Plymouth Brethren

History and Spread of the Plymouth Brethren
– The Brethren movement began in Dublin, Ireland in 1825, with central figures including Anthony Norris Groves, Edward Cronin, John Nelson Darby, and John Gifford Bellett.
– The movement emphasized the Bible as their sole guide and held annual meetings on prophecy at Powerscourt House in County Wicklow.
– The movement spread quickly throughout the United Kingdom, with the assembly in Plymouth having over 1,000 people in fellowship by 1845.
– They became known as the Plymouth Brethren or Darbyites, and some members preferred to be called simply Christians.

Distinction between Open and Exclusive Brethren
– Open Brethren assemblies function as networks of independent local churches and may collaborate with non-Brethren Evangelical Christian churches.
– Exclusive Brethren adhere to Darby’s doctrine and have a more conservative approach, with a propensity for a dress code and emphasis on the spontaneity of worship.
– Open assemblies are known as Chapels, while closed assemblies are known as Gospel Halls.
– Closed Brethren are a conservative subset of Open Brethren, and Gospel Halls believe only recognized members should break bread.

Worship Practices and Beliefs
– Gospel Halls generally do not use musical instruments, while Chapels often use musical instruments and have singing groups.
– Women in Gospel Halls often wear head coverings, and modesty in dress is a guideline in Chapels.
– Both Open and Exclusive Brethren emphasize the authority of the Bible, reject the concept of a formal clergy, and practice open communion.
– They place a strong emphasis on personal piety, the pursuit of holiness, and engage in evangelistic activities and missionary work.

Leadership and Structure
– Brethren reject the concept of clergy, with all Christians being ordained by God to serve.
– Elders lead Brethren assemblies, and Open Brethren believe in a plurality of elders recognized by the assembly.
– The Plymouth Brethren Christian Church operates under the headship of an Elect Vessel, currently Bruce Hales of Australia.
– There is no central headquarters for Brethren churches, and communication is maintained through seminaries, missions agencies, and publications.

Influence and Impact
– The Plymouth Brethren played a significant role in the development of Dispensationalism and the pre-tribulation rapture doctrine.
– They influenced other Christian movements, including the Exclusive Brethren and the Open Brethren.
– The Brethren have been active in foreign missionary work, particularly in Central Africa, India, and Latin America.
– They have also engaged in various social and humanitarian activities, such as education and healthcare.
– The Plymouth Brethren continue to have a presence and influence in many parts of the world.Sources: