Updated comment on The Exclusive Brethren web site in November 2007:-
Concerning frequently asked questions
I live in England and therefore I don’t assume to be able to pronounce on factual matters that relate particularly to Australia. Further, I don’t propose to comment on statements that are not erroneous. However, I do propose to take up matters that call for comment.
What does the term “Minister of the Lord in The Recovery” mean ?
One notes that the term “Minister of the Lord in the Recovery” was suggested by a lawyer outside the fellowship and not by Scripture; the object being to retain control of meeting rooms in the hands of those who follow a successional leader. It is clear that Exclusives have lost the Head in heaven and have set up a leader on earth. It was for this kind of thing that Mr Darby left the Ebrington street meeting at Plymouth. It was no question of simply a personal quarrel between Mr Darby and Mr Newton as some would have it, or a question of who was to be the leader. Mr Darby withdrew “on the ground that God was practically displaced and man set up in His stead....” (Letter by Mr. W. Trotter, dated July 15th, 1849). See also the Narrative of Facts (J. N. Darby Collected Writings Vol. 20 page 40).
Mr Taylor Snr held that there was no overall leader amongst Brethren but that they were like the locusts that have no king, yet they go forth all of them by bands (Proverbs 30:27). See JT Snr New Series Vol. 2 page 457.
As to retaining meeting rooms one would point to what Mr. Taylor Snr said in the case of a person who said he would still break bread when ‘withdrawn from’ “Leave him; even leave the room to him.” (New Series Vol. 9 page 505).
Are the Brethren a Cult ?
As to Brethren being a cult one would suggest that my article Religions (1) on my website: www.Gsimmonds.com be read. This discusses Religions, Cults and Sects. Further, I wrote in January 1972 that Brethren were not a new religious cult because (1) Brethren did recognise what had been of God in the established Churches in days gone by. The Reformation was recognised by them as being of God so far as it went. Evangelical truth was held and preached by them. As Mr Darby said: “The great orthodox truths I do not touch upon, as I receive them as all true Christians do” (Letters Vol. 2 p. 362). What Brethren did was to take a further step, and practically recognise the truth as to the Assembly. (2) Brethren did not assume to reconstitute the Assembly; they only sought to walk in the light of it so far as they had power to do so. The ruin of the Church publicly was recognised and mourned over. Brethren met together in a simple way, seeking to maintain the unity of the Body amidst the confusion of Christendom. All consistent Christians were permitted to take the Lord’s Supper with them - they were admitted as members of the Body of Christ; not as members of Brethren. Consequently Brethren did not seek to put themselves outside the sphere of Christian profession, and practically recognised that sphere inasmuch as any person bona fide baptised (or Christened) in a Church was not rebaptised by them. As Mr Darby says: “No one will begin the church over again. I should not rebaptise a person sprinkled in infancy; though I do not like the form, because the intended signification in the form is lost” (Letters Vol. 2 p. 446). I would suggest that Exclusives consider what is said above and whether these are still the principles on which they walk. One would mention here that the use of the expression ‘withdrawn from’ rather than ‘put out’ arose because it was considered that we could not properly put out from the assembly, as we were not it. We could only separate ourselves from persons.
Why aren’t students allowed to go to University, yet you are free to use university trained people ?
As to universities, many Christians have reservations about such establishments. However in some cases it could be right for young people to go to such places. It is a question of wisdom. It was pointed out in my day that Moses as a babe was placed amongst the bulrushes and not out in midstream. One would not encourage young men to stay in accommodation that was occupied by prostitutes: it would be putting themselves in a place of temptation. However, making a rule is wrong. Mr Taylor Snr made it clear that he was averse to setting up a rule “what brethren hold” calculated to govern the saints in a given connection as it would be sure to be narrower than the truth, and would tend to sectarianism and bondage (Letters Vol.1 page 119). Further, I have to hand a book mainly about converted Muslims. One said: “As I read the Quran, I felt nothing touched me personally - it was just a book of rules. It showed me a way. He (Christ) shows me the way.” Something to think about. Are we just going to deal with the outward man ? If we are we are no better than the Pharisees.
How could computers and cell phones have been evil when you now use them ?
Speaking of changes in the rules as to what is allowed and not allowed in the way of modern equipment one would point out that the Lord does not change his mind when he has given directions. What was wrong, and a test of fellowship say twenty years ago, cannot be right now. The prophet who did not follow the Lord’s original directions in 1 Kings 13 came to a sad end.
Is the ministry of any of the churches leaders equal to scripture ?
The published works of the leaders may be valuable in some cases. The works of C. H. Mackintosh are published by others than Exclusives (one would cite John Ritchie: see his latest catalogue page 2) but they are not properly speaking authoritative; only the Scriptures are that. The need to claim that other works are authoritative arises when things are put out and enforced without solid Biblical support. How do you know that your leaders would not mislead you ? Mr Raven said: “People get to depend upon their minister for doctrine. That has been proved abundantly to be a rickety foundation with ministering brethren of any kind. You may depend upon the power that is within you.” (New Series Vol. 5 page 169) Again what does Mr Darby write on this subject ? “For authority we must turn to the Word of God itself” (C.W. Vol. 32 page 387). It should be noted that this is in Mr Darby’s piece “The faith once delivered to the saints” - a piece of fundamental importance. May I suggest it is put on the Exclusives web site !
Is there an overall leadership structure, spoken or not ?
Looking to one person’s leadership for the whole of their natural life is dangerous. They may become demented due to age or infirmity. There is no doubt that Mr Taylor Snr was too weak to minister towards the end of his life. I can give evidence if wanted. Mr Taylor Jnr was manifestly unfit to minister during his later years. It would be defying the facts to maintain otherwise. It may be noted that the Pope in Rome keeps that office for the whole of his natural life.
If someone is gifted funds regularly and it becomes their main income, isn’t this taxable income ?
As to the taxability of gifts to ministering brethren one would mention that it was said many years ago that Mr. A. J. Gardiner returned his for tax purposes. This is perhaps not surprising as his secular employment was said to be that of a tax assessor.
Do the Brethren break up families ?
Just because a person leaves the fellowship he is not necessarily a wicked person. The list of persons in the Scriptures who are not fit for Christian fellowship does not mention persons who cease to walk with any company of Christians (1 Corinthians 5:11; Revelation 22:15) . We are not to condemn persons because they do “not follow us” (Mark 9:38).
What about payment for people who have lost families, inheritance, business etc ?
When I left the fellowship in 1965 my Mother disinherited me and when my Brother left the fellowship at the time of the debacle at Aberdeen he was also disinherited. At the time my Mother was on her deathbed and her signature showed this. Not that there was much money involved and I would give the relatives credit for passing to me some photos and other artifacts. I would suggest that Luke 15 be studied. Neither Son was disinherited. The youngest Son wasted his share and because of this he became known as the prodigal Son. All that was left was what belonged to the elder Son (verse 31). May I ask the question: “Is it still the practice to disinherit those who leave the fellowship, and if so, why ?” There is nothing in the Bible about disinheriting persons who are under assembly discipline.
Is anyone welcome at your services and if so why are the doors closed ?
After the crucifixion of the Lord the disciples shut the doors of the Upper Room for fear of the Jews, that is, they were afraid of persecution. This is sometimes found necessary in Muslim dominated countries today. There persons who leave the Muslim faith are persecuted. Their families may not only throw them out, but may well subject them to violent beatings. If the convert is a girl she may be forced to marry a Muslim man. The situation in professedly Christian countries does not justify locking doors when a meeting is in progress. Of course it is not unreasonable to close a door to keep out noise and draughts.
Why are there no windows ?
The reply to this question appears to be just waffle. It is very damaging to the
testimony to have these secretive rooms and leads to speculation as to what really goes on inside.
Why do you not recruit ?
There is only one right lifestyle for a Christian. There is no idea in the New Testament that there is more than one. Neither Christ nor his apostles spoke of two classes of Christians on the earth today. That is an idea propagated by the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
What is involved in the doctrine of separation ?
If you go to the Crawley Gospel Hall web site (www.crawleygospelhall.org.uk) you will find an address by a Mr Maunder.* In that you will find teaching as to what we are to feed on, so it is not only Exclusives that see dangers in novels, newspapers, magazines, radio and TV. The difference is that Exclusives lay down rules whereas others point out dangers. It is not right to make every failing a test of fellowship. If persons spend a lot of time watching violent films they may end up being violent themselves and be sent to prison, as well as be the subjects of justifiable assembly discipline.
In writing the above one has sought as far as possible to avoid repeating criticisms already made in earlier commentaries.
*Note: not now shown on the site but avaiable to those seriously interested.