Aug 23, 2016

Exclusive Brethren follow the church, not God

August 23, 2016

"When the Exclusive Brethren community becomes hostile it is a nightmare of isolation and rejection. It is condemnation that is very real."KEVIN STENT/FAIRFAX NZ

Our family was fourth generation Exclusive Brethren, but we broke the cycle and left in the 1970s.

At the time the church was having a cleanout as they had confused the Christian ethic of following Christ in a relationship free of law, with following church and being bound to church laws.

The inevitable breaches were dealt with by removing people from church life. This was difficult because cultural life outside the church did not exist for members and the church had no issue with separating families in the process.

Despite the biblical command to never separate husband and wife, the church again confused themselves by applying spiritual instructions on physical life, a common mistake most churches fall for by reapplying laws Jesus freed us from.

The benefit of being an Exclusive Brethren was the support and security gained from church community. The set rules and guidelines made people feel safe and guilt-free and the result is a security everyone longs for.

On the other hand, if the community becomes hostile it is a nightmare of isolation and rejection and our belief system was in crisis when we were rejected by that church as it was condemnation that was very real.

My mother, and inevitably my two sisters, developed a fierce hatred of male authority. Most of the pain came from male authority in the church as again the church was confused, this time with the difference between submission and force. The Bible supports men having responsibility only for what women willingly give them responsibility for, nothing more. The idea that men should force their authority on women does not exist in the Bible.

The international leader of the Exclusive Brethren church, Australian Bruce Hales, and his family in the 1990s.

My mother Ngaire Thomas wrote a book about our family's experience in the Exclusive Brethren community and the process of writing it freed her from her fears and was a healing process for her.

Church members believed they had the responsibility to remove anyone who sinned, despite the Bible stating everyone would have to be removed if the law was applied and that grace and forgiveness was the new way.

Because the belief had shifted from following God to following the church, they didn’t know what else to do to control standards. The church began to protect itself and instead of it being the people, it became an organisation that accepted or rejected people.

It's hard to blame the church since its leaders sincerely believed they were following the Bible, but the reality was they were following only the writings of Paul, so they became an organisation with a code of laws based on Paul's writings (Paul wrote that Christians were not to follow him) instead of being a group of individuals with personal relationships with God, free of laws. Jesus became a figurehead without power.

One of the great benefits of being Exclusive Brethren was that they enabled the gender needs to be freely given. It was no secret women desired safety and security and men desired honour and respect. Unlike modern society, which completely denies these needs even exist so that neither gender receives their greatest need from the other.

The strength and value of family is also demonstrated, unlike modern society, which scorns and attacks family values to their detriment. Men protected and provided security for their families and were honoured and respected for it by the women - a mutual benefit.

My sisters never married. My father always pined to return to the brethren as it was where his heart belonged, but he stayed with his family believing that was the greater call, which is something I admire and respect him for.

I don’t see any church as being different to the Exclusive Brethren as they all fall for the same deceptions, but despite all that I think modern secular society without its moral compass is much worse.

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