A Prophetic Conference was held in Chicago in November 1886, and it was well-attended by prominent pre-millennialists. John H. Brown, describe by a later Watchtower writer as a “faithful Bible Student,” petitioned the organizers for space to sell Russell’s Plan of the Ages. Permission was refused, and Brown protested through the press. The Chicago Inter-Ocean printed his letter:
Would it not seem as though the managers of the Prophetic Convention, now being held in the city, in view of the prejudice against them in the church at large on account of their advanced views, would be remarkably tolerant toward others who, while holding some views in common with them, differ, we think essentially and honesty on some others?
Permit me to state that on the opening of the convention representing the Tower Publishing Company, Allegheny, Pa; I applied for space for the sale of “Millennial Dawn,” willing, of course, to pay for the privilege. Mr. Needham was the one to whom I had to apply finally, and I was flatly refused even a chance to distribute circulars in the hallway, with comments most decidedly unfavorable to the character of the book.
A seller of religious books declined to have even his name mentioned in connection with it, not wishing “to scare people with views of too pronounced a character.” Not feeling inclined to give up entirely, we sought and obtained privilege from the proprietor of a liquor store for permission to stand in front of his place and call attention to the book. The weather, of course, has interfered with work under such conditions, and the party we employed has made himself quietly useful in the hallway, distributing circulars, although several times warned to quit it.
Why is it that so many religious (?) people think theirs is the only plan of salvation? This book we offer, teaches (as per the Bible, we think) that all who will, may be saved, if not in this life, in the next; that is the point that staggers them.
That Watch Tower evangelists handed out tracts outside the conference hall, prompted one of the clergymen attending to seek an official statement separating the conference from any association with The Plan of the Ages. A newspaper report said:
The Rev. Henry M. Parsons, of Toronto, offered the following minute, which received the sanction of the management and friends to the true spirit of the conference:
The committee, having responsible authority for the calling and arrangement of the Bible and Prophetic Conference disclaims any connection with the book entitled “The Millennial Dawn,” believing it to contain much deadly error, insidiously mingled with the main truths constituting the testimony of the present conference. Nor is the committee in any way responsible for tracts and circulars distributed at Farwell Hall.
Though the statement was presented by Parsons, it was signed by George C. Needham, conference secretary.
G. C. Needham wanted the world to know that the 1886 Prophetic Conference Abhorred Millennial Dawn