The Exclusive Brethren are an evangelical protestant Christian church related to the Christian or Open Brethren, according to the BBC website on world religion and ethics.

Members follow a rigid code of conduct based strictly on Bible teaching.

They keep themselves separated from other people (including other Christians), because they believe the world is sinful.

Their "exclusiveness" refers to staying away from the world' s evils -- to the extent of having no windows in their meeting halls, the website said.

A strong family-centred way of life ensures a further cocoon from the world.

According to Statistics New Zealand there were 20,406 Brethren in New Zealand in 2001. An estimated 5000 of those are Exclusive, with 40,000 worldwide.

The Brethren movement began in Dublin in the 1820s, and split into the Open and Exclusive Brethren in the 1840s.

The Exclusive founder, John Nelson Darby, believed the secular world was corrupt and the way for believers to obey God was to keep to themselves.

The Brethren faith was introduced to New Zealand in 1850, and is now led by Greg Mason.

The BBC website listed the following rules for Exclusive Brethren: they cannot go to university, have televisions or radios, visit cinemas or the theatre, read newspapers or fiction, use computers, own mobile phones, vote in elections, serve in the armed forces or join any group that includes people outside the Brethren.

They cannot form friendships, or eat with people outside the church -- who are known as "worldlies".

Members who break rules are required to confess their sin during church meetings and demonstrate their repentance. If they do not, they are banned from worship or are isolated from family and only allowed to see particular church members until the ordained priests decide that God has forgiven the "sinner".

The church is strictly controlled by a central authority. While Open Brethren tolerate autonomy in individual congregations, Exclusive Brethren do not.

The leader of the church has absolute power to appoint the priests, resolve breaches of the rules, approve marriages and decide on punishments.

Once someone leaves the Brethren, they are forbidden from having contact with anyone still in the church, including their relatives.

Many Exclusive Brethren work in Brethren-owned companies, so they have to give up their jobs as well as their family and their home if they leave the faith.

Brethren women are distinguished by their white or blue headscarves and long hair -- which must never be cut. The men must have short hair, be clean shaven and are prohibited from wearing ties.

Members marry each other, rarely divorce, and are encouraged to have large families.

- NZPA