Clergymen and Lay Preachers
From the earliest days some clergy were attracted to the Watch Tower message. As we observed in volume one, abandoning previous affiliation was difficult because it meant giving up regular income. So we meet two classes of clergy: Those who suffered the consequences of their faith, and those who flirted with the message, believing all or part of it, but who did not become adherents. We should profile some of these.
Some early converts owed their conversion to contact with clergy, lay preachers and Bible class leaders who adopted some or all of the Watch Tower’s message. This is largely an untold tale. When in 1920 the Watch Tower Society reprinted its first forty years they omitted “some of the less interesting letters.” Nearly all letters from clergy were omitted. In response to clergy opposition, slanderous sermons and defamatory tracts, antipathy toward clergy increased dramatically after 1910. The arrest and later conviction of Watch Tower principals is directly traceable to clergy influence as is the ban on Watch Tower work and publications in Canada during World War I. It is in this context that letters from clergy were omitted from the reprint volumes. It was a largely successful attempt to alter history. Since the easiest access to this period is through the reprints, none of this story has been told.
Many of the clergy who accepted the Watch Tower message are unnamed in the magazine and, despite our best efforts, remain anonymous. In the June 1882 Watch Tower¸ Russell reported that a lay preacher in Texas and a Methodist Episcopal clergyman were both interested. They read Food for Thinking Christians and were convinced by it:
One brother in Texas, a Steward and Class-Leader in the M.E. Church, says he received and read “Food” very carefully. He felt convinced as to his duty, and had already resigned his connection with the church and become a free man in Christ, stepping out from the barriers of creeds to study the Word of God unbiased by human traditions.
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