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Posts tagged ‘Bible Student Groups’

Different approach in organisation of services #3

Radio calls and booklets

Today the Jehovah Witnesses are the biggest known Bible Student Group in Belgium. At first they could find Bible Students groups associating with them and start growing from the previous preparations of those groups. But they too had to see members leaving them.

Français : Jumet (Charleroi - Belgique) - Chap...

Français : Jumet (Charleroi – Belgique) – Chapelle Notre Dame de Heigne (XIIe siècle) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As result of the broadcastings in the mid 20° century, in French and sponsored by the Brethren of Dawn from the U.S; 3 Belgian families were interested in the Present Truth. It was Brother Armand Lechien who got in touch with Brother Félix Pilarski through the mail service of Radio Luxemburg: Brother Félix aimed him towards Jumet. These 3 families left the movement they were members of (the Jehovah Witnesses) because they thought the teachings they heard were not in harmony

with the Scriptures. The Polish-Belgian Brother and Sister Wlodarski had got French brethren and sisters in their circles and found more brethren from the French Association des étudiants de la Bible coming more and more frequently to serve the Word of God (brother François Wozniak, Kosmalski A. Liszka, T. Kubiak, J., Osorowski S.,TF et Ed. Pilarski, Speil, a few from Saint Etienne and many others …..); the family Kula, their younger daughter and one son attended the meetings, in the following years just like in France, pilgrim brethren came from the United States and later from Poland.

Courcelles coal mine ” 6 périer ” Souvret

The families – Armand et Louise Lechien – Ernest et Helena Duchateau –  Edmond et Jeanne Henrioule decided to have meetings during the week (on Wednesday and Thursday) to study the Figures of the Tabernacle. With their agreement, the families Wlodarski and Kula joined them. The studies were held in two languages with the help of a translator (2 languages were spoken French and Polish).

Brother Félix Pilarski and other brethren worked a lot for these meetings because they spoke French perfectly.
Brother Félix Pilarski made a handsome contribution to the development of the meeting of Courcelles with edifying biblical discourses and his visits. He was also personally active in the country of Liège and in Brussels where he had a deposit of booklets. Other brethren also paid many visits; among them we can mention Brother Joseph Wozniak, Adolphe Debski, and others.
After Brother Ernest Duchateau died suddenly, meetings continued for some time. When Brother Lechien died after a quite long disease, we could see a repetitive thing around the house churches, the ecclesia of Courcelles disappeared in the mid 70’s.

Former town hall of Jumet, where the film “Why did He come to earth?” of the Bible Students was given.

On October 24th 1987, the ecclesia of Jumet organised two projections of the film “Why did He come to earth?” in the community City Hall of Charleroi. Those shows were announced with advertising: posters in public places, advertising in the city with loudspeakers, spots on local newspapers radio and TV, display on electronic screens, distribution of leaflets.
More than hundred persons attended these film projections. Leaflets and tracts were given to the participants but only few asked for further information and other booklets.

Soothed to sleep with man’s talk

Very soon in history the majority in Christendom went running after the false teachers. The myths were more pleasing to the ear than the actual truth. They were soothed to sleep with it. Early on the Brothers, as true followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, were in the minority. Their faith of the true gospel was of ‘origin’ pure, by the human impurities it was swung back and forth by the years gone.

In Belgium and the Netherlands remained Bible Faithful following Jesus’ command and continued preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God.
The first nor the second world war had kept them from it, even though many of them were anxiously looking forward to the action of the two warring camps, because they were against fighting, and because they adhered to a faith that was not liked by anyone.

That Jesus and his apostles spoke about the news that there would be established a Kingdom on earth, that would be ruled by Jesus Christ and in which the faithful of all ages would have a place alongside their Lord: i.e. as co-rulers, this sounded obviously not fine in the ears for them (the German Fuehrer wished to be the only ruler). But the cheerful message for humanity survived now the fight under people and brought unprecedented peace in some families.

The doctrine of Christ’s reign on earth was first treated as highly symbolic, gradually became labelled as a very questionable and useless thought and was ultimately rejected as an absurd invention of heresy and fanaticism.
God’s light happily extinguishes not; it is an eternal flame. The people of Israel in ancient times also reached detritus. They even served other gods. Nevertheless, there remain at this time believers in the One God and history now could repeat itself. Faithful to God those bible students wanted to share their findings and in spite the continuous opposition dared to go against the most popular doctrine of men.

Getting a base in Holland

After attempts from the Netherlands were made to bring Truth to England (in the 16th Century) and having a flight of truth seekers to the New World in the 19th century, now letters of truth seekers from the New World could again send truth to Europe.

The teachings of Elias Smith and John Thomas now, the time was ripe, an opportunity was given to a ‘resurgence‘ of Bible Faithful. They also found their way across the ocean and in all English-speaking countries they could find a foothold.

Through the centuries, the Gospel of God’s Kingdom, which was preached by Jesus and the apostles, showed a dynamic force which has all the opposition of powerful religious groups defied and still serves as the sole basis of faith for those who want to search God.

Website of the Brothers in Christ or Christadelphians in the Netherlands - Website van de Nedrlandse Broeders in Christus

Website of the Brothers in Christ or Christadelphians in the Netherlands – Website van de Nedrlandse Broeders in Christus

In 1956 in the Netherlands finally the group of Brothers in Christ could get solid and communities as “de Broeders in Christus“, arose in Den Haag (The Hague), Amersfoort, Ede and Groningen.

From 1957 officially recognised, seeing it as our duty to our Lord to make his name known among the people in our area, as well as among other nations, they made work of it to go around billing leaflets. They kept their focus on the Bible as the source of all knowledge and followed the guiding principle of the word of our Lord, “Freely ye have received, freely give.” They also began to spread the magazine “Met Open Bijbel” (With Open Bible) of which Rudolf Rijkeboer was the driving force.

Vanishing interest

It clearly appeared that after the ‘golden age’ with the children boom and citizens of Belgium having their life becoming better, the interest for the biblical message of Truth is vanishing with time passing on.
The Bible Students saw their number of members in ecclesiae decreasing.The visiting brethren and sisters from the Christadelphian Bible Mission (CBM) for 25 years made regular visits to put leaflets and pamphlets in the postboxes. Their short visits trying to get people on the street interested in the works of Christ and in the promises of God, did not work out. At the time (early 21° Century) they wanted to give it all up and several Christadelphians left Holland to return to England or to go to Australia.
At the end of the 20° Century some Bible Students with ex-Jehovah Witnesses formed the Vrije Christenen or Free Christians. In that movement was also the non-trinitarian Baptist Marcus Ampe very active. Even before he himself became a Christadelphian he had already brought others to the Christadelphian faith. In Flemish Brabant and in Hainaut, plus on the net, with him, again an effort was made to bring the Good News of the coming Kingdom.
The Belfry in Mons

The Belfry in Mons, one of the meeting places of the Free Belgian Christadelphians

Last year brother Marcus tried to get several Bible Student groups together, but failed because of their will to have a certain power and the will to keep everything in control themselves. Plus some, like our confrères which we ourselves could not get over the bend to join the other Christadelphians in Belgium, made it impossible to have the different bible Students exchanging ideas, meeting sessions and information about their where-about and working. For our Australian brothers, of the Australian Bible Students, the CBM members were not close enough in following the teachings of brother Dr. John Thomas and mixing with the too loose teachings would dilute the whole system (they thought).

The man from the North and his organisation, have most of the Bible Students (except the JW) living in Belgian. But they resisted in giving the addresses of their ecclesiae in Oostende, Gent, (Brussels) and Antwerp. this made that the few but very active Christadelphians from Brussels, Leuven and Mons, could not meet with more Christadelphians in Belgium.
We too had to face the difficulty of bringing people together in peace and where confronted with a loss in our ranks, but our invitation is still open to join as members of the Body of Christ, united in the love of Christ.
We are convinced that our preaching work is important and that even when we do not reach so many people in Belgium, we do hope we can reach some others far away from us. We do hope that our voice may also sound in the darkness and bring some light to people we do not know, but who we do hope to meet in the Kingdom of God. We look forward to meet many new faces, happy to be under the Guidance of the Lord and not bounded by single people, but constructed on the cornerstone Jesus Christ.
Though we may have a different approach in organisation of services we do believe we all should go for the same truth and for the unification under Christ, by which each group might have a different name, but is willing to be united in spirit, sharing to build up and construct positively working to help each other entering the gate of the coming Kingdom.
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Preceding articles:
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Please do find out more about the Christadelphians and find further related articles:

  1. Not all christians are followers of a Greco-Roman culture
  2. Two new encyclopaedic articles
  3. Who are the Christadelphians
  4. What are Brothers in Christ
  5. Discipleship way of life on the narrow way to everlasting life
  6. Christadelphian people
  7. Christadelphians or Messianic Christians or Messianic Jews
  8. About the Belgian Free Christadelphians
  9. What Christadelphians teach
  10. Small churches of the few Christadelphians
  11. Priority to form a loving brotherhood
  12. 19° Century London Christadelphians
  13. Breathing and growing with no heir
  14. Commitment to Christian unity
  15.  Parts of the body of Christ
  16. What part of the Body am I?
  17. The Church, Body of Christ and remnant Israel synonymous
  18. United people under Christ
  19. Fellowship
  20. The Ecclesia
  21. The Ecclesia in the churchsystem
  22. The ecclesia or Christadelphian church
  23. Our relationship with God, Jesus and each other
  24. Our ecclesia or Christadelphian-church
  25. Intentions of an Ecclesia
  26. An ecclesia in your neighbourhood
  27. Communion and day of worship
  28. Christadelphians today
  29. Small churches of the few Christadelphians
  30. Who Celebrates Easter as Religious Holiday
  31. Eostre, Easter, White god, chocolate eggs, Easter bunnies and metaphorical resurrection
  32. Learn how to go out into the world and proclaim the Good News of the coming Kingdom
  33. Harvest in Belgium
  34. Building up the spirit of the soul
  35. No reconciliation possible between CBM and Duncan Heaster from Carelinks
  36. Priority to form a loving brotherhood
  37. Change of name
  38. Quibbling siblings united or allied children of an organisation or a church
  39. Small churches of the few Christadelphians

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Different approach in organisation of services #2

Time of the gentiles ending

After the Germans had invaded Belgium the faithful Bible students continued their preaching work. Even when they had to walk 99 kilometres from Liège to Charleroi along the railroad tracks, these humble coalminers were zealous to attend meetings.

The families Tilmant and Verdière continued to spread the Good News of the Kingdom.

Following Russell’s death, October 31st 1916, a seventh volume—entitled The Finished Mystery—was published in 1917 and advertised as his “posthumous work”. This seventh volume was a detailed interpretation of the book of Book of Revelation, but also included interpretations of Ezekiel and the Song of Solomon. An advertisement for the book in Zion’s Watch Tower called it “the true interpretation”, and had it promoted as being “of the Lord—prepared under his guidance.” Immediate controversy surrounded both its publication and content. It was soon established that it was largely written and compiled by two of Russell’s associates, Clayton J. Woodworth and George H. Fisher, and edited by Russell’s successor, Joseph Franklin Rutherford.

The position and air which Rutherford took was not appreciated by many. The Russellites accused him for betraying Russell. In Belgium as in other countries where the Present Truth was established, a few problems came to light, some people intended to divide.

In the course of events, for what concerns Jumet and the district of Charleroi, the Tilmant family and other people joined Rutherford who was elected president of the Watchtower Society. The strong personality of Rutherford like the one of Robert Roberts made people choosing for other lesser dictatorial figures. Several core doctrines of the Millennialist Restorationist Christian movement that emerged from the teachings and ministries of Dr. John Thomas and Charles Taze Russell, also known as Pastor Russell, got changed. Throughout the world thousands of members left congregations of Bible Students associated with the Watch Tower Society throughout the 1920s prompted in part by Rutherford’s failed predictions for the year 1925, increasing disillusionment with his on-going doctrinal and organizational changes, and his campaign for centralized control of the movement.

Followers in Belgium

Prolific writer and bible Student Paul Samuel Leo Johnson

Prolific writer and bible Student Paul Samuel Leo Johnson

The U.S.A. immigrant from Poland and a prominent Hebrew scholar, Paul Samuel Leo (formerly Levitsky) Johnson attracted many followers in Belgium and other places. In 1903 he had begun began fellowship with the Columbus Ecclesia of the Watch Tower Society and was appointed by Russell as a Pilgrim of the Bible Student movement in 1904. He eventually served as Russell’s personal secretary and in time became Russell’s most trusted friend and advisor. Though for him it became very difficult to cope with those Bible students who challenged the teachings of Pastor C.T. Russell on questions around his understanding of the new covenant and the ransom for all.

The illegal introduction of new by-laws for the Watch Tower Society gave the President Rutherford full control over the affairs of the Society. However, this was not Pastor Russell’s wish. In his last will and testament he had provided for a seven-man board of directors to succeed him. Four members of the Society’s Board of Directors, a majority of the Board, took strong exception to what they regarded as Rutherford’s high-handed behaviour and opposed him. Eventually tension between Rutherford and the directors grew and on July 17, 1917, Ruther­ford simply announced to the Bethel family in Brooklyn, New York, during meal time that he had replaced the four directors with his own appointees, using the legal jargon that the directors who had opposed him did not hold their positions legally under Pennsylvania law.
Ru­therford falsely claimed that the four directors and others with them were refusing to cooperate with the Society. Even today Jehovah’s Wit­nesses are told that the four directors who were expelled from the Watch Tower headquarters were wicked and self-serving.

Missionaries

Lots of serious Bible students like the Thomasites, Russellites and several associated members of the Bible Student Movement opposed the way Rutherford wanted to have the Bible Students moving. The four directors formed an institute to continue the work of Pastor Russell independent of the Society. Others would form corporations of their own. Some Bible Students followed the lead of their favourite elder or teacher. Still others, leery of organization and societies, stayed independent of all others.
Brother Paul Johnson gave his movement the name “Interior Missionary Laity Movement” (one of the unincorporated names used by Pastor Russell and the early IBSA).  From that group the Herald of Christ’s Kingdom Bible Students gave their ideas to some Belgians. Some joined Alexander F.L. Freitag, also known as Freytag, who at the end of 1917, still was responsible manager of the Watchtower edited in French in Switzerland. Freitag founded the group Angel of the Lord (inspired by a verse of the Apocalypse), Angel of Jehovah Bible and Tract Society, then Church of the Kingdom of God or the Philanthropic Assembly of the  “Friends of Man”. A small group was living in the area of Charleroi. Some of them have not followed the 3 movements and have formed an Association of Bible Students. The Young Men’s Mutual Bible Study Associations of brother Robert Ashcroft could attract others. The talks of Frank George Jannaway and his work to protect those who did not want to fight in the World War got probably also some attention, but the different groups were very small and as such came in the danger of oblivion.

Pearls not seen

In 1915 worldwide 50 million Tracts were distributed by the Bible Students.

Belgium got through a period that pearls were not seen.
“47 “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 48 When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. 49 This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous” (Matthew 13:47-49 NIV)

During World War I there were two small groupsBible Researchers in the Netherlands, namely in Rotterdam and Amsterdam. In 1918 three trial issues of The Watchtower were issued, but there proved insufficient incentive to switch to regular edition.

20° century cries

Members of the Christadelphian Bible Mission (CBM)regularly came to the Low Countries (Holland, Belgium and North of France) or the Netherlands and some of them even found some base to stay in Holland where they started to from again some little groups of Bible Students.

Albert O. Hudson

Albert O. Hudson, founder of the Bible Fellowship Union

Bible Fellowship Union Web site in 2014 November The Bible Fellowship Union has published the ‘Bible Study Monthly’ and literature since 1945 continuing a magazine founded in 1924. Its objective is to promote Bible knowledge. - Bible Fellowship Union Web site in november 2014 - De Bijbel Fellowship Unie heeft  sinds 1945 de 'Bible Monthly' en andere literatuur gepubliceerd in voortzetting van een tijdschrift opgericht in 1924, met als doel de Bijbel kennis te bevorderen.

Bible Fellowship Union Web site in 2014 November The Bible Fellowship Union has published the ‘Bible Study Monthly’ and literature since 1945 continuing a magazine founded in 1924. Its objective is to promote Bible knowledge. – Bible Fellowship Union Web site in november 2014 – De Bijbel Fellowship Unie heeft sinds 1945 de ‘Bible Monthly’ en andere literatuur gepubliceerd in voortzetting van een tijdschrift opgericht in 1924, met als doel de Bijbel kennis te bevorderen.

Also from Great-Britain, where the Bible Fellowship Union was formed, they began publishing The Bible Students Monthly in 1924, later renamed The Bible Study Monthly so as not to be mistaken with the new Watch Tower which previously published a paper by that name. Albert O. Hudson became the general director and served in that capacity until his death at age 101 in 2000. Today it is run by an editorial committee.

But they too had to face a split, with William Crawford, an original member of the British Board of Directors, founding the Old Paths Publications and produced the monthly journal Old Paths. Countless booklets, books, and tracts were produced.

At the time of the split in 1917, the Forest Gate Church was the second largest Bible Student group in England. F. G. Guard, father-in-law of William Crawford, led the class in ­divorcing themselves from the Society. In 1939 they started publishing The Forest Gate Church Bible Monthly, along with booklets and tracts. This group disbanded in 1979.

Facing an other war

The Thomasites found too many where gone to far away from Dr. John Thomas his ideas. They and Australian Biblestudents who also found the Birmingham Christadelphians and CBM were not any more real followers of John Thomas got in contact with some Belgian Biblestudents who wanted to stay as close as possible to the Biblical Truth.

Freitag, former Branch manager of the Swiss Watch Tower Society since 1898, claimed he was the legitimate successor of Charles Taze Russell and sent to the Bible Students The Message of Laodicea (Le Message de Laodicée) and published two journals, the monthly The Monitor of the Reign of Justice (Le Moniteur du Règne de Justice) and the weekly Newspaper for All (Le Journal pour tous).

Freitag’s movement was later continued under the leadership of Édouard Rufener, then Marie Roulin, then Mr. Kohli and the main headquarters became based in Cartigny, Switzerland.

When Freitag died in 1947, one of his followers, Bernard Sayerce (1912–1963), a Roman Catholic schoolteacher, claimed he was his successor. Almost all of the 900 French and Belgian assemblies joined this new group which had a peak of 9,700 members between 1958 and 1962. In 1963, Lydie Sartre (1898–1972), who was named the “Dear Mom”, then Joseph Neyrand (1927–1981) in 1971, replaced Sayerce as leaders of the movement, named “Amis sans frontières” (Friends without borders) in 1984 which is still active today.

The Association of Bible Students and the Association of Bible Researchers (Associatie of Vereniging van Bijbelonderzoekers) got alls sorts of people, from all sorts of denominations, who wanted seriously to investigate what was written in the Holy Scriptures and how we had to interpret it.

Throughout the world many small independent bible student groups got to see how several who first followed Rutherford, also became dissatisfied of the way things where going. As the years went by, more and more of the brethren seeing a change of direction and attitude within the Society soon departed and thus the big exodus started. By 1930 the majority of the brethren who worked closely with Pastor Russell had left the Society — many had been forced out. By this time, all of Pastor Russell’s writings were discarded in favour of the writings of Ruther­ford, writings that contradicted each other. By 1929 over a hundred changes in doctrines had been made; the Society no longer resembled that which was established by Pastor Russell and his early associates. The Society had a new look and a new attitude. No longer was it simply a publishing house for the dissemination of Bible literature. Now it was “God’s Theocratic Organization.” To disagree with it was tantamount to treason against God himself.

Shortly after founding the “Goshen Fellowship” after he was disfellowshipped by N.H. Knorr in 1951 Jesse Hemery died. Jesse Hemery was appointed overseer of the Watch Tower Society’s British Isles branch office by Russell in 1901, holding that post until 1946. In Belgium this group became known under this name but from the 1960-70ies also under the name “Zion’s Herald” after their publication (which started in 1965), which was for years published under directorship of Frank Lewis Brown.

Pamphlets published by opposing sides during t...

Pamphlets published by opposing sides during the dispute over Rutherford’s leadership, 1917. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Although many of the original 19° century Bible Students have died, their grandchildren and faithful followers of the first hour group still carry on. Though even today there may be disputes between certain groups claiming that they and not the other one is following the original teaching of Dr. Thomas or Pastor Russell. The Christadelphians became the lesser group in the Bible Student Movement, whilst the International Bible Student Association (IBSA) may find it very difficult to have people to come to see that they are the true followers of Charles Taze Russell and not the Jehovah Witnesses who claim unjustified that Russell would have founded their organisation.

The Watchtower and Tract Society from Brooklyn has gone so far as to state that Bible Students no longer exist, that they have died out and none remain or they say they are the only bible Students.

Hopefully we can convince you that this is not the case and that all over the world several students of the Bible or Bible Students can be found who have nothing to do with Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The American Association of followers of Charles Taze Russell his teachings: the International Bible Students Association (IBSA), not to be confused with the English IBSA of the Jehovah's Witnesses - De Amerikaanse Vereniging van de volgelingen van Charles Taze Russell zijn leer: de International Bible Students Association (IBSA), niet te verwarren met het Engelse IBSA van de Jehovah's Getuigen

The American Association of followers of Charles Taze Russell his teachings: the International Bible Students Association (IBSA), not to be confused with the English IBSA of the Jehovah’s Witnesses – De Amerikaanse Vereniging van de volgelingen van Charles Taze Russell zijn leer: de International Bible Students Association (IBSA), niet te verwarren met het Engelse IBSA van de Jehovah’s Getuigen

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