South African Bible Believers

"Plymouth Brethren" FAQ

Author: Shawn Abigail
                                                                 Version 1.9, October 2001

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 North America. Suggestions and corrections should be emailed to: Shawn Abigail



1) Why are you producing this FAQ?
2) Why don't you like the name" Brethren"?
3) What is the history of the" Brethren"?
4) What is a "Brethren" church service like?
5) What is the doctrinal position of the "Brethren"?
6) Who were some well known members of the "Brethren"?
7) What hymnbooks do the "Brethren" use?
8) What type of church government do the "Brethren" have?
9) How many "Brethren" assemblies are there?
10) What "Brethren" publishing houses exist?
11) What "Brethren" publication sexist?
12) What "Brethren" Bible school sexist?
13) What "Brethren" missionary organizations exist?
14) How many missionaries have the "Brethren" sent out?
15) Current issues among
16) Theological contributions of the Brethren
17) What books have been written about the Brethren
18) What WWW sites carry Brethren information?
19) Other items of interest to Brethren
20) Are the Plymouth Brethren related to the Quakers?
21) Are the Brethren forbidden to use computers?
22) Do the Plymouth Brethren believe in ...?


1) Why are you producing this FAQ?

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.


2) Why don't you like the name "Brethren"?

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 Ottawa brother who has never been to Plymouth 8-) ). A more recent development is the use of the name Christian Brethren. It seems to be used by those who wish to avoid the connotations of the name Plymouth Brethren but still want to have a denominational title.


3) What is the history of the "Brethren"?

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 Dublin and Plymouth, from which the term Plymouth Brethren was obtained. Through zealous evangelistic work and church planting, churches were established all over England, Scotland, Europe and North America.


4) What is a "Brethren" church service like?

This is a description that would fit a number of meetings that I have attended in North America:

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-liturgal. 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.


5) What is the doctrinal position of the "Brethren"?

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:
bullet verbal, plenary inspiration of the original manuscripts of the Bible
bullet pretribulational, premillenial and dispensational
bullet non-charismatic, but recognizing the "non sign" gifts
bullet no salaried ministry. Gifted brothers minister as they are able. Gifted sisters will often minister among each other at ladies Bible studies, conferences, etc. However, we do not believe in an "every man" ministry (that is to say, we believe that every believer has a ministry but not every believer is called to be a preacher), but only ministry by those who are gifted
bullet church government by a plurality of elders who meet the qualifications of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1
bullet some have deacons to attend to physical ministry (e.g. taking care of the chapel). Deacons are not in a decision making position.
bullet often, the meetings are unstructured. This is especially true of the breaking of bread (communion service), but can also apply to Reading Meetings and Open Meetings
bullet clear evangelistic witness
bullet most open assemblies hold a middle of the road position with respect to election and free-will. Some can be found at either extreme. Most exclusive meetings hold to election.
bullet trinitarian
bullet most hold to the doctrine of Eternal Security
bullet believers baptism by immersion. A significant number of brethren in the "non-open" assemblies believe in and practise Christian household baptism.
bullet eternal sonship of Jesus Christ
Some booklets that outline the distinctive position of the Brethren on the local church include:
bullet Assembly Distinctives by Harold Mackay (Everyday Publications)
bullet Scriptural Principles of Gathering by A.P. Gibbs (Walterick)
bullet God's Order by Bruce Anstey (Christian Truth Publishing, Richmond BC)


6) Who were some well known members of the "Brethren"?

bullet Anderson, Sir Robert - Scotland Yard detective and writer. Anderson was associated at various times and various ways with the "Brethren"
bullet Brenton, Sir Lancelot - translator of what is probably the most widely available Greek-English edition of the LXX.
bullet Bruce, F.F. - Bible commentator and former editor of the New International Commentary on the New Testament series.
bullet Darby, John Nelson - inaccurately referred to as the founder of the "Plymouth Brethren". This former Church of Ireland clergyman preached, wrote, planted churches and translated the Bible into English, German and French. He also wrote a number of hymns.
bullet Elliot, Jim - Missionary marytered in Ecuador. Well known for his statement, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."
bullet Francis, S. Trevor - composed the hymn "Oh the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus".
bullet Groves, A.N. - pioneer missionary in India
bullet Ironside, H.A. - well known Bible commentator. Ironside started with the Salvation Army, became a "Brethren" worker and finally the pastor of Moody Memorial Church.
bullet Kelly, William - authored many Bible commentaries
bullet MacDonald, William - author of the Believers Bible Commentary which has just been printed by Thomas Nelson
bullet Mackintosh, C.H. - wrote "Notes on the Pentateuch" and "Miscellaneous Writings"
bullet Miller, Andrew - author on Church history
bullet Muller, George - lived in Bristol England and ran a chain of orphanages which operated on the principle of faith
bullet Newberry, Thomas - well known for the Newberry Reference Bible, which uses a system of symbols to explain verb tenses
bullet Scriven, Joseph - composer of "What a Friend We Have in Jesus"
bullet Tregelles, Samuel - noted scholar of Biblical languages
bullet Vine, W.E. - author of "Vines Expository Dictionary" and numerous commentaries
bullet Wigram, G.V. - author of "Wigrams Hebrew/Chaldee Concordance" and "Wigrams Greek Concordance"
More information about early Brethren workers can be found in "Chief Men Among the Brethren" published by Loizeaux Brothers.


7) What hymnbooks do the "Brethren" use?

A wide variety of hymnbooks may be used in different assemblies. However, a number of hymnbooks are in common use:
bullet Hymns of Worship and Remembrance - often used at the Breaking of Bread Meeting
bullet Hymns of Truth and Praise - often used at meetings other than the Breaking of Bread
bullet Choice Hymns of the Faith
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. (Louisiana) - USA". Phone (Good News Book Store): (504) 394-3087 e-mail (Good News Book Store):
bullet Spiritual Songs
bullet Little Flock Hymns
bullet Echoes of Grace Hymnbook
bullet Believers Hymnbook
bullet Hymns of Light and Love
Some non-English hymnbooks include:
bullet Geistliche Lieder (Spiritual Songs - German)
bullet In the Netherlands the used hymnbook is 'Geestelijke Liederen' (same meaning as the German) and, in some assemblies 'Lichtbundel' (meaning 'Collection of light', same word as 'Lightbeam', referring to the Light coming through the songs from God(?) ).
bullet Himnario Mensajes del Amor de Dios (Spanish -used in over 125 assemblies in Spain and Latin America - mainly Exclusive meetings)
bullet Himnos y C nticos del Evangelio (Spanish - used in over 1000 assemblies in Latin America)
bullet Cantici Cristiani (used by Italian "open" assemblies in Italy and the United States)
bullet Inni e Cantici Spirituale (used by Italian "non-open" assemblies in Italy)
bullet Hymnes et Cantiques (used by French "non-open" assemblies in France, Belgium, Switzerland, French Africa, and French Canada. Originally edited by Dr Henri Rossier, co-laborer of JN Darby's.) Most of these hymns have been issued in cassette and CD (6 or 7 volumes) recorded by the Choer Evangelique de Lausanne, Switzerland)
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.

Note: Mr John Sinclair has produced a French hymnbook of songs suitable for the breaking of bread. Contact me for more information.


8) What type of church government do the "Brethren" have?

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., Littleton, Colorado: Lewis and Roth Publishers, 1995, 337 pp. Also available are a Study Guide and a Mentor's Guide. Contact: Lewis and Roth Publishers, P. O. Box 569, Littleton, Colorado 80160, U. S. A. Phone: 1-800-477-3239. International phone: (303) 794-3239) may be a helpful introduction to this topic for many people.


9) How many "Brethren" assemblies are there?

There is really no way of knowing. Most large cities in North America have a "Brethren Assembly" and some small towns have several. At some point the dividing line between "Brethren Assembly" and "Independent Bible Church" gets blurred. An address book has been published by Waltrick which lists 195 assemblies in the Canadian province of Ontario (population 9 million). I haven't bothered counting for all of North America. There would certainly be hundreds of these churches in England and Scotland, and some African countries also have hundreds. The Australian periodical Tidings lists 261 assemblies in their country.

There are many assemblies in Latin America. Besides whatever "open" meetings there are there, there are 85 assemblies in Bolivia, 31 in Peru, 8 in Argentina, 33 in the Dominican Republic, more than 8 in Brasil, and about 28 in Mexico in fellowship with the "TW" (exclusive) meetings. Mexico has approximately 150 meetings in total.  In total, Brazil has about 800 assemblies (including Open meetings). There are at least 30 Gospel Halls in Chile.

The February 1996 issue of MISSIONS magazine (from CMML), indicates there are 230 open assemblies and 300 exclusive assemblies in Germany.

There are about 50 English speaking assemblies in Malaysia with another 30 or so Chinese and Tamil speaking Assemblies (Mostly Chinese). There are 173 assemblies in South Korea.

The southern most state of India, called Kerala, with a population of 29 million has more than 400 assemblies. In the neighboring state of Andhra Pradesh also there will be not less than 500 Assembleies. Tamil Nadu may have around 400 assemblies while Karnataka may have 200 assemblies. (thanks to John Abraham for this information).

There are about 22 Brethren Assemblies in Singapore. (thanks to Benjamin Ho for this information)

Information about assemblies in the UK can be found at:

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.


10) What "Brethren" publishing houses exist?

Walterick Publishers
Box 2216
Kansas City, Kansas,
U.S.A., 66110-0216
Publishes a number of books.

Gospel Folio Press (a division of Uplook Ministries)
P.O. Box 2041
Grand Rapids, MI,
USA, 49501-2041
Fax: 1-616-456-5522
Publishes books, tracts and several magazines, as well as the Choice Gleanings calender of daily readings

Everyday Publications
421 Nugget Avenue, Unit 2
Scarborough, ON,
Canada, M1S 4L8
Phone & Fax: 1-416-291-9411
Specializes in booklets written in a simplified style of English. Extensive distribution of missionary literature.

Loizeaux Brothers
P.O. Box 277,
Neptune, NJ,
U.S.A., 07753-0277
Orders: 1-800-526-2796
Possibly the largest Brethren publisher, Loizeaux prints the commentaries of H.A. Ironside.

Believers Bookshelf, Inc.
Box 261
Sunbury, PA
U.S.A., 17801
Prints a number of books by older Brethren authors, as well as some modern ones.

Believers Bookshelf Canada Inc.
5205 Regional Rd. #81, Unit #3
Beamsville, Ontario
Canada L0R 1B3
Prints a number of books by older Brethren authors, as well as some modern ones.

Bible Truth Publishers
PO Box 649
59 Industrial Road
Addison IL 60101-0649
1-630-543-1441 phone
1-630-543-1476 fax
Prints a number of books by older Brethren authors.

John Ritchie Ltd.
40 Beansburn,
Kilmarnock, Scotland

Precious Seed Publications
P.O. Box 8
Neatch, West Glamorgan,
UK, SA11 1QB

Gospel Tract Publications
411 Hillington Road,
Glasgow, Scotland,
UK, G52 4BL
Phone: 041-882 4697

Grace & Truth, Inc.
210 Chestnut St.
Danville, IL 61832 USA
Phone: 217-442-1120
Fax: 217-442-1163
Gospel tracts in 10 languages; booklets and a monthly magazine for believers.

411 ROUTE 79

R. Brockhaus Verlag Wuppertal
P.O. Box 22 20
42766 Haan (Gruiten)

Ediciones Biblicas (Spanish publications)
1166 Perroy (Vaud)

Verdades Biblicas (Spanish publications)
see Bible Truth Publishers above
(publishing affiliates in Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru)

Verdades Vivas (Portuguese publications)
Caixa Postal 147
cep 13480-970
Limeira, SP, Brazil

Bibles & Publications (French publications)
5706 Monkland
Montreal QC H4A 1E6
1-514-481-6335 phone
1-514-486-9701 fax
Toll free long distance 1-800-387-6335
WWW Page:

Gospel Literature Outreach
78 Muir Street
Motherwell, Scotland

Bibles et Publications Chretiennes
Valence, France

Il Messagio del'Amore de Dio (Italian publications)
Casella Postale 22
87070 Sibari (Cs)

Bible Light Publications
Hong Kong

Verlag Ernst Paulus
Haltweg 23
673 Neustadt/Weinstrasse
Prints a number of books and pamphlets by older brethren authors

Messages of God's Love - Multilingual
Federal Way WA
Publishes Spanish, Telegu (India) and Portuguese evangelistic publications

Editions Bibles et Traites Chretiens (French)
Vevey, Switzerland
Publishes many books and tracts by older and current brethren writers

Chapter Two
1Chapter Two Trust
Fountain House
1a Conduit Road
London SE18 7AJ
United Kingdom
tel 020 8316 5389

their bookstore is at
Chapter Two Bookshop
199 Plumstead Common Road
Plumstead Common
London SE18 2UJ
Tel 020 8316 4972

Publishes and republishes many books and tracts by older and current brethren writers


11) What "Brethren" publications exist?

Believer's Magazine
(through John Ritchie)

Precious Seed
(through Precious Seed Pub.)

Christian Shepherd (formerly Christian Treasury)
Edited by Doug Nicolet
(through Bible Truth Publishers)
$9.95 per year for 12 issues. Outside the U.S., add $2.00 for postage.

64 Hills Road
Ajax, Ontario
Canada, L1S 2W4
Bi-monthly Bible Study Magazine
A Nathanael Publication (Kelly Meetings) available free of charge. Just write for your copy.

Counsel Magazine
PO Box 427
St. Catharines, ON
Canada L2R 6V9

In the USA
c/o Uplook Ministries
PO Box 2041
Grand Rapids, MI
USA 49501-2041

In the UK
c/o W. A. McCulloch
"Bethany", 113 Bech Hill
Haywards Heath,

Founder; Robert McClurkin
Editor; J. Boyd Nicholson
70 Crestdale Ave.
St. Catharines, ON
Canada L2T 3B5

Price: Voluntary

Green Pastures (Monthly Newsletter)
J. Melough,
102 Fairfield Beach Rd
Fairfield, CT
USA, 06430
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
2721 Oberlin Dr.
York, PA
USA 17404

Present Truth Publishers
411 Route 79
Morganville, New Jersey
USA 07751
Bi-monthy magazine called "Thy Precepts" is available free of charge.

UPLOOK Magazine U.S.A.: UPLOOK P.O. Box 2041 Grand Rapids, MI USA, 49501-2041 Canada: UPLOOK Uplook Ministries P.O. Box 427 St. Catherines, Ontario Canada, L2R 6V9
Price: Voluntary donation

Rightside Up
Formerly published by UPLOOK, this magazine is no longer being published.

Treasury Magazine
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

P.O.  Box 125
Eastwood NSW  2122
Ph  02 9874 4866
Fax 02 9874 4877

BIBLE & LIFE Newsletter
c/o David Dunlap
16207 Pebblebrook Dr.
Tampa, FL 33624
(813) 961-8474

Wholesome Words for Spiritual Guidance, bimonthly
R. M. Goatley, Editor
P.O. Box 353
Taree, N.S.W.
2430 Australia
Price: Free. A gift is welcome.

Assembly Testimony, bimonthly
B. Currie, Editor
Price: Free. A gift is welcome.
William Neill
"Beth Asher"
109 Lurgan Road, Banbridge,
Northern Ireland BT32 4NG
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
Subscriptions UK:
Elwood Russell
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
Subscriptions UK:
Elwood Russell
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 USA; $8 other.

Truth and Testimony
(through Chapter Two - see publishing houses for the address)

The Emmaus Journal
A semiannual publication of the faculty and alumni of Emmaus Bible College devoted to the exposition of the Bible, biblical doctrines, and practical issues from a biblical perspective. Volume 5, Number 1 is currently available. Subscription rates: One year, $7 in U.S. or $10 in Canada (Canadian funds). Other foreign countries, $10 per year in U.S. funds. One free complimentary copy is available upon request. Write: The Emmaus Journal, 2570 Asbury Rd., Dubuque, IA 52001.

Offene Türen (Open doors) (News from Missionfields)
Missionshaus Bibelschule Wiedenest(MBW)
Olper Straße 10
51702 Bergneustadt
Price: free , but a gift is welcome
Note: Missionshaus Bibelschule Wiedenest has a web site at:

Die Botschaft (Magazine)
R. Brockhaus Verlag Wuppertal
P.O. Box 22 20
42766 Hann (Gruiten)
Price: Germany DM 48,-

"En Tu Juventud"
Casilla 17-10-7013
Quito, Ecuador
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.

Escudrinando (Searching)
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


12) What "Brethren" Bible schools exist?

Kawartha Lakes Bible College
Box 1101
Peterborough, Ontario,
Canada, K9J 7H4
(705) 742-2437
1-800-388-5522 (1-800-388-KLBC)
Offers one and two year programs.

Mt Carmel Bible School
4725-106 Avenue NW
Edmonton, AB, Canada
T6A 1E7
Phone: (403) 465-3015
Fax: (403)4 466-2485
Free: (800) 561-6443

Discipleship Intern Training Program/Fairhaven Leadership Training Program
The Discipleship Intern Training Program is no longer running. However, it is being replaced by the Fairhaven Leadership Training Program. Contact Fairhaven Bible Chapel ( for more information.

Emmaus Bible College
2570 Asbury Road,
Dubuque IA 52001
ph 319-588-8000
Offers 4 year degrees. Extensive selection of popular level correspondence courses in a number of languages

New Zealand Assembly Bible School
Principal: Doug Hewlett tel (64 9)818 5112
20 Palmer Ave, Kelston, Auckland tel (64 9) 818 5112

GLO (Gospel Literature Outreach) Bible School
New Zealand
This no longer exists.

New Zealand Emmaus

Emmaus Bible School
PO Box 234
Epping NSW 2121

Missionshaus Bibelschule Wiedenest (MBW)
Olper Strasse 10
51702 Bergneustadt
+49-2261-4092-0 (former Director was Erich Sauer)

Northland Bible College
Northland Bible College is no longer running.


13) What "Brethren" missionary organizations exist?

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
P.O. Box 13,
Spring Lake, NJ,
U.S.A. 07762
ph 732-449-8880
fax 732-974-0888
prayer line: 732-449-2333

MSC Canada
509 - 3950 14th Avenue
Markham, Ontario L3R 0A9 Canada
+1.905.947.0468 (voice)
+1.905.947.0352 (fax)
Echoes of Service
1 Widcombe Cresc.,
Bath, Avon,

Missionary Services NZ
PO Box 744
Palmerston North New Zealand
Tel. (64 6) 35 78 388

"Malaysian Missionary Services"
55, Jalan PJS11/9, Bandar Sunway 46150 Petaling Jaya Selangor
fax 603 734 7811
FAO Ernest Poon


14) How many missionaries have the "Brethren" sent out?

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 Canada, USA, UK, Australia and New Zealand together have 1223 missionaries. This would not include workers sent to parts of their own countries, indigenous mission work and missionaries sent from various countries not listed above. There are likely several thousand missionaries currently working.


15) Current issues among the Brethren

Like most groups of people, there are a number of issues currently under debate among the Brethren. These include:
bullet should we hire a pastor or guarantee salaries to workers?
bullet should the sisters participate audibly in the meetings? (note that in most "Open" meetings, the sisters do sing audibly)
bullet should elders be elected or appointed, and for how long?
bullet should we have musical instruments in our meetings?
bullet should we have more modern music
bullet should we form a recognized denomination?
bullet should we use only the KJV, or permit modern translations?
bullet should we receive visitors to the breaking of bread openly, or only those who carry letters of introduction?
bullet should we have ties/links to denominational churches?
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.

16) Theological contributions of the Brethren

A number of doctrines that are now widely helds within evangelical circles were first discovered by the Brethren or were promoted and propagated by the Brethren. In no particular order these include:
bullet pre-tribulational rapture
bullet dispensationalism
bullet priesthood of all believers
bullet difference between the Church and Israel
bullet lack of a clergy/laity division

17) What books have been written about the Brethren

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. Exeter: Paternoster, 1974) and H. H. Rowdons, The Origins of the Brethren (1967). Because of the close connection between the life of John Nelson Darby and the early history of the "brethren" movement, another helpful source might be "John Nelson Darby, A Biography" by Max S Weremchuk, Loizeaux Brothers, 1992. Also, Napoleon Noel's 2-volume "History of the Brethren" is of interest, edited by W. F Knapp. It has recently been reprinted by Chapter Two in England. A small volume, "The Brethren (so-called): Their Origin, Progress and Testimony" by Andrew Miller is of interest. Robert Baylis has written a history of the Open Brethren entitled My People (Harold Shaw Publishers). A short book by Bill Conard called Family Matters has been published by Interest Ministries (but is now out of print). "Robert C. Chapman, A Biography." by Robert L. Peterson has been published by Loizeaux. In German, there is "Die Brüderbewegung in Deutschland" Volume I-III (The Brethren Movement in Germany) Gerhard Jordy, R. Brockhaus Verlag Wuppertal. Also printed was Open Brethren: "A brief history of the Brethren" by Ian McDowell, published by Victory Books, 1968


18) What WWW sites carry Brethren information?

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

Publishers/Book Distributors
Emmaus Bible College


19) Other items of interest to Brethren

Brother J.L. Hodgett has produced 2 CD-ROMs of interest.

The Darby Disk
KEY POINTS All writings known to the compiler at the time of publication ---54 volumes, about 1,000 articles. 80 articles not in his generally available publications. A Search Program, ISYSC working under Windows 3.1 or 95.C The names of the correspondents of many of his letters. A biography, by courtesy of Chapter Two, London. Geographical Index and Table of his Travels, by courtesy of Chapter Two. Charts and some pictures using Adobe Acrobat Reader.C Listings of the Darby material held in the John Rylands Library of Manchester University. J N Darby Bible Translation.

Truth for Today's Bereans
Disk Contents: Approaching fifteen hundred articles and books, and a thousand hymns including, All writings known to the compiler by: C H Mackintosh F B Hole Hamilton Smith W W Fereday G Davison N Anderson W H Westcott J McBroom F A Hughes H L Rossier (in English) Other ministry by: J N Darby W Kelly J G Bellett E Dennett G V Wigram J B Stoney A J Pollock F G Patterson F W Grant L M Grant E C Hadley W R Dronsfield T Oliver H J Vine J W H Nichols J Muller H L Rossier etc. and many others in the magazines: The Scripture Quarterly 1941 - 1943 Truth And Testimony 1991 - 1995. Church History by A Miller. Photographs are included of many of these authors. The Bible Translation by J N Darby. Greek and Hebrew fonts. The text of 500 devotional hymns. The text of 500 gospel hymns. ISYS4 search program and indices for all the above text. Picture Viewer

Both disks use the search and viewing program -- ISYS4. This program was chosen because it can show Greek and Hebrew, its ease of use and its fast and powerful search facilities. The disks are currently available for Windows only. The program also runs under Windows 95 though not with all its features. Apple Macintosh users should contact us for information concerning their platform.

A Windows 3.1-capable computer is needed (386 or better), a 486 with 8Mb RAM is recommended.

The full price for each disk is L99, but they are offered at L75 each inc. p & p, to encourage reading these gifts which the Lord has given to His Church.

20) Are the Plymouth Brethren related to the Quakers?

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.

Likewise, there is no relationship between the "Plymouth Brethren" and the "Grace Brethren" or any of the Menonite Brethren groups.


21) Are the Brethren forbidden to use computers?

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 Taylor group. Most of those who have heard of them consider them to be a cult. They number several thousand among approximately 1,000,000 people worldwide who would be considered to be Plymouth Brethren. Among the followers of Mr James Taylor Jr., there are some who forbid the use of computers.


22) Do the Plymouth Brethren believe in ...?

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

   American churches.



23) Where can I get geneological information about Brethren ancestors?

I know of no central repository for this information. Individual assemblies or Christian workers may have their own records, but these are largely inaccessible.


24) What should I do with the "PB" children I teach?

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 some "exclusive brethren" group, but I have no way of knowing which one. My advice is that you respect the religious beliefs of these families, and treat them as you would any group that believes in extreme separtism 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 activites 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 omittions, 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, October 2001, Distributed on The Internet by Shawn G. Abigail ("

© 2001 by Shawn G. Abigail

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