Tuesday, September 27, 2016

An overview





            Clearly, Separate Identity will see a third volume. While we are sometimes disappointed by lack of detail or an inability to find documentation, the amount of detail we have is unexpected and pleasing. The story, as you’ve been told it, doesn’t always change much, but it is more meaningful for the details.
            Let me tell you about volume two as we see it. Unwritten yet is a chapter about starting Zion’s Watch Tower and the continuing controversies over the Ransom -Atonement doctrine. It exists only as notes. It is probably the last chapter we’ll write. We consider the evolution of a lay-preaching ministry and of the publishing ministry. Usually, all that is said about this is that Russell called for ten thousand preachers. There is a more complex story. And as usually told this is out of social context. We restore that, making the story conform to what really happened. The circulation of Food for Thinking Christians gets its own chapter. This was first written sometime ago, but needs a re-write to accommodate new information. The circulation of Food led to an enlarged international work. We tell in separate chapters about the work in Canada and the United Kingdom. China, various other lands, and Liberia are documented in a single chapter. The foreign language work in the United States led to international mission work. That gets its own chapter. Appended to the discussion of early evangelism in the UK is a short section profiling one of the key, but overlooked, exponents of Watch Tower doctrine in the UK. We discuss the organization and financing of the work from the unincorporated tract society to its incorporation, profiling the early directors.  As with many of these chapters, the story takes us places no-one else has gone.
            We tell in some detail the work of the earliest Watch Tower evangelists. Some of that has appeared as temporary posts on this blog. New Workers in the Field tells of somewhat later evangelists. Out of Babylon tells of efforts to separate from doctrines and churches they believed failed Christ. We tell the story of clergy who took up the new faith. One of the faults of more favorable ‘histories’ of the Watch Tower movement is a tendency to ignore those who left the faith. We do not do that, believing it distorts history.
            We know there was some sort of evangelism in France. Beyond a name and a letter or two, we cannot document it. This is true of Norway and Denmark. The effort was so small I do not believe any of that is recoverable. We have a single mention of Ireland. Again, I do not believe we will find more.
            Currently, we’re researching and writing a chapter entitled “Approach to 1881.” Adherents saw that as a year of prophetic fulfillments. We put their prophetic expectation in historical context. If considered at all, most researchers say Watch Tower adherents expected the end of the world in 1881. This is uniformed at best and a purposeful misrepresentation at its worst. But much that followed swung off the hinges of 1881. This will be a very blunt chapter and probably upsetting to some of our readers. We managed to displease some with volume one and others with our biography of N. Barbour. Why should volume two be different?
            As it is now, volume three will consider the divisions that followed; the writing and circulation of Millennial Dawn, a chapter on the Watch Tower movement in historical context; a chapter on Historical Idealism; a chapter on the Watch Tower movement’s connection to other, unexpected movements.
            We only cite contemporary documents except when we consider some key comments by later writers. Do not expect us to cite secondary sources. While this may play into your desire to lead readers to opposition sources, it is not good practice. A sociologist might do that; a historian should never do it.



           We restore as nearly as possible the warts, bumps, unlovely and lovely of the personalities who appear in this history. We do not write sanitized history. If you want a paean to Russell, this is not the book for you.
           

8 comments:

Andrew Martin said...

The promised Volumes 2 and 3 sound fascinating. I suppose the chapter on the continuing Ransom/Atonement controversies will address Ernest Henninges, Rose Ball, and the New Covenant Believers.

"Appended to the discussion of early evangelism in the UK is a short section profiling one of the key, but overlooked, exponents of Watch Tower doctrine in the UK." - I'm willing to wait, of course, but I'm wondering if you mean Jesse Hemery, who served as branch overseer from 1899 to 1937, then vanished from the pages of the 1973 Yearbook.

Profiles of the early Society directors should be informative.

"We tell the story of clergy who took up the new faith. One of the faults of more favorable ‘histories’ of the Watch Tower movement is a tendency to ignore those who left the faith. We do not do that, believing it distorts history." Indeed. Perhaps many of them were "religious hitchhikers", as William Booth of the South Africa field has been described, moving from one group to another in search of his ultimate goal. Is that really much different from George Storrs' early association with the Adventist movement?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe both W. R. Fuller and Horace Randle, who were contacted by Miss Downing in China, eventually parted company with Watch Tower. It would be gratifying to see some of these historical loose ends finally tied up.

If "Approach to 1881" is a blunt chapter, so be it. A "desire to lead readers to opposition sources" sounds ulterior; I suspect I have a pretty good idea of who you mean. Over the course of this project, I hope to gain a better grasp of how to really distinguish secondary sources from primary ones.

No one insists on a sanitized version of the activities of King David or the Apostle Peter; why should we for Charles T. Russell?

Keep up the great research and writing, both of you.

B. W. Schulz said...

this book ends at 1887 or thereabouts. So we tell you about Barbour and others you may not have heard of. The people you mention would be in On the Cusp of Fame, the next book in this series. It will cover 1887-1905.

B. W. Schulz said...

W. R. Fuller does not seem to have left the Watch Tower movement. He died shortly after writing to Russell. Randell left in a fit of temper.

Andrew Martin said...

Thanks for the clarification. Eagerly looking forward to the next volume.

Anonymous said...


Thank you Bruce for keeping this intriguing blog going. Also to Rachael for her valuable work.

I much look forward to volume 2 and 3, yet am always at a loss to understand why anyone would be upset by volume 1 for some reason? If ones preconceptions of how things really were is shown to be wrong by the mirror of history, isn't it better to re-evaluate these? It is not as if any eternal truths are somehow changed by acknowledging that, at times, we may have misunderstood aspects of our early history.

Best wishes to you both
Son of Ton

roberto said...

Bruce and Rachael your efforts be blessed

roberto said...

In reference to "Food for Thinking Christians", I can say that was the first publication that reached an Italian and also the first distributed by an Italian (See ZWT 1885, July and August 1885 p. 2, letter from Argentine Republic). I will contribute better with the third volume

Anonymous said...

Good to hear.