What role (witting or unwitting) did HAYDEN C. COVINGTON play in the Watchtower DF policy flip-flop?

by Terry 18 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • Terry

    What if I told you three Presidents of the Watch Tower corporation at one time held the following to be true?
    Excommunication (shunning/disfellowship) is used by false religion to stifle honest inquiry.

    Ironic? Well, duh!

    Let's get some background on this from President Nathan Knorr in 1947 by reading the January Watch Tower magazine:

    Compare the above with President J.F.Rutherford's article in 1919 Watch Tower of February:

    "The great adversary is wily, and at all times is quick to appeal to passion. He persuades some that they must take a radical stand against some secular work or activity, and to proceed at once to disfellowship others who cannot conscientiously take this same stand. Somehow they seem to think that their radical stand entitles them in a very special sense to divine favour and blessing. his attitude leads them to violate principle in various ways: (1) By judging and condemning others who do not see as they do; (2) By refusing to fellowship those who still believe in the ransom, the restitution, the high calling." Watchtower 1919 Feb 1 p.6385

    Now take a look at Pastor C.T. Russell in April 1897's Watch Tower:

    "Rather, like the church of Rome their ["Religious leaders of today"] influence is exerted to restrain investigation within the sectarian limits. With the implied threat of disfellowship, they urge their ministers and students not to search continually for truth, but to accept the voice of their sect as infallible." Watchtower 1887 Apr p.923

    From reading the words of 3 Watch Tower Presidents in a row we can see a solidarity, agreement and unity of thought.
    So, what happens next that completely REVERSES this view just 5 years later??

    Suddenly, an enforcement policy equating association with a DF'd person with....WITCHCRAFT appears!!

    In the Watchtower 1955 October 1 p.607, associating with the disfellowshipped became ITSELF a reason to be disfellowshipped:

    If a publisher refuses to do this and ignores the prohibition on associating with the disfellowshipped one, that publisher is rebelling against the congregation of Jehovah, and rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as idolatry and teraphim. If after sufficient warning the publisher persists in associating with the disfellowshipped person instead of aligning himself with Jehovahs organization he also should be disfellowshipped.

    A chilling article follows in 1987 requiring members to spy on and inform on each other!

    "This command from the Highest Level of authority in the universe put the responsibility upon each Israelite to report to the judges any serious wrongdoing that he observed so that the matter might be handled. While Christians are not strictly under the Mosaic Law, its principles still apply in the Christian congregation. Hence, there may be times when a Christian is obligated to bring a matter to the attention of the elders. True, it is illegal in many countries to disclose to unauthorized ones what is found in private records. But if a Christian feels, after prayerful consideration, that he is facing a situation where the law of God required him to report what he knew despite the demands of lesser authorities, then that is a responsibility he accepts before Jehovah. There are times when a Christian must obey God as ruler rather than men. Acts 5:29" Watchtower 1987 Sep 1 p.13

    By the year 2011, on page 60 of Shepherding the Flock of God:

    "Though this is not an exhaustive list, brazen conduct may be involved in the following if the wrongdoer has an insolent, contemptuous attitude made evident by a practice of these things:

    Willful, continued, unnecessary association with disfellowshipped nonrelatives despite repeated counsel." p.60

    The Governing Body invaded the privacy of even the bedrooms of their membership with an extraordinary on again/off again confusion about what was right and wrong!

    An erratic pattern of denunciations soon followed targeting matters not specifically outlined in scripture. Concerning oral sex, for example:

    a disfellowshipping offence - Watchtower 1974 November 15 p.704
    no longer an offence - Watchtower 1978 February 15 pp.30-32
    once again an offence - Watchtower 1983 March 15 p.31
    The following rose to the level of offenses as well:

    Gambling - common throughout history, such as the casting of lots over Jesus clothing
    Use of Drugs such as marijuana - in common use in the first century
    Celebrations - Romans 14:1-18 specifically says not to judge anyone over the observance of days
    The Bible counsels kindness and forgiveness for person's requiring discipline:

    2 Corinthians 2:5-8 " Now if anyone has caused sadness, he has saddened, not me, but all of YOU to an extentnot to be too harsh in what I say. This rebuke given by the majority is sufficient for such a man, so that, on the contrary now, YOU should kindly forgive and comfort [him], that somehow such a man may not be swallowed up by his being overly sad. Therefore I exhort YOU to confirm YOUR love for him."

    Watchtower policy is harsh and threatening with an overtone of Jihadist fanaticism :

    "Jesus encouraged his followers to love their enemies, but God's Word also says to "hate what is bad." When a person persists in a way of badness after knowing what is right, when the bad becomes so ingrained that it is an inseparable part of his make-up, then in order to hate what is bad a Christian must hate the person with whom the badness is inseparably linked."
    Watchtower 1961 Jul 15 p.420

    "Being limited by the laws of the worldly nation in which we live and also by the laws of God through Jesus Christ, we can take action against apostates only to a certain extent, that is, consistent with both sets of laws. The law of the land and God's law through Christ forbid us to kill apostates, even though they be members of our own flesh-and-blood family relationship..."
    Watchtower 1952 Nov 15 p.703

    Paul's counsel differs dramatically.

    When discussing a person seduced by apostasy Paul said at 2 Thessalonians 3:15:

    And yet do not be considering him as an enemy, but continue admonishing him as a brother.


    The question remains: WHAT HAPPENED between 1947 and 1952 that caused a 180 turn from established scriptural policies?


    In 1940, Hayden C. Covington—then the Society’s legal counsel and one of the “other sheep,” with the earthly hope—was elected a director of the Society. (John 10:16) He served as the Society’s vice president from 1942 to 1945.

    Hayden Covington was by all accounts an extraordinary force of nature and a natural fighter who never backed down from a confrontation either legal or personal. His hero was Watchtower Society President J.F.Rutherford who was also a staunch advocate of confrontation of one's foes.

    In 1942, Rutherford was replaced by Nathan Knorr as the Society's leader.

    According to Covington, it was himself who "had the votes" to become the President. But, Knorr had "connived" him out of it.

    An immediate clash of personalities resulted....at first UNKNOWN to Covington! Only gradually did the opposition become clear.

    In an interview years later *, Covington referred to Knorr in pejorative terms. He called him "sneaky" and a "cobra" and called into question Knorr's courage because of having witnessed him back down from altercations with Catholics in a public forum.

    Knorr did not want Covington as his vice-President. Rutherford insisted on his death bed that Covington be appointed. Knorr was poorly educated and Covington considered him ignorant.

    Knorr was rankled by Covington's superior education and attempts to influence Society policy through intimidation. Consequently, Knorr engineered a change in policy to exclude non-anointed person's (other sheep) from serving as a governing body member. By 1945 Covington was forced out.

    A public relations spin was offered that Covington had "graciously declined to serve" in view of the new policy. Everybody who ever met Covington knew quite well he NEVER backed down or withdrew!

    Knorr's champion and fellow conspirator, Fred Franz, created the new policy in order to install Franz in place of Covington.

    Covington was retained as legal representative, however, attaining Supreme Court case wins in 80% of the the lawsuits filed.

    Two polices of Jehovah's Witnesses may well have been directly impacted by the personality of Covington and the discord with Franz and Knorr. The first was

    the policy on Higher Education. Knorr considered Covington's irrepressible ego to be a direct result of "higher education" and a superior attitude.

    As animosty grew, public statements by Covington embarassed Knorr and Franz's sense of absolute rightness.

    Testifying in a legal case concerning Matthew Barrie we find the following from:


    Walsh Case (See essay The Martyring of Matthew Barrie – A Study in Ethics), and it was a chap who had some legal difference with the Organisation and the vice-president of the Society, Hayden Covington was testifying on the stand and the line of questioning led them down the route of ‘false prophet,’ and he asked various questions regarding the Organisation’s teachings and beliefs over the proceeding decades. (16:10)

    And Brother Covington answered in the affirmative: ‘Is it conceded to be the case that your organisation has made false prophecies? And he said, ‘Yes,’ and he said, ‘Would that mean that you’re false prophets?’ And he said, ‘That is conceded to be true.’


    Knorr and Franz braced themselves.

    How could either of them win a battle with Covington in the court of public opinion, in an actual lawsuit or otherwise? Covington was brilliant!

    Only one avenue of approach remained where the "high ground" would be created to virtually demand all JW's worldwide osctracize Covington (or any other clever antagonists who challenged their athority) for Apostasy if they could engineer grounds for disfellowshipping!

    Consequently, the sudden stiffening of penalty and harshness of attitude immediately began to set the stage for an arsenal against any (even Covington) who dared take on the Governing Body!

    In the above speculation, I am saying that disfellowship policy was emboldened in reaction to perceived internal enemies and, once in place, grew stronger or weaker as threats came and went over the years.

    Post 1975 the internal murmurings let loose a virtual jihad against any nay-sayers. All of which is a 180 degree flip-flop on Society history of this policy.



    NOW YOU KNOW . . .

  • Band on the Run
    Band on the Run

    My father was a drinking buddy of Covington. I wanted to track him down for my senior thesis. Fearing for my emotional health when I most needed to be sharp, I decided to write about the insanity defense.

    There were rumors that Covington was d'f'd for drinking. My father would not acknowledge him at a convention. Convington had no coterie of admirers. He seemed very much alone.

    What is the story Terry? I was told that Knorr and Franz eliminated anyone who was popular with the JW masses. The radio personality was such a case. Maybe that was Rutherford? My mom saidd that if you wanted to stay at Bethel and not be d'f'd on a trumped up charge, you did not advertise your skills.

  • sparky1

    As a side note, Hayden Covington was the only member of the Other Sheep class to serve on the Govering Body (or governing body if you prefer)!Most current Jehovah's Witnesses have no understanding of this fact.

  • Giordano

    Didn't they manufacture something against R Franz? A lunch with his buddy? Disfellowshiping has become the first reaction against telling the truth or having an independent mind. It is both a lifetime punishment and the Society's weapon of choice.

    It is interesting to note which church's rely on shunning. Scientology, Mormons, Christian Scientists until the 1950's, the Amish, Bahai, Islam where it can mean a death sentence or jail.

    Here's a few interesting points about the JW'S: http://www.xjw.com/shunning.html

    But now I am writing you to quit mixing in company with anyone called a brother that is a fornicator or a greedy person or an idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner, not even eating with such a man.--1.Cor. 5:11 (NWT)

    The text is clear that a person with whom the congregation should not mix company is one who is: 1) "called a brother" (that is, one who professes to be a member of the congregation); and 2) practicing fornication, greed, idolotry, reviling (insulting), habitual drunkeness, and/or extortion (theft).

    • Jehovah's Witnesses do not disfellowship greedy persons.
    • They often do not disfellowship people who regularly get drunk unless their conduct becomes so outrageous and publicly-known as to bring reproach upon Jehovah's Witnesses.
    • They do not disfellowship people for many of the things which they themselves class as "idolatry" (for example: materialism, worshipping an organization, etc.).
    • On the other hand, Jehovah's Witnesses do disfellowship and shun people for:
      • no longer claiming to be called a brother/sister.
      • independent study and discussion of the Bible that brings Watchtower doctrine into question.
      • possession of literature written by former members.
      • having lunch with a former member, even if the former member professes to be a Christian and was not disfellowshipped for fornication, greed, idolotry, reviling, drunkeness, or extortion.
      • attending a service of any other church or religious organization.
      • authorizing a blood transfusion, even to save the life of a child.
      • numerous other actions not mentioned in scripture, but deemed by the congregation elders to be "unclean conduct," or "conduct unbecoming" of a Jehovah's Witness. "Conduct" in this case covers a broad range of actions not clearly defined by the Society, leaving discernment about what is not acceptable to the discretion of the congregation's elders. As a result, standards by which people may be disfellowshiped are inconsistent throughout this religion which claims "unity" to be one of their identifying characteristics.
  • Terry

    Knorr was the uneducated odd-man out at Bethel and it is said Covington and Rutherford treated him like he was a Rube.

    Sitting at a table listening those two dominate the conversation must have burned Knorr's britches.

    The anti-education stance by JW's probably grew out of Knorr's inferiority complex.

    It is the equivalent of the Napoleon complex where a small man wants to dominate to compensate.

  • Band on the Run
    Band on the Run

    Did Knorr have a business education? He expanded the Witnesses around the world. I much preferred listening to him speak about the expanssion. The religion did not seem so dinky. Freddie Franz was hard to listen to for long. My mom made a big deal about Knorr not needing notes. Would the Factory director be enough experience?

    Was Knorr a rube? I have to laugh about Freddie Franz' credentials. My family praised his intellect and knowledge. No one was like Freddie. Just every seminary student in America and Europe.

  • Finkelstein
  • Nathan Natas
    Nathan Natas

    Covington was an alcoholic who was less and less capable of supporting his family (yes, he was married and had both a son and daughter and did not live at Bethel) and Mrs. Covington became the stable breadwinner of the family. Covington's son died a suicide in his teens. His daughter remains loyal to the organization that used and abused her father.

  • Rufus T. Firefly
    Rufus T. Firefly

    We do not burn people at the stake any more. But how far removed are we from that Dark Ages ritual when we tear families apart through the misuse of disfellowshipping by misapplying scriptures such as 1 Corinthians 5:11 and 2 John 9-11? With that thought in mind, please consider the following:

    In her book, The Sociopath Next Door, Dr. Martha Stout’s working definition of a sociopath is one completely devoid of conscience. She refers to the conscience as the seventh sense. Under the subheading ‘Moral Exclusion,’ Dr. Stout suggests that whenever someone is excluded from our moral universe, ”interventions of conscience no longer apply to him. He is not human. He is an ‘it.’ And unfortunately, this transformation of a [person] into an ‘it’ makes him scarier as well.

    “Sometimes people appear to deserve our moral exclusion. . . But in most cases, our tendency to reduce people to non-beings is neither considered nor conscious, and throughout history our proclivity to dehumanize has too often been turned against the essentially innocent. The list of out groups that some portion of humankind has at one time or another demoted to the status of hardly even human is extremely long.

    “And once the other group has become populated by ‘its,’ anything goes, especially if someone in authority gives the order. Conscience is no longer necessary, because conscience binds us to other beings and not to ‘its.’ Conscience still exists, may even be very exacting, but it applies only to my countrymen, my friends, and my children, not yours. You may be excluded from my moral universe, and with impunity—and maybe even praise from others in my group—I can now drive you from your home, or shoot your family, or burn you alive.”

    Under the subheading ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes,’ Dr. Stout writes: “When conscience falls into a profound trance, when it sleeps through acts of torture, war, and genocide, political leaders and other prominent individuals can make the difference between a gradual awakening of our seventh sense and a continued amoral nightmare. History teaches that attitudes and plans coming from the top dealing pragmatically with problems of hardship and insecurity in the group, rather than scapegoating an out group, can help us return to a more realistic view of the “others.” In time, moral leadership can make a difference. But history shows us also that a leader with no seventh sense can hypnotize the group conscience still further, redoubling catastrophe. Using fear-based propaganda to amplify a destructive ideology, such a leader can bring the members of a frightened society to see the ‘its’ as the sole impediment to the good life, for themselves and maybe even for humanity as a whole, and the conflict as an epic battle between good and evil. Once these beliefs have been disseminated, crushing the ‘its’ without pity or conscience can, with chilling ease, become an incontrovertible mandate.”

    Interestingly, the Watch Tower Society once criticized the Catholic Church's practice of excommunicating Church members.

    “The [Catholic] Hierarchy’s excommunication . . . is altogether foreign to Bible teachings.

    “The Encyclopedia Britannica says that papal excommunication is not without pagan influence. . . It was therefore after Catholicism adopted its pagan practices, A.D. 325, that this new chapter in religious excommunication was written.

    “Therefore, as the *pretensions* of the Hierarchy increased, the *weapon* of excommunication became the instrument by which the clergy attained a combination of *ecclesiastical power* and *secular tyranny* that finds no parallel in history.” (January 8, 1947 AWAKE!)

    It follows, then, that the manner in which JWs practice disfellowshiping “is altogether foreign to Bible teachings” and not without pagan influence.” Only by misapplying 1 Cor. 5:11 and 2 John 9-11 can the Watch Tower Society justify disfellowshiping conscientious Christians who are neither unrepentant sinners nor antichrists.

    Furthermore, notice the phrase “as the pretensions of the Hierarchy increased.” Is it not the height of pretentiousness for the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses to declare themselves to be the faithful and discreet slave? Not even C. T. Russell was so pretentious; rather, when asked by others if he was the faithful and discreet slave, he would reportedly respond, “Some say that I am.”

  • Finkelstein
    Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    The WTS. eventually developed its entailing absolute power by the circumstances involving H Covington,

    and R Franz to name a few. It just a common occurrence of men grappling for complete power and control

    and once a man has achieved a semblance of that they ardently strive to keep themselves at that perceived position.


    Of course in the realm of religion this is mostly done by demonising opponents by utilizing the bible as

    a means to gather support around yourself and against ones who are actually posing a threat .


    The biggest threat to these established power institutions like the WTS. is to point out its false and

    corrupt doctrines many of which were inherently expressed to keep those men in their stature of

    power and control.

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