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The Plymouth Brethren – origin, history, development, and impact on the religious, linguistic, cultural and socio-economic landscape in the Faeroes.


Tórður Jóansson

University of Glasgow


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294.250 kr.

Based on the assumption (hypothesis) that the Plymouth Brethren in the Faeroe Islands have had a much greater impact on the religious, cultural and socio-economic life in the islands than so far presumed, the research will start by examining the causes and developments which brought about the 18th and 19th century Revivalist Movements in Europe and Britain. Also Evangelicalism in Scotland, mainly the Plymouth Brethren, will be explored because the Faeroese Brethren movement came from Scotland.

Then the religious, cultural and socio-economic situation in Faeroe in the 19th century will be explained and assessed, because it was in the second half of the century that a Scottish Brethren missionary introduced Revivalism in the islands.

Subsequently Evangelicalism also included the Danish Home Mission, but soon the Brethren grew into a specific and autonomous movement in Faeroe. Their stance, e.g. in the language question, was unique. The research will also include controversies, e.g. with the established Church.

The theology of the Brethren will be explained; and their progress from the 1930s onwards is illustrated by examples such as translations into the vernacular and publishing, building halls, meetings and missionary work.

t is undeniable that the enthusiasm and hard work of the Brethren within literature, music and the arts was increasingly felt in the wider community, especially after WWII, and grew in the following decades. Examples will be given of major artists, writers, poets and musicians and their work assessed.

In the Plymouth Brethren’s infancy social work was considered important, e.g. one of the early members, Mr Muller, started a renowned and popular Children’s Home in England; and since then voluntary social work has been performed. Also in Faeroe this was the case, and Sunday schools, holiday camps, etc., were arranged.

Furthermore, Faeroese Brethren have been very active, innovative and successful in industry and business, some being among the greatest and most influential people within the economy. Some others criticise them for this; and the research will include possible reasons for their success and how others have learned and benefited from their work.

Finally the hypothesis expressed in the beginning will be evaluated and discussed, based on the Brethren Theology and attitudes; and in this way it should be possible to reach a conclusion.


The thesis comprises results of broad research into the Brethren Movement in the Faeroes from 1865 to 2010, emphasising the disciplines Church History, Economic, Social and Cultural History, Cultural Studies and Missiology. The role of Brethren in the Nation Building Process is analysed as well as their pioneering work in the language struggle. Drawing on recent theories the Faeroese Brethren Movement is set in national and international perspective. Interviwes with many Brethren confirm the validity of the theories and give insight into (1) the developments until the 1960s, and (2) the period after. New aspects are brought to light, analysed and seen as part of the general development in the islands, and how Brethren have influenced the national, economic and cultural progresses. Nowhere has the Brethren Movement had such support as in the Faeroes where around 15 per cent of the polulation are members; elsewhere it is between a half and one per cent at most. Reasons for this are analysed as are Brethren theology and practices, attitudes and activism which have influences the broader comminuty. The conclusion points out that the Faeroese Brethren movement has had much greater impact on the progress and developments that so far acknowledged. Self-government, self-financing and self-propagation of each assembly have influenced attitudes outside the movement, and Brethren attitudes, pioneering spirit and new ways of thinking have inspired others. The Brethren Movement was the first to break away from colonial power (the Danish State Church) and establish a Faeroese church. Tensions and changes within the movement in the early 21st century are discussed and the future of Brethren in the Faeroes is evaluated.


Ritgerð: Brethren in the Faeroes An Evangelical movement, its remarkable growth and lasting impact in a remote island community Ritgerðin vard við Department of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Glasgow 30. apríl 2012. Útgivin í bók í desember 2012.

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