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Christian Brethren

Brethren; Plymouth Brethren; Darbyites

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This entry provides a brief look at Christian Brethren. For indepth information we refer you to our collection of research resources.

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Christian Brethren

A conservative, fundamentalist Christian movement.

The Plymouth Brethren is a widely used, but unofficial, designation for a loose grouping of churches with early nineteenth-centry roots in the British Isles. Within these churches, the common terminology is simply "Brethren" or "Christian Brethren," but they are to be distinguished from Brethren churches associated with the Pietist movement [...].

Similar to the Restorationist bodies in the U.S., the early Brethren envisioned a basis for Christian unity by forsaking denominational structures and names in order to meet simply as Christians.

The autonomy of the local congregation is another feature of the movement, coupled with the doctrinal understanding that a church is not a building, but the gathering of people who meet there.

The weekly hour-long "remembrance meeting" is probably the surest way to identify a Brethren assembly. The centrality of the Communion service is characteristic: In according with the meaning of "priesthood of all believer," the service is unstructured. Brethren have consistenly refused to restrict the administration of baptism of the Lord's Supper to ordained ministers, thus effectively eliminating a clergy/laity distinction and the traditional concept of ordination. Anyone, many or woman, in the assembly is free to speak. A preacher may serve full-time with a congregation, but will not be identified as clergy or given control over the congregation.

The Brethren are committed to all the fundamentals of conservatice Christianity, including the verbal inspiration of Scripture. They emphasize gospelc preaching and the necessity for personal conversion. Except for the weekly breaking of bread and the absence of collections at other meetings, their services are much like those of evangelical Baptist or free and Bible churches.

Among American evangelicals, Brethren have had an influence out of proportion to their number. Their pre-millenial theology helped to shape evangelicalism, especially in the proliferation of independent churches and mission boards. Many have responded to the Brethren emphasis on plurality of leadership and participatory worship in the local church.

As a result of a division in England in 1848, there are two basic types of assemblies, commonly known as exclusive and open. Led in the beginning by John Nelson Darby (1800-82), the exclusive assemblies produced most of the movement's well-known Bible teachers, such as William Kelly and others. They operated on the premise that disciplinary action taken by one assembly was binding on all. As a result, once started, a division continued, until by the end of the century the exclusive Brethren were divided into seven or eight main groups. Recent mergers have reduced that number somewhat, and an important American group has merged with the open assemblies.

Open assemblies were led by George Muller (1805-95), well known for his ophanages and life of faith.
Source: Handbook of Denominations in the United StatesOff-site Link Frank S. Mead and Samuel S. Hill, Abingdon Press, Nashville, 11th edition (May 1, 2001) Pages 157-158
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• Articles
Christian Back to the New TestamentOff-site Link Article from Christian History. Introduction only. Paid membership is required to read the entire article.
Christian A History of the Plymouth BrethrenOff-site LinkPDF file By William Blair Neatby, first published 1901.
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• Blogs
Christian The Bible ArchiveOff-site Link "A 'Plymouth Brethren' Blog: Because the Bereans can't have all the fun
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• Books
Christian John Nelson Darby - A BiographyOff-site Link by Max S. Weremchuk
Christian Roots, Renewal, and The BrethrenOff-site Link by Nathan Delynn Smith
Christian Spiritual Secrets of George MullerOff-site Link Writings of George Muller, edited by Roger Steer
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• See Also
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• Sites
Christian InTheBeloved.orgOff-site Link Collection of early and contemporary writings by the Brethren.
Christian Peebs.netOff-site Link This site deals with the Exclusive Brethren - from a critical perspective. Its aim is to "host a cyber-community where those who have escaped (or are about to escape) the EB can come to find Help, Friends and a Safe Place."
Christian Plymouth BrethrenOff-site Link Large collection of writings by the Brethren
Christian The Voice of the BridegroomOff-site Link Archive of articles and online books written by the Brethren.
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About This Page:

• Subject: Christian Brethren
• First posted: Jan. 13, 1997
• Last Updated: Sep. 23, 2004
• Editor: Anton and Janet Hein-Hudson
• Copyright: Apologetics Index

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