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Brethren, Plymouth

(Christian Brethren). Also popularly called Darbyites;members insist on such names as “Believers,” “Christians,” “Brethren,” and “Saints.” Originated in Eng. and Ireland during the 2d and 3d decades of the 19th c. Dissatisfied with the schismatic conditions of Christendom and particularly the mingling of ch. and state in the Ch. of Eng., John Nelson Darby (1800–82) and others held that subscription to creeds, adoption of denominational names, and setting up ecclesiastical organizations were inherently sinful. Darby believed that instead of joining organized denominations Christians must follow the pattern of the NT ch. gather in local “brother-hoods” to give expression to their “spiritual communion” by the breaking of bread and prayer, await the direction of the Holy Spirit, and listen to anyone who feels called to preach. Rejecting every form of regular ministry, creeds, rituals, and ecclesiastical organization, they organized “meetings,” the largest at Plymouth. Darby was joined by men of outstanding ability, chiefly G. F. Müller,* father of Eng. orphanages, and S. P. Tregelles* (1813–75), exegete. The theol. position of the Brethren is fundamentalistic-literalistic with strong Calvinistic tendencies. Its distinctive doctrine is the belief that the visible Christian ch. must be one. They ascribe. to the visible ch. all the marks which the NT predicates of the holy Christian ch. and say that membership in a denomination is a denial of the “one body.” in line with this false conception of the ch. the Brethren hold two major errors: 1. Since only true believers can belong to a “meeting,” the Holy Spirit directly governs the assembly when it accepts a member; 2. a person once incorporated into the “visible body of Christ” can never be lost. The Brethren have no regular ministry, frequently not even ch. bldgs. The services are primarily for the purposes of praise and the “breaking of bread” as an act of obedience, testimony, fellowship, and hope. Darby and his co-workers were the forerunners of modern premillennialism. The Brethren came to Am. about the middle of the 19th c. and are now represented by ca. 665 chs. Instead of presenting a trotted Christian ch., they have added to the schisms. The differences are largely concerning matters of discipline. Some “meetings” are known as “Open Brethren”; others are “Exclusive Brethren” because they exclude from fellowship those with whom they disagree in doctrine or in practice and sometimes even all the members of a “meeting” which has not repudiated an allegedly heterdox “meeting.” FEM

A. C. Piepkorn, “Plymouth Brethren (Christian Brethren).” CTM XLI (1970), 165–171; see also Religious Bodies (US), Bibliography of.

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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