HOW MUCH DO YOU KNOW About The History Of The GOVERNING BODY?
By Terry Walstrom.
A consideration of the history of the Governing Body
The very first legal Governing Body of (Jehovah's Witnesses) Bible Students were seven persons which included Pastor C.T.Russell, his wife Maria, and his controversial ward, Rose Ball. Five men and two women. These seven persons were also the Directors of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. This group set policies and practices for the rest of the religious followers of Pastor Russell. Until the 1970's this group was always composed of the Board of Directors. Afterward, in 1971, the Governing Body enlarged to eleven men appointed by Society President Nathan Knorr.
The presiding chairman rotated annually in alphabetical order.
The purpose of this body expanded to include not only the "present understanding" of theology of Jehovah's Witnesses, but; the establishment of a body of rules and policies of ever-increasing minutia in regards to behavior on the part of the membership world wide.
By 1976 the Governing Body grew to dominate oversight of six committees which carried the entire load of administration for the international religious practices of Kingdom Halls. Until that change, the President of the Society was the autonomous administrator.
In the year 2000 the Board of Directors no longer automatically constituted the Governing Body. At that time a complete changeover occurred in delegating administration away from the President and Board to outside corporate heads. The President of the Society was no longer even a member of the Governing Body. The membership began with seven and has fluctuated to nine, twelve and even eighteen persons over the years.
Today the corporate heads, who are Governing Body members, recommend policies, appointments and changes to suit their needs. Of the six overseeing committed, non-anointed secretaries and assistants may join in the meetings as helpers.
Originally, Pastor Russell and his wife, Maria, were the "twain" who constituted the "faithful and discreet slave". Russell broke away from his wife to become the sole "slave" through whom it was asserted Jehovah's Truth was revealed. The Watchtower magazine and the books penned by Pastor Russell served up "food" to the membership at the proper time for it to be read, understood and followed.
Russell left detailed instruction as to who he, the spirit-guided anointed mouthpiece, wanted to follow him as Directors of the Watchtower Society.
These instructions were violated by the next president, Joseph (Judge) Rutherford. Rutherford maneuvered himself into the sole controlling power position and left the others as non-functioning figureheads.
Pastor Russell deliberately left local congregations autonomous and completely free of central control by the Society itself. Rutherford saw fit to reverse this policy.
Pastor Russell wanted no membership lists to obtain or tests of orthodoxy to be held over the congregations. Rutherford reversed this policy as well.
Judge Rutherford allowed Russell to be understood as the "faithful slave" until such a time as he entrenched his powers and controls over the membership. At such a time the understanding of the doctrine of "faithful slave" morphed into the exact opposite of what Pastor Russell and his wife originally described.
The religion of Jehovah's Witnesses is a hierarchy. Senior elders in local Bethels control the religion and its policies and practices much the same as bishops and cardinals guide the practices of Catholicism.
In 1931 the legal name of the religion changed to Jehovah's Witnesses from that of International Bible Students Association.
As many as 75% of the membership split away from the religion as a result of Judge Rutherford's takeover and policy changes. The faithful members who would not accept Rutherford's claims of anointing and spiritual headship remain as a group today.
The offices, publications and official journal was completely controlled by Rutherford as a result of his legal moves to usurp Russell's legacy. The membership roles he obtained through his traveling agents and the strong arm enforcement strategies he brought to bear on outlying congregations forced a series of reckonings. Rutherford branded any who would not comply with his power and authority as Apostates.
These "Apostates" remained autonomous as Russell had wanted them. Today they are known variously as Associated Bibles Students and Steadfast Bible Students.
What legal maneuver did Rutherford use to wrest control from the board setup by Pastor Russell?
Rutherford contended that the membership of the Board had never been confirmed by vote at the annual corporation meeting. This left them vulnerable to dismissal by Rutherford's legal opinion; he being the legal spokesman for said Society.
This interpretation was never tested in court, but; the application to Rutherford himself would logically and necessarily apply as well! Rutherford was never confirmed by vote either!
Rutherford proceeded to use the Society's printing facilities to set forth his personal views and side of the controversy in direct violation of Pastor Russell's express wishes that nothing be launched in publication after his death. By this time, Judge Rutherford had compiled a mailing list of the membership and directed his campaign of persuasion in personal attacks on four members of the existing committee of Directors. Subsequently, Rutherford fired the four and appointed his own choices to fill the empty positions.
The four dismissed members published their own rebuttals using their own resources and money, but; without the mailing list to guide their arguments their claims largely fell silent. Rutherford had the assets and monies of the Watchtower corporation at hand to win lawsuits if such should arise. The injured parties had no such equivalent wealth or legal standing to continue their fight.
Under the Judge, membership of the Board of Directors was a name-only position for everyone involved but himself. He did as he pleased and the members were told afterward as a rubber stamp function.
For all practical purposes, it was Judge Rutherford's authoritarian coup which set the standard for the monolithic legalism which grew by leaps and bounds ever afterward.
Instead of a religious group of bible students joined in mutual equality and autonomy; the corporate takeover of the Society's assets blossomed into a world wide sounding board for one man's ever stranger opinionating and prejudices.
The bombastic, excoriating series of books and articles which began to emanate from Pastor Russell's bible society, under the leadership of Judge Rutherford, dramatically established a new era of controversy, acrimony and public defiance.
So, unhinged was Rutherford's rampant takeover that he landed the board of Directors in prison shortly afterward for counseling members of the armed forces to lay down their weapons and leave the battlefield.
This began an endless series of clashes with government, churches and society itself which can only be characterized as a rampage of egotism.
From those days forward, Rutherford's policies and dictums took on a flavor of legalism that devolved into nitpicking behavior controls. Authoritarianism, threats, controls, legalism and outright bullying shaped the remaining 25% of Russell's original faithful few into a feisty culture of contrarian vigilantes willing to march into hell for the Judge's spoken commands.
Members began to be viewed as troublemakers instead of bible students. They insulted churches, pastors, Christianity, government, the military, holidays and even treasured customs in an effort to be noticed as holier-than-thou.
You had to be tough, feisty and cocksure to make it through those years. Those who did and lived to tell about it were the hardcore evangelists who went to extremes to bring in the next generation of misfits, upstarts and know-it-alls who would expand the membership from thousands into millions worldwide.
Today, the Watchtower Society is run with the same basic hierarchy structure as the Catholic Church. The chief difference being the tradition behind the theology has changed almost daily at the whim of the Governing leaders.