movement came from Brethren backgrounds. These include England-born Dr. D. Stuart Briscoe, author, international speaker and former senior pastor of Elmbrook Church (one of the 50 largest churches in the U.S.), in Brookfield, Wisconsin; Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe, CEO of the World Evangelical Alliance; the late British scholar F.F. Bruce; 1956 Auca missionary martyrs Ed McCully, Jim Elliot and Peter Fleming; Walter Liefeld, NT professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; the late preacher Dr. Harry A. Ironside, who wrote the Historical Sketch of the Brethren Movement. Radio personality Garrison Keillor was raised among the Plymouth Brethren, whom he sometimes refers to as the "sanctified brethren" in his News from "Lake Wobegon" monologues. Peter Maiden, the current leader of Operation Mobilization, also came from the Brethren. Tony Evans, the widely-syndicated radio broadcaster and pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas comes from the brethren assemblies. William MacDonald, the popular author and Bible commentator was also with the Open Brethren group. In Asia, Dr G D James (1920-2003), known for his widespread evangelistic ministry and the founder of Asia Evangelistic Fellowship (AEF) was associated with the Brethren movement.
Since 2004 the separatist Raven–Taylor–Hales Exclusive Brethren have become politically active. Formerly, they embraced non-involvement "in the things of the world", because they are "citizens of heaven". These heterodox Taylor Exclusive Brethren have been responsible for the production and distribution of political literature in the Australian, American, Swedish, Canadian and New Zealand national elections. For more details, see Exclusive Brethren. These Taylor Brethren are atypical of other streams of Plymouth Brethren, which distance themselves from the "Taylorites".
Many mainstream assemblies discourage political involvement, sometimes to the extent of judging anyone in fellowship who opts to exercise their voting rights in democratic, free elections. This teaching is based on the premise that the Bible teaches that Christians are citizens of heaven, only sojourners here on earth, and therefore ought not to become involved in activities which could be deemed as being too worldly. A criticism could be leveled that the movement, with its upper-class roots, lacks compassion for the plight of the underprivileged. For example, it was left to William Wilberforce, Lord Shaftesbury, and other politically active Christians to work toward the abolishment of slavery and toward improving the welfare of factory children in the 19th century. This can be viewed as unfair criticism when reflecting on George Müller's ministry caring for homeless orphans and also on some of the sacrifices of its missionaries such as Anthony Norris Groves. It is more reasonable to state that the Brethren are more concerned with people's spiritual rather than their physical condition. However, where physical help is given, it is tended to be given directly and not through secular organisations.
Notable Plymouth Brethren
- John Bodkin Adams — General practitioner and suspected serial killer (tried for one murder but controversially acquitted)
- Robert Anderson — Head of Scotland Yard and Christian author. Influenced many of the Brethren, though wasn't among them himself.
- Thomas John Barnardo — Took in destitute male and female street children; founded Barnardo's.
- Patricia Beer — Poet. Born into Brethren, left as adult.
- John Gifford Bellet — Prized Classics researcher of Trinity College, Cambridge
- Robert Mackenzie Beverley One of the most influential figures to abandon the Quakers and join the Brethren during the Beaconite controversy
- Lancelot Brenton — Translator of what is probably the most widely available Greek-English edition of the Septuagint
- Stuart Briscoe — author, international speaker and Minister-At-large at Elmbrook Church, was raised Plymouth Brethren, in England
- Edmund Hamer Broadbent — Missionary. First published in 1931 and still in print, his book, The Pilgrim Church is a popular alternative history of the church emphasizing historical precedents for the church “pattern” seen in Scripture by the Brethren (and related) movements.
- F.F. Bruce — 20th Century Bible scholar and Christian apologist.
- Geoffrey Bull — Missionary to Tibet in the early 1950s
- Wilson Carlile — British evangelist who founded Church Army and prebendary of St Paul's Cathedral
- Robert Chapman — Prominent among the Plymouth Brethren in the 19th Century
- Henry Craik — Worked with George Mûller in Bristol at Gideon and Bethesda Chapels from 1832
- Dr. Edward Cronin -  — Pioneer of homeopathy and one of the original Dublin brethren
- Anthony Crosland — Foreign Secretary in Britain's Labour Government, raised in Plymouth Brethren
- Aleister Crowley — an English occultist, ceremonial magician, practitioner of Magick, author, poet, and mountaineer.
- John Nelson Darby — Famous preacher and father of modern Rapture doctrine
- James George Deck — Evangelist and missionary to New Zealand
- Sir William Dobbie - associated with the Second Boer War, World War I and World War II and rose to become a lieutenant-general in the British military
- L.C.R. Duncombe-Jewell — raised as in the Plymouth Brethren.
- Jim Elliot — Missionary killed by Waodani Indians along the Curaray River, in Ecuador.
- Tony Evans — Radio Bible Teacher and Pastor of Oakcliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas
- Peter Fleming — Missionary killed by the Waodani Indians along the Curaray River, in Ecuador
- Ken Follett — Author of The Pillars of the Earth was raised in a Plymouth Brethren family.
- Roger T. Forster — Author, theologian and leader of Ichthus Christian Fellowship
- David Willoughby Gooding — Professor Emeritus of Old Testament Greek at Queen's University Belfast and Christian author
- Edmund Gosse — Poet, author and critic. Raised as Plymouth Brethren and wrote the book Father and Son about his upbringing.
- Emily Bowes Gosse — painter, illustrator and author of religious tracts
- Philip Henry Gosse — Naturalist and marine biologist
- Anthony Norris Groves — Missionary to Baghdad and India
- John George Haigh — Serial killer known as the Acid Bath Murderer
- Paul Harvey was a conservative American radio broadcaster for the ABC Radio Networks.
- David Hendricks — Convicted of killing his wife and children but acquitted in a retrial
- William John Hocking — Superintendent of the Royal Mint of the United Kingdom
- Zane Hodges — Professor of New Testament Greek at Dallas Theological Seminary and co-author of the Greek New Testament according to the Majority Text
- John Eliot Howard — Chemist and quinologist
- Luke Howard — Chemist and meteorologist, the 'namer of clouds'
- Harry Ironside — Bible teacher, preacher and author.
- Gordon Jackson (politician) — Scottish politician and Queen's Counsel
- Garrison Keillor — Radio personality ("A Prairie Home Companion") and author; raised Plymouth Brethren; No longer associates with them.
- William Kelly — Prominent leader of the Exclusive Brethren in the late 19th Century
- Dr. Ferenc Kiss — anatomist, university professor, former head of the Institute of Anatomy in Budapest, Hungary
- Maurice Koechlin — Structural Engineer. Chief Engineer in the construction of the Eiffel Tower.
- J. Laurence Kulp — 20th Century geologist. Critic of Young Earth creationism
- Sir John William Laing (1879–1978) - British entrepreneur in the construction industry.
- William MacDonald — Christian author and scholar, author of well known Believer's Bible Commentary
- C.H. Mackintosh — 19th Century author of Christian books
- Peter Maiden — Current head of Operation Mobilization
- Jim McCotter — Was a part of Brethren in early life. Left and was the founder of Great Commission Churches
- Ed McCully — Studying to be a lawyer at Marquette University, McCully became a missionary instead and was killed by the Waodani Indians along the Curaray River, in Ecuador
- Brian D. McLaren — Prominent and controversial voice in the Emerging Church movement. Raised in a Brethren family.
- George Müller — Founder of the Bristol Orphanage and a stated teacher in Bethesda Chapel, Bristol
- Watchman Nee — Respected Leader in the "Little Flock" movement in China after being excommunicated by Exclusive brethren for "breaking bread with sectarians."
- Thomas Newberry — Translator of the Newberry Reference Bible, which uses a system of symbols to explain verb tenses
- Francis William Newman — Younger brother of Cardinal John Henry Newman. Excommunicated for denying the Divinity of Christ.
- Benjamin Wills Newton — Early leader of the assembly in Plymouth. Branded as a heretic.
- Frederick Handley Page — Pioneer in the design and manufacture of aircraft
- Luis Palau — Argentinian-American evangelist, raised in the Plymouth Brethren.
- Roger Panes — Part of Exclusive Brethren who, while being "shunned" by his congregation, killed his wife and three children, before committing suicide.
- John Parnell, 2nd Baron Congleton — Missionary to Mesopotamia
- G. H. Pember — An English theologian who lived in the 19th Century and also wrote the book Earth's earliest ages.
- Joseph M. Scriven — Writer of the words to the hymn, "What A Friend We Have In Jesus".
- Arthur Rendle Short — Professor of surgery at Bristol University and author
- K.V. Simon – Recognized poet, hymn writer, biblical scholar and a pioneer of the brethren movement in India.
- William Gibson Sloan — Scottish missionary to the Faroe Islands.
- James Taylor, Jr. — Controversial leader of one Exclusive Brethren branch (a.k.a. "Taylorites") from 1953–1970
- Ngaire Thomas — Wrote the book, Behind Closed Doors, about her childhood abuse in the Exclusive Brethren.
- Samuel Prideaux Tregelles — English biblical scholar and theologian
- Elsie Tu, then Elsie Elliott — A Plymouth Brethren missionary in China before leaving the movement and becoming a prominent political figure in Hong Kong
- William Edwy Vine — Author of, Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, and numerous commentaries
- Arthur Wallis — Founder of the British New Church Movement, formerly in the Plymouth Brethren
- Jim Wallis — Founder and editor of Sojourners Magazine, raised in a Brethren family
- Charles Gidley Wheeler– Author of The Believer, and A Good Boy Tomorrow: Memoirs of a Fundamentalist Upbringing – Fleet Air Arm pilot, TV dramatist, novelist and philosopher – was raised in the Plymouth Brethren before breaking away at the age of 16.
- Smith Wigglesworth — Pentecostal preacher. Testified that he had received his grounding in Bible teaching within the Plymouth Brethren
- George Wigram — Wrote a Greek and English Concordance to the New Testament and the Englishman's Hebrew and Chaldee Concordance to the Old Testament.
- Orde Wingate — British Major General, advisor to Hagana units during the 1930s
Major collection of literature
The largest "Christian Brethren Archive" in the world is housed at the John Rylands University Library in Oxford Road, Manchester. It contains a large collection of materials, including books and manuscripts, relating to assemblies or meetings of Christians often called Plymouth Brethren, with particular reference to the British Isles.
The Exclusive Hales branch of the Plymouth Brethren are portrayed in the film Son of Rambow as trying to restrict the creativity and freedom of the film's main character. The Plymouth Brethren are also featured in the book Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey, and in the film adaptation. Oscar is raised by a strict Plymouth Brethren father and rebels by becoming an Anglican priest. Sir Edmund Gosse wrote the book Father and Son about his upbringing in a Plymouth Brethren household.
Some have suggested that certain subgroups within the Exclusive Brethren and the Taylorites in Australia can be categorized as cults because of their tendency to separate themselves from other orthodox denominations and the fact that some Exclusive Brethren groups discourage radio, computers, television, or socializing with those outside the movement. These practices, however, do not represent the beliefs and practices of open brethren assemblies which tend to affiliate themselves more with mainstream conservative evangelical churches.
- Behind the Exclusive Brethren
- Open Brethren
- Gospel Hall Brethren
- Needed Truth Brethren
- Exclusive Brethren
- Indian Brethren
- Kerala Brethren
Notes and references
- Abigail, Shawn (June 2006). "What is the history of the 'Brethren'?". "Plymouth Brethren" FAQ. Retrieved 12 June 2009.
- Mackay, Harold (1981). Assembly Distinctives. Scarborough, Ontario: Everyday Publications. ISBN 978-0-88873-049-7. OCLC 15948378.[page needed]
- Neatby 1901, p. 17
- Sizer, Stephen. Chapter 3: Edward Irving (1792–1834) The Origins of the Rapture Doctrine.
- Burnham, Jonathan D. (2004). "The Emergence of the Plymouth Brethren". A Story of Conflict: The Controversial Relationship Between Benjamin Wills Newton and John Nelson Darby. Carlisle: Paternoster Press. ISBN 978-1-84227-191-9. OCLC 56336926.[page needed]
- Livingstone, Elizabeth A. (2000). The Concise Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-280057-2. OCLC 46858944.[page needed]
- Noel, Napoleon (1936). The History of the Brethren. Denver: Knapp. p. 46. OCLC 2807272.
- Neatby comments "The important point is that the Brethren in their first great emergency found themselves absolutely unprepared to grapple with it. They had no constitution of any kind. They repudiated congregationalism, but they left their communities to fight their battles on no acknowledged basis and with no defined court of appeal."Neatby 1901, p. 61
- Neatby 1901, pp. 61–84
- McDowell, Ian (1968). "A Brief History of the "Brethren"". Victory Press, Australia. Retrieved 2010-06-10.
- e.g. in the US in 1916, the Open Brethren accounted for 71% of a total of 13,700 brethren, though only 61% of 473 assemblies. United States. Bureau of the Census (1916). Religious Bodies: 1916: Separate denominations. Retrieved 2012-06-12.
- G.Brown. "Whatever Happened to the Brethren?" Partnership, Paternoster Press. 2003.[page needed]
- "Plymouth Brethren in the Faroes".
- Neatby 1901, p. 41
- Neatby 1901, p. 44
- Darby, John Nelson (1853), Early Beginnings
- Piepkorn, Arthur Carl (1970), Plymouth Brethren (Christian Brethren), Concordia Monthly, retrieved 2012-06-11
- Abigail, Shawn (2006). ""Plymouth Brethren" FAQ". Retrieved 2007-01-19.
- "The 'Brethren' movement - a briefing note". Jan 2013. Retrieved 12 Feb 2013.
- "The Plymouth Brethren Christian Church". Archived from the original on 13 Jan 2013.
- Piepkorn, Arthur Carl (1970), Plymouth Brethren (Christian Brethren), Concordia Theological Monthly 41: 165–171
- Abigail 2006
- Plymouth Brethren, Adherents.com, retrieved 2012-06-11
- "Which Is Stronger: Law Or Grace?". Retrieved 2009-07-18.
- "What foundation". Assembly Care. Retrieved 2009-07-18.[dead link]
- Miller, Andrew. "The Brethren". p. 10. Retrieved 2009-07-18.
- "What I have Found". Retrieved 2009-07-18.
- "Who are the Brethren?". Retrieved 2009-07-18.
- "Revelation 13:8". Retrieved 2009-12-28.
- "Hebrews 10:25". Retrieved 2009-10-25.
- "Elders and Bishops". Retrieved 2009-07-18.
- "The Priesthood of All Believers". Retrieved 2009-07-18.
- "Ephesians IV, 11". Retrieved 2013-10-12.
- Muller, G. (1860) A Narrative of some of the Lords dealings with George Muller, pp. 279–281
- "The Mystery Worshipper: Downshire Road Hall, Holywood, County Down, Northern Ireland". Retrieved 2009-07-18.
- "Embley". Retrieved 2009-07-18.
- Bradshaw, P.F. The new SCM dictionary of liturgy and worship, p.375
- "Precious Seed". Retrieved 2009-07-18.
- "Defining Religion In American Law". Retrieved 2009-07-18.
- Crawford, N. (October 2003). Gathering Unto His Name. Gospel Tract Publications. ISBN 0-948417-07-2, p.76
- Ngaire Thomas. "Behind Closed Doors". Behind Closed Doors. Retrieved 2010-10-24.
- "Who is Peter Maiden? – OM International". Om.org. Retrieved 2010-10-24.
- "Asia Evangelistic Fellowship International". Retrieved 31 January 2014.
- James-Nathan, Violet (2000). "One". In Jonathan James and Malcolm Tan. That Asia May Know" Perspectives on Missions in Asia (40th Anniversary Commemorative Volume ed.). Asia Evangelistic Fellowship International. pp. 11–13. ISBN 0-646-39763-X.
- Marr, David (2006-07-01). "Hidden prophets". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2006-07-01.
- "Precious Seed". Precious Seed. Retrieved 2010-10-24.
- Cullen, Pamela V., "A Stranger in Blood: The Case Files on Dr John Bodkin Adams", London, Elliott & Thompson, 2006, ISBN 1-904027-19-9
- "Dr Thomas John Barnardo: homes, schools and other works". Infed.org. 2009-11-04. Retrieved 2010-10-24.
- ''Cambridge Guide to Women's Writing in English''. Books.google.pl. 1999. ISBN 978-0-521-66813-2. Retrieved 2010-10-24.
- "BBC – Religion & Ethics – Exclusive Brethren: Introduction". Bbc.co.uk. 2009-08-11. Retrieved 2010-10-24.
- "The Septuagint LXX". Ccel.org. Retrieved 2010-10-24.
- The Times, Sept 28 1942 – Carlile's obituary
- "Brother Indeed – Robert Chapman « Articles & Links". Plymouthbrethren.wordpress.com. 2007-07-07. Retrieved 2010-10-24.
- "Edward Cronin (1801–?) — Pioneers of homeopathy by T. L. Bradford". Homeoint.org. Retrieved 2010-10-24.
- The Times, Feb.21 1977 – Crosland's obituary
- "The Confessions by Aleister Crowley". Hermetic.com. Retrieved 2010-10-24.
- "The Brethren Writers' Hall of Fame". Newble.co.uk. Retrieved 2010-10-24.
- "http". //www.dnzb.govt.nz. Retrieved 2010-10-24.
- "Papers of Philip James Elliot – Collection 277". Wheaton.edu. Retrieved 2010-10-24.
- "Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online". Biographi.ca. Retrieved 2010-10-24.
- "About Anthony Norris Grove". Web.ukonline.co.uk. Retrieved 2010-10-24.
- "John Haigh: The Acid Bath Murderer – Crime And Investigation Network". Crimeandinvestigation.co.uk. Retrieved 2010-10-24.
- "Cult Help and Information – Roots of Hendricks' religion traced". Culthelp.info. Retrieved 2010-10-24.
- "Radiocarbon Dating and American Evangelical Christians". Asa3.org. Retrieved 2010-10-24.
- "A Brief History of the Modern American Creation Movement". Asa3.org. 1995-01-20. Retrieved 2010-10-24.
- Life and Belief – In the Experience of John W. Laing CBE. Chapter I – Early Days – reference to family conversion to the Plymouth Brethren (Hodder and Stoughton). First print 1954. p. 15. Unknown parameter
|last1=in Authors list (help); Check date values in:
- By: William MacDonald. "Believer's Bible Commentary: Edited By: Arthur Farstad By: William MacDonald: 9780840719720". Christianbook.com. Retrieved 2010-10-24.
- "Charles Henry Mackintosh Bio". Stempublishing.com. Retrieved 2010-10-24.
- "emergent-us: Brian McLaren on "Becoming Convergent" – Part 1 of 3". Emergent-us.typepad.com. 2005-10-01. Retrieved 2010-10-24.
- History[dead link]
- "Biography of Thomas Newberry". Newblehome.co.uk. Retrieved 2010-10-24.
- "Mr. Newton and the "Brethren"". Spurgeon.org. Retrieved 2010-10-24.
- The Times, April 23, 1962 – Page's obituary
- "El Predicador Bilingue (The Bilingual Preacher) By John M. DeMarco – Charisma Magazine". Charismamag.com. Retrieved 2010-10-24.
- "Cult Help and Information". Culthelp.info. 2006-07-27. Retrieved 2010-10-24.
- W.Melville Capper and Douglas Johnson, "Arthur Rendle Short", Inter Varsity, 1954
- "http". //www.wordsearchbible.com/. Retrieved 2010-10-24.
- Albert Hibbert, "Smith Wiggleworth – The Secret of His Power",ISBN 1-85240-004-8
- "GV Wigram Bio". Stempublishing.com. Retrieved 2010-10-24.
- page 57 of "The Brethren : An Autobiography of a Plymouth Brethren Childhood by Anne Arnott
- "Christian Brethren Printed Book Catalogue and Archive List".
- "The Plymouth Brethren".
- "Plymouth Brethren FAQ".
- Carroll, H. K. (1912) Religious Forces in the United States. New York
- Adams, Norman (1972) Goodbye, Beloved Brethren. Impulse Publications Inc. ISBN 0-901311-13-8
- Coad, F. Roy (2001) A History of the Brethren Movement: Its Origins, Its Worldwide Development and Its Significance for the Present Day. Regent College Publishing ISBN 1-57383-183-2
- Embley, Peter L. (1966). The Origins and Early Development of the Plymouth Brethren. Ph.D. Thesis
- Grass, Tim (2006) Gathering to his Name Carlisle: Paternoster
- Ironside, H. A. (1985) Historical Sketch of the Brethren Movement Loizeaux Brothers ISBN 0-87213-344-3 1st edition 1942.
- Neatby, William Blair (1901). A History of the Plymouth Brethren. Retrieved 2012-06-11.
- Noel, Napoleon (1936). History of the Brethren. W F Knapp, Colorado.
- Pickering, Henry (1918) Chief Men Among the Brethren. London: Pickering & Inglis, 1918; Loizeaux Brothers, Inc. Neptune, NJ, 1996, ISBN 0-87213-798-8
- Smith, Natan Dylan (1996) Roots, Renewal and the Brethren. Hope Publishing House ISBN 0-932727-08-5
- Strauch, Alexander (1995) Biblical Eldership: an Urgent Call to Restore Biblical Church Leadership. Lewis & Roth Publishers ISBN 0-936083-11-5
- Stunt, Timothy C. F. (2000) From Awakening to Secession: radical evangelicals in Switzerland and Britain, 1815–35. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark ISBN 0-567-08719-0
- Teulon, J. S. (1883) The History and Teaching of The Plymouth Brethren. London Free download site
- Kelly, William (1883) Response by William Kelly to J. S. Teulon's Plymouth Brethren Free download site
- Groves, Mrs. (1869) Biography of A. N. Groves, by his widow, 3rd edition. London
- Taylor (1866) Biography of Henry Craik. London
- Dorman (1866) The Close of Twenty-eight Years of Association with J. N. Darby. London
- Groves, Henry (1866) Darbyism: Its Rise and Development. London
- J. L. C. Carson, The Heresies of the Plymouth Brethren (London, 1862) Free Download 19mb
- W. Reid, The Plymouth Brethren Unveiled and Refuted (Second edition, Edinburgh, 1874–76) Free Download 17mb
- T. Croskery, Plymouth Brethrenism: A Refutation of its Principles and Doctrines (London, 1879)
- A. Miller, Plymouthism and the Modern Churches (Toronto, 1900)
Other sources of information are writings by B. W. Newton and W. Kelly.
- Brethren Online.org:- Official website of the Open Brethren Church
- Plymouth Brethren.org:- Official website of the Open Brethren Church
- Brethren Assembly.com:- Official website of the Open Brethren Church
- Gospel Hall.org:- A Worldwide Directory of Open Brethren Churches
- Grace and Truth Magazine:- Official website of the Grace and Truth Magazine (A Christian Publication of the Open Brethren Churches)
- Brethrenpedia.com:- Official homepage of the Brethrenpedia
- Brethren Archive.org:- Online archive of historical reference material related to all strands of 'Plymouth Brethren'
- The Wikkid Website:- A support website for members ex-communicated as "wicked persons" from the Plymouth Brethren and shunned for life.
- Partnership UK Support organisation for the local church
- IHS-WA.net:- Information site on churches and mission, beliefs and practice associated with the Christian Brethren denomination in Western Australia