Raymond Franz

Raymond Franz (born 1922) was a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses from 1971 until May 22 1980, [Our Kingdom Ministry, August 1980, page 2, Announcements: "This is a notification that Raymond Victor Franz is no longer a member of the Governing Body and of the Brooklyn Bethel family as of May 22, 1980."] and served at the organization's world headquarters for fifteen years, from 1965 until 1980. Franz has written and edited two detailed books which relate his personal experiences with the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society and fellow members of the Jehovah's Witness organization.

Early life

Franz was born in 1922 and raised as a third-generation Jehovah's Witness; many of his family were members. Frederick Franz, Raymond's uncle, was highly influential in the religion's development, practices and doctrines, and remained a prominent member of the organization until his death on December 22 1992. Raymond's father was baptized in 1913 as a "Bible Student", as they were known before they adopted the name "Jehovah's Witnesses" in 1931. Raymond became a member of Jehovah's Witnesses when he was sixteen years old (in 1938), and became a baptized member in 1939. [cite book|title=Crisis of Conscience|author=Franz, Raymond|publisher=Commentary Press|date=1983|pages=11] By 1940 Franz had increased his religious activity by evangelizing for Jehovah's Witnesses on a full-time basis in areas which that organization had deemed to be in need of special attention. [cite book|title=Crisis of Conscience|author=Franz, Raymond|publisher=Commentary Press|date=1983|pages=12,15]

Missionary

In 1944 Franz graduated from Gilead, the religion's school for training missionaries, and temporarily served the organization as a travelling representative in the continental U.S. until receiving a missionary assignment to Puerto Rico in 1946. Franz became a representative of Jehovah's Witnesses throughout the Caribbean, traveling to the Virgin Islands and the Dominican Republic, at least until 1957 when Jehovah's Witnesses were banned in the Dominican Republic by dictator Rafael Trujillo. [cite book|title=Crisis of Conscience|author=Franz, Raymond|publisher=Commentary Press|date=1983|pages=16] At the age of 37 Franz married his wife, Cynthia, who joined him in these missionary travels from 1959 onward. Both returned to the Dominican Republic in 1961 to evangelize for four more years. [cite book|title=Crisis of Conscience|author=Franz, Raymond|publisher=Commentary Press|date=1983|pages=18-19]

World Headquarters

In 1965 Nathan Knorr, the Watch Tower Society's third president, invited Franz to work and live at Jehovah's Witnesses' world headquarters (called "Bethel") in Brooklyn, New York. Franz admitted to Knorr that he preferred missionary work but accepted the offer at the President's request. [cite book|title=Crisis of Conscience|author=Franz, Raymond|publisher=Commentary Press|date=1983|pages=20]

Franz began working in the organization's writing department and was assigned to collaboratively write "Aid to Bible Understanding", the first encyclopaedic book published by Jehovah's Witnesses. Franz and his colleagues spent five years researching various bible translations and Bible commentaries, and submitted a great number of biblical topics to Knorr for approval. [cite book|title=Crisis of Conscience|author=Franz, Raymond|publisher=Commentary Press|date=1983|pages=21] [cite book|title=In Search of Christian Freedom|author=Franz, Raymond|publisher=Commentary Press|date=1991|pages=187 (footnote)] Franz reflected on the effect the research had on the group: "the [book] did serve to quicken interest in the Scriptures among many Witnesses. Perhaps its tone, its approach, the effort put forth by most of the writers to avoid dogmatism, to acknowledge that there might be more than one way of seeing certain matters ... these things may have been of principal benefit." [cite book|title=Crisis of Conscience|author=Franz, Raymond|publisher=Commentary Press|date=1983|pages=26] The book was subsequently replaced by "Insight on the Scriptures" in 1988, as a two-volume set. [cite book|title=Crisis of Conscience|author=Franz, Raymond|publisher=Commentary Press, Third edition, Second printing|date=2000|pages=21 (footnote)]

In the preface of the first of his two books, "Crisis of Conscience", Franz describes his experience at the headquarters in this way:

What I saw, heard and experienced during the next fifteen years had a great impact on me. Whether the reaction of the reader will coincide with mine, I have no way of knowing, but one thing is certain, and that is no one could understand what brought me to a crisis situation without knowing these developments. The proverb is apt: 'When anyone is replying to a matter before he hears it, that is foolishness on his part and a humiliation'"—Proverbs 18:13 [cite book|title=Crisis of Conscience|author=Raymond Franz|pages=21]

Membership in the Governing Body

In 1971 Franz was invited to become a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses, a small group of men at the highest organizational level. At that time the President of the organization held all of the decision-making power. He accepted the position and spent many years travelling the world seeing the organization’s structure, workings, and practices on all levels, and overseeing the organization's activities in many countries.

Franz states that the crossroads in his life occurred during his nine years as a Governing Body member:

By the end of 1979 I had arrived at my personal crossroads. I had spent nearly forty years as a full time representative, serving at every level of the organizational structure. The last fifteen years I had spent at the international headquarters, and the final nine of those as a member of the worldwide Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses. It was those final years that were the crucial period for me. Illusions there met up with reality. I have since come to appreciate the rightness of a quotation I recently read, one made by a statesman, now dead, who said:

:'The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie—deliberate, contrived and dishonest—but the myth—persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.'

I now began to realize how large a measure of what I had based my entire adult life course on was just that, a myth—"persistent, persuasive and unrealistic." It was not that my view towards the Bible had changed. If anything, my appreciation of it was enhanced by what I had experienced. It alone gave sense and meaning to what I saw happening, the attitudes I saw displayed, the reasonings I heard advanced, the tension and pressure I felt. The change that did come was from the realization that my way of looking at the scriptures had been from such an essentially sectarian viewpoint, a trap that I thought I had been protected against. Letting the scriptures speak for themselves—without being first funneled through some fallible human agency as a "channel"—I found they became immensely more meaningful. I was frankly astonished at how much of their import I had been missing. The question was, what should I now do? [cite book|title=Crisis of Conscience|author=Franz, Raymond|publisher=Commentary Press, Third edition, Second printing|date=2000|pages=223, 224]

Franz gradually decided that "the organization ...was stiffening its resistance to any Scriptural correction either as to doctrinal beliefs or its methods of dealing with those who looked to it for guidance." "I was opposed to the extremes to which [authority] was carried." " ...I felt that the role of Christ Jesus as active Head was overshadowed and virtually eclipsed by the authoritarian conduct ...of the organization." "I could not accept that organizational interpretations, based on shifting human reasoning, could ever be made equal in authority to the actual statements found in God's unchangeable Word." [cite book|title=Crisis of Conscience|author=Franz, Raymond|publisher=Commentary Press, Third edition, Second printing|date=2000|pages=262, 263]

In late 1979 Franz discussed these concerns with his wife, and they decided "the advisable course for us was to terminate our activity at the international headquarters."

Expulsion

Franz writes in his book, "Crisis of Conscience", that in November 1979 a fellow Governing Body member, Grant Suiter, told him that there was "considerable gossip" in the world headquarters that "some members of the Governing Body and the Writing Department had given talks in which they made comments not in accord with Society teaching..." [cite book|title=Crisis of Conscience|author=Franz, Raymond|publisher=Commentary Press, Third edition, Second printing|date=2000|pages=267] . Specifically, Franz claims that allegations were made regarding heretical beliefs: about the dates 1914, 33 A.D. and when the 'Last Days' began; about the number of those going to heaven (Witnesses believe there are only 144,000) and the rightness of a literal interpretation of that number (found in the book of Revelation); and about the doctrine of two classes of Christians, with "earthly" or "heavenly" destinies. Franz says that this gossip eventually led to a paranoid, conspiratorial air at the world headquarters, and an "Inquisition" mentality which developed in the Governing Body towards the alleged apostates, instead of engaging in scriptural discussion of the issues. He also states that there was no tolerance or explanation offered to Witnesses who held non-conforming ideas or had doctrinal questions; rather a blanket ban was placed on discussions, and the accepted doctrines were reinforced.

In March 1980 Franz and his wife decided, due to health concerns, to take time off on leave of absence from the world headquarters. From 24 March — 24 July they arranged to stay with their Witness friend, Peter Gregerson, who lived in Alabama. Gregerson provided a mobile home for them on his property, and yardwork in exchange for monetary compensation. [cite book|title=Crisis of Conscience|author=Franz, Raymond|publisher=Commentary Press, Third edition, Second printing|date=2000|pages=283, 284] [Jason Dollar, "Peter Gregerson's Wise and Painful Departure from the Watchtower," available online at http://thisbread.blogspot.com/2008/08/peter-gregersons-wise-and-painful.html] While on their leave Franz states that information came to him, via phone calls, that members of the headquarters staff were being targeted for "inquisition, interrogations, and removal as apostates", based on gossip about conversations that (1) had occurred in the privacy of someone's home, and (2) had related to the scriptural basis for pivotal Jehovah's Witness doctrines. On 22 April 1980 Albert Schroeder, the Governing Body Chairman, informed Franz by phone that the "judicial machinery of the organization was in operation and moving rapidly against these ones".

On 8 May 1980 Schroeder phoned Franz to inform him that he had been implicated as an apostate, according to circulating gossip. On 19 May 1980 Franz returned to the headquarters in New York, and found a pack of documents on his desk with legalistic terms about what Jehovah's Witnesses believe. On 20 May 1980 he met with the Chairman's Committee, and was played a taped audio interview of a married Witness couple who spoke about rumours of private meetings of Witnesses who were discussing various teachings of the Watchtower Society. Franz relates that the two-hour tape was filled with leading questions by the Watchtower representatives who conducted the interview, and pressure was applied by them in an attempt to obtain information which would be grounds for charges of apostasy. According to Franz, the information obtained existed in the form of rumours only.

Resignation

According to Franz's account, on 21 May 1980 he was called to a Governing Body session which was to be tape recorded. He agreed to participate, with the stipulation that he be given a copy of the tape recording; he was verbally assured by the Governing Body that his request would be honored. He further states that this request was not honored. [cite book|title=Crisis of Conscience|author=Franz, Raymond|publisher=Commentary Press, Third edition, Second printing|date=2000|pages=314, 336-341] He was asked various questions about the organization and its teachings, rather than questions about the gossip that had been circulating and which had led to the disfellowshipping (excommunicating) of others under charges of "apostasy". The questions pertained to the 144,000, the last days, the anointed, and the role of the organization, etc. The Governing Body was not satisfied with his answers, and they continued to question him. The majority of those in attendance did not speak, but only listened. After three hours, he was told he could go. The next morning he was asked to make more recorded comments about a second tape recording which related additional Witnesses' hearsay and gossip about other members; he declined to comment on the unsubstantiated material. [cite book|title=Crisis of Conscience|author=Raymond Franz|pages=331]

On 22 May 1980 Albert Schroeder, Chairman of the Governing Body, came to Franz's room and informed him that some Governing Body members wanted him disfellowshipped regardless of the lack of evidence against him. Franz assumed from this that they had failed to persuade a majority, so there would be no expulsion. Schroeder said that the Governing Body wanted Franz to resign. Franz chose to write a resignation letter, and refused the Watchtower Society's offer of a monthly stipend as a member of the 'Infirm Special Pioneers'. He and his wife left the organization's headquarters. [cite book|title=Crisis of Conscience|author=Franz, Raymond|publisher=Commentary Press, Third edition, Second printing|date=2000|pages=321]

The Franzes went to live on the property of their fellow Witness and friend, Peter Gregerson, who owned a grocery business in Alabama. Franz resumed employment with his friend, and he and his wife continued to attend meetings at the East Gadsden congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses.

Leaving Headquarters: A New Life

Official Apostasy

In the August 1980 edition of the monthly newsletter, "Our Kingdom Ministry", sent to all congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses, the front page contained the statement that five members of Bethel and also a number of others had been disfellowshipped. The article went on to speak of "apostasy" and "promoting of sectarian divisions", which could be construed to imply that those who were disfellowshipped were apostates. The article did not mention any names in connection with these apostasy claims. ["Our Kingdom Ministry" August 1980 Branch Letter

We are saddened to report at this time that five members of the Bethel family, and a few others in the New York city area have recently been disfellowship [p] ed. There has been some apostasy against the organization and the promoting of sectarian divisions in some of the congregations of God’s people. (Titus 3:9-11) Living as we are in times difficult to deal with, it should not be surprising that such things occur. The first-century congregation also experienced deviations as we well know from our reading of the Holy Scriptures.—1 Tim. 1:20; 4:1; 2 Tim. 2:17, 18; 1 Cor. 15:12, 13; Acts 20:29, 30.]

On 1 September 1980 a letter to all Circuit and District overseers was sent out by the Governing Body stressing the new teaching that anyone who disagrees in thought with any of the Watch Tower Society's teachings is committing apostasy and is liable for disfellowshipping, even if he or she does not actually teach or spread contrary beliefs. The written official policy, provided only to congregation overseers, stated, under the heading "Protecting the Flock":

Keep in mind that to be disfellowshipped, an apostate does not have to be a promoter of apostate views. As mentioned in paragraph two, page 17 of the August 1, 1980, Watchtower, "The word 'apostasy' comes from a Greek term that means "a standing away from,' 'a falling away, defection,' 'rebellion, abandonment.' Therefore, if a baptized Christian abandons the teachings of Jehovah, as presented by the faithful and discreet slave [the 144,000, as represented by the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses] [cite book|title=The Watchtower, October 1, 2002 "Cultivating Obedience as The End Draws Near"|author=Watchtower Bible and Tract Society|date=2002|pages=18,19] , and persists in believing other doctrines despite Scriptural reproof, then he is apostatizing. Extended, kindly efforts should be put forth to readjust his thinking. However, if, after such extended efforts have been put forth to readjust his thinking, he continues to believe the apostate ideas and rejects what he has been provided through the 'slave class' then appropriate judicial action should be taken. [cite book|title=Crisis of Conscience|author=Raymond Franz|url=http://web.archive.org/web/20031210000658/users.volja.net/izobcenec4/coc/12.pdf|pages=341-342]

Franz's commentary on this apostasy policy:

The letter presents an official policy. It actually says that a person's believing—not promoting, but simply "believing"—something that differs from the teachings of the organization is grounds for taking judicial action against him as an "apostate"!
The letter makes no qualifying statements limiting such differences of belief to fundamental teachings of God's Word, such as the coming of God's Son as a man, the ransom, faith in Christ's shed blood as the basis for salvation, the resurrection, or similar basic Bible doctrines. It does not even say that the person necessarily disagrees with the Bible, the Word of God. Rather, he disagrees with "the teachings of Jehovah, "as presented by the faithful and discreet slave"." Which is something like saying that a man's accepting and obeying a King's written message is no guarantee that he is loyal; it is his accepting and obeying what a slave messenger claims the ruler meant that decides this!

The symbol at the top of the September 1, 1980 letter ("SCG") identifies the composer of it as Leon Weaver. But it should not be thought that this "thought-control" policy was the thinking of one individual, nor was it some momentary off-the-cuff expression of extremism which a person might make and afterward feel ashamed of as a rash, harsh and utterly unchristian position to take. The composer was a member of the Service Department Committee whose members, such as Harley Miller, David Olson, Joel Adams, Charles Woody and Leon Weaver, were all longtime representatives of the organization, with decades of experience behind them. They were agents of the Governing Body in supervising the activity of about 10,000 congregations and the activity of all the elders, Circuit and District Overseers in the United States, where nearly one million Jehovah's Witnesses live. They were in regular contact with the Service Committee of the Governing Body and were supposed to be thoroughly familiar with the Governing Body policies, attuned to its thinking and viewpoint and spirit.

Whatever the case, the letter and its policy—which evokes memories of the position of religious authorities in the apparent Inquisition—had to have been approved by a number of headquarters representatives, including several Governing Body members. Since people's friendships, family relationships, personal honor and other life interests were all at stake, it should be presumed that these men gave long, careful thought to that statement of September 1, 1980, before approving it as an official expression from the "faithful and discreet slave" of Jesus Christ. What they there said was no light matter to be explained away later by saying, "Well, we really didn't mean it exactly the way it sounded." As the facts show, people, many persons, were actually disfellowshipped and continue to be disfellowshipped solely on the basis of this very thought-control policy sent out. The denigrating label of "apostate" is placed on their name simply because in their own hearts, they cannot accept all of the Society's interpretations.

Association with Franz

Others Implicated

On 25 April 1980 Cris Sanchez, his wife, and his friend Nestor Kuilan, who were long time members at the world headquarters, were disfellowshipped, and René Vázquez (who worked many years in the Service Department) and his wife were also disfellowshipped for apostasy. Franz described his dismay:

[Their] names ...were read out to the entire headquarters staff, stating that they had been disfellowshiped. The Governing Body thus informed well over one thousand five hundred persons. They did not see fit to inform me. I eventually heard it, of course, but from phone calls from those so treated, not from any of my fellow members on the Governing Body. [cite book|title=Crisis of Conscience|author=Franz, Raymond|publisher=Commentary Press, Third edition, Second printing|date=2000|pages=293]

Edward Dunlap

A few days after Franz's resignation, but before the couple left the world headquarters, the Franzes met with Edward Dunlap, a member of the Writing Department who, according to Franz, "had been the object of personal attack both within the Governing Body and outside thereof" and had previously "asked the Writing Committee to give him relief from harassment". [cite book|title=Crisis of Conscience|author=Franz, Raymond|publisher=Commentary Press, Third edition, Second printing|date=2000|pages=321, 322] These members were harassing Dunlap because he preferred to guide Witnesses to Scripture rather than to the Watch Tower Society's literature. Fact|date=February 2007 Franz says Dunlap had given his life to the organization [Watchtower 1973 5/1 page 284, Watchtower 1963 1/15 page 62 and Watchtower 1962 1/15 page 63 - each time Edward Dunlap is mentioned as registrar of the organization's missionary school and speaker of graduation talks held for its students] by serving faithfully for over forty years, and was a teacher at the organization's missionary school (Watchtower Bible School of Gilead), one of the anointed heavenly class [cite book|title=Crisis of Conscience|author=Franz, Raymond|publisher=Commentary Press, Third edition, Second printing|date=2000|pages=277] , a major contributor to the doctrinal encyclopedia, "Aid to Bible Understanding", and the writer of the Watchtower Society's only published Bible commentary, "Commentary on the Letter of James". Dunlap was called in for questioning; not long after, he "was dismissed from his work and home at the international headquarters and disfellowshiped from the organization". [cite book|title=Crisis of Conscience|author=Franz, Raymond|publisher=Commentary Press, Third edition, Second printing|date=2000|pages=5]

Peter Gregerson

While Franz and his wife were attending the local congregation in Alabama, the Elders there wrote to the Watch Tower Society requesting that he be appointed as an Elder. The Society wrote back and "said succinctly that the Society did not think it advisable for the elders to recommend me as such (or as a ministerial servant). The only reason given was that the notice of my resignation ...was still recent." [cite book|title=Crisis of Conscience|author=Franz, Raymond|publisher=Commentary Press, Third edition, Second printing|date=2000|pages=342] Franz describes in his book account how these were the first signs of a campaign orchestrated against him, in literature and within the organization, and with many articles on 'Apostasy' being published one after the other and directly linking him to them (although not in name). [cite book|title=Crisis of Conscience|author=Franz, Raymond|publisher=Commentary Press, Third edition, Second printing|date=2000]

He describes the attitude and writing style in the Society's literature turned inquisitional and repeatedly negative, and constantly emphasized 'how to identify apostates', based on the new premise that anyone who thinks an independent thought not completely in line with all of the Watch Tower Society's teachings and interpretations is an apostate, [For Example Watchtower 1980 8/1 pp. 20-21 pars. 15-17 Remain “Solid in the Faith”] they did not have to teach or discuss these thoughts, but to merely "have" them was enough for the charges of "apostasy" to be made.

At the same time, according to Franz, his employer and landlord, Peter Gregerson, was being harassed and interrogated by elders, [cite book|title=Crisis of Conscience|author=Franz, Raymond|publisher=Commentary Press, Third edition, Second printing|date=2000|pages=321, 322] as someone had conveyed a private conversation that Peter Gregerson had about the 15 August 1980 "Watchtower" magazine, where it used a Greek term "Naos" instead of the word "Hieron" in regard to the temple where Jesus threw out the money lenders, and whether the resurrected 'Great Crowd' are in heaven or on earth, as "Naos" is used for them in the Bible, and for the 'Most Holy of Holies' where God dwells. The point was relatively minor, but due to the Society's new policy on independent thoughts, and Peter Gregerson being Raymond Franz's employer and landlord, the matter was not dropped, but was accelerated and intensified, according to Franz's and Gregerson's accounts.

On 18 March 1981, according to Peter Gregerson, due to stress and constant badgering and intimidation, he submitted a letter of resignation from the organization. Those who disassociate themselves were, at that time, still allowed normal and friendly contact with their fellow Witnesses. Gregerson states that he could not tolerate the constant harassment and unchristian manner Fact|date=February 2007 he was being targeted for, with regards to a private conversation about a "Watchtower" article that used what has been alleged to be an incorrect Greek word for the location of the 'Great Crowd.' Soon after his resignation, the Watch Tower Society changed its policy for those who are "disassociated" and reinstated a previous policy which classes those disassociated with those who are "disfellowshipped" (a much more serious condition). Those who were disfellowshipped were placed in the same category as "wicked sinners, antichrist, anti-God, fornicators, idolaters, drunkards and extortioners," [ Watchtower 1986 10/15 p. 31 Questions From Readers - What is the fitting response of the congregation if someone leaves the true Christian faith and joins another religion?] as were also those who were guilty of the crime of "independent thoughts", as stated in the Society's 1 September 1980 letter to all Circuit and District overseers.

Life after disfellowshipping

Since Franz's disfellowshipping (taking effect 31 December 1981), he has written two books presenting detailed accounts of his experiences as a Jehovah's Witness, a Governing Body member, and his experiences throughout various levels of the organization. These books are "Crisis of Conscience" and "In Search of Christian Freedom".

Franz currently lives in the USA with his wife, Cynthia, and lives a quiet life.

References

External links

* [http://www.commentarypress.com/ Website about all the books authored by Raymond Franz]
* [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,922767-1,00.html Time magazine] The February 22 1982 article about the expulsion of Raymond Franz


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