Peer urges former Brethren to report concerns to the Charity Commission

Baroness Berridge says the regulator, which yesterday said it would accept the congregation's application for charitable status, should be 'commended for its hard work'

Baroness Berridge
Baroness Berridge

A Conservative peer has urged former members of Plymouth Brethren Christian Church organisations to report concerns about the organisation to the Charity Commission.

The commission announced yesterday that it would allow an application for charitable status from the Preston Down Trust, a Devon-based Plymouth Brethren congregation that adheres to a doctrine of separation, after the trust agreed to make changes to its governing documents.

Baroness Berridge of the Vale of Catmose, who has family members who are involved in the Plymouth Brethren, which she refers to as the Exclusive Brethren, said she was confident the commission would regulate the Brethren "to ensure that their conduct is, in fact, charitable".

Berridge, who alongside the crossbench peer Baroness O’Loan, had taken evidence as part of an informal committee from former Brethren members about alleged harm done to them after leaving the congregation, said the commission "should be commended for its hard work".

She said the regulator had been the first statutory authority to put on public record that there were elements of detriment and harm in the organisation’s practices, which the commission’s decision said "are in real danger of outweighing public benefit".

Berridge said: "I would warmly encourage anybody who has been separated from family members who remain within the Exclusive Brethren to re-establish contact and report any concerns to the commission.

"Should any current member wish to leave, they can be reassured that the Exclusive Brethren had to give explicit and binding undertakings to give ‘reasonable assistance’ to anyone seeking to do so."

She added that she was keen to support people who felt their lives had been adversely affected by the doctrines and practices of the Exclusive Brethren and urged people to contact her office or send her an email at berridgee@parliament.uk.

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