Author: Shawn Abigail
This Frequently Asked Questions list (FAQ) concentrates on the so called
"Open Brethren" since this is the background of the author. However, an
attempt is made to explain some of the positions of "Closed and Exclusive
Brethren". This FAQ should not in any way be considered to be an
authoritative document representing the view of any local church or any
individual (including the author). At almost every point in this FAQ, you will
find Brethren churches that will disagree or differ. Variation is even greater
between different countries. The author could probably best be described as
from the traditional end of the open Brethren in
This FAQ now has an official home page! You can see it at:
Quite a number of brothers have sent me email with suggestions and additions. I would like to thank all who have helped build this FAQ.
- various corrections and a few
1) Why are you producing
The so called "Plymouth Brethren" have made important contributions to the evangelical church but many people have never heard of them. This FAQ is intended to let people know who they are. It is not an attempt to get new people to come to any particular church.
This FAQ uses the term "Brethren" or
"Plymouth Brethren" in the sectarian manner of many. However, most
people inside these assemblies simply prefer to be called Christians.
We feel that titles and denominationalism divides true Christians, is forbidden in 1 Corinthians 1:12, and is probably not all that accurate anyway (as for me, I am an
This question is beyond the scope of this FAQ. Some of the books mentioned in Section 17 of this FAQ will answer this question.
In short, during the first part of the 1800's, some Christians began to feel
uncomfortable about denominationalism, a clerical hierarchy and certain
"compromises" creeping into their churches. They resolved to simply
read their Bibles and to try to gather in the same simple manner as Christians
did in the New Testament. As some of these Christians began to travel and
preach, they found believers in other cities and countries who were doing the same
thing. Early gatherings were established in
This is a description that would fit a number of meetings
that I have attended in
The Breaking of Bread is our communion service. It is usually about 1 hour in length and is usually held Sunday morning or evening. It is unstructured and non-liturgical. Brothers will rise to their feet to pray, suggest a hymn, or read and expound upon a passage of Scripture. The purpose is worship, not teaching or exhortation, and most comments will address some aspect of the person and work of Jesus Christ. Often, a theme will develop. Sisters do not offer audible worship, although many will participate in the singing and most wear a headcovering in our services. Their silent participation is valued and certainly sets a tone for the meeting. Usually towards the end, a brother will give thanks for the bread and give thanks for the wine. The emblems are passed around, with all in fellowship participating. This is usually the only meeting at which a collection is taken up.
One or two preaching meetings are usually scheduled for Sunday. Often, one of these will have a gospel emphasis. Usually there will be 20 minutes of hymns, announcements, etc. and a 40 minute sermon. Often baptisms will take place at the Sunday morning meeting (often referred to as the Family Bible Hour or Family Gospel Hour), although some churches will choose to baptize outside. Sometimes brothers from this local church will preach, and sometimes visiting brothers or full-time workers will preach.
A mid-week prayer meeting is also held. In addition to the prayers, a shorter sermon is often given. Some churches have replaced their mid-week meeting with small group fellowships. It is interesting to note that some churches have their mid-week meetings on a Tuesday rather than in the middle of the week on a Wednesday, because many of these churches at one time had 2 mid-week meetings (Tuesday and Thursday). Sometimes sermons will be preached at a mid-week meeting (in addition to prayer) and sometimes a discussional study is held with no predecided topic.
Although not really considered church meetings, many will also have a Sunday school, youth meetings, ladies Bible study and coffee hour. Many will also have special evangelistic meetings. Some churches will put together special meetings in nursing homes or prisons.
A number of doctrines and positions generally characterize the "Brethren". Again, this should not be taken as applying to every "Brethren" church or every individual who fellowships in one of these churches. Very briefly stated, the doctrines and positions are:
Some booklets that outline the distinctive position of the Brethren on the local church include:
More information about early Brethren workers can be found in "Chief Men Among the Brethren" published by Loizeaux Brothers.
A wide variety of hymnbooks may be used in different assemblies. However, a number of hymnbooks are in common use:
Hymns of Worship and Remembrance, Hymns of Truth and Praise, and Choice Hymns of the Faith were originally published by "Gospel Perpetuating Fund/Publishers -Fort Dodge, Iowa - USA" NOW they are published by "Truth and Praise Publishers - 201 Schlief Drive - Belle Chasse, LA. (
Some non-English hymnbooks include:
In addition to these, some Brethren churches will use the chorus and song books produced by major evangelical publishers. Others have collections of choruses taken directly from Scripture.
The "Open Brethren" churches are completely independent. Each church will have a number of Elders who meet the qualifications set forth in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. From time to time, they will ask additional men who meet these qualifications to join them. Deacons may be appointed, but they have no governmental role. Teaching responsibilities fall upon all brothers who are gifted, and gifted sisters will often minister at ladies meetings, ladies conferences, etc. Despite the completely independent nature of these churches, there is a large degree of cooperation and fellowship between them.
"Closed and Exclusive Brethren" do not like the idea of independence and have circles of fellowship. There is no governmental body over a circle of fellowship, but rather it is a tie between those of like mind. Many of these churches believe the church is in ruins and thus they do not feel they can recognize Elders. Instead a number of "leading brothers" take many of the responsibilities of Elders.
Alexander Strauch's defense of biblical eldership,
entitled Biblical Eldership (3d. rev. ed.,
There is really no way of knowing. Most large cities in
There are many assemblies in
The February 1996 issue of MISSIONS magazine (from CMML), indicates there
are 230 open assemblies and 300 exclusive assemblies in
There are about 83 English speaking assemblies in Malaysia with another 25 Chinese, 29 Malay, and 5 Tamil speaking Assemblies. More information can be found at http://www.geocities.com/andyabel/Malaysia.html
There are 232 assemblies in
The southern most state of
There are about 22 Brethren Assemblies in
Information about assemblies in the
From some of the information in the book Operation World together with some educated guesses and Canadian census data, there are about 1,000,000 people in the world who would call themselves or be called Plymouth Brethren.
6549 State Ave,
Kansas City, KS
Publishes a number of books.
Gospel Folio Press
304 Killaly St. West
Port Colborne, Ontario L3K 6A6
Gospel Folio Press
Publishes books, tracts and several magazines, as well as the Choice Gleanings calendar of daily readings
Believer's Bookshelf Canada Inc.
5205 Regional Road # 81, Unit # 3
Web Address: www.bbcan.org
Contact: Rodger Sheets, Manager
Specializes in booklets written in a simplified style of English. Extensive distribution of missionary literature.
Possibly the largest Brethren publisher, Loizeaux prints the commentaries of H.A. Ironside.
Moments With The Book
PO Box 322
Bedford PA 15522 USA
Believers Bookshelf, Inc.
web: Believers Bookshelf USA
Prints a number of books by older Brethren authors, as well as some modern ones.
Believer's Bookshelf Canada Inc.
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact: Rodger Sheets, Manager
Bible Truth Publishers
Prints a number of books by older Brethren authors.
John Ritchie Ltd.
Precious Seed Publications
Gospel Tract Publications
Phone: 041-882 4697
Grace & Truth, Inc.
Gospel tracts in 10 languages; booklets and a monthly magazine for believers.
PRESENT TRUTH PUBLISHERS
Jackson NJ 08527
R. Brockhaus Verlag
42766 Haan (Gruiten)
1166 Perroy (Vaud)
see Bible Truth Publishers above
(publishing affiliates in
Caixa Postal 147
Bibles & Publications (French publications)
Montreal QC H4A 1E6
Toll free long distance 1-800-387-6335
WWW Page: http://bibles.qc.ca
Gospel Literature Outreach
Bibles et Publications
Il Messagio del'Amore de Dio (Italian
Casella Postale 22
87070 Sibari (Cs)
Bible Light Publications
Verlag Ernst Paulus
Prints a number of books and pamphlets by older brethren authors
Messages of God's Love - Multilingual
Federal Way WA
Publishes Spanish, Telegu (
Editions Bibles et Traites
Publishes many books and tracts by older and current brethren writers
1Chapter Two Trust
1a Conduit Road
London SE18 7AJ
tel 020 8316 5389
their bookstore is at
Chapter Two Bookshop
199 Plumstead Common Road
London SE18 2UJ
Tel 020 8316 4972
Publishes and republishes many books and tracts by older and current brethren
(through John Ritchie)
(through Precious Seed Pub.)
Christian Shepherd (formerly Christian Treasury)
PO Box 57471
Des Moines, IA 50327-2189
free of charge to mailing addresses in North America, (and overseas as the Lord enables)
COME AND SEE
Bi-monthly Bible Study Magazine
A Nathanael Publication (Kelly Meetings) available free of charge. Just write for your copy.
c/o Uplook Ministries
PO Box 2041
In the UK
c/o W. A. McCulloch
"Bethany", 113 Bech Hill
Founder; Robert McClurkin
Editor; J. Boyd Nicholson
Green Pastures (Monthly Newsletter)
Price: $10/USA $12/Canada
sent unsolicited to many assemblies
INTEREST MINISTRIES (Magazine, Organization)
This magazine is no longer published
Milk & Honey (Newsletter)
Ministry of Spread the Word, Inc
Present Truth Publishers
411 Route 79
Morganville, New Jersey
Bi-monthy magazine called "Thy Precepts" is available free of charge.
Price: Voluntary donation
Formerly published by UPLOOK, this magazine is no longer being published.
edited by Rex Dearlove
Monthly magazine for NZ Brethren
Published by GPH Society, PO Box 74, Palmerston North, NZ
tel (64 6) 359 8180 Fax 3570281
GPH is also a book retailer (2 stores) and wholesaler. It also houses Rally Supplies and Missionary Services (NZ).
General Manager Campbell Fountain
AUSTRALIAN MISSIONARY TIDINGS
Eastwood NSW 2122
Ph 02 9874 4866
Fax 02 9874 4877
BIBLE & LIFE Newsletter
c/o David Dunlap
Wholesome Words for Spiritual Guidance, bimonthly
R. M. Goatley, Editor
P.O. Box 353
Price: Free. A gift is welcome.
Assembly Testimony, bimonthly
B. Currie, Editor
Price: Free. A gift is welcome.
ph (018206) 24238
Truth & Tidings, monthly
Dr. A. J. Higgins, Editor
2148 Creglow Drive
Jackson, MI, U.S.A 49203_3814
Price: $10.00 US; $12.00 Can; #5.00 UK
Truth & Tidings
99 Blanmora Drive
Stoney Creek, ON Canada L8G 4A0
14 Toberhewny Lane, Lurgan
Northern Ireland BT66 8AH
Words in Season, monthly
Matthew J. Brescia, Assoc. Editor & Publisher
66 Connecticut Boulevard
East Hartford, CT 06108
Price: $9.00 US; #5.00 UK
Words in Season
100 Center Street
Windsor Locks, CT 06096
14 Toberhewny Lane, Lurgan
Northern Ireland BT66 8AH
Grace & Truth Magazine
(through Grace & Truth, Inc. - see publishing houses for the address)
Monthly "Food for the Family of God",
12 regular departments.
Donation - $7
Truth and Testimony
(through Chapter Two - see publishing houses for the address)
The Emmaus Journal
A semiannual publication of the faculty and alumni of
(Open doors) (News from Missionfields)
Missionshaus Bibelschule Wiedenest(MBW)
Olper Straße 10
Price: free , but a gift is welcome
Note: Missionshaus Bibelschule Wiedenest has a web site at: http://www.wiedenest.de
Die Botschaft (Magazine)
R. Brockhaus Verlag
42766 Hann (Gruiten)
"En Tu Juventud"
Semi-annual Bible study magazine in Spanish especially for young people sent free of charge to about 8000 addresses in Latin America and the USA and Canada
"Palavras de Edificacao Exortacao e Consolacao"
Bi-monthly Bible study magazine in Portuguese for believers. Available from Verdades Vivas in Brasil.
A ministry magazine published bi-monthly by Temas Biblicas, Apartado Postal 4972, Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic, sent free of charge, commenced January-February 1997. Editors, Gines and Manuel Adames
Offers one and two year programs.
Mt Carmel Bible School
4725-106 Avenue NW
Edmonton, AB, Canada
Phone: (403) 465-3015
Fax: (403)4 466-2485
Free: (800) 561-6443
Discipleship Intern Training Program/Fairhaven Leadership Training
The Discipleship Intern Training Program is no longer running. However, it is being replaced by the Fairhaven Leadership Training Program. Contact Fairhaven Bible Chapel (http://www.fbc-sl.org) for more information.
Emmaus Bible College
Offers 4 year degrees. Extensive selection of popular level correspondence courses in a number of languages
Principal: Doug Hewlett tel (64 9)
20 Palmer Ave
GLO (Gospel Literature Outreach)
This no longer exists.
Epping NSW 2121
Olper Strasse 10
http://www.wiedenest.de http://www.wiedenest.de (former Director was Erich Sauer)
It should be noted that in addition to the organizations
listed, many missionaries from Brethren churches serve as missionaries with
other evangelistic ministries.
Christian Missions in Many Lands
prayer line: 732-449-2333
Echoes of Service
124, Wells Road,
Telephone 01225 310893
Missionary Services NZ
Tel. (64 6) 35 78 388
Again, there is no way to know. It has been estimated that
1% of the total number of individuals in fellowship in "Brethren"
churches are on the mission field. By 20th century standards, this is in excess
of almost every denomination (although by 1st century standards I suspect this
is rather poor). The book Operation World says that the Brethren churches in
Like most groups of people, there are a number of issues currently under debate among the Brethren. These include:
Again, it should be pointed out that each church differs and
what might be a very contentious issue for one church could be a settled and
accepted matter for another.
A number of doctrines that are now widely held within evangelical circles were first discovered by the Brethren or were promoted and propagated by the Brethren. In no particular order these include:
An excellent treatment of the history of the Brethren is
given in "An Historical Sketch of the Brethren Movement" by H.A. Ironside. It is published by Loizeaux
Brothers. Although I have not read them myself, others have suggested F. Roy Coads, A History of the Brethren Movement (2nd ed.
The following lists a number WWW Home pages that carry Brethren information. This is not intended to be a comprehensive listing of web pages by those in Brethren fellowship, but rather a means of finding more information by and about the Brethren. For reasons of time and space, I intend to be selective about the Home Pages I list in this section, so please, only send me the URL for your Home Page if it contains a large amount of material of interest to Brethren. I am particularly interested in sites that carry writings by and about Brethren, especially the older writers.
Darbys Synopsis in HTML Format
Some Modern Writings
Brother J.L. Hodgett has produced 7 CD-ROMs of interest, which are also available for free download. See www.stempublishing.com
I have never heard this question brought up, but it does appear in the FAQ for the Quakers (Society of Friends). The answer is, no. There is no relationship or tie.
I have spent about a decade with Brethren churches and have only just come across this idea. The Brethren are in no way anti-technological. The author of this FAQ is a computer programmer by trade, and would say that most of the Brethren I know either have at home or use at work, a computer.
However, there is one small group that does forbid the use of computers, and
this bears some explanation. After the original split between the Open Brethren
and the Exclusive Brethren, the Exclusives had many more splits. Doctrinal
purity was their most absolute consideration, so whenever a difference of
doctrine came up, they split. One of the branches, referred to as the Raven
Brethren (after Mr Raven) denied the Eternal Sonship of Christ. They believed that He existed in
eternity past, but that he only became the Son at His Incarnation. For this
reason, most of the rest of the Brethren avoided the Raven Brethren. Some of
the Raven Brethren then followed a teacher by the name of Mr
James Taylor and some of those followed his son, Mr
James Taylor Jr. This group fell into what most other Christians would feel to
be doctrinal and moral excesses. Most Plymouth Brethren have never heard of the
Again, I cannot speak for every individual assembly, but this has been my experience:
Blood Transfusions? - no restrictions
Injections/Organ Transplants? - no restrictions
Television/Movies? - individual conscience
Union Membership? - individual conscience
Military Service? - individual conscience*
Communal Living? - no
Distinctive Clothing? - no**
Keeping O.T. Law Required? - no
Baptism Necessary for Salvation? - no
* note that many of the early Plymouth Brethren from 130
years ago were former military men who left the military
for the sake of conscience
** during church meetings, many sisters will choose to wear
some form of headcovering or hat. Many of the churches I
have encountered like to see the men wearing jackets and
ties, but I suspect this attitude occurs in many North
I know of no central repository for this information.
Individual assemblies or Christian workers may have their own records, but
these are largely inaccessible.
Several times a year, I get an email from a teacher who has several children in his/her class who are from a "Plymouth Brethren" background. These children are not permitted to eat with other children, use computers, read some of the standard books in the curriculum, etc. The teachers are asking me for information about their religion and advice for what to do with the children.
First of all, let me say that this is not descriptive of most "Plymouth Brethren" families, open, closed or exclusive. I suspect that the families involved are part of the "Taylor Exclusive Brethren" group. My advice is that you respect the religious beliefs of these families, and treat them as you would any group that believes in extreme separatism from the world (such as the Amish or the Old Order Mennonites). Any attempt to push them to be more "outward looking" is likely to meet with suspicion and resistance. If you seek to work with these families to find alternative curriculum and activities for the children, you will reduce the suspicion, and increase the chances that these children will be able to stay in school beyond the minimum required by law.
As a parent, I understand the desire to shield my children from a lot of bad
influences in the world. I also would like my children to learn to think for
themselves and to pursue as much education as they themselves deem useful (I
personally hold two bachelor's degrees - one in Genetics and one in Computer
Science). While I personally would like to see some of the more "inward
looking" groups take a broader vision of things, I try to respect their
religious freedom - and if a religion is permitted to exist, but is not
permitted to be seen, not permitted to be heard of, not permitted to proselytize
and not permitted to do anything which might in any way offend the majority,
then clearly religious freedom does not exist.
This FAQ is provided for information purposes only and does not necessarily represent the practice of any particular group of Christians. This FAQ is in no way intended to be a statement of faith. The author is not responsible for any errors or omissions, and will gladly receive any corrections. This FAQ is copyrighted to maintain the integrity of the material. This FAQ may be redistributed freely provided it is redistributed in its original form (unedited and unmodified). This FAQ may not be redistributed for financial gain. Where necessary this FAQ may be cited as follows:
Abigail, Shawn G., "Plymouth Brethren FAQ, Version 1.9.2, January 2006, Distributed on The Internet by Shawn G. Abigail (email@example.com)"
© 2006 by Shawn G. Abigail