What is the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church?

All week and in an upcoming documentary, CityNews is looking at a exclusive Christian Sect. The Plymouth Brethren Christian Church. So what is this religion and where did it start? Pat Taney reports.

By Pat Taney

In a series of reports and an in upcoming documentary, CityNews is taking a look at a very exclusive Christian sect. It’s one you may not have heard about but it certainly has a presence here in Canada. Former members are now speaking out about their experience in The Plymouth Brethren Christian Church.

In Toronto’s west end, sits a large unassuming brick building, not far from Pearson Airport that may not look like much from the outside.

“There are no windows. So you cannot peek through the windows,” said Dennis Wragge, a former member. A fence also blocks public access.

“They don’t look like a place of worship at all,” said ex-member Jill Mytton.

But this is one of a few meeting halls for members of the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church, an exclusive Christian sect.

“I left the church in 1960, my parents at that point were quite unhappy with some of the doctrines,” Mytton said.

The church began in Dublin, Ireland back in the early nineteenth century. It’s small compared to other religions — with just more than 50,000 members worldwide.

“When it started, they were just a group of Christians who didn’t wish to be involved in the established churches of the time anymore,” Mytton said. “Gradually, over time, the regulations and the way it’s been organized have become much more exclusive, and more driven by rules and regulations rather than by the bible.”

This is a claim the church strongly denies. A spokesperson told CityNews they only follow the teachings in the bible.

“The Plymouth Brethren Christian Church follows the teachings of the Holy Bible,” a church spokesperson said in a statement. “Our members have contentedly lived and worked in communities around the world for nearly 200 years and we fully embrace Christian values.”

But ex-members say those teachings are interpreted by the leader—referred to by members as the “Man of God”, much like the Pope in Catholicism.

“God appoints him. You know, that’s kind of the line that is given,” Wragge said.

Unlike other Christian churches, ex-members say the Plymouth Brethren aren’t openly recruiting outsiders to join.

“With the Brethren, I would say 99.9% are born into it.” Which, according to the Plymouth Brethren, isn’t all that uncommon.

“Most of our members are born into our Church, which is true of most faiths worldwide,” a church spokesperson said.

Mytton said being a member takes a big commitment. Meetings are held seven days a week and all members must also follow strict teachings.

“We take our commitment to faith seriously. It is a lifelong commitment and central to every part of our life and relationships,” said a church spokesperson. “This necessarily means we are a close community and, just like other faiths, we also have some unique ways of life.”

However, ex-members call it a cult that controls its members, another claim the church strongly denies.

“That is not true and is offensive,” a church spokesperson told us. “It is disappointing and can be quite difficult to hear when we are referred to like this – we have families we care for, schools to go to and businesses to run just like everyone else.”

Those who have chosen to leave this faith have a much different take. In an upcoming documentary, “Veracity: Breaking Brethren,” Citytv shares their stories.

They tell a darker tale of life post-Brethren and the families they say they were forced to leave behind. Families, who they say, have abandoned them based on pressures from the church.

“It’s pretty much as if they’re dead,” said ex-member Mike Heggie. “It’s like we have to go through a grieving process the same way as you would if somebody has died.”

The Brethren deny any claims that they force families to separate.

“Every effort is expended to prevent this from occurring or to try and bring in reconciliation if it does,” the church’s website claims.

“Where people choose to leave the Church, it is a sad event. Just as the breakdown of any family is upsetting for those involved. When people leave the church, it’s up to individuals to decide how and when they communicate with their families and circumstances will always be different for each individual family,” a church spokesperson said.

Response from Plymouth Bret… by CityNewsToronto

But some ex-members say they’re all forced to navigate a world, far different from the one they knew.

“One of the challenges is that our whole life was planned out for us. And now I’m struggling with making decisions for myself. What do I do next?” Ex-member Caroline Cherry asks.

The film follows their journey after leaving a world they no longer wanted to be a part of. A decision, they say, was far from easy. “Oh, it’s shattering.” Wragge said. “I have heard of cases of people committing suicide after they left.”

You can watch the documentary, “Veracity: Breaking Brethren” here

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today