Volume 32 - Issue 3
GATHERING TO HIS NAME: THE STORY OF THE OPEN BRETHREN IN BRITAIN AND IRELANDby Tim Grass
Described by David Bebbington as the ‘Evangelicals of the Evangelicals’ the Open Brethren are a movement surrounded by some mystique, a lack of documented history due to their non-denominational nature, and confusion as to their relation to the ‘exclusive’ branch. Tim Grass has given us, however, an excellently researched volume into the history of the movement with painstaking exploration of the seemingly legion and complex factions of the Brethren as well as helpful overviews of the theology and practice of the group. Particularly incisive were the insights into the effect of the social background and situation of the movement which shaped its theological emphases in the beginning: how, for example, the widely held millennial views of the movement influenced the approach to world mission. Grass artfully tracks the changes within the movement in its approaches to society and life, as well as its symbiotic relationship with the ‘exclusives’. At several points throughout the book he also offers a penetrating analysis of theological trends.
Two slight caveats: the first, almost inevitable point in the history of a movement, so influenced by particular people, is that it is sometimes hard to keep up with the stream of names and places which are important in the history. The second is that the research, originally done for postgraduate study according to the introduction, is very detailed. The book, therefore, is likely to be of more use to the academic reader or one, like myself, with roots in the Open Brethren. With those small reservations, this volume is to be heartily recommended and the author congratulated for drawing out useful patterns in what is often a slightly chaotic chain of events.