Open letter to Bruce D Hales, Cult leader of the PBCC (Exclusive Brethren)
Dear Mr Hales, an Open Letter
Recently I was sent a family photo of my son, his wife and his five adult children, my grand children, now aged about 14 to 24. We are estranged. I am a ‘persona non grata’ to them and I am blamed for the estrangement. I was put out of the Exclusive Brethren fellowship in 1982 when my son was in his late teens and I learned he was married a few years later. I have no acquaintance with my grandchildren. My daughter-in-law has a conditioned influential hostile attitude to me which she expressed in a letter to me. I suppose she must either love or hate me and love is not a workable option because brethren are obliged to regard me as evil. I also have two older brothers in the fellowship who remain respectful but wary.
Some twenty years after putting me out of their fellowship, brethren conveyed to me that there was no sound basis for their drastic ‘assembly’ action. They then cheerfully offered the prospect of my being ‘re-included’ in the fellowship. Being at that stage rather sceptical I invited these representatives to outline how the brethren had arrived at this reversal of judgment. They declined. They sensed that I was not about to extend unquestioning acceptance and lost interest after a couple more visits. Since that time I have appealed more than once to individuals and to the local gathering to put in writing why they regard me as not suitable for Christian fellowship. I received no response. I have acknowledged to them that I see various reasons why I would be regarded as ‘not of them’ but I feel strongly that this does not absolve their responsibility to plainly set out the basis of their judgement; especially so because of the consequences.
As things are it seems the only way of approaching reconciliation is for me to be knowingly dishonest, but that is not an option for me; also it would not address the deeper issue that they remain bound to conform to collectively held strictures which prevent depth of relationship. Until recently I have accepted the inevitability of their avoidance of reconciliation.
The Preston Down Trust document has however given new hope that some level of relationship could be restored now, in my closing years. The Document identifies you, Mr. Hales as ‘Minister of the Lord in the Recovery’. It then, in the ‘Faith in Practice’ section (clause 3, 3), embraces as ‘Ministry’ what is laid out in that document. Ministry, as has always been the case in the fellowship, is universal in its application. Regarding ‘this Ministry’ as window dressing crafted to secure ‘charitable status’ in a restricted situation would be preposterous. This Ministry is undeniably the most fundamental and far-reaching to be proclaimed in the last 55 years. I and others have consequently anticipated that ‘this Ministry’ would, as has typically been the case, find expression in every locality within the fellowship without undue delay and would become a central and liberating topic. The reality is that there is there is no evidence to me, or to others I know, that those within the fellowship are interested or even aware of this Ministry.
It is noticed that the key words ‘Ministry (now including this statement of doctrinal principle)’ is wrapped within the statements ‘Those in fellowship must ultimately exercise their own judgement...’ and ‘...the exemplary practice of fellow members of the community.’ If in any situation conflict should arise between ‘this Ministry’ and ‘practice’, then one would reasonably expect ‘Ministry’ to prevail. It is beyond dispute however that, ‘exercise their own judgement’ typically translates into ‘do what is expected of you to do, or suffer the consequences’.
Whichever way one looks at it, although you appear to position yourself beyond accountability, what prevails in the ‘community’ is ‘de facto’ under your control. Detrimental and harmful practices which were endemic in the fellowship over the past fifty years still prevail in New Zealand both on terms of current practice and enduring consequences. You alone have power to change this and it has not happened. A rebuttal of causal ministry and an admission of imperfection would have powerful effect. I acknowledge your extraordinary status and power.
It is for this reason I write this appeal to you. My estranged family members would become more accepting and approachable if you were to encourage the attitudes proclaimed in the Faith in Practice document. I am thinking particularly of all those situations involving ‘former brethren’ and the situations covered in clause 6 (7). In anticipation I have already put in writing to my son that if I was accepted by them, I would refrain from pressing any dialogue which could be threatening to them.
I have no wish to be ‘re-included’ because it seems to me this would require personal dishonesty and sanctioning of evil. There is however much to be gained through sincere review, affectionate discourse and glad-tidings shared with those ‘not afraid of the truth’.
Because of the interest in the issues addressed in this letter I have called it an ‘Open Letter’, meaning that I may choose to send copies to others and make the script available to the public, but I shall wait three weeks before going public.
Peter W Harrison
Actual quotes of PBCC Cult leader Bruce Hales
"we reject terms sect, cult; everything we hold is for everybody.", "have to take deliberate actions to keep the world out", "there's only one collective position that the Lord comes to, that's among the saints", "the banks will fail one day, best investment is meeting rooms", "love seeing a young person broken, in tears", "football field, pubs, cinemas; breach of righteousness", "I'm an extraordinary man with an incredible mental capacity and a global outlook given to me from God"
This is a letter written 18 November 1965 by John S Hales to Brian M Deck of Motueka, New Zealand, in which he acknowledges his sin in promoting commerce in the PBCC.
12 Austin Av
Brian M Deck
I have sinned against you & your wife & household and the saints & the assembly in Motueka at the meetings in May. My course has not been in the Spirit but in the flesh & there has been much transgression, but the things that weigh on me are these.
The way in which the status & exercises of the assembly in Motueka were set aside and not given any place to.
Much that was offensive in speaking & unbecoming was allowed in the meetings. I think in particular of the way I spoke to one brother concerning his contribution to the special collection. This was wholly anti-Christian & grievously injurious to the brother.
There were references to two other brothers concerning their private income - one for being small and one for being large. Besides a direct transgression against the brothers, it brought in the spirit of the world & commerce & worldly advantage & the ridiculing of a saint of God.
I am ashamed of the way I spoke to your wife at the family table. I was expressing my judgement which I now see to have derived from the flesh & not the Spirit. I transgressed most grievously.
I transgressed against you too in having part in commercial meetings in your house at the time of the meetings. It is clear too that the interference in your business matters was a transgression on my part.
I am appalled as I think of the kind of man I have allowed in the assembly & among the saints in contrast to the spirit of the men of God who have laboured & lived amongst you & live yet.
I am horrified at the dishonour to the Lord & to His assembly, at the kind of alien spirit & conduct that has been so active in the holy things of God. I am grieved at the pain & suffering I have inflicted on the saints.
I am under discipline for my course but I desire to convey something to you to put right in some way the awful wrong I have done.
(Signed) John S Hales