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 ...?
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.
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.
|verbal, plenary inspiration of the original manuscripts of the Bible|
|pretribulational, premillenial and dispensational|
|non-charismatic, but recognizing the "non sign" gifts|
|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|
|church government by a plurality of elders who meet the qualifications of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1|
|some have deacons to attend to physical ministry (e.g. taking care of the chapel). Deacons are not in a decision making position.|
|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|
|clear evangelistic witness|
|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.|
|most hold to the doctrine of Eternal Security|
|believers baptism by immersion. A significant number of brethren in the "non-open" assemblies believe in and practise Christian household baptism.|
|eternal sonship of Jesus Christ|
|Assembly Distinctives by Harold Mackay (Everyday Publications)|
|Scriptural Principles of Gathering by A.P. Gibbs (Walterick)|
|God's Order by Bruce Anstey (Christian Truth Publishing, Richmond BC)|
|Anderson, Sir Robert - Scotland Yard detective and writer. Anderson was associated at various times and various ways with the "Brethren"|
|Brenton, Sir Lancelot - translator of what is probably the most widely available Greek-English edition of the LXX.|
|Bruce, F.F. - Bible commentator and former editor of the New International Commentary on the New Testament series.|
|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.|
|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."|
|Francis, S. Trevor - composed the hymn "Oh the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus".|
|Groves, A.N. - pioneer missionary in India|
|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.|
|Kelly, William - authored many Bible commentaries|
|MacDonald, William - author of the Believers Bible Commentary which has just been printed by Thomas Nelson|
|Mackintosh, C.H. - wrote "Notes on the Pentateuch" and "Miscellaneous Writings"|
|Miller, Andrew - author on Church history|
|Muller, George - lived in Bristol England and ran a chain of orphanages which operated on the principle of faith|
|Newberry, Thomas - well known for the Newberry Reference Bible, which uses a system of symbols to explain verb tenses|
|Scriven, Joseph - composer of "What a Friend We Have in Jesus"|
|Tregelles, Samuel - noted scholar of Biblical languages|
|Vine, W.E. - author of "Vines Expository Dictionary" and numerous commentaries|
|Wigram, G.V. - author of "Wigrams Hebrew/Chaldee Concordance" and "Wigrams Greek Concordance"|
|Hymns of Worship and Remembrance - often used at the Breaking of Bread Meeting|
|Hymns of Truth and Praise - often used at meetings other than the Breaking of Bread|
|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): firstname.lastname@example.org
|Little Flock Hymns|
|Echoes of Grace Hymnbook|
|Hymns of Light and Love|
|Geistliche Lieder (Spiritual Songs - German)|
|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(?) ).|
|Himnario Mensajes del Amor de Dios (Spanish -used in over 125 assemblies in Spain and Latin America - mainly Exclusive meetings)|
|Himnos y C nticos del Evangelio (Spanish - used in over 1000 assemblies in Latin America)|
|Cantici Cristiani (used by Italian "open" assemblies in Italy and the United States)|
|Inni e Cantici Spirituale (used by Italian "non-open" assemblies in Italy)|
|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)|
Note: Mr John Sinclair has produced a French hymnbook of songs suitable for the breaking of bread. Contact me for more information.
"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.
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.
Gospel Folio Press (a division of Uplook Ministries)
P.O. Box 2041
Grand Rapids, MI,
Publishes books, tracts and several magazines, as well as the Choice Gleanings calender of daily readings
421 Nugget Avenue, Unit 2
Canada, M1S 4L8
Phone & Fax: 1-416-291-9411
Specializes in booklets written in a simplified style of English. Extensive distribution of missionary literature.
P.O. Box 277,
Possibly the largest Brethren publisher, Loizeaux prints the commentaries of H.A. Ironside.
Believers Bookshelf, Inc.
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
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
Prints a number of books by older Brethren authors.
John Ritchie Ltd.
Precious Seed Publications
P.O. Box 8
Neatch, West Glamorgan,
UK, SA11 1QB
Gospel Tract Publications
411 Hillington Road,
UK, G52 4BL
Phone: 041-882 4697
Grace & Truth, Inc.
210 Chestnut St.
Danville, IL 61832 USA
Gospel tracts in 10 languages; booklets and a monthly magazine for believers.
PRESENT TRUTH PUBLISHERS
411 ROUTE 79
MORGANVILLE NJ 07751
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
Limeira, SP, Brazil
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
78 Muir Street
Bibles et Publications Chretiennes
Il Messagio del'Amore de Dio (Italian publications)
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 (India) and Portuguese evangelistic publications
Editions Bibles et Traites Chretiens (French)
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 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.
COME AND SEE
64 Hills Road
Canada, L1S 2W4
Bi-monthly Bible Study Magazine
A Nathanael Publication (Kelly Meetings) available free of charge. Just write for your copy.
PO Box 427
St. Catharines, ON
Canada L2R 6V9
In the USA
c/o Uplook Ministries
PO Box 2041
Grand Rapids, MI
In the UK
c/o W. A. McCulloch
"Bethany", 113 Bech Hill
Founder; Robert McClurkin
Editor; J. Boyd Nicholson
70 Crestdale Ave.
St. Catharines, ON
Canada L2T 3B5
Green Pastures (Monthly Newsletter)
102 Fairfield Beach Rd
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.
Present Truth Publishers
411 Route 79
Morganville, New Jersey
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 www.uplook.org Canada: UPLOOK Uplook Ministries P.O. Box 427 St.
Catherines, Ontario Canada, L2R 6V9
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 TIDINGDS
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
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.
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
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 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
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 Wuppertal
P.O. Box 22 20
42766 Hann (Gruiten)
Price: Germany DM 48,-
"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
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 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 (http://www.fbc-sl.org) for more information.
Emmaus Bible College
2570 Asbury Road,
Dubuque IA 52001
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
This no longer exists.
New Zealand Emmaus
Emmaus Bible School
PO Box 234
Epping NSW 2121
Missionshaus Bibelschule Wiedenest (MBW)
Olper Strasse 10
http://www.wiedenest.de http://www.wiedenest.de (former Director was Erich Sauer)
Northland Bible College
Northland Bible College is no longer running. http://www.northlandbible.org/nbcnews.html
Christian Missions in Many Lands
P.O. Box 13,
Spring Lake, NJ,
prayer line: 732-449-2333
509 - 3950 14th Avenue
Markham, Ontario L3R 0A9 Canada
Echoes of Service
1 Widcombe Cresc.,
UK, BA2 6AQ
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
|should we hire a pastor or guarantee salaries to workers?|
|should the sisters participate audibly in the meetings? (note that in most "Open" meetings, the sisters do sing audibly)|
|should elders be elected or appointed, and for how long?|
|should we have musical instruments in our meetings?|
|should we have more modern music|
|should we form a recognized denomination?|
|should we use only the KJV, or permit modern translations?|
|should we receive visitors to the breaking of bread openly, or only those who carry letters of introduction?|
|should we have ties/links to denominational churches?|
|priesthood of all believers|
|difference between the Church and Israel|
|lack of a clergy/laity division|
Darbys Synopsis in HTML Format
Some Modern Writings
Emmaus Bible College
Likewise, there is no relationship between the "Plymouth Brethren" and the "Grace Brethren" or any of the Menonite Brethren groups.
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.
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.
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 (email@example.com)"
© 2001 by Shawn G. Abigail