James Beverley is professor of Christian
thought and ethics at Tyndale Seminary. His
first book Crisis of Allegiance ( Welch, 1986) was a
study of James Penton’s dissent. Find more of these
columns at www.faithtoday.ca/Religion Watch.
When Jehovah’s Wit- nesses knock on your door, you should keep the names of two
women and two men in mind. All
are former Witnesses who have dissented against the Watchtower
Bible and Tract Society.
Barbara Anderson was a Witness
from 1954–1997, including ten
years as a researcher and writer at
their headquarters in Brooklyn.
She left largely because she thought
the Society’s leaders were mishandling cases of child abuse in Witness
Candace Conti is one such case.
Conti was molested by a man in her
congregation in North Fremont,
California, and won a multimillion-dollar settlement against him and
the Witness organization in 2012.
Legalism and institutional blindness can affect any religious group,
and Anderson and Conti give us the
details particular among Witnesses.
Raymond Franz (1922–2010)
and James Penton (b. 1932) highlight larger spiritual and intellectual failings. Both had given decades as faithful Witnesses, but
slowly realized Society leaders
cared more about image and loyalty
than faithfulness to God.
Franz had been a Governing Body
member for almost a decade, but
was kicked out in 1981. His memoir
Crisis of Conscience (Createspace,
2004 ) tells the gripping story
of his increasing unrest as he served
at the very top of the Society.
Penton, a history professor at
the University of Lethbridge, was
removed the same year. He’s from
Saskatchewan and author of
Apocalypse Delayed: The Story of
Jehovah’s Witnesses (University of
Toronto Press, 2015 ).
The common thread in this foursome is the realization of the
enormous price paid when institutional loyalty takes precedence
Tragically, Jehovah’s Witnesses
are imprisoned by the belief they
alone are Christians, and the Governing Body members (now seven
men) are God’s chosen leaders on
earth. They’re not allowed to question Society policies, past or present.
Most know nothing of the errors
that litter Watchtower history and
shape current beliefs and practices.
What concerns should Evangelicals have regarding Canada’s
120,000 Witnesses and the 8 million worldwide? Mainly that Jehovah’s Witnesses have a false authority for their beliefs. They naively
equate belief in God with trust in
the Watchtower organization. This
is the mother of all other blunders.
Second, Witnesses believe many
false doctrines and theories. Contrary to clear biblical teaching, they
deny Jesus is God in the flesh, died
on a cross and was bodily resurrected. They accept false theories
that Jesus returned to earth in 1914,
heaven is restricted to 144,000 and
blood transfusions are sinful.
Thankfully, courts all over the
world (including the Supreme
Court of Canada) have intervened
for Witness children who need
Third, Witnesses at your door
need to know about their Society’s
record of false prophecy. Founder
Charles Russell (1852–1916) was
obsessed with Bible prophecy but
could never get his facts right. He
kept his Bible Students (the early
name for Witnesses) in a constant
frenzy with his varied dates for the
end of the world, based on his
speculations on Scripture and (no
kidding) the great pyramids of
Over the decades Witness members pictured the world ending in
1914, 1918, 1925 and 1975. This is
why Penton’s book is titled Apocalypse Delayed.
Does all this mean there’s nothing admirable about Witnesses? Of
course not. Witnesses share some
doctrine and ethics with Evangelicals. Most are decent, law abiding
and moral. Further, citizens of
many countries owe multiple freedoms to Witnesses who resisted
governmental and societal discrimination.
In Canada, Witness lawyer W.
Glen How argued many civil liberty cases before the Supreme
Court, and we are his benefactors.
Keep these things in mind when
Witnesses knock at your door.
Three other tips: (1) Some great
Internet resources include www.
net and www.freeminds.org. ( 2) A
soft approach inviting Witnesses to
help you deal with questions from
your study is best. ( 3) Ask God to
break the hold the Watchtower has
over Witnesses by praying for the
current Governing Body – Samuel
Herd, Geoffrey Jackson, M. Stephen Lett, Gerrit Lösch, Anthony
Morris III, David H. Splane and
If you think God can’t reach them,
remember Ray Franz. /FT
JamEs a. BEVERlEy
Four JWs you should know
Help for the Jehovah’s Witnesses who may knock at your door