We have received a number of responses to our revised article and in the interests of fairness have decided to publish some of them here. If you have something serious to say let us know and constructive comments will be added below.
MY EXPERIENCE WAS DIFFERENT
After reading the Reachout Trust article on the Exclusive Brethren my own experiences tell me that it was far too kind to that sect and perhaps insufficiently informed. I have no animosity towards the sect, only a deep grief that so many people, including all my own family, are enmeshed in it unable for reasons of family, friends and finance to break loose.
Forty-five years ago I was in fellowship and going through what was known as The System, driven by John and Bruce Hales (John’s younger brother.) The whole thing was motivated by money and business with the most ridiculous things being done to keep all business activity within the Brethren fellowship. Bruce Hales had the utmost contempt for the ‘laity’ whom I heard him refer to in a public address as scum. Inevitably the system collapsed and the Brethren were instructed to hold meetings for its condemnation. This was done with every brother having to stand up and pronounce judgment on it. I spoke at the time and said that publicly condemning it was not the same as judging it and it soon became obvious that true judgment was never arrived at so that the house ‘swept and garnished’ has been re-infested only to a much greater extent.
Very soon new practices were introduced that I found untenable: brothers were made to kiss each other instead of shaking hands and this was very distressing and embarrassing to many older brothers. It was the enforcement of it that made it so unacceptable. Bachelor brothers were told to get married and some very unfortunate unions took place. Next came the setting of times of meetings by the hours mentioned in connection with Jesus on the cross i.e. 9, 12, and 3. This has no scriptural warrant and introduces an element of superstition. I realize there has been some modification of this – for what reason I do not know – but the basic times are still insisted on in all assemblies. The thing that finally led to me making a stand was the request that I allow my young children to break bread (take Holy Communion) at the ages of 5, 4, 3 and I refused. Pressure was brought to bear and in the end I withdrew from the meeting. Scripture makes it abundantly clear that the partaking of the one loaf and cup is a witness to the oneness of the Body which is composed of those having the Holy Spirit who is given to those who obey the gospel. Mr. Darby was very insistent on that in his Letters Vol. 2 pp 51, 280, 298. I have read communications from young people who have left the EB in their late teens or early twenties and it has been obvious that they have never known the Lord and yet have been breaking bread, thus from the age of responsibility up to the time they left the sect they have been eating and drinking judgment to themselves according to 1Corinthians 11: 28-30 – a terrible condition to be in.
Not long after leaving the sect in Blenheim my wife left me and took the five children. She had asked if she could take them away for a holiday and I allowed her on condition she would return. To this she agreed and promised to come back. She never did except she came when she knew I was away and cleared the house of every article leaving me not even a chair to sit on. She then went to court for a separation order. The children are all married and I have twenty-four grandchildren and one or two great grandchildren whom I shall never see. Five years ago two of my sons came to see me (as they had been instructed to do) to apologize for their neglect and to assure me that things would be different. I asked for how long, and they said until the Rapture. Well the Rapture must have taken place six months later because all communication was again cut off and has never been renewed. It seems that lying, deceit and broken promises are all in order if they further the interests of the Exclusive Brethren.
Other matters that I cannot accept are:
1) the notion of an apostolic succession similar to that observed by Rome and insisted on by Brethren as being Darby, Raven, Taylor Snr., Taylor Jnr., Symington, J. Hales and B.D.Hales. No such succession existed in the early church and its presence has through the ages been a source of unparalleled mischief and misery. J.N.Darby was not the founder of the Brethren though he became very influential in teaching and spreading the truth of God. Brethren had begun to meet in many parts of the world independently of denominations long before Mr. Darby came on the scene. And besides JND there were many other powerful and godly teachers of the Word like Wm.Kelly, C.H.Macintosh, J.B.Stoney etc.
2) I cannot accept this idea of ‘further light’ meaning the bringing out of doctrine and practice which is not clearly defined in Scripture. It has been clear to me for a long time that Scripture no longer has the authority that it had with the early brethren and they have no interest in, or knowledge of, doctrinal matters. When two of my sons came to see me five years ago I asked them about the Sonship question and they had never heard of it. When I stated what I believe from the Scriptures to be the truth they said “well that’s right”; but then I said that Mr. Taylor taught the opposite and their response was, “we’d have full confidence in Mr. Taylor.” What Mr. Taylor taught was nothing new, it was the revival of an old heresy that had appeared among the early Wesleyans and again in the 19th century when Mr. Darby and other prominent teachers opposed it with all their force; so how could something that was essential in the 19th century come false in the 20th and vice versa? Clearly the teaching of men and the so-called New Light have replaced the Holy Scriptures. Admittedly the Holy Spirit brings into prominence certain truths from the Scripture that are appropriate to the moment, but nowhere does He add to, or go beyond, what He Himself has inspired. To do this is exactly what we have in Popery where tradition is added to Scripture and made equal with it.
3) I cannot and will not accept this notion of any leader being ‘a pure man’. This is the Wesleyan doctrine of perfectionism and a denial of James’ assertion that ‘we all often offend’. To insist on the so-called purity of J.Taylor Jnr. at Aberdeen is to fly in the face of irrefutable evidence to the contrary. 1 Corinthians 5:11 has a list of those with whom one is not to fellowship and the reasons given are exactly what Taylor was guilty of, though it omits blasphemy which was spoken at Aberdeen where Taylor blasphemed the name of God. For him to say that everything he did there was by way of an ambush to expose those who opposed him is outrageous. Where and when did the Lord Jesus or His apostles stoop to immorality and blasphemy to expose their opposers? And why should the witness of credible persons be set aside? The effects of that lecherous episode in Mr. Gardner’s house are still being felt today. One sister has said that only death can remove the filthy feeling she still has from the lecherous mauling she received. It is said that J.Taylor Snr said, before he died, that he feared what might happen if ever his son Jim got the reins.
Your article included a list of things the EB are not allowed to do. I can add a few: brothers are not allowed to wear hats or ties to their meetings (when I was young the non-wearing of a hat made you liable to excommunication!); sisters must wear their hair loose; being teetotal is forbidden – whisky must be kept in the house; individual conscience is not allowed – I learnt this very early on in the piece when I was told in no uncertain terms that I had no right to have a conscience, I had to have an assembly conscience and do what I was told. These and other things are the distinguishing marks of a cul
My final objection to the EB is concerned with their dabbling in politics. This is contrary to everything the early brethren stood for. The EB say they do not vote because God chooses the government; this was not the reasoning of early brethren who took the stand of being pilgrims and strangers on the earth whose commonwealth is in Heaven. It is true that God sets up and deposes governments but that is not the reason I don’t vote. The Brethren covertly attempted to get rid of the government of this country by underhand and deceitful means and in the same way put their mouth and their money behind the American administration. The effect in this country was to put back into power the very government they had sought to depose and to virtually destroy the party they were supporting. Yet they have never confessed the wrong of their actions. I would repeat that I bear no ill-will towards those whom I cannot fellowship with but I am thankful to have happy fellowship with some who seek in all humility to walk in the way of the Lord as set out in Holy Scripture.
My attention has been drawn to the entry in your web-site regarding the Exclusive Brethren.
I am sorry, but the two quotations you give from “Gathering to His name” by Dr Tim Grass and “Les Freres: de Plymouth a nos jours” by Massimo Introvigne present a distorted picture and do not fairly represent what happened in Aberdeen, (unless perchance the excerpts you give are themselves taken out of context).
I was 22 years old at the time of Aberdeen, a member of the Exclusive Brethren in Scotland and had been so besotted with James Taylor Jr since my teenage years that I chose to follow him at that division. Nevertheless, as time wore on, I found it impossible to continue promoting the lie that “James Taylor Jr was a pure man”, and four years later I left the Exclusive Brethren in order to maintain a Christian conscience. This was not just a question of difference of opinion but conviction that the whole Exclusive Brethren system has the character described by Isaiah (Isaiah 5:20) “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil”.
I would point you to a verbatim account of the meetings at Aberdeen. Please note that the Exclusive Brethren have never attempted to deny that this as a literal transcript. Does this justify your own sentence “The reports included suggestions that he was under the influence of alcohol, had used strong language and engaged in immoral conduct”, or does it not rather indicate that these reports actually understated how vile James Taylor Jr’s behaviour had become?
And I must ask why you quote as an authority someone who says “There exist proofs, convincing ones, showing that these accusations are false and that they were cast in a framework of a campaign designed to destroy and usurp his authority”.
I do not know what access you have to the correspondence from those involved? If you wish, I can forward some of it on to you. You will find that the charge that those people who challenged James Taylor Jr were part of a “campaign designed to destroy and usurp his authority” has no substance, and falsely maligns innocent brothers and sisters in Christ.
Does it matter? I believe it does.
First, this perpetuates false charges against innocent people – the victims rather than the aggressor.
Second, your presentation of the Aberdeen events as I look at it on 9th June 2008 falls into the same category as “holocaust denial”. I do not mean what happened at Aberdeen can be equated to the murder of 6 millions Jews, but I regret the description as it stands is either in a state of denial about, or taking a neutral line in respect, of blasphemous, immoral behaviour, and apportioning blame on to those who were confronted with it, rather than the perpetrator.
Third, this attempt to present James Taylor Jr’s conduct at Aberdeen in a more positive light can only be done by ‘revisionism’ – not in the sense of new historical facts being unearthed, but rather as falsifying history.
Please feel free if you wish to make further enquiries. I assure you of my best intentions as your brother in Christ,