The Elder Thing..Isn't This The Second Time Around?

by Englishman 8 Replies latest jw friends

  • Englishman

    During my dubbie days, 1958 - 1972, there were no such things as official "elders".

    We had "servants". These were:

    Congregation servant.

    Asst Congregation servant.

    Bible Study servant.

    (The above 3 were "the committee" and were in charge of DF-ing and probation, etc)

    Magazine / territory servant.

    Watchtower servant.

    Literature servant.

    Accounts servant.

    However, when the book JW's In The Divine Purpose was released, I seem to recall that mention was made several times about the old days when there were "Elders" appointed in the 30's and 40's. Also, for some of these years, elders were actually voted into office by the congregation!

    The new servant arrangement was hailed as being an advancement on the old elder system. So, it was with considerable surprise to many when the Society reverted back to it. I also recall the lead up to the second elder period when the term wasn't used much, it being commonly referred to as "Older men" of the congregation.

    I'm hazy on all this change that took place around the mid 70's and would appreciate any info you might have.



  • franklin J
    franklin J

    well Mike, I missed the boat on this one....I will never be an how do I feel about this loss?

    I was a full time pioneer; ministerial servant; assistant book servant....but not an elder

    Dad was an elder. Before the elder arrangement he held no position. So, I suppose we were not such JW hotshots.

    I suppose if I had not "turned my back on Jehovah" ; I would have most likely been the youngest elder in the county. But dang! I could not resist the worldly temptation! I invited Satan in !

    "...dreaming of that eldership....." What a bad dream.

  • franklin J
    franklin J


    In my recollection ( early 60s at best) it was the appointed arrangements as you describe them. I had never heard of an elder arrangement which dates back to the 30s and 40s.

    Although the elderly couple which brought us into the "truth" were from that time period ( annointed- so they said) I had never heard them mention this.

  • garybuss

    The replacement of the original elder system is how Rutherford stole the congregations. The elders were often not impressed with Rutherford and many would not follow his directions. Rutherford appointed a service director in every congregation and the Society would ONLY recognize communication to and from their appointed service director.

    That took the real power away from the elders appointed by the congregation members and gave it all to those appointed (approved) by Rutherford. See Watchtower Feb 1 1932 and Sept 1 1932 for the directions to abolish the elected elder system.

  • AK - Jeff
    AK - Jeff

    Englishman -

    The 'elective elders' arrangement ended in 1932 as Gary stated - it had been in force I believe since about 1919. For about 40 years it functioned without elders using 'servants' as mentioned in your post. Then the early 70's elder arrangement came in.

    One of the primary advantages was, IMHO, the appointment now coming from Brooklyn - no elections. Not much different than the 'servant' arrangment really. There has never been any autonomy in the congregations since the days when Rutherford abolished the elective status.

    Jim Penton gives a wonderful explanation of the history in 'Apocalypse Delayed'.


  • belbab

    When the change was made from servants to elders around 1970 and I was alreadt doing the slow exit walz, a group of us were sitting out in someone's back yard, taking it easy during some pre district assembly work. The district servant was there and he was telling us there would be some new light at the assembly, something about the servants. I said oh, what is it? Are they going to start rotating the servants? His face dropped, and he changed the subject. I knew I had hit the nail on the head.

    I thought at the time, that the reason for rotating the servants/elders was because in many congregations, the head servant, the congregation servant, was entrenched in his position. Many of these were laid back, not progressive enough for the WT. He was not laid back enough to remove him, but many of the others servants were gung ho, so I believe the Society just thought to rotate them.

    Then I believe someone in Brooklyn, said how come the head ones of the Society are not rotated, and then the shit hit the fan, Knorr and Franz thought they were being demoted. If I remember right Raymond Franz talked about this in his books.

    I do not know whether they still rotate the elders. some of you who were in later, can may be able to tell us.

  • Englishman
    I do not know whether they still rotate the elders.

    I think that we sometimes get them in a spin..


  • willyloman

    I was a fledgling dub in the mid-70s and the elder arrangement was quite new then, dating back to about 1972 (you could look it up). There was at the time a great deal of dissent about the whole thing, even though several years had gone by. The candid (private conversation only) assessment was that the Society had laid out guidelines for appointing elders that were fairly lofty, but when the men in the individual congos got together to make recommendations, most of them just rubber stamped every baptized male whose name was brought up for consideration. One elder told me "they appointed every warm body in pants."

    I'm sure it wasn't quite that simple, but there were a lot of "elders" back in the early and mid-70's whose "qualifications" were flimsy.

    And, yes, they rotated positions in those days, including the PO. The five "fixed" positions were one-year appointments, after which the elders got together to see whose turn it was and shuffled the deck. That ended in the early 1980s, which is when these became "permanent" positions, requiring action by the body of elders (with consent of, sometimes on the initiative of, the CO).

  • Mulan

    The elder arrangement was announced at the 1971 conventions and went into effect in 1972.

    They stopped the rotation after 4 or 5 years. Dave was appointed an elder in 1973 and was PO for one year. It was then that they stopped the rotation. Some were just not qualified to teach the school or conduct the WT study. Some were just abysmal at it.

Share this