Needed Truth Brethren, as they are sometimes known, call themselves, “The Churches of God in the Fellowship of the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ". They began as a split from the Open Brethren around 1892 (known as "The Separation". Only a few assemblies of the Open Brethren officially separated and joined the group. However, it seems likely that their teaching thoroughly infiltrated into what is sometimes known as the "Tight Brethren", or "Closed-Opens", or "Gospel Hall Brethren".
The designation, "Needed Truth" was given based on the periodical known by that name, that began to be distributed among the Open Brethren in 1888.
Doctrine and structure
The Needed Truth Brethren teach that the basis of reception is assembly fellowship, as opposed to the One Body basis of reception taught by Exclusive Brethren and the Bible Chapel Brethren. They hold that a breaking of bread meeting should only be held by a recognized assembly. According to Needed Truth teaching, two or three believers gathered together informally or temporarily, outside of the assembly, are not following scriptural teaching.
Their assemblies, unlike Open Brethren assemblies, are not independent and autonomous. An advantage of this is that assembly discipline is more effective. In an Open Brethren meeting someone under discipline may get away with slipping off elsewhere and going straight back into fellowship with another open assembly.
Needed Truth Brethren hold that there is only one Church of God in any city or district.
Gospel Hall Brethren connection
The Gospel Hall Brethren movement seems to have spread out from the work in Scotland after the great Revival of 1859. Evangelists like Alexander Marshall and Donald Ross did much work in spreading the gospel, and starting assemblies. Many of the Gospel Halls in Canada were pioneered by these great Scottish evangelists.
Initially, Donald Ross, a close friend of Duncan Matheson, did not hold to the Needed Truth teaching that reception was the to local Assembly. But after Matheson's death, Ross began to hold this. This teaching became the basis of fellowship and reception in many Gospel Halls, yet they never joined with the assemblies who separated out as Needed Truth Brethren.
Alexander Marshall broke with the Needed Truth faction early on, over their insistence that any two or three gathered together could not be called an assembly, and could not break bread together. Marshall believed that, "Where two or three are, having been gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" was sufficient proof that, in his opinion, the Needed Truth brethren were not following the New Testament Pattern. The Needed Truth brethren continued to assert that only gatherings connected to an already existing assembly could be considered an assembly. Informal gatherings were not recognized as being the Lord's Table.
In the middle of the 20th century, the line of separation between the Bible Chapels and Gospel Halls in North America became more pronounced. Robert McClurkin, who was welcome in both groups, lamented this in his Open Letter to the Assemblies where he pointed out that Needed Truth literature had been spread throughout the Gospel Halls, and a rigid line of demarcation was being drawn.
In Northern Ireland, the Open Brethren consists both of assemblies much like the North American Gospel Hall brethren, and also assemblies similar to the North American Bible Chapel brethren. However, the strict line of separation does not tend to exist in that land as it does in Canada. A believer from a Bible Chapel in Canada may not be received to a Gospel Hall in Canada, but a believer from that Chapel, and that Hall could break bread together in an assembly in Northern Ireland no matter what title was given for the building. Over the years, this has made for dilemmas for workers visiting North America from Northern Ireland: which group of Open Brethren can they fellowship with while in North America?
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- ↑ http://www.chaptertwobooks.org.uk/assets/own/190001.pdf The Brethren since 1870. See Section on the Division in the Open Brethren - "Needed Truth"