The exclusive brethren and an Australian rural community
Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences
School of International, Cultural and Community Studies
This paper examines the history, theology and geography of the Christian sect known as the Exclusive Brethren. This sect emerged as a result of discontent within the Church of England in Ireland during the 1820s and has gradually spread throughout much of the developed world. Central to the beliefs of the Exclusive Brethren is that they should separate from the perceived evils and corruption of the wider world. Traditionally, this involved a social and spiritual separation from those outside of the sect. More recently, however, reinterpretations of the scriptures and the emergence of a more permissive morality outside the movement have led members of the Exclusive Brethren in Australia to pursue a more physical separation. Members of the sect have attempted to achieve this spatial separation by settling in a few small, relatively remote communities in rural Australia. This emerging Brethren geography has led to significant economic and social changes in those rural communities in which sect members have settled. Drawing on the case of one such community in the Western Australian wheatbelt, the paper demonstrates that the Brethren have contributed to significant local economic activity and employment growth. At the same time, however, the sect is a source of social tension and controversy, largely as a result of their religious practices and beliefs.