Exclusive Brethren – What does exclusive mean?

The Exclusive Brethren churches have a rigid code of behavior and rules – governing anything from contact with outsiders to the length of ones hair or the approved colors of the scarves worn by female members.

The doctrine of ‘separation from iniquity’ or separation from sin, makes the Exclusive Brethren unique. It has two parts:

  • members must avoid anything sinful
  • members must keep away from any person or group that does not follow Exclusive Brethren teaching – including other Christians

Members of the Exclusive Brethren do not make friends, or even eat with people outside their church. Non-members are called ‘worldlies’.

Families do not have televisions, radios or computers, or go to the cinema or theatre. Members marry other members. Divorce is rare. Children are often educated within the Brethren community, although many Brethren children do attend mainstream schools.

Exclusive Brethren meeting halls exclude the world to the extent of having no windows.

Members who do something against the Exclusive code are required to confess their sin during church meetings and demonstrate their repentance. If they don’t they are withdrawn from i.e. no member of the group will speak, work or eat with them.

Members of the Exclusive Brethren are very limited in their contact with outsiders.

Many Exclusive Brethren work in Brethren owned companies in order to reduce contact with outsiders. If they leave, or are expelled from the Brethren, they have to give up their jobs as well as their family and their home.
– Source: The Exclusive Brethren, BBC

Note that in 2003 the rules on contact with outsiders were slightly relaxed.

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This post was last updated: Apr. 5, 2009