2440 Jehovahs Witnesses

number of Jehovahs Witnesses statistically.
While the Witnesses themselves would count
only the publishers as members in full stand
ing, adherents of other denominations are not
counted by taking into account only those active
in missionary enterprises. Participants in the
yearly memorial offer a statistical assessment
closer to how members of other religious orga
nizations are normally counted, although it is
true that the yearly memorial is occasionally
attended also by friends and sympathizers.
On the other hand, it is also true that the tradi
tional Christian slogan every member is a mis
sionary is taken much more literally by the
Witnesses than by most other Christian denomi
nations, and everybody is encouraged to devote a
substantial amount of time to missionary endea
vors. Although the effectiveness of the systema
tic door to door strategy has been called into
question, sociologists have noted that the inter
nal effects of the effort in reinforcing the mem
bers identity and commitment are almost as
important as its external success (see Beckford
A new prophetic enthusiasm seized the
movement before 1975, a date regarded by
many Witnesses as a likely end of this world.
The disappointment many Witnesses experi
enced created several difficulties and energized
an oppositional movement which received con
siderable media attention but in fact involved
only a limited, if vocal, number of former
members. The fact that the Witnesses survived
prophetic failures in 1914, 1925, and 1975 has
been regarded by some sociologists as a confir
mation of the theory of cognitive dissonance as
applied by Festinger et al. (1956) to instances
when prophecy fails. In order to avoid
admitting their previous gullibility, members
reinforce their missionary efforts and, by per
suading others, re persuade themselves. The
theory would predict that, counterintuitively,
movements can grow rather than enter into a
crisis after a prophetic failure. More recently,
however, others have argued that cognitive dis
sonance has very little to do with Witnesses
reactions to prophetic disconfirmation. First
of all, in the immediate aftermath of failed
date setting, Witnesses lost members, and
started growing again only after years of painful
reorganization (Singelenberg 1989). On the
other hand, prophecy in fact only fails for the
outsiders; from the point of view of the move
ment itself, prophecy does not fail but is
regarded as having come true at other levels:
perhaps a world, rather than the world, has
ended, or the prophecy needs to be understood
differently (Melton 1985).
In 1995 The Watchtower announced a new
point of view on prophetic date setting, still
regarding the end of the world as we know it as
quite near, but discouraging members from cal
culating precise dates. This evolution, as it did
for Seventh Day Adventists one century earlier,
had the gradual effect of reducing the other
worldliness of the Witnesses, facilitating their
further evolution toward the religious mainline.
International expansion resumed (with more
than 15 million participants at the yearly mem
orial in 2004), and the bureaucratization process
continued. In 1976 the Witnesses started adopt
ing a rotating presidency among the members
of the governing body, the spiritual presiding
body of the organization, thus further deempha
sizing the presidencys charisma which had
been so crucial in the Russell and Rutherford
eras. In October 2000, after Milton Henschel
(19202003) had succeeded Frederick Franz
(18931992) as president of the Watch Tower
Society, all members of the governing body
voluntarily stepped aside from the board of
directors of that Society, thus separating the
spiritual from the administrative governance of
the Witnesses.
In the late 1990s, renewed discrimination in
countries such as Russia and France (where the
Witnesses were involved in campaigns against
so called cults and sects) led to what Pau
line Cote and James Richardson (2001: 14)
called a deformation or reconfiguration of
the groups relationships with the external
world. The two sociologists believe that external
pressure, including persecution and legal har
assment, may cause important changes in reli
gious organizations. In other words, even when
groups successfully resist pressure, how exactly
they resisted may involve significant internal
changes. In the cases of the Jehovahs Wit
nesses, Cote and Richardson report a first phase
of disciplined litigation during and immedi
ately after the Rutherford era. In the face
of sustained legal discrimination, prominent
Witnesses leader and lawyer Hayden Cooper
Covington (191179) both reacted through any