“The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Belief in myths allows the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” – John F. Kennedy
The Legacy of Raymond Victor Franz
May 8, 1922 – June 2, 2010
Grace, integrity and willingness to help others – all qualities used to describe Raymond Victor Franz. He was an unassuming man. Anyone who knew him would tell you that. His frankness, honesty and integrity have proven to be a vital link in helping tens of thousands of people come to know the real truth about the Watch Tower organization and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Born on May 8, 1922, Raymond Franz spent his early years in association with Jehovah’s Witnesses, becoming a baptized member in 1939. He entered the full-time service in 1940, upon graduating from high school and becoming a special pioneer in 1942. He served at the organization’s world headquarters for fifteen years, from 1965 until 1980. He was a member of the Governing Body from October 20, 1971 to May 22, 1980. His father was baptized in 1913. His uncle, Frederick Franz, was a member of the Watch Tower headquarters staff and was a close associate of the Watchtower’s second president, Judge Rutherford. Fred Franz was influential in the religion’s development, practices and doctrines and later became the fourth president of the Watchtower Society. Fred Franz had promoted 1975 as the end of a system of things, and that he had been instrumental in driving his nephew out of the Watch Tower.
From 1944 to 1965, Raymond served on many assignments in the US and South America. He attended Gilead, graduating from the 3rd class in 1945 served as a special pioneer and traveled in the circuit work. While in San Diego, California, Franz spent five nights at ‘Beth Sarim’ (meaning ‘House of Princes’). This was a large home built by the Society and said to be ‘held in trust’ for the faithful men of old, from Abel onward, to be used by them upon their resurrection. Judge Rutherford, who had had some lung problems, spent the winters there during his life.
Franz was eventually assigned to Puerto Rico as a branch overseer. Before leaving, the third president of the Society, Nathan Knorr, warned that if Franz and the other young men serving as branch overseers wished to remain in their missionary assignments they were to avoid anything that might lead to courtship and marriage. The policy was: Loss of singleness meant loss of assignment.
In 1957, the Society asked Franz to check on the native Witnesses in the Dominican Republic, since all the American missionaries of the Witnesses had been expelled. A wave of violent persecution resulted in many local Witnesses being brutally beaten and imprisoned.
Finally in 1959, when Franz was 37 years of age, the Watch Tower lightened its’ stance on marriage, and Raymond married Cynthia Marie Badame, a graduate from the 28th class of Gilead. Together they continued their missionary work from 1959 to 1965, in Puerto Rico, the British Virgin Islands, and the Dominican Republic.
“We continued in traveling work until 1961 and then were transferred to the neighboring Dominican Republic… During our nearly five years there, we saw the fall of four separate governments and in April of 1965 experienced a war that centered around the capital where we were located” – Crisis of Conscience, Page 19, paragraphs 3 & 4.
Eventually, Franz was assigned to the writing department at the Watch Tower headquarters in Brooklyn, New York. Ray was given the task of collaboratively writing the ‘Aid to Bible Understanding’ – the first religious encyclopedia published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
“A few months after our arrival and after I had done some work in writing, President Knorr showed me into an office containing a table piled high with stacks of typed papers and asked me to undertake the development of a Bible dictionary… Others shared intermittently for varying periods but the *five persons mentioned carried the project through until the 1,696-page reference work, called Aid to Bible Understanding, was completed five years later.” – Crisis of Conscience, Page 21, paragraph 1.
*The ‘five persons’ were Lyman Swingle, Edward Dunlap, Reinhard Lengtat, John Wischuk, and of course the author (Raymond Franz).
In 1971, Franz was chosen to serve as one of 11 members of the worldwide Governing Body, something he viewed as a great responsibility and privilege.
In his book, Crisis of Conscience, Franz described his experiences at the world headquarters this way:
“What I saw, heard and experienced during the next fifteen years had a great impact on me. Whether the reaction of the reader will coincide with mine, I have no way of knowing, but one thing is certain and that is that no one could understand what brought me to a crisis situation without knowing these developments. The proverb is apt: ‘When anyone is replying to a matter before he hears it that is foolishness on his part and a humiliation’.” – Crisis of Conscience, Page 20, paragraph 4.
Frustrated by what he viewed as the Governing Body’s dogmatism and overemphasis on traditional views rather than reliance on the Bible in reaching doctrinal decisions, Franz and his wife decided to leave the international headquarters.
In an online tribute to Raymond Franz, CommentaryPress.com states:
“As Raymond learned the inner workings of the Governing Body, he became deeply concerned that the focus was more on preserving the image of the Organization rather than on sound Biblically based decisions. His disappointment lead to his sharing with Cynthia what he was troubled with concerning the Governing Body. Cynthia agreed with Raymond and together the two of them decided to leave the world headquarters in 1980.”
Raymond Franz informed headquarters of his decision with a letter dated May 22, 1980, that simply stated:
By means of this letter I submit my resignation as a member of the Governing Body. I will also be terminating my Bethel service. My prayers will continue to be offered on your behalf as well as for Jehovah God’s servants earth wide.
Your brother, R V Franz”
Raymond and Cynthia moved to Alabama, where he took up laboring work on a property owned by another Witness. The following month a committee of the Governing Body raised concerns over the spreading of “wrong teachings” emanating from headquarters staff and began questioning headquarters staff on their beliefs.
In his personal memoir Franz said that at the end of 1979 he reached a personal crossroad:
“I had spent nearly forty years as a full time representative, serving at every level of the organizational structure. The last fifteen years I had spent at the international headquarters, and the final nine of those as a member of the worldwide Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It was those final years that were the crucial period for me. Illusions there met up with reality.”
In September 1980, the Governing Body distributed a letter to all Circuit and District overseers stating that apostates need not be promoting doctrines to be disfellowshipped. The letter stated that individuals who persisted in “believing other doctrine despite scriptural reproof” were also apostatizing and therefore warranted “appropriate judicial action”.
Shortly after Franz’s employer submitted a letter of disassociation from Jehovah’s Witnesses, the September 15, 1981 issue of the Watchtower announced a change of policy on disassociation, directing that those who formally withdrew from the religion were to be treated as disfellowshipped wrongdoers. Franz continued to socialize and eat with his employer and was subsequently summoned to a judicial hearing on November 25 and disfellowshipped for disobeying the edict.
Franz wrote two books presenting detailed accounts of his years spent as a Jehovah’s Witness, a Governing Body member and his experiences throughout various levels of the organization. ‘Crisis of Conscience’ goes into detail about the Malawi/Mexico conundrum, the alternative military service fiasco, and the non-allowable bedroom intimacies debacle. His book, ‘In Search of Christian Freedom’, Franz’ love for God, justice and freedom shine through right to the end. These books have helped many within Jehovah’s Witnesses to honestly examine their beliefs as well as the actions and decisions of the leadership.
About Crisis of Conscience, Ray said:
“What this book contains is written out of a sense of obligation to people who I sincerely love. In all good conscience I can say that its aim is to help and not to hurt. If some of what is presented is painful to read, it was also painful to write. It is hoped that the reader will recognize that the search for truth need never be destructive of faith, that every effort to know and uphold truth will, instead, strengthen the basis for true faith. What those reading this information will do with it is, of course, their own decision. At least it will have been said, and a moral responsibility will have been met.”
After leaving Jehovah’s Witnesses, Ray continued to answer questions from the curious. He helped many to discover their own path in serving God through his humility and scholarly knowledge. Raymond was never interested in starting or leading a group of people. His only care was that others be able to worship God with a clean conscience, free of the fear of man, and free of intervention from the agendas of men.
On June 2, 2010, Raymond Franz passed away from a severe brain hemorrhage caused by head trauma, in Winston, GA. He was 88. He touched the lives of thousands of people. To many, he was like family. While being treated for various ailments in an Atlanta hospital for eight days, Cynthia Franz died of a massive heart attack, on December 29, 2013.
Ray was universally known as a gentle man, full of knowledge and love for the bible. He devoted his entire life to helping others get to know Jesus through his actions and the scriptures. Along with this love and humility was a desire to be honest and truthful with all, and it was this courageous honesty that defined his life in his later years. It will be his lasting legacy.
The sentiments expressed by his friends, in the following quotes, show how deeply he affected people:
“At a moment when decisive action was required, Ray resigned his leadership position… due to actions of the Governing Body that disturbed his conscience… When I think of Ray Franz, I think of his kindness, compassion and concern for others. He wanted justice, not for himself, but for the entire brotherhood and that’s why his conscience grieved him so.”
“This is one notable aspect of Ray Franz’s legacy. He wanted folks to know what was going on. For good or bad, Ray put it out there for people to decide however they will.“
“Franz has shown a much better grasp and deeper appreciation for the Scriptures than many prominent members of the Bethel family. From what I have observed, most of the organization’s middle management are much more concerned with what the Watchtower magazine and headquarter policy says. For them, the Bible is just a big lump of Play-Dough to mold around the Watchtower’s teachings.”
“Franz left a profound legacy to many worldwide. Raymond Franz, a former Governing Body member of a religious organization, exposed it, and helped many break free of the bondage.”
“Ray’s heart was breaking over the fact that the Governing Body members were heartless and cruel, sticking to tradition and legalism, viewing ‘the friends’ problems in a cavalier way. “
During the past 30+ years, through his two compassionate and revelatory books, Crisis of Conscience and In Search of Christian Freedom, Franz, never consumed by bitterness, provided a rare glimpse into a very secretive organization that continues to insist on 100% conformity to heartless and sometimes harmful rules and ever-changing doctrines.
Fueled to a great degree by Raymond Franz’s remarkable conscience-stirring words there has been an ongoing, extensive loss of members internationally as they also want to worship with a clear conscience, free from the fear of man, and free of the abuse of power by a hermetically sealed leadership, no matter what the penalty.
Raymond Franz’ wish was for each and every person to find happiness and experience joy every day of their lives and that’s why he was so totally against the impossible psychological religious demands of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
In conclusion, Raymond Franz’ words leave a legacy of hope for all those pursuing true happiness, joy and freedom:
“Simply withdrawing from a system that one has found to be seriously flawed is not a solution in itself. It is what one does thereafter that determines whether there has been progress and benefit or not.
It is also true that any transition—even if only one in outlook—can require not only time but also mental and emotional adjustments. “
“It seems, however, that we can often learn as much from the “unpleasant” experiences of life as we can from the pleasurable ones—perhaps more that is of lasting value. “
The softest pillow is a clear conscience – French Proverb
Ray died in 2010 and his wife Cynthia died in 2013. Many knew him personally, but many thousands more have come to know him from his books: Crisis of Conscience and In Search of Christian Freedom. The first contribution above is from someone who knew him personally.
(Information about his books, below, taken from Amazon, with a selected review for each.)