TIMELINES: The History of the GB & FDS (Governing Body and Faithful and Discreet Slave)

This subject can prove useful as a reference for placing various doctrinal beliefs in a historical context:

For now we will merely place Wikipedia information here as a placeholder, (with timeline info repeated near the top) but will supplement with Watch Tower publications quotes in the future:

  • Samuel Herd (1999)[80]
  • Geoffrey Jackson (2005)[81]
  • M. Stephen Lett (1999)[80]
  • Gerrit Lösch (1994)[82][83]
  • Anthony Morris III (2005)[81]
  • Mark Sanderson (2012)[84][85]
  • David H. Splane (1999)[80]

Former

WATCH TOWER PRESIDENTS & DIRECTORS

Current and Past Presidents

Presidents

Name Date of birth Date of death Started Ended
William Henry Conley June 11, 1840 July 25, 1897 February 16, 1881 December, 1884
Incorporated
Charles Taze Russell February 16, 1852 October 31, 1916 December 15, 1884 October 31, 1916
Joseph Franklin Rutherford November 8, 1869 January 8, 1942 January 6, 1917 January 8, 1942
Nathan Homer Knorr April 23, 1905 June 8, 1977 January 13, 1942 June 8, 1977
Frederick William Franz September 12, 1893 December 22, 1992 June 22, 1977 December 22, 1992
Milton George Henschel August 9, 1920 March 22, 2003 December 30, 1992 October 7, 2000
Don Alden Adams 1925 October 7, 2000 incumbent

Current Directors

  • Don Alden Adams, director since 2000, president since 2000
  • Danny L. Bland, director since 2000
  • William F. Malenfant, director since 2000, vice-president since 2000
  • Robert W. Wallen, director since 2000, vice-president since 2000
  • Philip D. Wilcox, director since 2000
  • John N. Wischuk, director since 2000

Former Directors

Directors are listed generally from most to least recent. List may not be complete.

  • Richard E. Abrahamson (director 2000-2004, secretary-treasurer 2000-2004)
  • Milton George Henschel (director 1947–2000, vice-president 1977–1992, president 1992–2000)
  • Lyman Alexander Swingle (director 1945–2000)[117]
  • W. Lloyd Barry (director ?–1999, vice-president ?–1999)
  • Frederick William Franz (director 1945–1992, vice-president 1945–1977, president 1977–1992)[118]
  • Grant Suiter (director 1938–1983, secretary-treasurer)[119][120]
  • William K. Jackson (director 1973–1981)[121]
  • Nathan Homer Knorr (director 1940–1977, vice-president 1940–1942, president 1942–1977)[122]
  • John O. Groh (director 1965–1975)
  • Thomas J. Sullivan (director 1932–1973)[123][124]
  • Alexander Hugh Macmillan (director 1918–1938)
  • Hugo Henry Riemer (1923–1965)[125][126]
  • William Edwin Van Amburgh (director 1916–1947, secretary-treasurer)[127][128][129][130]
  • Hayden Cooper Covington (director 1940–1945, vice-president 1942–1945)[131]
  • Joseph Franklin Rutherford (director 1916–1942, acting president[132] 1916–1917, president 1917–1942)[133]
  • Charles A. Wise (director 1919–1940, vice-president 1919–1940)[134][135][136][137]
  • J. A. Baeuerlcin (director 1923 fl)[138]
  • R. H. Barber (director 1919)[139]
  • Charles H. Anderson (director 1918–?, vice-president 1918–1919)[133]
  • J. A. Bohnet (director 1917–?)[133]
  • George H. Fisher (director 1917–?)[133]
  • W. E. Spill (director 1917–?)[133]
  • Andrew N. Pierson (director 1916–1918, vice-president)[127]
  • Robert H. Hirsh (director 1917)
  • J. D. Wright (director fl1916–1917)[127]
  • Isaac F. Hoskins (director fl1916–1917)[127]
  • Alfred I. Ritchie (director 1916–1917, vice-president)[127][140]
  • Henry Clay Rockwell (director fl1916–1917)[127]
  • Charles Taze Russell (director 1884–1916, president 1884–1916)[141]
  • William M. Wright (?–1906)[142]
  • Henry Weber (director 1884–1904, vice-president 1884–1904)[143][144]
  • Maria Russell (née Ackley) (director 1884–1897, secretary-treasurer 1884–?, then-wife of Charles Taze Russell)[141][145][146]
  • J. B. Adamson (director 1884–?)[141]
  • Rose J. Ball (director 1884–?)[143]
  • Simon O. Blunden (director 1884–?)[143]
  • W. C. McMillan (director 1884–?)[141]
  • W. I. Mann (director 1884, vice-president 1884)[141]
  • J. F. Smith (director 1884)[141]

GOVERNING BODY

The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses is the ruling council of Jehovah’s Witnesses[1] based in Brooklyn, New York. The body formulates doctrines, oversees the production of written material for publications and conventions, and administers the group’s worldwide operations.[2][3] Official publications refer to members of the Governing Body as followers of Christ rather than religious leaders.[4]

Its size has varied, from seven (2014–present)[5][6] to eighteen (1974–1980)[7] members.[8][9] New members of the Governing Body are selected by existing members.[10]

Contents

History

Since its incorporation in 1884, the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania has been directed by a president and board of directors. Until January 1976, the president exercised complete control of doctrines, publications and activities of the Watch Tower Society and the religious denominations with which it was connected—the Bible Students and Jehovah’s Witnesses.[11][12][13] When the Society’s second president, J.F. Rutherford, encountered opposition from directors in 1917, he dismissed them. In 1925 he overruled the Watch Tower Society’s editorial committee when it opposed publication of an article about disputed doctrines regarding the year 1914. In 1931, the editorial committee was dissolved.[14][15]

In 1943 The Watchtower described the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society as the “legal governing body” of anointed Jehovah’s Witnesses.[16] A year later, in an article opposing the democratic election of congregation elders, the magazine said the appointment of such ones was the duty of “a visible governing body under Jehovah God and his Christ.”[17] For several years, the role and specific identity of the governing body remained otherwise undefined. A 1955 organizational handbook stated that “the visible governing body has been closely identified with the board of directors of this corporation.”[18] Referring to events related to their 1957 convention, a 1959 publication said “the spiritual governing body of Jehovah’s witnesses watched the developments [then] the president of the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society [acted].”[19] The 1970 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses noted that the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania was the organization used to plan the activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses and provide them with “spiritual food”, then declared: “So really the governing body of Jehovah’s Witnesses is the board of directors of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania.”[20]

Frederick Franz at Watch Tower Society headquarters in Brooklyn.

On October 1, 1971, Watch Tower Society vice-president Frederick Franz addressed the annual meeting of the Pennsylvania corporation in Buckingham, Pennsylvania, stating that the legal corporation of the Watch Tower Society was an “agency” or “temporary instrument” used by the Governing Body on behalf of the “faithful and discreet slave“.[21] Three weeks later, on October 20, four additional men joined the seven members of the Society’s board of directors on what became known as a separate, expanded Governing Body.[22] The board of directors had until then met only sporadically, usually to discuss the purchase of property or new equipment, leaving decisions about Watch Tower Society literature to the president and vice-president, Nathan Knorr and Fred Franz.[21][23] The Watchtower of December 15, 1971 was the first to unambiguously capitalize the term “Governing Body of Jehovah’s witnesses” as the defined group leading the religion, with a series of articles explaining its role and its relationship with the Watch Tower Society.[2][24]

The focus on the new concept of “theocratic” leadership was accompanied by statements that the structure was not actually new: The Watch Tower declared that “a governing body made its appearance” some time after the formation of Zion’s Watch Tower Society in 1884,[25] though it had not been referred to as such at the time.[11] The article stated that Watch Tower Society president Charles Taze Russell had been a member of the governing body.[25] The 1972 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses stated that following Rutherford’s death in 1942 “one of the first things that the governing body decided upon was the inauguration of the Theocratic Ministry School” and added that the “governing body” had published millions of books and Bibles in the previous thirty years.[26] Former member of the Governing Body, Raymond Franz, stated that the actions of presidents Russell, Rutherford and Knorr in overriding and failing to consult with directors proved the Bible Students and Jehovah’s Witnesses had been under a monarchical rule until 1976, leaving no decisions to any “governing body”.[27]

In 1972, a Question From Readers article in The Watchtower further reinforced the concept of the “Governing Body”; the magazine said the term referred to an agency that administers policy and provides organizational direction, guidance and regulation and was therefore “appropriate, fitting and Scriptural.”[24][28] Organizational changes at the highest levels of the Watch Tower Society in 1976 significantly increased the powers and authority of the Governing Body.[29] The body has never had a legal corporate existence and operates through the Watch Tower Society and its board of directors.[30]

Reorganization

After its formal establishment in 1971, the Governing Body met regularly but, according to Raymond Franz, only briefly; Franz claims meetings were sometimes as short as seven minutes,[31] to make decisions about branch appointments and conduct that should be considered disfellowshipping offenses.[32][33] Franz claims that in 1971 and again in 1975, the Governing Body debated the extent of the authority it should be given.[34] The Governing Body voted in December 1975 to establish six operating committees to oversee the various administrative requirement of the organization’s worldwide activities that formerly had been under the direction of the president; furthermore, each branch overseer was to be replaced by a branch committee of at least three members.[35] The change, which took effect on January 1, 1976, was described in the Watch Tower Society’s 1993 history book, Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, as “one of the most significant organizational readjustments in the modern-day history of Jehovah’s Witnesses.”[36]

Headquarters purge

In 1980, dissent arose among members of the Governing Body regarding the significance of 1914 in Jehovah’s Witnesses’ doctrines. According to former Witnesses James Penton and Heather and Gary Botting, internal dissatisfaction with official doctrines continued to grow, leading to a series of secret investigations and judicial hearings. Consequently, dissenting members were expelled from the Brooklyn headquarters staff in the same year.[37][38][39] Raymond Franz claimed he was forced to resign from the Governing Body, and he was later disfellowshipped from the religion.

The Watch Tower Society responded to the dissent with a more severe attitude regarding the treatment of expelled Witnesses.[37][38][40] In his 1997 study of the religion, Penton concluded that since Raymond Franz’s expulsion in 1980, the Governing Body displayed an increased level of conservatism, sturdy resistance to changes of policy and doctrines, and an increased tendency to isolate dissidents within the organization by means of disfellowshipping.[41]

Helpers

The April 15, 1992 issue of The Watchtower carried an article entitled Jehovah’s Provision, the “Given Ones” which drew a parallel between ancient non-Israelites who had been assigned temple duties (the “Nethinim” and “sons of the servants of Solomon”) and Witness elders in positions of responsibility immediately under the oversight of the Governing Body who did not profess to be “anointed”.[42]

Both that issue of The Watchtower and the 1993 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses carried the same announcement:

In view of the tremendous increase worldwide, it seems appropriate at this time to provide the Governing Body with some additional assistance. Therefore it has been decided to invite several helpers, mainly from among the great crowd, to share in the meetings of each of the Governing Body Committees, that is, the Personnel, Publishing, Service, Teaching, and Writing Committees. Thus, the number attending the meetings of each of these committees will be increased to seven or eight. Under the direction of the Governing Body committee members, these assistants will take part in discussions and will carry out various assignments given them by the committee. This new arrangement goes into effect May 1, 1992. For many years now, the number of the remnant of anointed Witnesses has been decreasing, while the number of the great crowd has increased beyond our grandest expectations.[43][44]

Each of the current Governing Body members served as a committee “helper” before being appointed to the Governing Body itself.[45][46][47] The appointment of helpers to the Governing Body committees was described in 2006 as “still another refinement.”[48]

2000 and beyond

Until 2000, the directors and officers of the Watch Tower Society were members of the Governing Body. Since then, members of the ecclesiastical Governing Body have not served as directors of any of the various corporations used by Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the Governing Body has delegated such administrative responsibilities to other members of the religion.[49]

Committees

The Governing Body functions by means of its six committees, which carry out various administrative functions.[50] Each committee is assisted by “helpers,” who do not necessarily profess to be of the “anointed”. Governing Body meetings are held weekly in closed session.[51] According to Raymond Franz, decisions of the body were required to be unanimous until 1975, after which a two-thirds majority of the full body was required, regardless of the number present.[52][53]

  • The Personnel Committee arranges for volunteers to serve in the organization’s headquarters and worldwide branch offices, which are each referred to as Bethel. It oversees arrangements for the personal and spiritual assistance of Bethel staff, as well as the selection and invitation of new Bethel members.
  • The Publishing Committee supervises the printing, publishing and shipping of literature, as well as legal matters involved in printing, such as obtaining property for printing facilities. It is responsible for overseeing factories, properties, and financial operations of corporations used by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
  • The Service Committee supervises the evangelical activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses, which includes traveling overseers, pioneers, and the activities of congregation publishers. It oversees communication between the international headquarters, branch offices, and the congregations. It examines annual reports of preaching activity from the branches. It is responsible for inviting members to attend the Gilead school, the Bible School for Single Brothers,[54] and the Traveling Overseers’ School, and for assigning graduates of these schools to their places of service.[55][56]
  • The Teaching Committee arranges congregation meetings, circuit assemblies, and regional and international conventions as well as various schools for elders, ministerial servants, pioneers and missionaries, such as Gilead school. It supervises preparation of material to be used in teaching, and oversees the development of new audio and video programs.
  • The Writing Committee supervises the writing and translation of all material published by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, including scripts for dramas and talk outlines. It responds to questions about scriptural, doctrinal, and moral issues, specific problems in the congregations, and the standing of members in congregations.
  • The Coordinator’s Committee deals with emergencies, disaster relief and other matters, such as investigations. It comprises the coordinators, or a representative, from each of the other Governing Body committees and a secretary who is also a member of the Governing Body. It is responsible for the efficient operation of the other committees.

Representatives

Initially, the Governing Body directly appointed all congregation elders.[57] By 1975, the appointment of elders and ministerial servants was said to be “made directly by a governing body of spirit-anointed elders or by them through other elders representing this body.”[58] In 2001, The Watchtower, stated that recommendations for such appointments were submitted to branch offices.[59] As of September 2014, circuit overseers appoint elders and ministerial servants after discussion with congregation elders, without consulting with the branch office.[60]

The Governing Body continues to directly appoint branch office committee members and traveling overseers,[60][61] and only such direct appointees are described as “representatives of the Governing Body.”[62][63]

Relationship with “faithful and discreet slave”

The Governing Body is said to provide “spiritual food” for Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide.[64][65][66] Until late 2012, the Governing Body described itself as the representative[50][67] and “spokesman” for God’s “faithful and discreet slave class” (approximately 11,800 Witnesses who profess to be anointed) who are collectively said to be God’s “prophet”[68] and “channel for new spiritual light”.[69][70] The Governing Body does not consult with the other anointed Witnesses whom it was said to represent when formulating policy and doctrines or approving material for publications and conventions; the authority of the Governing Body was presumed to be analogous to that of the older men of Jerusalem in cases such as the first-century circumcision issue.[71] The majority of Witnesses who profess to be anointed have no authority to contribute to the development or change of doctrines.[72][73][74] Anointed Witnesses are instructed to remain modest and avoid “wildly speculating about things that are still unclear,” instead waiting for God to reveal his purposes[74] in The Watchtower.[75]

In 2009, The Watchtower indicated that the dissemination of “new spiritual light” is the responsibility of only “a limited number” of the “slave class”, asking: “Are all these anointed ones throughout the earth part of a global network that is somehow involved in revealing new spiritual truths? No.”[76] In 2010 the society said that “deep truths” were discerned by “responsible representatives” of the “faithful and discreet slave class” at the religion’s headquarters, and then considered by the entire Governing Body before making doctrinal decisions.[77] In August 2011, the Governing Body cast doubt on other members’ claims of being anointed, stating that “A number of factors—including past religious beliefs or even mental or emotional imbalance—might cause some to assume mistakenly that they have the heavenly calling.” The Governing Body also stated that “we have no way of knowing the exact number of anointed ones on earth; nor do we need to know”, and that it “does not maintain a global network of anointed ones.”[78] At the 2012 Annual Meeting of the Watch Tower Society, the “faithful and discreet slave” was redefined as referring to the Governing Body only and the terms are now synonymous.[79]

Governing Body members

Current

As of March 2014, the following people are members of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses[8] (year appointed in parentheses):

  • Samuel Herd (1999)[80]
  • Geoffrey Jackson (2005)[81]
  • M. Stephen Lett (1999)[80]
  • Gerrit Lösch (1994)[82][83]
  • Anthony Morris III (2005)[81]
  • Mark Sanderson (2012)[84][85]
  • David H. Splane (1999)[80]

Former

Prior to 1971, various Watch Tower Society directors were informally identified as members of the “governing body”. Jehovah’s Witnesses publications began capitalizing Governing Body as a proper noun in 1971; The Watchtower that year announced “The present Governing Body comprises eleven anointed witnesses of Jehovah.” These eleven members are indicated in italics in the list below.[86][87] Years active are shown in parentheses. All members served until their deaths unless specified.

TIMELINE OF THE FAITHFUL AND DISCREET SLAVE TEACHING

(note that this is currently taken from wikipedia and will be supplemented with documentation from Watchtower Publications.)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedi
The faithful and discreet slave is the term used by Jehovah’s Witnesses to describe the religion’s Governing Body in its role of directing doctrines and teachings. The group is described as a “class” of “anointed” Christians that operates under the direct control of Jesus Christ[1] to exercise teaching authority in all matters pertaining to doctrine and articles of faith.[2][3]

The concept is a central doctrine of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ system of belief[4] and is based on their interpretation of the Parable of the Faithful Servant in Matthew 24:45–47, Mark 13:34-37 and Luke 12:35-48.

The doctrine has undergone several major changes since it was formulated in 1881 by Charles Taze Russell, founder of the Bible Student movement. Russell initially applied it to the “church”—the “little flock” of 144,000 who would go to heaven—but five years later explained that it was an individual who would act as a sole channel or agent for Christ, dispensing “food”, or new truths, for God’s “household”. Bible Students consequently regarded Russell as the “faithful and wise servant” of the parable.[5][6][7] In 1927 the Watch Tower Society announced that the “servant” was not in fact an individual, but was made up of the entire body of faithful spirit-anointed Christians; by 2010 that group numbered about 11,000 Witnesses from around the world.[8] In 2012 the society announced an “adjustment” of the doctrine, explaining that the slave was now understood to be synonymous with the Governing Body, a small group of anointed elders serving at the religion’s world headquarters. The announcement also marked a change in belief about the timing of the slave class’s appointment by Christ: it was said to have taken place in 1919 rather than in apostolic times, as previously believed.[9]

Role

Watch Tower Society publications teach that Jesus uses the faithful and discreet slave “to publish information on the fulfillment of Bible prophecies and to give timely direction on the application of Bible principles in daily life”[10][11] as the only means of communicating God’s messages to humans. It is referred to as God’s “prophet”[12] and “channel”,[13] and claims to provide “divine” direction and guidance. Jehovah’s Witnesses are told their survival of Armageddon depends in part on their obedience to the slave class.[14]

Governing Body members are said to act in the role of the faithful and discreet slave class when arriving at decisions on doctrines, activities and oversight of Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide, including making appointments to positions of responsibility.[15][16][17]

Origin and history

The parable on which Jehovah’s Witnesses base their doctrine of the “faithful and discreet slave”, as rendered in the King James Version, reads: “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods.”

Watch Tower publications assert that Christ, the “master” in the parable, returned in Kingdom power in 1914 and at that date identified those associated with the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society as the only group still faithfully feeding his followers.[18][19][20] (Earlier publications apply different dates to this event. The date of Christ’s inspection has previously been identified as 1919,[21] though publications have also suggested Russell’s group passed God’s test of fitness 40 years earlier, using The Watchtower as his principal method of spreading Bible truth from 1879. Publications had claimed the slave class began using the Watch Tower Society as its legal instrument in 1884.)[22][23] Christ, in fulfillment of the parable, subsequently appointed anointed Christians associated with the Watch Tower Society “over all his belongings”. The “belongings” are said to today include Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Brooklyn headquarters, branch offices, Kingdom Halls and Assembly Halls worldwide as well as the “great crowd” of Jehovah’s Witnesses.[18]

Development of doctrine

In 1881, an article in Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence by the magazine’s editor Charles Taze Russell identified the “faithful and wise servant” as “that ‘little flock’ of consecrated servants who are faithfully carrying out their consecration vows—the body of Christ … the whole body individually and collectively, giving the meat in due season to the household of faith—the great company of believers.”[24][10][25]

In 1895, Russell’s wife Maria claimed that Russell himself was the figure referred to in the parable at Matthew 24:45-47, though Russell initially declined to accept the personal application of the title, suggesting that it should apply to the Watch Tower rather than its editor.[26][27] In 1897 Russell agreed that Christ would have made a “choice of one channel for dispensing the meat in due season [emphasis in the original]” and while he did not refer to that “one channel” as an individual, Russell did apply to it the personal pronoun “he” (for example: “if unfaithful he will be deposed entirely”), and noted “whoever the Lord will so use, as a truth-distributing agent, will be very humble and unassuming” and “he would not think of claiming authorship or ownership of the truth.”[28]

In 1909, in an unsigned article, the Watch Tower mentioned that the “application to us of Matthew 24:45″ had come “some fourteen years ago”, or about 1895. The article went on to say “the Society’s literature was the channel through which the Lord sent them practically all that they know about the Bible and the Divine purposes.” [emphasis added][29]

The prevailing view among Bible Students that Russell was “the faithful and wise servant” of Jesus’ parable,[30] was reiterated in the Watch Tower a few weeks after Russell’s death in 1916:

Thousands of the readers of Pastor Russell’s writings believe that he filled the office of “that faithful and wise servant,” and that his great work was giving to the Household of Faith meat in due season. His modesty and humility precluded him from openly claiming this title, but he admitted as much in private conversation.[31]

The Watch Tower Society’s official history of Jehovah’s Witnesses states that Russell “did not personally promote the idea, but he did acknowledge the apparent reasonableness of the arguments of those who favored it.”[32]

In 1917, the publisher’s preface to the book, The Finished Mystery, issued as a posthumous publication of Russell’s writings, identified him as the “faithful and wise servant” appointed by Christ;[33] as late as 1923, the Watch Tower repeated the same belief about his role, declaring: “We believe that all who are now rejoicing in present truth will concede that Brother Russell faithfully filled the office of special servant of the Lord; and that he was made ruler over all the Lord’s goods … Brother Russell occupied the office of that ‘faithful and wise servant’.”[34]

In 1927, Watch Tower Society president Joseph Rutherford reverted to Russell’s original viewpoint, announcing that the “servant” was not an individual, but was made up of the entire body of faithful spirit-anointed Christians.[35]

A 1950 issue of The Watchtower appeared to assign to the “mother organization”—in reference to the Watch Tower Society—the task of feeding Christians “meat in due season”;[36] in 1951 the magazine defined the “faithful and discreet slave” as a class of people whose teachings were imparted through a theocratic organization.[37]

From 2000 the Governing Body was increasingly described as the representative[38][39] and “spokesman” for God’s “faithful and discreet slave class”.

Watch Tower Society publications had taught that the “faithful and discreet slave” class had had a continuous uninterrupted existence since being appointed by Christ at the time of Pentecost AD 33,[21] when the first 120 people upon whom holy spirit was poured out began “feeding” Jews with spiritual food. As new disciples came in, they filled the role of “domestics” and joined in feeding others. The Apostles and other early Christian disciples who wrote the books of the New Testament were also part of the “slave” class providing spiritual food to Christians.[40]

The Watchtower claimed members of the “slave” class were a close-knit body of Christians rather than isolated, independent individuals, and that one generation of the “slave” class fed the succeeding generation to maintain the unbroken line for more than 1900 years,[40][41] providing the same spiritual food to Christians worldwide.[21] Watch Tower publications did not identify the groups filling the role of the “slave” class between the close of the Apostolic Age and the early 20th century, suggesting it disappeared from “clear view”,[41] but they implied they might have included the Lollards and the Waldensians (the latter movement described by The Watchtower as “faithful witnesses of Jehovah … who sought to revive true worship of Christianity”).[42][43][44]

A series of talks at the 128th annual meeting of the Watch Tower Society in New Jersey on 6 October 2012 made further changes to the doctrine about the identity of the “slave”. The society’s report on the meeting said that “the faithful and discreet slave was appointed over Jesus’ domestics in 1919. That slave is the small, composite group of anointed brothers serving at world headquarters during Christ’s presence who are directly involved in preparing and dispensing spiritual food. When this group work together as the Governing Body, they act as ‘the faithful and discreet slave.'” The report said the slave “logically” must have appeared after Christ’s presence began in 1914.[9]

The doctrinal change also redefined the “domestics” of the parable—previously identified as individual “anointed” Witnesses[45]—as all Jehovah’s Witnesses.[9]

Criticism

Following his expulsion from the organization in 1981, former Governing Body member Raymond Franz claimed the description of the slave in the parable as a “class” of Christians was unsupported by scripture and was used to emphasize the concept of the slave being connected to an organization, diminishing its application to individuals in encouraging the qualities of faith, discretion, watchfulness and individual responsibility. He argued that if the application of figures in Jesus’ corresponding parables as members of a class were consistent, there would also be a “ten-mina class” and “five-mina class” relating to Luke 19:12-27 and a “many strokes class” and “few strokes class” arising from Luke 12: 47-48.[46]

Franz claimed the religion employs its interpretation of the “faithful and discreet slave” parable primarily to support the concept of centralized administrative authority in order to exercise control over members of the religion by demanding their loyalty and submission.[47] He said the “anointed” remnant, which at that time was claimed to comprise the “slave” class, had negligible input into Watch Tower Society doctrine and direction, which were set by the Governing Body.[48]

Franz also argued that the Watch Tower Society and its doctrines were built on the independent Bible study of its founder, Charles Taze Russell, who neither consulted any existing “faithful and discreet slave” class for enlightenment, nor believed in the concept taught by the Society.[49] He concluded: “In its efforts to deny that Jesus Christ is now dealing, or would ever deal, with individuals apart from an organization, a unique ‘channel’, the teaching produces an untenable position. It claims that Christ did precisely that in dealing with Russell as an individual apart from any organization.”[49] Franz also claimed that Jehovah’s Witnesses’ official history book, Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, misrepresented Russell’s view of the “faithful steward” by emphasizing his initial 1881 view that it was the entire body of Christ, without mentioning that he altered his view five years later.[50]

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