Growth into a Worldwide Movement
Jehovah's Witnesses grew out of the Bible Student movement developed by Charles T. Russell in the 1870s at Pittsburgh, Pa. In 1876 he adopted the "biblical" chronology of Nelson H. Barbour, which has been basic to the date-setting apocalypticism of the Bible Students and Witnesses ever since. Russell founded the Watch Tower Society in 1881 to spread this view. In 1931, Russell's successor, Joseph F. Rutherford, gave the name Jehovah's Witnesses to those Bible students loyal to the Watch Tower Society. He abandoned many of Russell's teachings, rearranged Barbour's chronology and established a "centralized theocratic government" for followers of the movement. It was under Rutherford’s leadership that the first Kingdom Hall was built in Hawaii. Today all structures used by Witness congregations for worship and religious instruction are called Kingdom Halls. Nathan H. Knorr (1905-77) was largely responsible for their growth into a worldwide movement.
Bible students appeared in Ontario about 1882 and soon spread throughout Canada. During both world wars they suffered persecution because of their evangelical fervour, abhorrence of patriotic exercises and conscientious objection to military service. In 1918 their literature was banned, and they were outlawed 1941-43 under the WAR MEASURES ACT. Their most serious problems occurred in Québec after the SECOND WORLD WAR (see RONCARELLI V DUPLESSIS; SAUMUR V CITY OF QUÉBEC). Some Witnesses were denied the opportunity to do alternative service and were imprisoned for their pacifism. Consequently, to obtain religious freedom they popularized the idea of a Canadian Bill of Rights and established libertarian precedents before Canada's highest courts (see HUMAN RIGHTS).
Jehovah’s Witnesses have come under public criticism for the practice of disfellowshipment (excommunication) and the shunning of dissenters expelled from their congregations. They also continue to come under public scrutiny because of their opposition to the administration of blood transfusions to their children and refusing to stand during the national anthem.
Approximately 168 000 Canadians claimed to be Jehovah's Witnesses in the federal census of 1991 and ten years later Statistics Canada recorded 154 750 Canadians who described themselves as Witnesses. In 2009, the Jehovah Witness website reported 112 705 “publishers” or evangelists witnesses: the drop in numbers may be partially explained in that the witnesses’ website may only be reporting those people who actively preach at least 188 hours per year.
See also EVANGELISM.
M. JAMES PENTON Revised: ANNE-MARIE PEDERSEN
Gary Botting, Fundamental Freedoms and Jehovah's Witnessess (1993); J.A. Beverley, Crisis of Allegiance (1986); Garry Bottling, Fundamental Freedoms and Jehovah's Witnesses (1993); R.V. Franz, Crisis of Conscience (1983); William Kaplan, State and Salvation: The Jehovah's Witnesses and Their Fight for Civil Rights (1989); M. James Penton, Jehovah's Witnesses in Canada (1976) and Apocalypse Delayed: The Story of Jehovah's Witnesses (1985).
Shawnadithit grew anxious waiting for her uncle, Longnon, to return to camp at the junction of Badger Brook and the Exploits River, deep in the wilds of Newfoundland...