Recollections From My Past in the Writing Department
My experiences at Bethel agree with Ray Franz as he explained in his book Crisis of Conscience that it was the “other sheep” that did the bulk of the writing. Of course when he was in the Writing Department there were men who professed to be of the “anointed” that wrote. He was one of them and Karl Klein, Lloyd Barry and Ray Franz wrote while Franz was there. I don’t know if Dunlap or Reinhart Lingstat who collaborated on the Aid book were of the anointed.
However, when I was in the Writing Department, some ten years later, there was not one of the anointed that did any writing. I can add some information to Ray's that might broaden the discussion although I was not privy to inside information on how the Writing Dept. operated except what I personally was involved with or what Harry Peloyan told me about.
Evidence of How “Other Sheep” Provided Spiritual Food
Senior writer, John Wischuk (primarily a writer for the Watchtower), kept a file for outside letters which came to Writing or Service that might lead to an article. There had to be five letters on the same subject to get into his file. During the weekly writer’s meeting that subject would be brought to everybody’s attention and after comments, a decision along with an assignment would be made, that is, if the subject was approved for an article. I believe that John would talk to Lloyd Barry before the meeting and Lloyd would introduce the subject.
There were four senior writers who were Awake! compilers. And the same goes for the Watchtower. The job was on a rotation basis. I think it was every fourth issue that a man had to oversee the Awake! from start to finish. Compilers were Harry Peloyan, Sam Buck, Colin Quackenbush and Eric Beveridge. Probably, there have been changes to this group because these men are up in age now. Back then when they weren’t compiling, they wrote main articles for both magazines, books, bklts and talks.
Names of writers back then: George Aljian, Eric Beveridge, Sam Buck, Steve Johnson, Syril Chan, David Iannelli, Dan Black, Eugene Smalley, Bob Pevy, Colin Quackenbush, Harry Peloyan, John Wischuck, Lee Waters, Manfred Vencebi, Circo Aulicino (infrequently except for the UN articles). I probably left out somebody, but these are the men I remember. I heard that Colin works in the Home Office now and Lee Watters is deceased. I have some names of others who are in the Writing Department since I left, but I don’t know if they are support people or writers. GB member, David Splane is in Writing as part of the Writing Committee, but I don’t know if he does any writing. He had been in the Service Department when I was at Bethel. A recent count indicated that there were about sixty people connected with the Writing Department. These are mostly support people.
There was an Awake! team and a Watchtower team which operated basically the same way. All these men including junior writers were of the “other sheep” group. Junior writers wrote secondary articles, or maybe a cover series of articles, and if especially good writers, worked on major projects assigned to them by senior writers.
I’m sure that wasn’t the only way magazine articles came to be. For instance, I can tell you about my personal experience in this regard and I wasn’t of the anointed. One time I made a suggestion to Awake! editor, Harry Peloyan, for an article; told him I had all the research material that one of his writers could use for the article since I had accumulated it while researching a subject for Proclaimers. Harry said the men were busy and told me to write the article, which I did. It was my first. But he knew I could do it because one day when I was making some copies at the copy machine he walked by and then turned around and came back and asked me to read copy from a branch writer and see if I would replace a few paragraphs being that the article was about women’s health issues. I was working for Karl Adams at the time so I did the work for Harry in the evening. My re-write made it into the article and into the magazine.
One time, I heard that quite a number of phone calls came into Writing after one particular District Convention talk on Matthew 22:25-30 concerning the woman who married seven brothers, one at a time, after each husband died. The question was, “Consequently, in the resurrection, to which of the seven will she be wife?” Jesus replied: “…for in the resurrection neither do men marry nor are women given in marriage, but are as angels in heaven.”
There were many questions about the Society’s interpretation of this point. At that time I was doing research for the Proclaimer’s book but I had the idea to see just how often the literature addressed these scriptures from 1879 onward. I then proposed to Harry Peloyan that I would give him the results of my research. He thought it was a great idea. When I finished I had a stack of loose pages that totaled up to about two inches in height. I also summarized what I found and gave everything to him. Harry and Colin Quackenbush discussed it and sent a letter to the GB with their input. It was about six months later when they received a letter from the GB stating that due to the ambiguous nature of Jesus words, they were going to stop discussing these scriptures henceforth. How about that for reverse “new light”?
Another time when I was talking to Colin Quackenbush, I told him about the problems with ADHD and ADD kids. He listened and a few months later asked me to write a cover series of articles on the subject, which I did.
The Anointed Governing Body’s Connection to Providing Spiritual Food
The Teaching Committee, with much input from Service and Writing, plays an important part in GB decisions as to what topics should become books, booklets or convention talks. Different people in these departments are part of the process to make known to the GB organizational problems, etc.
One time a manuscript about Jesus life was given to the Society written by a JW outside of Bethel. I was told that out of that came Jesus Life and Ministry book. To my knowledge the original author was not one of the anointed.
Senior writers (none claiming to be anointed) read major NY newspapers every morning and would put a check mark next to articles for keeping. Barbara Adams and another woman cut out the checked articles and they were filed in a big cabinet named the “Source File.” The writers kept a look-out for secular subjects that grew bigger in importance as the days passed, and eventually that subject made its way to the Awake!” from the Bible’s viewpoint, of course. I often heard JWs comment as I toured them in the Writing Department that articles were right up to date and Jehovah’s Holy Spirit was responsible. They would say, “Even before a subject is big, the magazines are addressing the issue.” No, I’d tell them, informed WT writers were responsible.
Branch writers were assigned to look for things to write about and would regularly submit articles that were filed in a special cabinet. These articles became the secondary articles in the Awake!. However they also wrote assigned cover series magazine articles. I never heard of one of these men being of the anointed, but of course, there might have been one.
I never heard of anyone at Brooklyn that stepped into Freddie’s shoes as “oracle.” Although I’ve read late WT articles and books, they don’t have anything which slightly resembles Freddie’s writing mode. Most likely the GB doesn’t want any writer to have that kind of power anymore. To my way of thinking, they probably want writers to do what they do best, continue to write articles that are not sensational and out of this world like Freddie’s were, but just the same ole’ humdrum material that the Witnesses are accustomed to receive from the “Faithful and Discreet Slave Class.”
“New Light” From the Top?
“New light” has to work its way through channels. This is some of what I observed: Junior writers learn the channels, one of which is to go to a senior writer with an idea. Always, certain members like Henschel and Jaracz had to give the okay for “new light” to go forward or a “new light” item to go into a magazine. Certain senior writers had close friendships with GB members and discussed their ideas, feelings or research on a subject. A GB member can come up with an idea and introduce it to the other GB for approval, and if agreed upon, a senior writer is assigned to write an article or write or compile a book. Schroeder came up with the “Nethinim” or “Given Ones” idea and assigned Gene Smalley to write an article (April 15, 1992) which proved to be fallacious. There are numerous ways “new light” ideas get to the GB, but basically the brainchild has to be approved by them before it goes anywhere.
One time Klein talked about something he came up with at morning worship before he told the other GB members. He explained to the Bethel family how we don’t vindicate Jehovah’s name, we vindicate his sovereignty. And, lickity-split that idea became “new light.” I remember, Karl was so excited about his brainchild that when he arrived at work that morning it was as if he had been given his youth back. He was kind of hopping and jumping around and running his idea by anybody who would listen, including me.
There were many non-Witness commentaries in the library of the Writing Dept. I even bought some for myself when I was there. A commentary was very useful to someone trying to understand a Bible verse and see if he could figure out something that would agree with WT’s thoughts on the matter. If we were studying a particular doctrine as I was at one time, we looked at commentaries to see what they said. If the problem seemed to be that WT’s stance was under a microscope by outside JWs and the evidence was in a worldly scholar’s ballpark, then out came the commentaries. If WT was thought to be wrong then it might develop into “new light.”
I was in Writing’s library constantly and hardly ever saw a writer looking through the old literature on the shelves. Of course, most of the senior writers had been there for forty years or more and were probably very tired of it all. The apostate material was available in a closet. Who read the books and booklets is something I don’t know. I would expect they were curious about what Ray said, so read his books. I never heard any comments one way or the other.
WT Indexes were definitely in use then but now the WT Library on CD-ROM makes everything so much easier for the writers and also for researchers. I really can’t offer any information about the Society publishing commentaries on Bible books except to say the best one for that job would have been Karl Adams but he’s dead. I guess it would go to a team of researchers, men and women, under the control of one writer who excelled at that kind of endeavor, but who it would be nowadays, I have no idea.
A few people in Writing knew quite a bit of the past history of the WT, but from the revisionist point of view. Richard Abrahamson, then overseer of the Art Dept. (a dept. that fell under the control of Writing) was originally assigned to oversee the writing of the Proclaimer’s book, was very interested in the old history. Richard had no time for the book, so Karl Adams was assigned. Karl is dead now. Of course, he learned a lot on the job because he worked on Proclaimers, but prided himself as being a historian of the WT. Also, Iannelli, Black, and Potter (in research) could articulately discuss some parts of the history. I have no idea if any of them read Studies in the Scriptures. All the old literature was in the Library, but I don’t know who, if anybody, had really done an in-depth personal study or not. I know, like me, others used the old literature to find a good Russell quote to be used in something we were working on.
Repetition for Emphasis
Some readers of WT literature have suggested that WT recycles old articles for new. From what I see in the literature, I don’t think that they have any innovative thinkers; consequently, they are stuck in a rut. The boundaries imposed by the GB on topics are narrow and to stay within these boundaries is challenging. Hence, repetition for emphasis. They will repeat some subjects again and again because they really have nothing else to say. When is the last time there were any deeper doctrinal articles discussing hell, Trinity, and immortality of the soul? Maybe they’ve published such articles in the magazines and I just missed them. But from what I've read, it’s all about “Soon this world will end.”