ITV’s The Long Call: What is the Church of the Brethren?

25 October 2021, 18:00

The Long Call focusses on the Church of the Brethren
The Long Call focusses on the Church of the Brethren. Picture: ITV

Who are the Barum Brethren and what do they believe?

Ann Cleeves’ book The Long Call has now been adapted into a four-part ITV series of the same name.

Set in Devon, the plot follows DI Venn (Ben Aldridge) and his husband Jonathan who move back to his small hometown in North Devon after 20 years.

He was rejected by his family, who are part of the Barum Brethren church, when he came out as gay.

But what is the Church of the Brethren and what do they believe? Here’s what we know…

The Long Call is airing on ITV this autumn
The Long Call is airing on ITV this autumn. Picture: ITV

What is the Church of the Brethren?

According to their website, the Church of the Brethren traces its roots back over 300 years to 1708.

It was organised by Alexander Mack in Schwarzenau, Germany and bases its religious beliefs on the New Testament of the Bible.

The church has historically taken a strong stance for pacifism - an opposition to war - and is one of the three historic peace churches, alongside the Mennonites and Quakers.

According to a denomination census released last year, it has approximately 2,600 churches across 11 countries and 600,000 baptised members.

What are the Barum Brethren beliefs?

The beliefs and practices of the Brethren churches accept only the teaching of the New Testament.

The Long Call focusses on The Church of the Brethren
The Long Call focusses on The Church of the Brethren. Picture: ITV

They make ‘a commitment to follow Christ in simple obedience’ and prefer a simple way of life.

Members state that they strive to live “a life of humble service and unconditional love,” and they are active in foreign missions. The church seems to focus on disaster relief.

What is Believer's Baptism?

While they do not baptise children when they are young, they instead partake in ‘believer’s baptism’.

This means when members are old enough to confess their faith, they are baptised by being immersed in water three times.

The Long Call is an adaptation of Ann Cleeves’ book
The Long Call is an adaptation of Ann Cleeves’ book. Picture: ITV

A ‘love feast’ (Holy Communion) takes place twice each year and includes foot washing, a fellowship meal, and anointing for 'physical and spiritual health'.

Official church statements say they do not believe in abortion, while their stance on gay marriage is more complex.

Several congregations within the Church have publicly announced their support for same-sex marriage and openly LGBT clergy.

However, in 2012, the Church of the Brethren adopted a resolution opposing same-sex marriage, but some congregations protested the resolution and voted to begin performing same-gender marriages.