Plymouth Brethren

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The Plymouth Brethren are a Christian Evangelical religious movement that began in Dublin, Ireland and England in the late 1820s.


[edit] History

[edit] Early beginnings

The movement was begun by several men who felt that the established Church had become too involved with the secular state and had abandoned many of the basic truths of Christianity. They included:

One group began by meeting in households in Ireland, and were dubbed 'brethren' because of their practice of calling each other 'brother' instead of the titles favoured by other denominations. The movement soon spread throughout the UK and by 1831, the group assembled in Plymouth, England had over 1,500 members. These members became known as 'The brethren from Plymouth' and soon were simply called the 'Plymouth Brethren'. The group is also known as the Assembly Movement. The term Darbyites has also been used, although is uncommon and refers mainly to the Exclusive branch.

As the movement gained popularity and spread worldwide it suffered numerous schisms. Despite the fractured nature of the movement, adherents to the Plymouth Brethren are often generalized into two main categorizes. Open Brethren and Exclusive Brethren.

[edit] Open and Exclusive Brethren

[edit] Main Differences and Similarities

Open and Exclusive Brethren differ on few theological issues and often no clear distinction is made between the two by the general public. The main difference between the two groups is in the nature of relationships between meetings. Open Brethren groups are generally local assemblies that are autonomous but often informally linked with each other. Exclusive Brethren are generally "connexional" and so recognize the obligation to recognize and adhere to the disciplinary actions of other associated assemblies.

Generally, Open and Exclusive Brethren also differ on their willingness to associate with other Christian churches. Some Open Brethren will hold Gospel meetings, youth events or other activities with other Evangelical Christian churches. Most Exclusive Brethren support only their individual meeting or those meetings with whom they are connected.

Both Open and Closed assemblies generally maintain relations within their respective groups through common support of missionaries, area conferences, and the ministry of traveling preachers. Over the years, many groups have come to resemble Protestant evangelical churches in doctrine, except that there are no officially recognized clergy and the Lord's Supper is observed weekly.

[edit] Closed Brethren

Exclusive Brethren and Taylor/Symington Hales Brethren are often confused together and there is a tendency to associate the term Exclusive Brethren with that particular Taylorite group. In Europe, Exclusives that do not associate with Taylor are more accurately called Darbyites. Most of those who attend other Exclusive Brethren assemblies are quick to distinguish themselves from the Taylor/Symington/Hales group.[3] The term ‘Closed Brethren’ is often used to describe non-Taylor Exclusive Brethren.<ref></ref>

[edit] Terminology

The Plymouth Brethren are unusual in not recognising a denominational name; they do not generally refer to themselves as 'Plymouth Brethren', nor do they regard themselves as a denomination. Thus there is no denominational headquarters and no governing body to which local assemblies are accountable.

Plymouth Brethren use the term "gathering" or "company" or "locality" to describe what mainstream Christians would call a 'church'. There is no membership of Brethren: adherents are called 'the brethren', 'saints', or 'believers'. Some Exclusive meetings refer to "those in fellowship with us" or "those walking with us". Brethren are usually aware of the term 'Plymouth Brethren' but often do not apply the term to themselves since they don't consider themselves a denomination.

A common distinguishing characteristic of a Plymouth Brethren meeting place is an outdoor sign indicating a weekly service set apart for 'Breaking of Bread', 'The Lord's Supper', or 'The Remembrance Meeting', which is how they refer to communion. Exclusive Meetings with a closed table do not advertise the time of the Lord's Supper but (with the exception of Taylor/Symington/Hales meetings) do give a time for the preaching of the Gospel and weeknight meetings.

Many Plymouth Brethren assemblies meet in a building called a 'Gospel Hall', 'Evangelical Room', 'Gospel Chapel', 'Bible Chapel', or 'Bible Church', with the name of the suburb, district or town being often a part of the name. The term 'Chapel' is often used by open or ex-open brethren. In Singapore, though, many are known by the name Bethesda. Generally speaking, the terms 'The Meeting' or 'Meeting Room' or 'Hall' or even 'The Room' indicate an Exclusive Meeting.

[edit] Characteristics

Image:Sancta Simplicitas - Punch cartoon - Project Gutenberg eText 14514.png
Sancta Simplicitas
Orthodox Old Maid. "But, Rebecca, is your place of worship consecrated?"
Domestic (lately received into the Plymouth Brotherhood). "Oh no, Miss - It's galvanised iron!"
Cartoon from Punch, Vol. 102, April 23, 1892

Despite their mainly different branches, the Plymouth Brethren are basically conservative evangelical Christians, generally dispensational in their theology, and have much in common with other conservative evangelical Christian groups. Their notable distinctions lie in a combination of the doctrinal and practical matters related to the conduct of the 'meeting of the church'. The Brethren believe in the divine inspiration of the Bible and that the same Bible gives clear guidance about how services of worship are to be held. These include:

• the primary importance of the weekly communion service

• the communion is not led or administered by a single individual

• the freedom and the responsibility for men to vocally participate in services

• the silence of women (whose heads must be covered during meetings of the local church) in most Plymouth Brethren assemblies

• the importance of preaching the gospel

• the importance of generous giving

• the rejection of a separation of believers into clergy and laity classes

• the plurality of leadership (usually as elders and deacons) as opposed to an ordained, professional clergy class. Exclusives do not appoint elders or deacons.

Baptism and communion are the only two ordinances. All brethren adhere to the practice of full immersion baptism which is required before participation in fellowship. Assemblies, both open and closed hold differing views on baptism as a condition of fellowship. Sharing the "core" beliefs of a local company may be a necessary condition for fellowship in some gatherings. Generally speaking, the Brethren do not 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 viewed creeds and confessions as having the tendency of dividing Christians from one another. The Brethren movement began as an expression of the desire for Christian unity. That there have been so many divisions in the subsequent history of the Plymouth Brethren has had a tendency to obscure the perception of how this ideal was put into practice in the early days of the movement.

[edit] Services

Sunday services are similar among various congregations, and a distinctive practice of the Brethren is a separate weekly communion service. This is a solemn affair during which any of the men can, at any time, temporarily lead and direct the service. Women pray silently and sing all hymns but generally do not pray or exhort the congregation audibly as this is often seen as violating the order set out in 1 Corinthians 11, 14 and 1 Timothy 2. (A few PB Assemblies in the US and Canada allow women to participate verbally in the weekly Breaking of Bread service. These assemblies are seen as 'progressive' and may not be well accepted by other more traditional assemblies.) Assemblies might also have weekly meetings which might include: preaching/teaching services, missionary reports, bible studies and prayer meetings. There is frequently a Sunday School for children and youth groups for teens.

[edit] Openness

Some assemblies allow any believer to participate in the Lord's Supper. In contrast some assemblies do not permit outsiders of any sort. Amongst other groups, a Letter of Commendation is required for a person to take part in the Lord's Supper. Letters of commendation (a letter of recommendation/introduction) are commonly used by Plymouth Brethren arriving at one meeting from another. It is common practice for the visitor to carry a 'Letter of Commendation' from the leaders of their local meeting to inform the saints at the receiving meeting that they are in fellowship at the former locality and can be allowed to fully participate in all services from the point of their arrival. It is customary to send one of these letters even when only one service will be attended, and individuals often take these letters on holiday when they will be away from their local meeting and wish to attend another.

[edit] Music

During the weekly breaking of bread service, hymns are traditionally sung unaccompanied by any musical instrument, though many open brethren assemblies in North America now have instrumental accompaniment. Hymns sung during the other types of meeting are often accompanied by piano or electronic organ, though this practice varies from place to place. 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. One such hymnbook, used by exclusive brethren (Tunbridge-Wells) dates back to 1856 is called, Hymns for the Little Flock, the first edition of which was compiled by G. V. Wigram. Also widely used, among open brethren, is Hymns of Worship and Remembrance, commonly known as the "Black Book".

[edit] Influence

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 train, 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 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 fifty books including a useful translation of the New Testament and is often credited with the development of the theology of dispensationalism.

Many leaders of the contemporary evangelical movement came from Brethren backgrounds. These include Geoff Tunnicliffe, CEO of the World Evangelical Alliance; the late British scholar F.F. Bruce; Brian McLaren of the Emerging Church movement; 1950s Auca missionary martyrs Ed McCully, Jim Elliot, and Peter Fleming; Walter Liefeld, NT professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; and the late preacher Dr. Harry A. Ironside who wrote the Historical Sketch of the Brethren Movement. Watchman Nee, an early Chinese Christian evangelist and founder of the Church Assembly Hall movement (local churches), was greatly influenced by the works of many brethren writers including J. N. Darby, George Müller, and George Cutting<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>.

Since 2004, some groups of Exclusive Brethren have become politically active. Formerly, they embraced non-involvement 'in the things of the world' because they are 'citizens of heaven'. These Exclusive Brethren have been responsible for the production and distribution of political literature in Australian, United States, Swedish, Canadian and New Zealand national elections<ref>Marr, David. "Hidden prophets", Sydney Morning Herald, 2006-07-01. Retrieved on 2006-07-01.</ref>. For more details, see Exclusive Brethren#Politics.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

The Brethren movement being so diverse, there is no single official website that represents the movement as a whole.

[edit] Open Brethren

[edit] Exclusive Brethren

[edit] Resources

[edit] Bibliography

  • Adams, Norman - Goodbye, Beloved Brethren. (1972, Impulse Publications Inc) ISBN 0-901311-13-8
  • Coad, F. Roy - A History of the Brethren Movement: Its Origins, Its Worldwide Development and Its Significance for the Present Day. (2001, Regent College Publishing) ISBN 1-57383-183-2
  • Grass, Tim, Gathering to his Name, Carlisle: paternoster, 2006.
  • Ironside, H. A. - Historical Sketch of the Brethren Movement. (1985,Loizeaux Brothers) ISBN 0-87213-344-3
  • Neatby, William Blair - A History of the Plymouth Brethren, (1901); Reprinted by Tentmaker Publications [1] covers the first seventy years of the Brethren movement.
  • Pickering, Henry, Chief Men Among the Brethren, (1st ed. 1918 London: Pickering & Inglis), Loizeaux Brothers, Inc. Neptune, NJ, 1996, ISBN 0-87213-798-8
  • Smith, Natan Dylan. - Roots, Renewal and the Brethren. (1996, Hope Publishing House) ISBN 0-932727-08-5
  • Strauch, Alexander. - Biblical Eldership: An Urgent Call to Restore Biblical Church Leadership. (1995, Lewis & Roth Publishers) ISBN 0-936083-11-5
  • Stunt, Timothy C. F., From awakening to secession : radical evangelicals in Switzerland and Britain, 1815-35, Edinburgh : T&T Clark, 2000, ISBN 0-567-08719-0

[edit] References

<references />

[edit] Research libraries

de:Brüderbewegung es:Hermanos de Plymouth fo:Brøðrasamkoman fr:Assemblées de Frères id:Plymouth Brethren no:Plymouth Brethren pt:Casa de Oração – Irmãos sv:Plymouthbröderna zh:普利茅斯弟兄会

Plymouth Brethren

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