How narrow can you get?

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Extreme Christian fringe groups are generally very narrow-minded in their approach to people, and how to live life. Most place severe restrictions on what members may, and may not, do.

One of these very narrow-minded extreme Christian fringe groups is the ‘Exclusive Brethren’.

This group is so fearful that their followers will be seduced by the technology of Satan that they have banned radio, television, computers, word processors, fax machines, and many other modern means of communication and information sharing. Going to the movies is definitely out. Newspapers have been banned because they contain cartoons. Novels, and ‘light reading’ are unacceptable.

Perhaps the Exclusive Brethren’s real fear is that their members may learn too much, and begin to think for themselves.

In Britain late last year the Exclusive Brethren launched a strange campaign against the governments Education Reform Act. This Act lays down a national curriculum for schools. This curriculum would encourage the use of modern technology in classrooms.

Exclusive Brethren members in Britain were mobilized by their leaders into writing some 1400 letters of protest about the Act and also attacking education at local levels.

In one letter the reason for the attack on education technology was spelt out: ‘We have come to the deep conviction that the tremendous build-up in computers and communications will give the man of sin, engergised by the full power of Satan, totalitarian control over the whole Western world.’

One of the reasons for this attitude to electronic media is the Exclusive Brethren’s peculiar understanding of Ephesians 2:2 which refers to ‘the prince of the power of the air’. They would see Satan as being in-charge of the airwaves, and therefore all that is conveyed through electronic media.

Teachers in Britain, Australia, and elsewhere, are very concerned about the effect of Exclusive Brethren teachings and attitudes on the children in schools.

Because of the major Exclusive Brethren doctrine of separation, Exclusive Brethren children are not allowed to eat and associate with non-Exclusive Brethren children and must isolate themselves. Extra-curricular school activities are banned, as are sports and all forms of recreation and fun. Exclusive Brethren children are being encouraged to boycott other classroom events and activities including such diverse activities as studies on Egypt, harvest festivals, pop music and more. These problems are causing division and resentment.

The ban on ‘worldly activities’ includes going to College or University; entering a career or profession (as distinct from running one’s own business); no voting; no involvement in the police force, army or politics; no eating or worship with non-members; no smoking; no contraception; no slacks or jeans for women and no shorts for men; no haircuts or make-up for women; no Saturday work (this is to be a day of preparation for Sunday).

The rigid restrictions are given by the top leadership of the Exclusive Brethren movement.

This movement grew out of the teachings of Englishman JN Darby, and went its own extreme way when the Plymouth Brethren broke up into several factions in the late 1840’s.

After Darby came FE Raven, J Taylor, ‘Big Jim’ Taylor jnr, JH Symington, and currently Australian, John Hales, from Sydney.

The Exclusive Brethren leaders are generally referred to as the ‘Elect Vessel’, but other terms have also been used of them, including: High Priest, King, ‘Paul jnr”, ‘Paul III’(both references to being successors of the Apostle Paul), Chief, Universal Leader, The One Man.

Whatever these ‘Elect Vessels’ declare is to be accepted and submitted to without question. This means to be ‘subject’ to the Brethren. Anyone who questions, disagrees, disobeys etc is out of line and therefore ‘insubject’ or ‘contentious’.

At first (ideally – not always in actual practice) such a person is spoken to.

If there is no immediate repentance and submission that person is then ‘shut up’/’shut off’ or ‘confined’. This involves being isolated with no contact with other members, including family. During this time he or she is supposed to receive regular visits from the ‘priests’ (local leaders) until there is repentance, change and restoration.

Should this not eventuate the person is ‘withdrawn from’ – which means total excommunication.

Being ‘shut-off’ can last for years and is worse than excommunication because the person believes he or she still ‘belongs’, but is a failure who is not good enough and will therefore probably lose salvation.

Recently Australian Exclusive Brethren families and members have been ‘shut off’ for such ‘terrible’ sins as: having a small boat; going fishing; going on a picnic; and two families were ‘shut off’ because a 20 year-old young man in one family kissed an 18 year-old young woman from the other family.

One of the most controversial ‘Elect Vessels’ was American ‘Big Jim’ Taylor jnr.

In the mid-1960’s he added a few more bans, as well as bringing in some formerly unacceptable things.


One change related to alcoholic beverages, which had been totally banned until about 1965 when it was introduced because Taylor had become a heavy drinker. The main drink is whisky – other alcoholic beverages are not supposed to be taken because they caused problems for your people.

Taylor banned pets (which led to a lot of pets being killed by Exclusive Brethren families); the keeping of indoor plants or flowers; hats for men; beards and moustaches (even though he had worn one himself for years); the mention of Santa Claus or giving of Christmas presents.

It is also reported that Taylor banned the traditional bun for women and told them to wear their hair long and loose. He also told them to wear long loose dresses with no underwear, including bras.

In addition Taylor issued instructions that single women in the group, if receiving a marriage proposal from an Exclusive Brethren man, should accept that proposal. There was to be no question of refusal, because it was not becoming for women to be fickle.

He seems to have taken this peculiar idea to an extreme for his own personal satisfaction.

According to letters from formerly faithful Exclusive Brethren in Aberdeen, Scotland, and according to an audio tape, plus the printed ‘in-house’ booklet, ‘IF WE WALK IN THE LIGHT’, James Taylor, jnr grossly stained his copybook in late July 1970, while in Aberdeen, Scotland. This information has been denied by Exclusive Brethren leaders and kept hidden from rank and file members.

According to the evidence of reliable, and formerly deeply committed Exclusive Brethren, Jim Taylor, was drunk, disorderly, foul-mouthed and abusive at a religious meeting with members in the afternoon of Saturday 25th July, 1970. That evidence is confirmed by the unedited audio-tapes of that meeting.

But worse was what happened from the time of Taylor’s arrival on the 23rd July, 1970.

Early in the evening of the 23rd Taylor paid a lot of attention to the women in the house where he was staying, he spoke crudely to them, and insisted that they sat on his knee. One woman became particularly distraught after Taylor had her on his knee, fondled and caressed her and then kissed her deeply and intimately on the mouth for quite a long time. That night Taylor went to his bedroom, and another member, who had arrived with Taylor, led his wife (barefooted and wearing a dressing gown), into Taylor’s bedroom. She was observed leaving the bedroom at 6am the next morning. The same thing occurred again the next night.

On Saturday 25th Taylor’s host prevented the married woman spending time in Taylor’s bedroom in the middle of the day, but after the raucous afternoon meeting Taylor went to his bedroom and the married lady in question followed him.

After a couple of hours, the hosts and several other visiting members had had enough of the situation, knocked on the door, and went in. Taylor, the woman and her husband had claimed the door was always left partially open so all could see but the others denied that.

When the door was opened Taylor was found in bed with the married woman, whose clothes were on a chair. Taylor was challenged about his conduct and claimed he was pure.

In a written statement, after the event, the woman concerned declared: ‘As concerning me isolating myself with Taylor in the bedroom. I can only declare that nothing improper has happened. It is only that I lay totally undressed under a sheet. Taylor wore his pyjamas. At that moment I did not fully understand what his intentions were. Now I know. I understand now, that he tried to draw the others into an ambush and in this way ‘the misunderstandings created by others put to the test’.

Some misunderstanding – and some ambush! Taylor must have been waiting (eagerly?) to test his host, and others, the two previous evenings as well – but they wouldn’t ‘ambush’ him those previous occasions.

The woman’s husband also made a written statement which he declared: ‘My wife has indeed been in bed with Taylor, but the door of the bedroom was partly open so that everyone could see what happened inside. I can guarantee that between Taylor and my wife nothing which happened could be called indecent… The problem developed when McCallum and Gardiner forced their way into the bedroom… When McCallum after his entry into the bedroom saw in what situation Taylor was, he drew the wrong conclusion.’

How could they ’force’ their way into a bedroom, when the door was already partly open? And what conclusion can be drawn when a man in his pyjamas is in bed with another man’s naked wife!?

Taylor himself commented about the affair in a letter to a woman Exclusive Brethren member on the 7th August, 1970. The letter was published in a book of ‘LETTERS OF JAMES TAYLOR JR’ (p 224-226). He stated: ‘The last time I was there [Aberdeen, 1964] I met the press, which was very interesting. This time I met criminals… Friday the meetings started at 8am. At the food of my chair in the meeting was a glass of mixed whisky… During the meetings I took a sip of whisky… Mr AK had said to me that his wife wanted to wash my feet, to which I agreed. He also suggested she might assist me after the meetings each day in rubbing my hear and massage. He brought her in that night… The second night was the same only there came a knock on the door and in came the host with ___ and ___. ____ says, “What’s that?” points to the sister (nurse) lying on the bed. He says “Corruption”. He points to some clothes on the floor and again says “Corruption”; the host agrees. I said to ___, “You are a bastard, a liar…” The charge made by that bastard ____ that I was in bed with another man’s wife is a dastardly lie. If I wanted to sleep with another man’s wife would I go to Aberdeen – costing $1000? Brooklyn would be cheaper. Some brethren have shown themselves to be boobs.’

Taylor’s denial is very revealing in what it does say, including contradictions within his own letter.

That Taylor was in bed with another man’s naked wife (to wash his feet [under the sheets?], rub his head, or massage him, or more) is beyond dispute from his own admission, the testimony of the woman involved, plus her husband’s comments, and the observation of several witnesses (who, until then, had totally revered Taylor).

The ‘Elect Vessel’ was a hypocrite living by a double standard.

Sadly, one man, in Brighton, England, publicly declared (a few days after the event’s) that J Taylor jnr was so pure and holy that he could have another man’s wife with him any time he wished. The man’s sister said she would count it a privilege to make herself available that way.

Any Exclusive Brethren members trying to reveal any of this sort of information to other members would immediately be in deep trouble.

The strife and tension within this narrow-minded extreme Christian fringe group is so acute that families are breaking up, and opponents are threatened with law-suits.

The Exclusive Brethren don’t act like brothers to anyone who calls them to account.

(From TACL Vol 11 #5 June 1990)