When was the sect founded?
The collective movement began in Dublin in 1827 by John Nelson Darby, from Count Wicklow, Ireland. He was within a group of men; Anthony Norris Groves, John Bellett, Edward Cronin and Francis Hutchinson, who believed that the Church wasn’t practising the basic truths of Christianity. They left the Established Church in order to carry out in their original purity, what they thought, the Holy Scriptures asked of them.
The sect is sometimes referred to as The Plymouth Brethren because the first Brethren assembly was recognized in 1831 in Plymouth, England.
The Plymouth Brethren split into two separate brethren’s in 1848 when George Muller disagreed with John Nelson Darby's view of the relationship between local assemblies. This disagreement was brought about when a member, who had been dismissed from one fellowship, was allowed to take communion in another. The two decided they had different views. The Brethren that held George Muller's view of independency and became known as the “Open Brethren” and those holding John Nelson Darby’s view that this was unacceptable and there should be many restrictions in their community became known as the "Exclusive" Brethren.
“Open” simply means that they have independent views, do not expect special treatment from God and are, in fact, open to other religions, where as being a part of the “exclusive” sect supposedly means you have a more enlightened view of the truth and leaders receive divine revelation.
When did the sect come to New Zealand?
James Deck, a member of the Exclusive Brethren in England, brought his wife and eight children to Cornwall, Wellington in 1853. They purchased land in the Waiwhero district, eight miles from Motueka where he became recognised as a preacher and an activist of Christianity when he debated against those who worshipped different religions. A cluster of Brethren assemblies developed between Nelson and Motueka shortly after his migration. The whole idea of the new sects was to return the current churches to how the early churches were in the New Testament.
What are the leadership structures?
The Exclusive Brethren is not a democratic movement; they have no formal leadership structure. There are no appointed positions, apart from the ultimate leader who is considered to be closer to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He is recognised as the ‘Man of God’, who at present is Bruce David Hales. In some ways Bruce is considered a dictator as he has the power to order and change the Church’s rules. If a decision is to be made, authority is similar to that of a family i.e. the seniors agree on what is to happen and this is taken to the leader only if the situation is needed to be looked at with moral power. For example, if there is a member who is to be dismissed, Hales will do everything in his power to avoid losing someone to the evil of the outside world. Unlike the Open Brethren, this sect is not largely independent and they look to their servant of the lord, Bruce Hales, so that the life they have chosen to live brings stability, consistency and direction. Outside the Brethren, people see the sect’s ultimate leader as a dictator but those inside the Brethren are extremely satisfied with the way that their leadership structure works. One member stated, “His gift is undeniable: his grasp of the truth, his grasp of mankind, his deportment is one of a magnanimous, benevolent spirit”
How are members initiated into the sect?
Initiation or entrance into the church is usually by birth; you need to be born to a member of the Exclusive Brethren to join the church. This means that, generally, members have no choice about joining and are brought up thinking the outside world is evil without having their own personal opinions. One pre-teen member said, “I don’t really want to know about the world, probably because I’ve never been part of it.” Apart from the early preaching’s of James Deck,...