Bruce and Joe: two blokes with a lot in common.
Bruce is the "Elect Vessel" of the Exclusive Brethren. Joe is Pastor General of the Worldwide Church of God.
Neither man was elected to his respective office.
Both men inherited the position from their deceased dad.
Both men have brought in reforms during their administration.
Both men have their job for life, or at least as long as they want it.
Both men reportedly surround themselves with suck-ups.
Of course there are huge differences as well. Differences of style, heritage and dogma. Current WCG members undoubtedly have the better deal of the two in terms of freedom of thought and action. But when it comes to the joys of hierarchical leadership, both leaders are singing out of the same hymn book: Papa knows best.
The Exclusive Brethren are the spiritual descendants of the mad Irish evangelist John Nelson Darby, the man who invented the "rapture" doctrine. They're kith and kin with the Open Brethren (also called Christian Brethren), a larger, more moderate and congregationalist movement. The British scholar F.F. Bruce was a member of the Open Brethren. There's little doubt which of these Plymouth Brethren factions is the healthier and more balanced.
So why does Joe continue to champion a toxic, sectarian form of church governance - the exclusive rather than the open option?
Self interest? Stupidity? Sheer bloody-mindedness?
Of course Joe is more than capable of justifying his sinecure, but is he convincing anyone? Why live in a medieval fiefdom when you can attend a church where you and your family can play a meaningful role? Why would you sell your kids into second-class citizenship in a church that will permit them no say in the direction that church will take over the course of their lifetimes?
We understand why the followers of Meredith, Flurry and Pack throw away their independence, but Tkach claims to be something different, something better and more enlightened. He talks the talk, but talk is cheap. And what about the spineless functionaries who are complicit in what Joe misleadingly calls "episcopal" government? How does Mike Feazell justify the continued disenfranchisement of the brethren (with a small "B").
WCG and the Exclusive Brethren, Tkach and Hales. Perhaps not so very different.
For a perspective on the Exclusive Brethren that in many ways parallels that of ex-WCG members, take a look at http://peebs.net/