The Brethern religion is actually two sects known as the Exclusive Brethern and the Open Brethern who have been separated from each other since 1848. Both are a subset of the Christian evangelical movement described as the Plymouth Brethern.
In total there are approximately 1 million adherents world wide.
Due to the strict control these sects hold over there adherents there are many that consider them as cults rather than religions.
The Exclusive Brethern religion is associated with William Kelly and include a number of historical groups that are closely associated with the early Brethern.
The Raven/Taylor Brethern religion is mostly found in the English world and are a smaller group. A subset known as the Taylor/Symington/Hales group hold an uncompromising separatist doctrine and has evolved away from the Exclusive Brethern and from mainstream Christianity.
The Exclusive Brethern and all related groups hold the bible as their sole authority on matters of doctrine and practice as propagated by John Nelson Darby.
Supposedly there is no formal leadership structure and all men may speak at services.
As noted in Wikipedia, critics of the church have accused it of using “cult” techniques by controlling all aspects of its member’s lives and its influence is such that several websites have been set up to help people that have left the church to adjust back into mainstream society.
Among the various criticisms labeled against the church are:
Accusations by former teachers in Brethern run schools that it brainwashes children in order to control everything that children do in life.
A former teacher was quoted as saying “The children are told what jobs they will do and who they will marry. They were not equipped to live in the outside world”.
That the church has engaged in a ruthless campaign of silencing critics and has vigorously used private detectives, lawyers and the threat of lawsuits in order to silence those who oppose it. A notable case is the churches efforts and subsequent lawsuit in the USA aimed at closing down anti church websites.
Members who leave or are expelled from the group have, in the past, often been treatd with what outsiders may regard as great cruelty.
Leavers are avoided by members of the group because they are seen as having chosen the world and the devil against God and because they could bring members into contact with the sinful world.
The Brethern have been accused of using their considerable wealth and power to punish members who have decided to leave the church and to have allegedly actively used their influence to split families up in order to protect their own interests.
Until recently (early 2002) Brethern who left the church were completely ostracized. Members would not speak, eat or live with those who had left and this caused families to break up.
Since many Brethern work in Brethern owned companies they have to give up their jobs as well as their family and their home if they leave the faith.
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