Friday, December 11, 2015

Developing chapter - temp post

Temporary. Unedited. HERE FOR COMMENTS. Please make one.



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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7 comments:

jerome said...

This is very important material. Religious critics often made personal attacks on ZWT’s editor as being unqualified, since he had not attended a recognized theological training school. However, it is useful to see how quite a number who HAD attended such schools and so who WERE “educated” by their terms of reference, eagerly accepted the ZWT message.

Andrew said...

I enjoy reading the experiences of people who realized that what they earlier believed may no longer be the truth. It humanizes the people in the narrative, and helps us understand that they really are no different from us today, in that we may begin to question things which we were taught when we were young. The stories here really add to the picture, and help us to appreciate the internal conflict many had when they first read Russell's writing, and how difficult it was to interact with family and church members who did not see things the same way. Thanks for the great insights and the superb research!

Andrew Grzadzielewski

Semer said...

This is really a treat, thank you.
Just one comment about this sentence: "It was a largely successful attempt to alter history."
Wouldn't it be more precise to say that it was an attempt to hide rather than alter history? It is true that if you hide part of something, it eventually alters our understanding of it, but that altering is a possible result of the action, not the action itself.

Anonymous said...

Another invaluable insight into early Bible Student history. Well done Rachael!

Son of Ton

roberto said...

I have noted that all the flirting clergy were from the traditional denominations (Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Episcopalians and so on). But I remember a comment in one of the older posts saying that the Watch Tower Movement, in the very early years, was part of a galaxy of non-traditional denominations with people floating from one Movement to another (Age-to-Come, Adventists, Watchtower, and others). Now I am asking myself: Why the Watch Tower theology was so attractive to the traditional clergy? The number of clergymen who sympathized with the Watch Tower Movement is out of proportion to the number of readers.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

It appealed because the Watch Tower took holiness seriously. While, in my opinion, some doctrines were fantasies, the basics are Biblical. Many of these men still respected the Bible and were drawn to Bible explanations.

We do not know what proportion of the readership these men represented. It appears to be quite small- a few out of the aprox. 10,000 readers in 1887. I suspect that Russell published every letter from clergymen. By 1887 he was received thousands of letters and unable to respond to or print them all.

roberto said...

Italian translation:
Fin dai primissimi tempi alcuni esponenti del clero furo attratti dal messaggio della Torre di Guardia. Come abbiamo notato nel volume uno, abbandonare la precedente affiliazione era difficile perché significava rinunciare a un reddito fisso. Così incontriamo due classi di ecclesiastici: quelli che subirono le conseguenze della loro fede e quelli che flirtarono con il messaggio accettandolo in parte o tutto ma senza che divenissero aderenti. Tracceremo il profilo di alcuni di loro. Alcuni dei primi convertiti devono la loro conversione a contatti che ebbero con ecclesiastici, predicatori laici, e leader di classi bibliche indipendenti che adottarono parte o tutto del messaggio della Torre di Guardia. Questo è un aspetto in gran parte non raccontato finora. Quando nel 1920 la Watch Tower Society ristampò i primi quarant’anni della rivista furono omesse “alcune delle lettere meno interessanti”. Quasi tutte le lettere degli ecclesiastici furono omesse. Come conseguenza dell’opposizione ecclesiastica, di sermoni ingiuriosi e di volantini diffamatori, l’antipatia verso il clero crebbe drammaticamente dopo il 1910. L’arresto e il successivo verdetto di condanna della dirigenza della Watch Tower (Nota Roberto: nel 1917 negli Stati Uniti) è direttamente collegabile all’influenza del clero, così come pure la messa al bando dell’opera e delle pubblicazioni in Canada durante la Prima Guerra Mondiale. È in questo contesto che le lettere degli ecclesiastici furono omesse dai volumi ristampati. Fu un tentativo molto riuscito di modificare gli avvenimenti. Poiché il modo più semplice di accedere a quel periodo è attraverso le pagine dei volumi ristampati, niente di questa storia è stato finora raccontato. Molti degli ecclesiastici che accettarono il messaggio sono senza nome e, a dispetto dei nostri migliori sforzi, rimangono anonimi. Nella Torre di Guardia di giugno 1882, Russell riportò che un predicatore laico e un ecclesiastico della Chiesa Metodista Episcopale erano entrambi interessati. Avevano letto “Cibo per Cristiani Riflessivi” e ne erano rimasti persuasi:

Russell in quella Torre di Guardia scrisse:

“Un fratello in Texas, cerimoniere e sorvegliante di una classe nella Chiesa Metodista Episcopale, dice che ha ricevuto e letto molto attentamente “Cibo per Cristiani riflessivi”. Ha sentito come un suo dovere cessare ogni rapporto con la chiesa, cosa che ha già fatto, ed è divenuto un uomo libero in Cristo, uscendo dalle barriere di credi per studiare la parola di Dio, senza preconcetti basati sulla tradizione umana”
........ omissis