A Governing Body as Different from a Legal Corporation
ON Friday morning, October 1, 1971, the legal corporation known as Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania held its annual corporation meeting, this time in the Assembly Hall of Jehovah’s witnesses at Buckingham, Pennsylvania. All seven members of the Board of Directors of said Society attended and had a part in the program presented. The membership of this Society is limited to five hundred at the most, there being at present four hundred and fifty such members throughout the earth. Many of these members attended this annual corporation meeting in person, still more by means of proxy. All together, 2,076 attended this corporation meeting, doubtless all of them being interested Christian witnesses of Jehovah.
At this meeting a question came up and was discussed from the platform. It was as to what the relationship is between the Board of Directors of the Society as a legal corporation and the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses. Are they the same, identical, or are they different? Such questions were due to the fact that it has been published in print that the Governing Body of Jehovah’s witnesses at headquarters is associated with the Board of Directors of the said Society. How did this come about, and does this make the Board of Directors the same as the Governing Body of Jehovah’s witnesses all the earth around?
The official magazine of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses is The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom. In the year 1944 the Watchtower magazine began to speak about the governing body of the Christian congregation. The true Christian congregation was established on the festival day of Pentecost of the year 33 C.E. at Jerusalem in the Roman province of Judea. On that notable day this congregation of dedicated Christians, consisting then of about 120 members, was anointed with holy spirit, which Jehovah God poured out upon them through the glorified Jesus Christ. This anointed body of dedicated, baptized Christians was then given a special assignment of service. According to the prophetic words of Jesus Christ at Matthew 24:45-47, it was given the appointment as the “faithful and discreet slave.” The now heavenly Jesus Christ was the Master and Lord of this anointed “slave” class.
The Bible book, Acts of Apostles, discloses that this anointed Christian congregation as a “slave” class had a visible, earthly governing body. On that day of Pentecost it was composed of twelve men, namely, the twelve apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ. Years later, about the year 49 C.E., this governing body was reported to include the then surviving apostles of Christ and the spiritual elders of the Jerusalem congregation. (Acts, chapter 15) This Christian governing body did not use as an administrative agency any legal corporation recognized, authorized and chartered by Caesar or any province of the Roman Empire. The decree issued was written up and carried by personal messengers to the Christian congregations that were concerned because of the non-Jewish or Gentile converts among them. The Christian apostle John, who wrote the last books of the Holy Bible toward the close of the first century C.E., was apparently the last surviving member of the original governing body appointed by Jesus Christ.
Centuries passed. Came the month of July of the year 1879. Then there appeared on the scene a new religious magazine called Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence. It was then to be published monthly, at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., its first issue comprising only 6,000 copies. Its editor and publisher was a sincere Christian man, Charles Taze Russell, and the names of five other regular contributors to the magazine were announced. Besides calling attention to the second presence of Christ as due to be invisible and in the spirit, it came out unreservedly for the perfect human sacrifice of Jesus Christ as being the “ransom for all.” (1 Tim. 2:5, 6) At that time C. T. Russell was associated with a Christian congregation of Bible students at Allegheny, Pennsylvania, and this congregation had requested him to serve as its religious pastor. Thereafter C. T. Russell became known world wide as “Pastor Russell.”
In September of 1881 the issue of Zion’s Watch Tower was published as a special edition featuring “Food for Thinking Christians.” This commanded a lot of attention and had a wide distribution. Previously, other pamphlets had been published by C. T. Russell. In fact, during the preceding four years more than a million copies of these pamphlets had been circulated free of charge. For the purpose of more efficiently spreading Bible literature similar to such pamphlets, Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society was organized in 1881. But it was a legally unincorporated society. Three years later, in 1884, for the purpose of better taking care of all the responsibilities involved, Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society was legally incorporated under the Membership Corporation Law of Pennsylvania, the charter of the Society being issued on December 13, 1884. It was chartered to have a Board of Directors, from among whom a president, vice-president and secretary-treasurer were chosen. The six incorporators of the legal Society served as the first six directors thereof, to serve for a year at a time.—Zion’s Watch Tower, January 1885.
In the year 1914 International Bible Students Association was incorporated in London, England, to work in conjunction with the American corporation, known since September 22, 1896, as Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. As time went on, other legal religious corporations were organized in other lands to work in their respective lands in cooperation with the American religious corporation. As a consequence, many thousands of God-fearing persons around the globe became readers of the publications of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society and dedicated their all to Jehovah God through Jesus Christ and got baptized in symbol of this and looked to the editorial staff and publishers of the Watch Tower Society for spiritual food in the form of the Watch Tower magazine and other publications as aids to Bible understanding. These dedicated Christians became known as International Bible Students. They continued under this designation until July 26, 1931, when, at a general convention of the International Bible Students Association in Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A., a resolution was adopted to embrace the name Jehovah’s witnesses.
According to the apostolic example of the first century C.E., these dedicated, baptized Christians known today as Jehovah’s witnesses have a governing body, as specifically noted from the year 1944 onward. This governing body has through the years been associated with the publishers of the Watch Tower magazine and the Board of Directors of the legal religious corporation now known as Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. According to Pennsylvania law, this corporation must hold annual corporation meetings at its registered offices in Pittsburgh, Pa., or elsewhere as duly voted upon, and must elect directors to fill the vacancies of those whose three-year term of office is expiring, and also to transact all necessary obligations. From among the full board of seven directors, all of whom are dedicated, baptized, spirit-anointed Christians, the officers of the Society must be elected.
In view of what was presented from the platform by speakers to the “Divine Name” District Assemblies of Jehovah’s witnesses around the earth during the summer of 1971, the question was being asked, Are the directors of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania the same as the governing body of Jehovah’s witnesses, who are an unincorporated body of dedicated, baptized Christians and who worship Jehovah as their God? Also, at the annual corporation meeting of the Watch Tower Society such as that at Buckingham, Pennsylvania, do the members of the Society automatically elect the members of the governing body of Jehovah’s witnesses by electing the members of the Society’s Board of Directors? Such questions interested those attending the meeting.
Let us keep in mind that the governing body must be made up of dedicated, baptized Christians who are anointed with God’s spirit and begotten by Him to be his spiritual children, and who are to be united with the glorified Jesus Christ in the heavenly kingdom. This must be so because, as in the case of the twelve apostles of Christ, the governing body is part of the “faithful and discreet slave” class and presides over it as spiritual shepherds and overseers. This “slave” class is made up of the spirit-begotten, spirit-anointed followers of Jesus Christ, and these followers make up his congregation on earth and unitedly serve as a composite “slave” of God under the Head of the Christian congregation, Jesus Christ. In consequence of this, and in order to answer the above questions, we are obliged to examine the spiritual status of the individual members of the Pennsylvania corporation who do the voting in of the directors of the Watch Tower Society. Who are these voting members?
By amendment to the Charter as voted upon in 1944, the membership of the Society was restricted to five hundred at the most, and these were to be men fully devoted to Jehovah God as dedicated, baptized disciples of Jesus Christ. These are selected by the Board of Directors of the Watch Tower Society. But their spiritual status must also come under scrutiny. Why so? Because not all these present-day members of the Society are spirit-anointed members of the “faithful and discreet slave” class. At this writing there are just 450 members of the Society, but less than half (or 200) of them are of the anointed remnant of the “slave” class. So the major number are disciples of Christ who have no heavenly hope. They are of Christ’s “other sheep” whose hope is to gain everlasting life in a Paradise earth under his heavenly kingdom.
Hence the question arises, Can this majority of voters who are made up of such “other sheep,” by voting in the directors of the Watch Tower Society, at the same time be voting in the members of the anointed governing body of the “faithful and discreet slave” class? Scripturally, they could not do so. Not just because they are not anointed heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ, but because the governing body of the “slave” class is not appointed by any man. It is appointed by the same one who appointed the twelve apostles in the first century C.E., namely, Jesus Christ the Head of the true Christian congregation and the Lord and Master of the “faithful and discreet slave” class.—John 15:16, 19.
Another thing to keep in mind is this: The directors of the Society now have their terms of office expire after three years, and each year there are directors whose term expires and who need to be replaced or be reelected to office by the members of the Society at its annual corporation meeting. Each year also the terms of the three officers of the Society expire, namely, those of the president, vice-president and secretary-treasurer (and now also of his assistant). But is this the case with the members of the governing body of the “faithful and discreet slave” class? No! The members of the governing body are not elected annually, but are in their positions of responsibility permanently as long as they live and continue faithful as disciples of Jesus Christ. That was the case with the twelve apostles and with the fellow elders of the Jerusalem congregation.
The governing body does not have officers such as the Society’s Board of Directors has, namely, president, vice-president, secretary-treasurer and assistant secretary-treasurer. It has merely a chairman, such as the governing body of the first century had. Apparently, the apostle Peter was the chairman of the governing body on the festival day of Pentecost of 33 C.E., and the disciple James, the half brother of Jesus Christ, was the chairman at a later date, according to the account in Acts of Apostles. From this, and from what historical evidence there is available, the chairmanship of the governing body rotated, just the same as the chairmanship of the presbytery or “body of elders” of each Christian congregation rotated among the coequal elders.—1 Tim. 4:14.
From this it can clearly be seen that, when a member of the Society’s Board of Directors is elected each year to the presidency of the Watch Tower Society, he is not simultaneously elected to the chairmanship of the governing body of Jehovah’s witnesses. Any member of the governing body can be chairman thereof without being at the same time the president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. It all depends upon the rotation system for the chairmanship in the governing body. Only if the rotation method puts an individual in the chairmanship at the same time that he is elected by the Board of Directors to the presidency will one occupy the chairmanship and the presidency at the same time, for at least a year.
SIZE OF THE GOVERNING BODY
Another point worth noting is this: The membership of the governing body is not limited to the number of members of the Board of Directors of the Society, namely, to the number seven. The Christian congregation or the “faithful and discreet slave” class started out on Pentecost of 33 C.E. with twelve members on its governing body, and that governing body located at Jerusalem was increased from the twelve apostles of Christ to include other elders of the Jerusalem congregation. So the governing body at that vital Jerusalem council included the eleven surviving apostles of Christ, and the disciple James who seems to have been chairman for the occasion, also Judas (Barsabbas) and Silas as “leading men among the brothers,” yes, “prophets,” and doubtless Paul and Barnabas. That means at least sixteen anointed Christians associated with the governing body back there at Jerusalem. (Acts 15:22, 32) So it is today: the governing body of the “faithful and discreet slave” class includes more than the seven anointed Christians who are on the Board of Directors of the Society. This fact, in addition, makes it manifest that the voting members of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania do not nominate and elect the members of the governing body of the “slave” class. It further accentuates the difference between the governing body and the legal Board of Directors.
How is it, then, that members of the governing body come to be directors of the Pennsylvania corporation? This is according to the will of the voting members of the Watch Tower Society. They choose to be guided by God’s inspired Word. They look to Jehovah God through Jesus Christ to direct them in this matter of voting for the Society’s directors. From the Society’s present-day Charter (as amended in 1944) the Society as a legal corporation is merely an “administrative agency”a of Jehovah’s witnesses. Hence, also, of the governing body of Jehovah’s witnesses. So the Society’s voting members see that this governing body could most directly use that “administrative agency” as an instrument in behalf of the work of the “faithful and discreet slave” class by having members of the governing body on the Board of Directors of the Society. They recognize that the Society is not the administrative body, but is merely an agency for administering matters.
Hence the Society’s voting members do not desire that there be any basis for conflict and division. They do not want to cause anything like a situation where the “administrative agency” controls and directs the user of that agency, which user is the governing body as representing the “faithful and discreet slave” class. No more so than to have the tail wag a dog instead of the dog’s wagging its tail. A legal religious instrument according to Caesar’s law should not attempt to direct and control its creator; rather, the creator of the legal religious instrument should control and direct it. In harmony with God’s holy spirit, therefore, in order to have the greatest efficiency and perfect harmony between the governing body and the Board of Directors of the legal corporation, the voting members of the Society have wisely elected to the Directorate those whom they know are members of the governing body of the “faithful and discreet slave” class.
HOW THE GOVERNING BODY CAME TO EXIST
How did this governing body make its appearance in recent times? Evidently under the direction of Jehovah God and his Son Jesus Christ. According to the facts available, the governing body became associated with the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. C. T. Russell was patently of that governing body back there in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Being fully dedicated to God through Christ, he set himself to apply his time, energy, abilities, wealth and influence to defending God’s inspired Word and spreading its message. To that end he began publishing Zion’s Watch Tower back there in July of 1879, believing, as he said in its columns, that this had Jehovah’s backing, and hence there would be no solicitation for money. He manifested the qualifications of an overseer as set out in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9 and accordingly he was requested by the congregation of Christian Bible students at Allegheny to serve as its pastor or spiritual shepherd. Five years later Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society was incorporated and served as an “agency” to minister spiritual food to thousands of sincere persons seeking to know God and to understand his Word and to come into relationship with him through Christ.
Dedicated, baptized, anointed Christians became associated with that Society at headquarters in Pennsylvania. Whether on the Board of Directors or not, they rendered themselves available for special work of the “faithful and discreet slave” class. They aided in the feeding and directing of the slave class, and thus a governing body made its appearance. This was evidently under the guidance of Jehovah’s invisible active force or holy spirit. Also, under the direction of the Head of the Christian congregation, Jesus Christ the Son of God. True, the members of that governing body were not directly appointed by the Lord Jesus Christ. For that matter, not all the members of the governing body associated with the Jerusalem congregation in the first century were thus directly appointed. How, then, were those “elders” of the Jerusalem congregation who were not numbered among the twelve apostles made members of the governing body? Evidently by appointment of the original twelve apostles, acting under the guidance of Jehovah’s holy spirit.
This is illustrated by the action of those twelve apostles when appointing Stephen and Philip and five other men to take care of certain business of the Jerusalem congregation. (Acts 6:1-8) Also, the apostle Paul pointed out in his remarks to the elders of the Ephesus congregation that the overseers of God’s flock of spiritual sheep were appointed by God’s holy spirit. (Acts 20:28) Thus, too, even though there were no apostles of Christ on hand in the nineteenth century, God’s holy spirit must have been operative toward the formation of the governing body for his anointed remnant of the “faithful and discreet slave” class. The facts speak for themselves. There came on the scene a body of anointed Christians who accepted and undertook the responsibilities of governing the affairs of Jehovah’s dedicated, baptized, anointed people who were following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ and endeavoring to fulfill the work stated in Jesus’ prophecy at Matthew 24:45-47. Facts speak louder than words. The governing body is there. Thankfully Jehovah’s Christian witnesses know and assert that this is no one-man religious organization, but that it has a governing body of spirit-anointed Christians.
ROTATION OF OFFICES IN THE DIRECTORATE?
In the governing body there is a rotation of the chairmanship of a year’s length among the members thereof. Does this mean that there must be a rotation in the offices of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania among the Board of Directors each year at election time? No! The Society’s Charter does not call for that.
CHAIRMANSHIP NOT DEPENDENT UPON PRESIDENCY
The governing body of the “faithful and discreet slave” class does have a rotation of the chairmanship among its members.b Since the governing body of the “slave” class preceded the legal corporation known as the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, the chairmanship of the governing body is not determined by or dependent upon who is elected president yearly of the Society. What follows? Even though the occupant of the presidency may remain in office over a number of years because of his suitability for that highly responsible office, this does not interfere with the rotation system for the chairmanship among the governing body of the “slave” class. The governing body has the strictly spiritual field for its operation. The legal nonprofit corporation, the Society, has many additional duties as an administrative agency of Jehovah’s witnesses.c
The governing body is very grateful to God for the religious Society that is to be used as an agency of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses. This legal nonprofit Society, through being manned by faithful dedicated, baptized disciples of Jesus Christ, all ordained ministers, who volunteer their services as directly to Jehovah God, has tremendously facilitated the carrying on of the greatest work on earth today, namely, the preaching of the good news of God’s now established kingdom in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations before the end of this system of things arrives, shortly now. The functioning of the legal, religious society in this way has thus spared Jehovah’s witnesses the vexatious problems, hindrances, interruptions and controversies that afflict the nonreligious, industrial, commercial, labor and legal establishments of the wicked world. Now this is because their religious society with 93 branch offices, and its associated societies, have had the volunteer services of thousands of dedicated workers world wide, and these have made over 230,000,000 Bible books and 530,000,000 booklets and have printed and distributed over four billion religious magazines, The Watchtower and Awake! This work they did in more than 160 languages at just a nominal cost for the printed literature. Thus we are amazed to see that during the past thirty years, or since 1942, these dedicated workers have produced 4,942,619,411 Bibles, bound books, booklets and magazines. With the end of this worldly system of things, its many legal corporations, organized under the laws of the political states, will cease to function as such, but the Christian witnesses of Jehovah will have to continue on.
AN INTERESTING PROBLEM
At the close of discussing matters such as the above at the annual chartered meeting of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania at Buckingham, Pa., on October 1, 1971, an interesting problem was posed for the audience, especially for the voting members present of the said Society. It was this: Nineteen hundred years ago, the “faithful and discreet slave” class with its governing body functioned without a legal corporation chartered by Caesar, and it did so—successfully, magnificently. What about the governing body of the “faithful and discreet slave” class of the present time?d Can it also function without the legal nonprofit corporation known as Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania? and succeed? In the light of the precedent established by the apostles and fellow elders of the Jerusalem congregation in the first century C.E., we leave you to answer the question for yourself.
a Quoting from the Charter: “The purposes of this Society are: To act as the servant of and the legal world-wide governing agency for that body of Christian persons known as Jehovah’s witnesses; to preach the gospel of God’s kingdom under Christ Jesus unto all nations as a witness to the name, word and supremacy of Almighty God JEHOVAH; to print and distribute Bibles and to disseminate Bible truths in various languages by means of making and publishing literature containing information and comment explaining Bible truths and prophecy concerning establishment of Jehovah’s kingdom under Christ Jesus; to authorize and appoint agents, servants, employees, teachers, instructors, evangelists, missionaries and ministers to go forth to all the world publicly and from house to house to preach and teach Bible truths to persons willing to listen by leaving with such persons said literature and by conducting Bible studies thereon; to improve men, women and children mentally and morally by Christian missionary work and by charitable and benevolent instruction of the people on the Bible and incidental scientific, historical and literary subjects; to establish and maintain private Bible schools and classes for gratuitous instruction of men and women in the Bible, Bible literature and Bible history; to teach, train, prepare and equip men and women as ministers, missionaries, evangelists, preachers, teachers and lecturers; to provide and maintain homes, places and buildings for gratuitous housing of such students, lecturers, teachers and ministers; to furnish gratuitously to such students, lecturers, teachers, educators and ministers suitable meals and lodging and to prepare, support, maintain and send out to various parts of the world Christian missionaries, teachers and instructors in the Bible and Bible literature, and for public Christian worship of Almighty God [through] Christ Jesus; to arrange for and hold local and world-wide assemblies for such worship; to use or operate radio broadcasting stations for preaching this gospel of the kingdom; and to do any and all other lawful things that its Board of Directors shall deem expedient for the purposes stated.”
b According to a Resolution adopted by the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses at its meeting on September 6, 1971, the chairmanship of the Governing Body should rotate annually in alphabetical order according to the last name of each member.
c See excerpt of Charter quoted on page 759, column 2, and page 760, column 1.
d The present Governing Body comprises eleven anointed witnesses of Jehovah.
[Picture on page 756]
In this Assembly Hall at Buckingham, Pa., the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania held its annual corporation meeting for 1971