Who Was Thomas Emlyn?

The Watchtower writers didn’t intend for ex-Witnesses to see the close parallels between their own experience and that of Thomas Emlyn. But that’s not the only reason we include a reference to this recent article. It should also help JWs think twice before complaining that a site such as this one is tantamount to “hero worship.”

Although Emlyn’s specific doctrinal issues might be different than ours, the April 1, 2014 Watchtower celebrates his life because he took a stand for truth and suffered the consequences. The article says that the outcome of his trial was obviously influenced by seven bishops of the Church of Ireland. But he stood up to their scorn, suffering a year in prison and the charge of blasphemy.

Similarly we include the experiences of  many people who, like Thomas Emlyn, have stood up for truth and suffered the consequences due to the treatment by the leadership of the Watch Tower Society and other Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Although Emlyn’s issue was with the Trinity doctrine, those who researched the 1914 or related teachings have often experienced amazing parallels to this story. Some excerpts from the Watchtower article are included below:

During those times, Emlyn was carefully studying the Bible. … As he researched the Gospels, he became convinced that they supported his improved understanding.

The Watchtower often reserves the phrase “careful study of the Bible” for those interested in studying the Bible with Witnesses, in the context of conversion, baptism, and making use of the study aids provided by the “faithful slave.” But what was the attitude of Watch Tower leadership when that careful study of the Bible would convince someone of an improved understanding. Read Randy Watters experience and you might be surprised to see how member of the Governing Body responded: “Stay away from deep Bible study to determine meanings of the scriptures.”

Emlyn did not immediately reveal what he had found. However, some in his Dublin church noticed that he did not refer to [the doctrine] in his sermons.

This is common to several of the experiences. Note that Ron Frye, who had been a Circuit Overseer, spent nearly a decade reevaluating the doctrines before leaving. Naturally, these issues can never be heard in your public talks.

..[H]oping to vindicate his views, he published [a book] An Humble Inquiry Into the Scripture-Account of Jesus Christ. In this publication, he gave clear Scriptural proof…. This infuriated members of Emlyn’s former congregation in Dublin. A formal complaint was filed.

When a Witness leaves and writes a book, this is considered one of the most heinous forms of apostasy. The writing is immediately deemed “evil” or “poisonous.” The Watchtower has likened such books to “pornography.” And even knowing that someone could collect information about them that might be publicized negatively is fear-inspiring to them. Note the reaction of the “Judicial Committee” in Poul Bregninge’s experience when he told them he had a tape recorder.

Emlyn was arrested …in Dublin on June 14, 1703. …The trial proved to be a farce. Seven bishops of the Church of Ireland sat on the bench with the judges. Emlyn was not allowed to speak in his own defense. Richard Levins, a distinguished lawyer, told Emlyn that he would be run down “like a wolf, without law or game.” …

This was the climate in Brooklyn Bethel when Nestor and Toni Kuilan were “arrested.” Nestor was told that if he ever wanted to be re-instated he would have to go through the Governing Body. The Governing Body worked behind the scenes to make sure the final judgments were to their liking. This is well known in the case of Ray Franz, who also details, in his books, some of the unchristian judicial methods the Watch Tower leadership engaged in during the cases of  Edward Dunlap, Cris and Norma Sanchez and many others. And this is validated again by the experiences  contributed here by Randy Watters and Nestor Kuilan.

When Emlyn was found guilty, the solicitor-general proposed that he retract. Emlyn refused. He was fined and sentenced to a year’s imprisonment. …

This actually sounds mild compared to the way Peter Gregerson puts it: “he also knew that leaving the Watchtower, after nearly fifty years of loyalty, would not be easy. His wife and her family, his children, …and… closest friends were all Witnesses. And in their eyes, to leave the Watchtower is to turn one’s back on Jehovah himself, and to be essentially given a death sentence. If a person is disfellowshipped, other members are no longer allowed to speak with that “wicked” person.”

Emlyn moved to London, where he eventually associated with William Whiston, another Bible scholar who had been ostracized because he published what he felt was Bible truth. …

Compare this attitude with the fact that Jehovah’s Witnesses are trained to be prejudiced against those who associate themselves with non-Witnesses. We have included the contributions of some, like Joan Cetnar, who have found solace and spiritual fulfillment through other religious organizations and ministries. And, of course, others have found this same fulfillment without any need for organizations of any kind.

The example set by Emlyn and others can move us to consider whether we are willing to stand up for the truth in the face of scorn. We too can ask ourselves, ‘Which is more important—the honor and blessing of the community or upholding the truth of God’s Word?’

Clearly this article in the Watchtower is one of many examples that hits very close to home for many who happily worked and served among Jehovah’s Witnesses for years, or even decades. We celebrate how they have made the proper choice dictated by conscience: “standing up for truth in the face of scorn.” But we won’t scorn them.

 

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