The Historian’s Tale
The history of the Brethren is the history of a movement. They are best understood as an idealistic attempt to revive the dominant Evangelicalism from within in early nineteenth-century Britain. Like many such utopian movements, they soon split into two sects—the Open and the Exclusive Brethren. Typical of sects, they now concentrated more on their differences than on their foundational prospectus. The Open Brethren emphasized the supreme authority of the Bible and the separation of believers from the world. When some of them engaged in evangelistic cooperation with other Christians, and introduced elements of church practice contrary to the biblical blueprint, open conflict between conservative and liberal factions broke out. The present position is confused, and the prospects for the Open Brethren seem doubtful, at least in the UK.