Regulation of the Charitable Sector and the Charities Act 2006

Written evidence submitted by Garth Davey (CH 123)

JOHN WEIGHTMAN

2.3

For some 50 years, denial of public attendance at meetings has been absolute with a handful of exceptions.

There have been an uncountable number of such attendances and we are not aware of any instances where access has been denied within the past 15 years.

Main meeting rooms are surrounded by high security fences and locked gates

If John Weightman took the trouble to go to his nearest meeting rooms in Newcastle he would find a stone wall with gates five foot high that have never been locked. They are never locked either during services or at any other time. Many halls have no high fences and contrary to report many rooms have windows.

Trustees have a fiduciary duty to protect the charity’s assets by sensible security measures. Good security also provides a safe area for persons attending our halls, especially children, whether these are members of the brethren or others. Some meeting halls lock gates where there has been trouble with theft of and from vehicles and also problems of vandalising.

2.4

The notice boards, until about September this year, have indicated no meeting times or welcome

The wording of the notice boards was agreed by the Rating office in March 1983 which shows that our gospel halls are places of public religious worship. We show the time of a preaching on Sundays but as other meeting times can vary we display a contact number for persons to phone to check the times of other services.

2.5

There has been no interaction with non-members for half a century apart from the minimum to survive

This is totally untrue. We meet and work with people every day in the course of our work; we employ thousands of non-Brethren and use non-Brethren suppliers. We also use doctors, dentists, public hospitals and public transport; have non-Brethren tradespeople to work in our houses; employ non-Brethren teachers to educate our children; and live alongside neighbours of any or no faith. This is a nonsensical comment.

2.6

Hatred of the world

Mr Weightman should know that when the Brethren refer to the world they mean the system which has built up against Christ and against Christians as under the control and dominance of Satan. There are almost 80 references to "the world" in John’s gospel, including, for example:

"If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you." (John 15 verses 18-19)

To a casual reader Mr Weightman’s quotation conveys the impression that we are being incited to hatred of persons. This is absolutely untrue. We rightly hate the system which hated our Saviour whilst preaching God’s love towards persons who may be ensnared by it.

2.7

The Exclusive Brethren now maintain that they provide food for the poor…

The reality is that the brethren do give away food to the poor in a number of ways quite apart from the events which he refers to as "Free Pie and Bible Days". His further comments relate to our motives and are best left unanswered.

2.8

Everyone who leaves loses all or almost all contact with family

If someone chooses to leave there will inevitably be a reduction in contact with those who remain. "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" (Amos 3 verse 3)

It will most often include loss of employment

We would appreciate evidence to substantiate this comment. There are a number of cases in which brethren still continue to employ persons who have left the fellowship. To force a person out of employment on religious grounds would be illegal and we would not do it. We are not aware of a single case which is going to an employment tribunal due to wrong dismissal.

Funding for homes is provided by church membership

This is not the case, as most brethren arrange secured bank mortgages with the ‘high street’ banks.

2.10

Misleading Information

The name "Plymouth Brethren" has existed for over 170 years. Of course it is, by definition, a Christian Church and the addition of the words makes this clear for anyone who may not know. There is no attempt whatever to mislead anyone, and we deeply resent the suggestion. Others, mainly the press, especially in the last 50 years, have given us the name "Exclusive Brethren" which we have accepted but the name is liable to be misunderstood because there are a number of definitions of the word "exclusive".

We agree that Mr Paisley appears to have confused two different organisations. Anyone can make a mistake, this one was of little consequence, and we had not misled him in any way.

3.2-5

For many years the Exclusive Brethren banned the use of computers

The Brethren were cautious about the use of computers and while the world was rushing headlong into new fields of technology we held back, mainly to protect ourselves and our young people from damage.

This was more than justified as there are now an estimated 250,000,000 pages of porn on the internet and 66% of parents are concerned about what a child may access on the internet and sexually explicit material is top of the list.

It took some years to develop safe protection systems and once we were satisfied that these were trustworthy computers have been extensively used.

We are not sure why Mr Weightman or indeed any right-minded person, especially a parent, should have an issue with us on this subject.

We are not aware of the cases he refers to (of persons being excommunicated for owning computers) but if they were unfairly handled the Brethren would want to review them.

4

Since university education and obtaining a degree are absolutely banned it is difficult to see how a student’s potential can possibly be achieved

It is not true to say that university education and obtaining a degree are absolutely banned and there are cases to prove the contrary. Higher education is strongly encouraged among the Brethren.

It is true that brethren do not generally attend university, for two main reasons. Going to University involves that you become a member of it; a university is a fellowship in its own right, and this is inconsistent with our fellowship. Secondly, campus life and other prevailing influences are often not conducive to a Christian life.

Most of our young people earn while they learn and are well on the way to owning their own houses and are ready for marriage by the time they reach their mid-twenties compared with many full time University graduates who struggle financially.

5

Due to massive wealth they have been able to pursue legal cases

The inference is that the Brethren are using money to suppress the truth. What they have been forced to do is to take steps to counter public statements which are untrue, malicious, and libellous. We would much prefer to be using hard earned money for proper charitable causes but we have a duty to counter false allegations.

It is surprising that the Brethren apparently have massive wealth when it is claimed they have no higher education etc. Isn’t this contradictory? ; lacking education but have massive wealth?

6.2

This interpretation (of 2 Timothy 2 verse 19) is eccentric and unique

The Brethren rely on J N Darby’s translation of the Bible. Mr Darby was a leader among the Brethren and his knowledge is universally acknowledged, along with G V Wigram and others, as an outstanding Greek scholar. The principles of separation from evil which Mr Darby stood for are fundamental to the whole Divine testimony. They do not rely only on 2 Timothy 2 – see John 17 and 2 Corinthians 6 and many other Scriptures.

8

What happened at the death of his parents probably would have reflected their feelings but this is a family matter and was not influenced by the church.

December 2012

Prepared 11th January 2013