Modern History of Jehovah’s Witnesses
Part 21—Education for the Theocratic Ministry Advanced
OF THE remnant of Jehovah’s witnesses pictured by the prophet Jeremiah it was foretold: “See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down and to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” (Jer. 1:10, AS) So amid the fiery judgment work of exposing apostate Christendom, 1942 began a turning point.
After the St. Louis convention of August 6-10, 1941, where J. F. Rutherford addressed his largest visible public audience of 115,000, also releasing the new book Children and making known for the first time that universal domination was the great issue, the Watch Tower Society’s president, now 72, progressively failed in health.* Finally, on January 8, 1942, J. F. Rutherford died, having served in the office of president of the Society for twenty-five years and two days. Following is an excerpt from the Watchtower announcement, under the title “A Faithful Witness”:
“TO ALL LOVERS OF THE THEOCRACY: On January 8, 1942, our beloved brother, J. F. Rutherford, faithfully finished his earthly course as a warrior for The THEOCRATIC GOVERNMENT and a minister of the Word of God. Knowing of your deep concern and of your prayers to God for him ever since his serious illness prior to the Detroit Convention of July, 1940, we hasten to notify you. It was Brother Rutherford’s desire to ‘die fighting with his boots on’; and this he did. The Lord graciously spared him to complete the report of the 1942 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, therein showing that the greatest witness ever given had been accomplished and that the year’s distribution of books and booklets reached the grand total of 36,030,595 copies. He always had foremost in mind to DO THIS ONE THING, to declare the name of Jehovah and his kingdom, to keep covenant with Him, and to look well to the interests of his brethren.”*
Thus ended the energetic earthly ministerial career of an uncompromising fighter for righteousness. Vigorous and extensive was Brother Rutherford’s unselfish contribution toward the upbuilding of the New World theocratic society. Still today he lives long in the memory of scores of thousands.
The transition to a new administration headed by the Society’s third president was quick, smooth and without friction. This was entirely different from the experience of 1916 at the death of C. T. Russell, the Society’s first president, when there was an interval of nearly ten weeks before J. F. Rutherford was elected as the second president. The February 15, 1942, Watchtower, under the heading “United Servants,” reports the corporational changes as to officers.
“On the afternoon of January 13, 1942, the full membership of the two boards convened in the parlor at the Brooklyn Bethel home. Nathan H. Knorr, who at the last general election at Pittsburgh was elected vice-president, had requested several days before that the members of the boards make it a point to earnestly seek divine wisdom by prayer and meditation, that they might be guided aright; and this they did. The joint meeting opened with prayer, especially requesting that Jehovah God might grant wisdom in the choice of such servants as He desired to represent him in a legal way under the organizations. After due and careful consideration the following brethren were respectively nominated and unanimously elected, namely, Nathan H. Knorr, as president, and Hayden C. Covington, as vice-president, of the two corporations.* Later that same day, at a gathering of the Bethel family at Brooklyn, the results of the election were announced by the secretary of the board of directors, and met with an enthusiastic response.”*
From many parts of the world letters and cablegrams were received, expressing delight in the choice of Brother Knorr as the Society’s new president.
Even during dark days of World War II in 1942 there opened up in a small way a program of “building” and “planting” within the theocratic ministerial organization. This was destined to make the New World society in “Beulah” land blossom forth in paradisaic beauty and prosperity as never before. At the New World Theocratic Assembly at Cleveland, Ohio, September 18-20, 1942, there was introduced to Jehovah’s witnesses the new president of the Society, Nathan Homer Knorr. Fifty-one other convention cities were tied in with the key assembly at Cleveland to hear the outstanding addresses, the principal one being the public talk on “Peace—Can It Last?” by President Knorr to a total audience of 129,699. Thirty-three other conventions outside the United States convened about this same time. At this significant convention a “go ahead” signal was given, and from Revelation 17:8-18 it was made clear that the dead League of Nations would be revived after the war, after which there would be a limited peace, allowing for a greatly expanded preaching activity. The new book The New World and the Society’s No. 10 Bible of the King James Version were released to spark off a new educational campaign.*
A brief biographical sketch of the Society’s third president shows that Nathan Homer Knorr was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in 1905, of American-born parents. He graduated from Allentown (Pennsylvania) High School in June, 1923. At 16 he became associated with the Allentown Congregation of Jehovah’s witnesses, having resigned membership in the Reformed Church. In 1923, at 18, he became a full-time preacher, at which time he had been invited to become a member of the headquarters staff of the Society at Brooklyn Bethel. There he made rapid progress in his ministerial training and later traveled week ends giving Bible lectures to congregations within two hundred miles of Brooklyn. In course of time he was assigned as co-ordinator of all printing activities in the Society’s plant, in 1932 becoming general manager of the publishing office and plant. He was elected in 1934 as one of the directors of the Society’s New York corporation (now Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Inc.) and in 1940 he was made a director and chosen as vice-president of the Pennsylvania corporation, Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. His election to the presidency of both American societies and of the British corporation, International Bible Students Association, came in January, 1942. In February, 1943, he became president of the newly founded Watchtower Bible School of Gilead at South Lansing, New York. He also directs the activities of the Society’s radio station WBBR, Brooklyn, supervises administration of the Society’s affairs in all parts of the earth, and is a global traveler. He is the Society’s chief speaker at all international assemblies. Likewise he supervises the Society’s extensive editorial work and directs the foreign missionary activities of the witnesses. He resides along with his wife at the Brooklyn Bethel, 124 Columbia Heights.*
Seeing the urgent need for greater ministerial training of all the Society’s ministers, the Society’s new president together with his new staff of administrative associates set about to design a long-range program of theocratic education. (Eph. 4:12, NW) The first stage of the program was revealed on Monday, February 16, 1942, at which time an evening school was opened at Bethel, offering an “Advanced Course in Theocratic Ministry.”* Enrollment was open to only male members of the Society’s headquarters staff. The school met once a week, Monday evenings. For the first period they met in the auditorium where a lecture was delivered to the entire school enrollment. The Bethel sisters were also invited to attend. Next there followed a brief recess allowing the audience to divide as several classroom groups. During this second period classroom student talks were given on Biblical subjects under the tutorship of trained classroom counselors. Courses in speaking and general Bible studies were offered uniformly in the progressive program carried out at this Bethel school. Remarkable improvement in lecture presentations became apparent immediately when employing all the latest technique of extemporaneous speaking in public. There was also perceptible improvement in the house-to-house preaching by both male and female members of the Bethel family. Here was manifested Jehovah’s blessing upon this new program. The Bethel school has been in operation for over thirteen years, aiding hundreds of young ministers to improve their Bible knowledge and their speaking ability.*
The Bethel school’s having become such a success prompted the Society to embark on the next step of its new educational program, that of establishing a ministerial school of higher learning to train foreign missionaries and foreign ministerial representatives. The Society’s premises at the Brooklyn Bethel were inadequate for operation of such a proposed educational institution. Fortunately, however, since 1935 the Watch Tower Society had been owning and operating a large 800-acre tract known as Kingdom Farm, where foodstuffs were being raised principally for the Brooklyn Bethel family. (By 1955 a permanent farm-family staff of about 50 had volunteered their services to operate this large project.) Kingdom Farm is beautifully located, 255 miles northwest of New York city, in the Finger Lakes section of New York state near the city of Ithaca, site of famous Cornell University. In the course of years several buildings had been constructed on this land, including the large brick administration building completed in 1941, which was named “Gilead,” meaning “heap of witness.” Here was the ideal location for the establishment of a Bible school, which the board of directors approved in September, 1942. Immediately a faculty of four ordained ministers of the Bethel staff was appointed to proceed to design a course of study, to work up lectures, to search out suitable textbooks, to gather together a small library of 800 books of vital Biblical reference works and to proceed to formulate a college schedule of classes. Structural adjustments were made in the existing buildings to provide for classrooms, an auditorium, a dining hall and sleeping quarters. Provisions were made for a school term of five months with a hundred students registered, housed and fed for a given term.*
(To be continued)
1942 Yearbook, pp. 61-72.
Watchtower, February 1, 1942, p. 45.
On September 24, 1945, H. C. Covington graciously declined to serve further as a member of the board of directors and as vice-president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, not as an evasion of responsibilities, but rather as an effort to comply with what appeared to be the Lord’s will for all the members of the directorate and the officers to be of the anointed ones, since his hope was that of one of the “other sheep.” F. W. Franz was elected vice-president in his stead. (1946 Yearbook pp. 221-224) Brother Covington has continued to head the Society’s legal department which has given such a brilliant lead in the Society’s fight to champion freedom of worship to keep the legal door open for the ministry. H. C. Covington, lawyer, was born in Hopkins County, Texas, in 1911; attended San Antonio Bar Association School of Law, and began preaching as one of Jehovah’s witnesses in 1934. F. W. Franz, scholar, born in Covington, Kentucky, in 1893, attended the University of Cincinnati and became a minister in association with the Society in 1913.
W 1942, pp. 61-63.
1943 Yearbook, pp. 59-70.
Religion in the Twentieth Century, by V. Ferm 1948, p. 380.
Bulletin No. 1 of Bethel School.
1943 Yearbook, p. 25.
1943 Yearbook, pp. 25-27.
[Picture on page 649]
N. H. KNORR