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The closed-door church

Inside the secretive and strict Plymouth Brethren sect in Manitoba

The Plymouth Brethren discourage interaction between their followers and outsiders, and the church encompasses all aspects of social and professional life for its members. Critics say it has gone from being a Christian sect to full-blown cult.

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After I’d made contact with Phil, his sister, Pamela Danylchuk, also agreed to talk. Being withdrawn from was hard on her. Before, she would talk with her mother all the time. Afterward, she did not have contact with her parents and siblings inside the Brethren for the next 25 years. "There was no contact at all. They wouldn’t look at me. They wouldn’t talk to me."

You can get back into the Brethren after you are withdrawn from, but you have to grovel, said Danylchuk. "You have to get down on hands and knees and bare all your sins and suffer," she said. "They make you feel guilt. You are humiliated and made to feel like you’re bad, bad, bad."

Like Admiraal, that wasn’t for her. She had to make it on her own. But it’s even tougher to get out today, she said. The PBCC has even more control over members’ lives than when she was growing up.

When Danylchuk was removed, she was 22, and worked in a doctor’s office. The doctor and his wife helped her immensely. Through work she had contact with the outside world and was able to make non-Brethren friends. Today, Brethren all work for Brethren companies. If they leave or are tossed out, they lose their livelihood.

When Pamela and Phil were growing up, they attended public schools. Now, most Brethren kids attend private PBCC schools. Pamela married someone she knew from public school. It would be much harder for that to happen today.

"It was terrible what they did to people," said Pamela. "My parents were shut up, and then they let my dad back in first but not my mom. Are you kidding me? You can cause people nervous breakdowns, which a lot did, and a lot drank to cover up the pain. You’re so afraid to do anything. You’re told God will strike you down.

"When I left, the doctor I worked for was a Christian, and I started realizing, ‘Oh, you are actually a good person.’ I didn’t have any idea about that... That you don’t have to be in the Brethren to be Christian and a good person."

Admiraal, 55, has been married 32 years. He could never go back to the Brethren. "I’ve got a couple grandkids, three great kids, and a great wife," he said.

He could never do what his parents did to him and his sister. "I couldn’t, no matter what. No matter what your kids do."

He wonders how his parents could be so unforgiving to their own children, over so little. "They chose the Brethren over their own children. In the Bible, is that how you’re supposed to treat your family? I don’t think so."

History

Updated on Saturday, May 10, 2014 at 8:57 PM CDT: Fixes typo.

May 12, 2014 at 11:34 PM: Correction: Superb Sprinkler Service is no longer owned by a member of the Plymouth Brethren.

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