Plymouth Brethren

General Information

The name Plymouth Brethren identifies several small Christian sects of common origin - found in Britain, Europe, and the United States - that are conservative in theology and millenarian in outlook. The movement had its beginning in Ireland and England in the 1820s, Plymouth being a main center of activity. The most prominent early leader was John Nelson Darby (1800 - 82), who taught that Christ might return at any moment and in a "secret rapture" would take away the members of the true church to dwell in heaven. The polity of the Plymouth Brethren is congregational, following New Testament models.

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At their services there is neither a presiding minister nor a set form of devotions. In the absence of centralized authority there have been recurrent splits within the body, most notably in the Exclusive Brethren and the Open or Christian Brethren. It is estimated that their membership in the United States, where the sect has been active since the 1860s, is about 98,000.

Conrad Wright

D J Beattie, Brethren: The Story of a Great Recovery Movement (1942); F R Coad, A History of the Brethren Movement (1968); H A Ironside, A Historical Sketch of the Brethren Movement (1985); H H Rowdon, The Origins of the Brethren: 1825 - 1850 (1967).

The individual articles presented here were generally first published in the early 1980s. This subject presentation was first placed on the Internet in May 1997.

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