(Investigator 108, 2006 May)

M James Penton (b.1932) was a Jehovah’s Witness elder in Canada, professor of history at the University of Lethbridge, author, and president of the Canadian Society of Church History.

In 1900 Penton's great grandfather joined the Russellite cult which in 1931 adopted the name Jehovah's Witnesses (JWs). His grandmother also joined up followed by his parents.

Penton moved to Arizona in 1948 and in 1951 married Marilyn Kling, a JW "pioneer" (i.e. full-time preacher/colporteur).

In 1965 he received his Ph.D. in history at the State University of Iowa. From 1967 to 1990 he taught at the University of Lethbridge.

James Penton became a JW elder in 1973. He authored Jehovah's Witnesses in Canada (1975) which told the history of JWs' fight for civil liberties under Canadian law. He was also appointed to a hospital liaison committee. (Hospital liaison committees counsel JWs threatened with blood transfusion and liaise with their doctors.)

In the mid-1970s Penton began to partake of the "Lord’s Evening Meal" – which only those JWs do who anticipate going to heaven as one of the 144,000.

Penton disbelieved the JW predictions for 1975 and became upset over:

In 1979 he sent a letter of protest which led to him being excommunicated in 1981.

This resulted in a schism in southern Alberta. Eighty people left the JW congregations in Lethbridge and held separate meetings. The revolt was publicized throughout Canada and is described in the book Crisis of Allegiance (1986) by James A. Beverley.

Penton became active in Christian ministry, wrote five articles about JWs for the Canadian Encyclopedia and the Americana, wrote the book Apocalypse Delayed: The Story of Jehovah's Witnesses (1985), and edited The Christian Quest (1988-1990) which dealt with Christian history and theology.

Penton retired from teaching in 1990 and, with his wife, moved to Mexico in 1998.

He completed the second edition of Apocalypse Delayed (2001) and also wrote Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Third Reich (2003).


In the 1990s a number of former JWs published "open letters". Below is one by James Penton to M G Henschel the Watchtower Society president at the time and a member of the JW Governing Body.

August 11, 1995

Milton G. Henschel, President
Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society
25 Columbia Heights
Brooklyn, New York
U.S.A. 11201


Dear Mr HenscheI:

Yesterday I obtained a copy of the August 22 Awake! magazine with its articles on "The Holocaust: Who Spoke Out?". On reading the articles in that issue of Awake!, I was thoroughly shocked and disgusted.

The Watch Tower Society has long attempted a cover-up of the most dishonest sort. While your organization properly censures other religious communities for their compromise with and support of Nazism, it tries to claim that Jehovah's Witnesses, and Jehovah's Witnesses alone were never guilty of such compromise. Yet history tells a different story. The "Erklarung" or "Declaration" published by the Watch Tower Society at the Berlin Convention of Jehovah's Witnesses in June 1933 is, in itself, clear evidence that the Society’s president, Judge J. F. Rutherford, as accompanied by N.H. Knorr, manifested anti-Semitism, hostility to Great Britain and the United States and to the League of Nations. Furthermore, the "Erklarung" clearly states that Jehovah's Witnesses supported the aims of the Third Reich.

In addition to the "Erklarung", there is the evidence of the Society's letter to Hitler sent on or immediately following June 25, 1933, and the public statements made about the Berlin convention by Conrad Franke in lectures throughout Germany some years ago. All of this I have made public in my book Apocalypse Delayed (1985) – which I know has been read at Watch Tower headquarters both from court documents and inside reports – and in the spring 1990 issue of The Christian Quest. So it is impossible for responsible members of your organization not to know the facts. Thus the August 22 Awake! is nothing short of an historical abomination.

I am aware of the feeble attempt of the 1974 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses to exculpate Judge Rutherford and the Watch Tower Society in Brooklyn by claiming that the Society's German branch overseer, Paul Balzereit, "weakened" the "Erklarung". But the "Erklarung" or "Declaration" was published in both the German and English versions of the 1934 Year Book of Jehovah's Witnesses as an official statement of the Watch Tower Society. So it is impossible to believe that it was not sanctioned by Rutherford and the man who succeeded him as the Society’s president, N H Knorr. Therefore, the leadership of Jehovah's Witnesses of that time attempted to commit what amounted to spiritual whoredom with the Third Reich in the fashion of the two sisters, Oholah and Oholibah of Ezekiel 23, according to the Society’s own teachings.

Although I do not expect an answer from you, nor do I want one, to make certain that you personally are aware of the facts, I am sending you the following materials:

(1) A photocopy of the original "Erklarung";

(2) A photocopy of the "Erklarung" as it appeared in the German edition of the 1934 Year Book of Jehovah's Witnesses;

(3) A photocopy of the "Declaration" as it appears in the English edition of the 1934 Year Book of Jehovah's Witnesses;

(4) A photocopy of the Hitler letter, plus an English translation thereof;

(5) A copy of the Spring 1990 issue of The Christian Quest.

Since I am well aware that the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses, of which you are a senior member, is carrying on what amounts to a "Big Lie" campaign to make Jehovah's Witnesses appear to be God's faithful and discreet slave class on earth and to discredit other religions, as a former Jehovah’s Witness, a professional historian, and as a Christian who believes that God has no need of our lies, I feel forced to expose the facts to the general public.

Hence, I am sending copies of this letter; plus the above listed documents on, to both religious and secular publications throughout the United States and Canada. I will, of course, also make them available to persons in other lands so that they may be made known wherever possible.

In closing, Mr Henschel, I would beg the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses, who carry heavy responsibility before God and humankind, to come clean and admit the facts. Hypocrisy and falsifying the historical record are serious sins as I am sure you are aware.

Sincerely yours,

M. James Penton, PhD
Professor Emeritus

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