Living down here in the backwoods of Alabama, we were privy to very little of what was going on in the Watchtower world. Most of us never heard about the shake-up at headquarters during the 1980s. I read and dismissed the Time article about Ray Franz, although I heard and dismissed whispers from one local elder about “certain apostate happenings up there in Gadsden.”
I knew that he was a nephew of Fred Franz. One time I went up to Tuscaloosa to hear Ray speak, and I knew that a lot of Jehovah’s Witnesses thought the world of that uncle of his. What I didn’t know at the time was the extent to which Fred Franz had promoted 1975 as “the end of a system of things.” [watch video at end of article] Fred was also instrumental in driving his nephew out of the Watchtower Society’s headquarters.
I learned all of that from reading Ray’s book, Crisis of Conscience. I also learned about the Malawi/Mexico conundrum, the alternative military service fiasco, and the non-allowable bedroom intimacies debacle.
I wept at Ray’s confession that he regretted not having children, raged at the Governing Body’s callousness toward the suffering of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Malawi, and recoiled in horror at their duplicity in allowing Mexican JWs to bribe officials to avoid military service.
I applauded Ray’s frankness in confessing that it was hard for him to maintain celibacy while living at a missionary home surrounded by female JWs. I was also impressed with the fact that he stressed that he and his wife Cynthia always practiced stringent birth control so as not to interrupt their full-time ministry.
Throughout his book, Ray Franz’s love for God, justice, and Christian freedom shines brilliantly. My prayer is that the God he loved so much will remember him always.
“Snowbird,” the contributor of this brief memorial to Mr. Franz, lives in Wilcox County, in the heart of Alabama’s “Black Belt.” First contacted by Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1970, she was baptized in 1974. She left the organization after many years because she felt “the Governing Body was usurping Christ’s position.” She is a frequent contributor to forums discussing Jehovah’s Witnesses. You can read her original post here.