Paperback, 590pp. Published by Paternoster Press, 9 Holdom Avenue, Bletchley, Milton Keynes, MK1 1QR, UK. Price £29.99, ISBN 1-84227-220-9.
A glance at the extensive bibliography indicates this to be a book of scholarship and erudition. There are many similar works that chart the history of this movement but few will have been as well researched, although it is interesting that so many of the archives upon which Grass draws are held either by the progressive end of the ‘Brethren’ or by the different factions of the Exclusives.
In seemingly leaving none of these sources untapped, Tim Grass has sought to trace the history of the so-called ‘Open Brethren’ from their earliest days at the opening of the Nineteenth Century through to the present. In doing so he has traced the movement’s developments, distinctive principles, evangelism and identity. He has also charted the division between Open and Exclusive companies as well as the Needed Truth secession.
However, for this reviewer there was too much space given to socio-economic and ecclesiastical factors and their potential influence upon the development of ‘Brethren’ doctrine and practice and too little acknowledgement of what truth had been recovered or the part that God may have played in that recovery. Equally, it was disappointing that Mr. Grass should blur so many ‘Brethren’ distinctives, one example being their eschatology which he tends to dismiss as ‘not a subject on which the earliest leaders were ever completely agreed’. Similarly, many would demur from his comments about the ‘fossilised nature of the observance’ of the Lord’s Supper and the need to make this ‘service’ family-friendly and contemporary.
Overall, this is a very interesting book but one whose agenda is not shared by this reviewer.