The idea that separation has to be moral, physical, legal, total and absolute runs consistently through several decades of Exclusive Brethren ministry. This ministry flatly contradicts the ministry of both Jesus and Paul, and it flatly contradicts the Preston Down statement of Faith in Practice.
This extreme idea is so pervasive, long-established and deeply embedded in Brethren thinking, that it will take more than a few empty promises to the Charity Commission to undo its influence.
In the Subject Index to the ministry of JTJr published in August 1982, under the main heading of SEPARATION there is a subheading that reads:
legal, moral, physical . . . . . 13:77 46:29 85:37 111:68
Here are the verbatim quotations from the relevant pages of JTJr’s ministry.
Ministry of J.T.Jr. Vol. 13 page 76-77
Ministry of J.T.Jr. Vol. 46 page 29J.T.Jr. That is another great matter of course. In one way the world is the house, but the house of God is a spiritual thought. There is the great house which is not the same idea but it includes the house of God. The great house is christendom, every christian is there, and he has to deﬁne his position, because what has come about is that, instead of the clarity that was at the beginning in regard to christianity, we have christendom with all these various ideas as to Christ. The individual has to declare himself. We cannot be partial in that. There are many people who are just partial.
Ques. Does it also mean physical separation?
J.T.Jr. Certainly it is physical.
Rem. I mean it is not having judgment about it, but it is an evident moving away from it and from persons.
J.T.Jr. There is no ‘no-man's land’, no such position. You are either in one or the other. That is what I meant by partial christianity.
E.S. So should we ask about the Persons who sit behind in our meetings?
J.T.Jr. We do not know where that idea comes from. I do not. It is either within or without. There are not three positions.
Ministry of J.T.Jr. Vol. 85 pages 37-38J.T.Jr. It was an assumption of the priesthood, and very critical, so Moses told the people to depart from these people. And where did Moses go? It was a physical position he took up — that is the point in this. You take up a physical position, which is a moral position and a right position and therefore he says to God, ‘Do not take anything from him.’ He had that much authority, and God respects him.
J.McK. It brings in the position you have been stressing that we should take; then we can count on God coming in to manifest it.
Ministry of J.T.Jr. Vol. 111 pages 68-69P.P. At what point do we turn to the laws of the land and go to court? These divorce cases seem to have to come before the courts; to what extent do we have to wait until we take them to court? J.T.Jr. The Lord says, ‘Moses granted you this, because of your hardness of heart’ (Matt. 19 : 3). That is it, though it is law. Do you mean how long you should wait, or not do it at all?
P.P. I would like to know if it is the proper thing in every case to take it to court.
J.T.Jr. It is where it is a question of 2 Timothy 2; where, if you are in an iniquitous position, you cannot stay there. You cannot stay there physically or morally, and therefore the court adjudicates. You are not unrighteous in that, because you are just putting yourself in a right position through a judicial action in which they can do nothing else.
J. H. Symington reminded the Brethren several times of what Mr Taylor had said about separation needing to be moral, legal and physical. In the Subject index to the ministry of JHS published in Nov to Dec 1987 under the main heading SEPARATION there is a subheading that reads:J.V.C. For instance, locally we have this condition and a sister says, ‘I am going to get out of the house.’
J.T.Jr. If she is not out she is not out, that is all.
J.V.C. She is looking for a place.
J.T.Jr. It does not matter if she is looking, she is not out, like brethren we have here who are in unclean conditions and they are not out. That is the same.
T.L.S. What about the legal side of a wife leaving the house? I am using the reference to 2 Timothy 2; moral, physical, legal. That is, I understand, what you have said.
J.T.Jr. You cannot say directly to a person, ‘You have to do this.’ Let them go by Scripture. Somebody can be charged with making a man separate from his wife. You go by Scripture, that is what I tell them. Separation from evil; that is J.N.D. Go back to him.
P.D.E. Moral separation must be supported by physical separation.
J.T.Jr. Romans 6 is physical separation. “Baptised unto Christ” is that you are baptised unto His death; that is physical separation, that is what that means. Get out of a wrong position. Whatever position you are in that is not right, get out of it; that is Romans 6. Let the brethren do it. We have been talking long enough about it here in New York.
A.B.P. That would be understood in a drastic sense at the beginning when to be baptised would mean your complete severance from judaism.
J.T.Jr. Absolutely. They felt it that they were separated from judaism and everything that they were attached to.
G.L.E. Is not 2 Timothy moral and physical? “If therefore one shall have purified himself from these," that is moral; “in separating himself from them,” is that physical?
J.T.Jr. I think so. I think we are clear enough on that. J.T. said it anyway. I know what he said and I know what he did, too.
moral, physical and legal ..... 8:135 9:172 9:185 113:13 113:16
Here are the relevant verbatim quotations.
JHS Vol. 8 page 135 (Plainfield, 16 September 1972)
JHS Vol. 9 pages 172 and 185 (Winnipeg, 22 October 1972)B.G.B. Is it ever right to withdraw from a person without a moral issue against them? I am thinking of a case where a husband might have to be dealt with, disciplined, and the wife cannot get free from that—from the house.
J.H.S. Well, the assembly would be protected if she was shut up, and God can change these things. There is nothing impossible with God. God can change these matters if He elects to.
B.G.B. The same would apply, would it, for young children that have to be kept in the home?
J.H.S. Well, you see, that is what I was referring to. There are these complex matters especially where young children are involved. Our beloved said that separation would have to be physical and moral and legal. Well, if that can be established so that there is protection, I think that settles it.
JHS Vol. 113 pages 13 and 15-16 (Neche, 9 and 10 November 1982)The devil is working against it. We have had to face a few things over in Torbay, there was a position that had to be met. It was a great relief that the brethren met it. I am referring to a case where a brother and his wife agreed to disagree. They decided that they were incompatible to each other, and they let the thing grow; I mean neither one of them apparently judged themselves, that was not the consideration apparently, they just fixed on incompatibility. The devil was in it. So they separated and went so far as to acquire, obtain a legal separation based on incompatibility, which I did not and do not agree with. It must be based on a moral issue to stand.
. . .
A.MacL. In a simple way, separation agreement as signed has proved in many places, has it not, to be useful in establishing things on the side of the assembly in a household?
J.H.S. Our beloved said it needed to be moral, physical and legal. A legal document signed, I am told by legal people that if a recovery and reconciliation comes, it is just torn up and that is the end of it. And still it stands for the protection of the person identified with the truth. I am only saying that so that the matter is clear.
John Hales didn’t use the phrase moral, physical and legal, but he taught the need for “absolute separation”.Now you see, our beloved ministered to us, set on as a pattern to follow, the importance of being morally, physically, and legally separate, and clear. And there are cases currently where the honest person is willing and has signed a legal separation. The moral matter being clear, the physical side being clear, and the honest participant signed the legal document to be clear to come to the assembly. And the unrighteous person, being asked to sign it, refuses, giving certain misapplications of scripture to confirm it. Is the honest person to go on till death unreleased because the other person refuses to sign? I know what I'm saying will be printed, but I'm saying it at this time because it needs to be said. If the partner who is refusing to sign would sign, it would be one step in the direction of reconciliation; but refusing to sign means that that single step is not taken. It's refused to be taken. Is that to cause the honest person to be kept out of fellowship until death? It's not right.
. . .
Now, you see, to make it abundantly plain what I’m saying, as we went over it last night, is in the connection of assembly administration, the importance of being morally clear, physically clear, and legally clear, which Mr. Jim laid on us. And we have cases at the present time, morally clear, physically clear, and the honest person involved having signed a legal separation to be legally clear. But the unrighteous party, free to sign it or not sign it, and in refusing to sign it, the administration has been held up for years. A righteous person kept out of fellowship for years because the unrighteous partner refused, and refuses, to sign the legal separation. Now what we've asserted, that I think will stand the light of the truth, is that if the unrighteous person would sign the legal separation, the document, it would be one mark in their favor in view of reconciliation, but refusing to sign it, as some are doing, that should not affect the righteous partner who has signed it.
Here are some entries from his new Series Subject Index published in July 2012:
Vol 18 page 196
If we're not in absolute separation, we have no testimony, and nothing is certain. Do I deserve to be in fellowship? Am I a separate person? Have I lost my contact with the saints and the Spirit of God?
Vol. 4 page 332
Vol. 4 page 367maintain separation inviolately in all our matters, personally in our businesses, and our houses, our households and families, and in our local assemblies ... what s heavenly can only be enjoyed and entered into as we maintain absolute separation
you don't get into the circumstance that's going to involve suffering if you don t have to. So you don't get into a position where the enemy can get something at you So the answer to it is total separation absolute, total separation.
Vol. 6 page 266
Vol. 24 page 385if we accepted this matter of absolute separation the Spirit, and the water, and the blood. Where've you got it? John's epistle is you've got it in yourself. (1 Jn. 5:8)
Bruce D. Hales also teaches the need for “absolute separation”. Here are some entries from his Subject Index published in October 2014.The call is intrinsically related to the principle of separation. We have no basis whatever of being together as the assembly of God unless it’s on the principle of answering to a call that's based on absolute separation.
Vol. 55 page 126 (Indianapolis, 24 September 2006)
Vol. 69 page 34 (Sydney, 10 November 2007)anyone that’s at all even a little acquainted with F.E.R.’s ministry could see that he was completely clear as to separation. And not partial, F.E.R. was, - he understood absolute separation. He makes it very clear. He had immense experience coming out of the Church of England. I think twenty-eight, he was twenty-eight years old when he came out. But it meant a lot to him, to come amongst, what he often refers to, the Christian circle. I think it’s one point he says, We had a lot to give up, associations, he said, and friends, and then he says, relatives.
Vol. 35 page 271 (Sydney, 29 January 2005)by the cross of Jesus stood His mother, and these other persons, including John, and no doubt others. They took their stand there. I think that was a point, really, of absolute separation (Jn. 19:25)
Vol. 78 page 113 (Sydney, 13 August 2008)If l’m prepared to out myself off-from the world, in complete and utter and absolute separation, God will then show me things
BDH also conducted a whole reading meeting and gave a preaching in Kellyville on 17 January 2010 that were both published under the title “ABSOLUTE SEPARATION” but he did not actually use that phrase in the meeting. See Vol. 95 pages 80 to 97.it did come over me the totality of our beloved brother’s separation from the world, the utter—how quite to put it really, but it was absolute, I would have said it was absolute separation from the world
The copyright of most of the above quotations is claimed by the Bible and Gospel Trust