Who am I?
I am now Suzie Best, but I was born Shirley Silby. The difference in name is as I felt the need to change my name to stop the peebs (Exclusive Brethren now calling themselves Plymouth Brethren Christian Church) and my family finding me and hassling me about leaving & trying to con me back in with empty promises or bribes of money. But this also coincided with me deciding to get re-baptized after finding Jesus, and start a new life with a new name. I am not saying who I am to shame anyone, the brethren or my family, but simply as I do not wish to hide in fear of any man or what they can do to me, as I trust and believe in God now.
When did I leave and why?
I left the peebs nearly 25 years ago now, as I was so terrified for my life and did not want to commit a crime to stay safe. It was so bad that at age 5 I tried to kill myself by refusing to eat and making myself sick and was hospitalized for this. My medical notes from this time which I have, document suspected abuse and neglect by my parents and also list a number of family/social/religious problems. It is claimed by my family that I had a digestive problem which caused my ill-health, but interestingly the paediatrician commented that he could find nothing wrong with me, other than failure to thrive which he attributed to my parents and their not providing me with the necessities of life. Of course my family dispute this, even claiming the doctor who was over my care nearly caused my death while I was in hospital, but they have no evidence of this, nor was there ever any concerns raised with the hospital.
It has been claimed by family members that both myself and my mother were mentally incapable, yet I have never been diagnosed as such and I am personally very sure that my mother was only reacting to the controlling and abusive situation in our home. My mother’s own family (whom I’ve met since being out of the cult), all say she was just like me until she got married, totally vibrant full of life and really bright. On top of this, I also grew up to become totally dissatisfied with the hypocritical teachings, lifestyle and practices of the peebs and wanted no on-going part of it. There was one rule for the leadership and one for the common people, and in my mind, if something was evil (like computers were deemed to be), it didn’t matter who used them, and this made me realize finally, it was all a form of control.
What happened to me?
I presume I was withdrawn from, I tried my best to make sure this happened, even to the extent of deliberately telling the peebs I was living with my boyfriend. I was however shut up even as a CHILD, being punished for telling lies, some of which included pleading for help for how I was being treated at home, which no-one believed. The rest of it was that due to the horrors of my childhood, I lived in a make-believe world in my mind so to escape the awful reality of my life, and as this was where I felt safe and spend my time, I would often talk about it, so to others it seemed this was lies. Sadly, no-one bothered to care that I was being abused and neglected. I have been told by the peebs that I have made up these stories, but the medical notes of mine I am now in possession of from my childhood, show that the medical profession were also concerned about my home life, social situation and religious restrictions, and also that I was even discharged from hospital as a child against their advice and refused treatment. Even when I left the cult, I had pleaded to be able to leave home and stay somewhere safe, but the peeb priests refused me this, as it was not appropriate. I was however offered money by the priests to stay in the brethren, which of course I refused.
I hold the brethren (especially the local priests and the cult leaders who gave out the edicts that the group were forced to live by), personally responsible for my terrible treatment as a child, as they did nothing about it. I admit that I also had shocking behaviour as a child, but I only copied what was done to me and what I witnessed. I was a violent child as I was treated violently and saw or heard violence, for as long as I can remember. There are many studies out showing the extreme damage done to children who are victims of family violence, and I just cannot believe how the peebs just sat back and let that happen to me. It is well known and documented how children copy behaviour and that what they see then learn to do. After flailing around by myself for a while and stuffing up terribly and not knowing how to behave in the real world as I had never been taught respect of other people, I was actually finally taken in by a caring family who fostered other children, and although they were warned about my behaviour, they found that as they treated me with love, care and respect, I did the same to them. It was the first time in my life that I felt part of a family that really truly wanted me.
Starting life on the outside:
I was too damaged to talk about my experiences much for some years, and actually pretended they never happened, as I just wanted to get on with life and live normally. I must admit also though, that this was rather easy, as I was used to living a different life in my head, and it took years to get to a point where I could be honest and happy where I was at, instead of having to make up a fantasy to be able to feel free. However on being abused again as an adult, it bought all my child-hood memories back to the fore and I had to face them at that point. Around 12-13 years ago in the “review” the Brethren came to me and apologized for how I had been treated and said they did not understand how badly I was treated, so I actually thought they might be starting to change, as I even had contact with my family for a couple of years. But as soon as I made it clear that I would NEVER return to the fold, I started being told that they could no longer associate with me. At this point, I started speaking out about the evil of this abusive and controlling cult, and more recently I have taken this public, as I now help “insiders” escape from this group and have been appalled at the terrible effects of abuse I have witnessed in survivors from the peebs. I felt that as a Christian now, someone who is meant to follow and apply mercy and justice to others, especially the vulnerable, I have no choice but to speak out on the unjust, abusive, controlling, unmerciful way the brethren treat their members, especially those who want to exercise their freedom of choice to leave the cult, upheld and specified in the International Articles of Human Rights.
What is happening currently:
Since going public with my life account and also standing up to the destructiveness of this Exclusive Brethren now Plymouth Brethren Christian Church or PBCC, I have had many veiled threats thru my family, which I am sure are messages being passed on by them at the orders of the cult leaders. I have also been told that I dreamed my whole life up and that I was never treated badly as a child and it is all lies! This is very interesting as it is only 12 or so years ago that the brethren and my family actually apologized to me for the bad treatment I received as a child… Even more interesting, is that as a child, I was not allowed to associate with “outsiders” (anyone not in the church), or to watch TV or read non-christian books, I have been told by numerous psychologists that I could not have possibly dreamed up these events without being aware of their existence, and that my medical notes show the medicals caring for me were so concerned with my home life, that many notes were made about it. In their professional opinion, this all leads to supporting evidence that I am telling the truth. The police also believe I have enough evidence to take the matter to court if I so wish, however I would rather the brethren simply be honest about their terrible treatment of members, change their ways and put in place policies and procedures like those in nearly all other churches, that would help to safeguard those in vulnerable situations, especially women and children. I would also hazard the brethren would not have apologized to me originally if I was not telling the truth, so I can only conclude, that they are only sorry as long as I keep my mouth shut.
How I found my way to where I am today:
After many years out of the brethren, doing things I now regret, as I was so damaged from my terrible childhood and not being believed or helped out, I found myself in a crisis of faith and made a decision to seek out God in some form, but a different one to the one I grew up with, who was not really someone I wanted to know or believe in. I went to many different faiths and religions, trying to find something to anchor my life. It was an enlightening time. I investigated everything from New Age Spirituality to Hare Krishna and I also attended some mainstream churches. There, I met the real Jesus, someone I had never met in all my life in the peebs. I had never ever heard that I needed to believe in Jesus and ask Him to forgive me to be saved and become a Christian, I had instead been told that because I was a member of the Exclusive
Brethren, and this against my will (being baptized without choice as a child when I was not even a believer), this act would somehow save me. I came to understand how misled and misguided the peebs were. Their teachings were not Biblical and they certainly did not line up with any other Christian faith. I did in the end decide for myself that I wanted to be a true Christian and follow Jesus, so I accepted Him into my life and for the first time in my life, could honestly call myself a Christian. This changed my life. I got off drugs and drink, I stopped being a lesbian and I met and married an amazing man who loves me to bits (after my first marriage started and ended in total disaster, as I didn’t have good role models).
The road to redemption – reclaiming my life!
I have now even learned to forgive and love my family and the peebs, despite what they did to me, although that took many years and much soul searching. I decided I could not in good faith seek retribution from them for what they did to me, as I know God said, “Vengeance is Mine!” I am now the middle of studying for a Mission & Ministry Degree at Theological College, I have done a Ministry Internship with my local Church for a year and got top marks for this, I volunteer at my Church, I am part of the Worship team there, and I do community charity work and I both love it and am told I am good at it. I love to look after my wonderful husband of nearly 10 years, garden, cook, enjoy my pets, play and write music and generally enjoy my freedom in life. I have never been so well, so happy or so loved. I am planning on continuing my study to include Addiction Support Services training and to be in a position to be able to provide very real, practical help to other ex-brethren cult members if they need it.
What I would like the brethren to know:
Two things I would like to get the Exclusive Brethren cult (now calling themselves Plymouth Brethren Christian Church) to understand and change, is for them to be educated about the awful effects of child abuse and neglect and have them understand that their separated way of life is not healthy for children and it can mean this kind of behaviour is not picked up on until it is far too late and the damage is done. I also long for them to understand that both Jesus and the apostle Paul whom they like to say that they emulate, are recorded in the Bible as eating, fellowshipping, having relationships with and worshipping with other Christians AND unbelievers/sinners, and they also envisaged we would do the same as the Church or Body of Christ, as both of them said to do what they did. Therefore the peebs damaging separation doctrines are right against Jesus’ own practice and preaching. The brethren claim that Jesus only ate with His disciples after His resurrection, however the Bible tells us only some of what Jesus did was written down or the world could not contain all the books, and He also had communion with the two on the road to Emmaus, who were clearly not His disciples, as they went back and told the 11 disciples still left, what Jesus had done! I never stop giving up hope that they will start to actually practice what they claim, which is to hold the same basic truth’s as other mainstream Christian Churches, who do not restrict worship or fellowship to only members or shun their own families, as God created us families and children are a gift.
As I have been very active recently, on the world stage, about the Human Rights abuses of the brethren, I have been accused especially recently, of persecuting “God’s chosen” – ie, the Brethren, even though the Bible is very clear, that there is only ONE Body of Christ, and that is ALL Christians. There are no churches that are any more chosen than the other, even though the Brethren refuse to participate in the Body of Christ by separating themselves out of it through their separation doctrine, in refusing to fellowship with fellow believers. I do not believe I am doing any such persecution, of the brethren or God’s chosen or of the Body of Christ in any shape or form, but even if I were, I take the example of John the Baptist, Jesus Himself and also the Apostle Paul as both showing and telling us that sometimes we need to call out the religious leaders and say to them what they are to expose their wrong-doing, as all of these men also did to God’s chosen, the Jews. I see no reason to cover up the wrongdoings of this cult, even if my doing so (as has been suggested), would get me more involvement with my Brethren family. I cannot in all good conscience cover up crimes committed by anyone, and certainly not a group purporting to be a “church” who pretends “charity” and “public benefit”, when I know personally what harm they allow to be done to their members, something that is right against the principles of charity and public benefit. I believe no group that practices separation can possibly be for public benefit, and practicing separation is NOT following Jesus example of His own fellowshipping with others, and it is also not following Paul’s example of being all things to all men in the hopes that some of them might be saved.
What I would like to see for the Brethren:
I long for and pray for the truth of who Jesus truly is to become clear to the brethren, for them to stop their spiritually and physically damaging separation doctrine and start to see the whole world as loved by God, so much so that He sent His only Son to die to save it ALL. I hope and trust they have their eyes opened that we are to BE mission and outreach to all those who need Jesus, as He Himself commissioned us to do, as He sent us, as He was Himself sent. I would love nothing more than have my whole family, peeb/EB or not, stand with me as really free and saved by the blood of Christ, on the day we meet Jesus again. I love them, I forgive them and I miss them and I would like for nothing more than to be able to soon rebuild a relationship with them again, something that’s been largely destroyed by over 20 years in which they have not been allowed to have any on-going contact with me. All I can do is pray for this to happen and trust my God, who is the worker of miracles and for whom nothing is impossible. In the meantime, I will continue, as long as I am called by God, to seek this by challenging them and their leaders to be in right standing Biblically, legally and morally.
If the brethren really do practice what they say on their flash new PR website, “The PBCC believe that every true believer on the Lord Jesus Christ, every genuine converted person, will be in heaven and our true brethren in Christ,” then let them prove it by not restricting us true believers in Jesus Christ from fellowshipping with them and our families if we desire to. Or could it be that the brethren really believe that they alone are the only true believers still?