University of Phoenix
REL334/World Religious Traditions II
Dr. Devon Smith
January 10, 2007
Jehovah's Witnesses get their name from Jehovah, which is English version of the name given for God in the Hebrew Scriptures. The word Witnesses is taken from the passage in Isaiah 43:10 “Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord..." Jehovah's Witnesses are a high strength religious group that requires a major obligation from its associates. Witnesses now have approximately six million publishers and pioneers in more than 75,000 congregations in over 200 nations. There are approximately one million Jehovah's Witnesses in the U.S., and just over 100,000 in Canada. They have also expanded extensively throughout Europe and Russia. They account for less than 1% of the population of all other nations in the world with populations over 50 million. . (Religious Tolerance) The Governing Body of the Jehovah's Witnesses is called the Watch Tower Society or WTS for short. The Society is a collection of anointed males at the Brooklyn NY headquarters. Currently, the group consists of 11 members. Underneath the Governing Body are the Publishers and Pioneers. These are member of both genders and all ages who vigorously go from door to door, trying to convert the community. Persons, who are devoted and full-time preachers are handed the title Regular Pioneer. They agree to sermonize 840 hours for each year. Back up Pioneers do about 50 hours a month for one or more successive months. Special Pioneers are chosen from among the Regular Pioneers and are shipped to wherever the need is most. Publishers normally go door-to-door once per week, frequently on Saturdays. If a publisher does not turn in his or her time for six months consecutively, they are viewed as inactive and are given "shepherding calls" to persuade them to reactivate their ministry. Congregations (called Kingdom Halls): Appointed members, called Overseers or Elders are each given a specific task. For example, the Presiding Overseer supervises the elder gatherings. The Service Overseer takes care of ministry problems inside the congregation. Ministerial Servants handle managerial obligations and help out the Elders. Circuits are groups of about 20 congregations, served by a Circuit Overseer. The "CO" periodically calls on all congregations two times yearly for a one week period. Circuits also arrange two day gatherings for their worshippers, which are scheduled twice a year. Districts consist of many circuits; there are 22 districts in the United States. The District Overseer (DO) handles the district meetings which are held annually. He also goes to the circuit conventions. (Religious Tolerance) Jehovah's Witnesses can trace their beginning to Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916). Following times of being a Presbyterian, Congregationalist, cynic, and Adventist, Russell organized a Bible study group in Pennsylvania in 1870. The group's powerful assessments of the Bible reasoned them to discard conventional Christian wisdom on the nature of god, and the immortality of the soul. By 1880, congregations had been created in seven states. Zion's Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society were incorporated in 1884. In 1896, the WTS dropped Zion from its title. After Russell's death in 1916, the WTS's lawyer, Judge Joseph Franklin Rutherford took over the administration. Under Rutherford's management, the Society became more centrally restricted. Before, World War I, the Society had suggested that Witnesses refrain from entering the military. If obligated to enter the army, they should go, but work in a non-combative position. A group of members called Steadfasters opposed all support of World War I. Later, the Society took on the position of the Steadfasters. In 1917 a split occurred over the course and control of the Watchtower group. One of the biggest break off groups was...
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