Preface One – By R. M. de Vienne
It’s taken longer to write this volume of Separate Identity than we anticipated, but little of our expectations have held up as we’ve written this and the two previous books. We believed that a second volume would complete our research. It has not done so. There will be, assuming we live long enough to complete it, a third and final volume.
This volume differs in format from its predecessor. The first volume follows a loose chronological order. Because of its narrow focus primarily on the years 1879 to 1882, this volume is a series of essays each focusing on an aspect of Watch Tower transition into a separate, identifiable belief system. There is a looser chronological order here; and the chapters occasionally overlap each other in subject matter. As before we elected to present this history in as much detail as we can, hoping thereby to take our readers into the spirit of the times. Omission seems to us to be misdirection.
Volume 3 will focus on the fragmentation that followed 1881. It is partially written, but much hard research remains. And as always, we’re hampered by lack of resources. We have few issues of key magazines. We do not have anything like a complete run of A. P. Adams’ Spirit of the Word. We miss key years of J. H. Paton’s The World’s Hope. A paper published in California exists as a few clippings pasted into a scrapbook. A booklet written by Barbour seems to have been lost. We do not have any of the first issues of Jones’ Day Star. We appreciate help locating things like these.
Now, let me tell you about volume two. This volume examines the continuing controversy between Russell and Barbour. One writer suggested that it was short lived. It lasted until Barbour’s death in 1905. We tell you the story up to the mid 1880s. It is more complex than most writers appreciate, and in its complexity explains the development of key Watch Tower doctrines, at least one of which persists until today.
We tell you about the Watch Tower’s principals struggle to preserve the body of believers, to transition Barbourite believers into Watch Tower adherents. We tell you about their earliest missionary journeys, drawing much of this from sources not referenced by anyone else. We introduce you to people mentioned only once or twice in Zion’s Watch Tower but who played an important role in its earliest years. We tell you about the nature of the earliest congregations and fellowships and how they were formed. Again, we draw on first hand experiences not found in any history of the movement. We tell you about the reaffirmation of old doctrines and the discussions behind that.
The movement attracted clergy to its ranks. We discuss this in some detail, naming names, telling the story as we could uncover it of several clergy turned Watch Tower believers. In 1881 Russell and a few others organized and provided initial financing for the work. We provide details not found elsewhere, and we correct a widely-spread error. We tell you about the start of the publishing ministry and the development of the Priesthood of All Believers doctrine among Watch Tower adherents. A key event was the printing and circulation of Food for Thinking Christians. Though the Watchtower Society declined to share a key document, offering no explanation as to why a document from 1881-1882 might need to be held in secret, we offer our readers the most complete discussion of this small book's circulation and its effects on readership. With the circulation of Food new workers entered the field. The Watchtower society has ignored these, especially John B. Adamson, in its histories. We do not know why, but we think the reasons multifarious. Adamson and some others among the earliest missionaries left the Watch Tower movement. Watchtower writers tend to ignore the contributions of those who deflected from the movement. It is probably safe to say that much of this history is unknown to Watchtower researchers. It’s not their focus, and they’ve left it unexplored.
An important part of this era’s story is the spread of Watch Tower doctrine to various ethnic groups within the United States and to other lands. So we tell you about work among foreign language groups in the United States. The Zechs and a Norwegian sea captain are part of this story. We tell you about the early work in Canada, the United Kingdom, China, and other lands. We discuss at length the history of a man mentioned with favor in Jehovah’s Witnesses: Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom. His story is far different from what the author of that book presumed. We tell you about the early work in Liberia. [This history appeared first as B. W. Schulz: “Watch Tower Faith in Liberia: A Conflict of Faith and Authority,” Nssuka Journal of History, University of Nigeria, Volume 4, 2017, page 31ff.] Other lands come into this picture. Almost none of this has been published anywhere except in the original documents.
Eighteen eighty-one was a key year in Watch Tower history. Most of those who mention that year’s events misstate them. We do our best to correct the misdirection and misstatement common among recent writers. We think we provide a more complete picture of the Watch Tower’s earliest years, a more balanced picture than found elsewhere.
Read Mr. Schulz’ Introductory Essay. It clarifies issues that confuse some writers. It puts Russell and the Watch Tower movement in a historical perspective often misstated or ignored by recent writers. A later chapter takes up attempts by historians and sociologists to place the Watch Tower movement within one of the current theoretical frameworks. We suggest that they ignore key elements of the Watch Tower belief system so that their theories are questionable.
We have many to thank for their assistance: