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EDITIONS
Panorama Friday, 12 July, 2002, 18:19 GMT 19:19 UK
History of the Jehovah's Witnesses

The Jehovah's Witnesses are a Christian sect with over six million members worldwide.

They were founded in Pennsylvania in the USA in the 1870s by Charles Taze Russell as a bible study group.

Pastor Russell, as he was often called, launched the magazine Zion's Watch Tower and Herald of Christ's Presence in 1879.

The group continued to preach, convert and publish its magazine and as the membership rose it expanded into neighbouring states.

By 1880 there were scores of congregations around the United States and the following year the "Zion's Watch Tower Tract Society" was formed.

In 1884 it was incorporated, with Russell as president, and the name was eventually changed to the"Watchtower Bible and Tract Society".

International spread

By 1909 the work had become international, and the society's headquarters were moved to its present location in Brooklyn, New York.

Printed sermons were syndicated in newspapers, and by 1913 these were being printed in four languages in 3,000 newspapers in the United States, Canada, and Europe.

Books, booklets, and tracts had been distributed by the hundreds of millions.

In 1931 the name "Jehovah's Witnesses" was officially adopted, replacing the original name that described members as "International bible students".

Present day

From fifty people preaching full-time in 1888, the organisation has grown to approximately 6 million members around the world.

All true Jehovah's Witnesses are required to go witnessing from house to house offering Bible literature, and recruiting and converting people to what they call "the truth".

They work unpaid and some, called "pioneers", regularly spend at least 70 hours each month in door-to-door witnessing.

In the UK there are about 120,000 members who live by the rules of the organisation and call themselves Jehovah's Witnesses.

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