About Us


A SHORT HISTORY


At the beginning of the 18th Century the Great Awakening spread over Europe and America . The churches had become coldly and lifeless like their stone cathedrals, but many of their members woke up and began to occupy with religious topics. Everywhere small house circles or private bible study groups were created, in order to study the word of God personally.

In the late 18th and early 19th Century a world-wide revival of the interest in Christ's Advent occurred. Through their study of bible prophecy many Christians were convinced of the near by Coming of Christ.

William Miller
1782 - 1849

Around 1840 there was an awakening in the USA, which became known as "The Advent Awakening" , because the consciousness of Christs near by coming arouse again. One of them was the American Baptist preacher William Miller who expected Christ's Second Coming for the year 1844. Many members of most diverse church communities followed his movement.


The message of the near end - Christ's Advent - was spread by itinerant preachers and later also from individual believers who preached from town to town and from house to house using tracts and magazines.

George Storr
1796 - 1879
The more near the forecast time of the end came, the more largely the tension became between the established churches and the supporters of Miller. The churches dissociated themselves more and more from the "Millerites". These in contrary designated the churches as "Babylon". This newly founded group got acquainted under the name "Millerites".


The year 1844 came and passed. As the event of Christs Advent was missing, many followers were disappointed and many of them were mocked and turned away from the movement. The whole movement began itself to splinter.



George Stetson
1814 - 1879
After this large disappointment of 1844 however some groups of "Millerites" still held to the imminent Coming of the Lord Christ Jesus. One of these groups was the circle around George Stetson and George Storr. This community called itself " Second Adventists".


It was around the year 1869, at age eighteen, as Charles Taze Russell came into contact with this community. He wrote: "Apparent by a coincidence one evening I came into a dusty dirty meeting place, where, as I had heard, religious meetings were held, in order to see if those few people had to offer something more reasonable than the denominations of the large church communities. There for the first time I heard something from the opinions of the Adventists, by the minister Jonas Wendell".

Nelson H. Barbour
1824 - 1905

At this time Russell already studied the Bible within his closest family circle and friends. They discovered that many of the traditional teachings, which had been taught and believed by them were not in agreement with the Bible. Spurred by these new realizations, Russell deepened his study in the holy scripture.


In the year 1876 Charles T. Russell came into contact with the Adventist Nelson Horatio Barbour. Russell editorially and financially took part in the magazine " The Herald of the Morning". One year later together they published the book: "Three Worlds and the Harvest of this World".


1878 theological differences blackened the co-operation. Therefore starting from 1879 Russell published its own magazine called "Zionīs Watch Tower and Herald of Christīs Presence". Nelson H. Barbour for his part published "The Herald" until 1903.
Charles T. Russell
1852 - 1916

The Watchtower finally tightened the attention and support of many in America and Europe, which were convinced by the stated articles. The reader circle increased rapidly. Together the believers formed the International Bible Students Association (IBSA), briefly called "Bible Students".


1907 Russell changed his theory in purchase of the church and the New Covenant. If he had so far assumed that Christians where under the New Covenant, he now came to the opinion that Jesus is not the intermediary of the church, that the body of Christ does not at all stand under the new federation, but that the new federation only becomes effective in the messianic age and is only valid for natural Israel.



A number of Bible Students adamantly refused these and further new teachings, among them some prominent members of the Bible Students like Ernest C. Henninges (WT branch custodian of Australia) and his wife Mrs. Rose Ball (care daughter of the Russells), Magaret Russell Land (Russells own sister), J.H Giesey (WT vice-president), M.L. McPhail (traveling overseer from Chicago).
Ernest Henninges
1869 - 1939

E.C. Henninges was the first thereupon who wrote a long protest letter to Russell. At the same time brothers and sisters from the New York congregation published an open letter to all Bible Students in the USA, which were conscious of the necessity to take a firm stand for the Lord and his word despite the temptations and contestations in relation to the present truth: "to everybody who values Jesus as his intermediary and Christ's blood of the new covenant as the basis of his favor in this gospel age". Russell in turn reacted sharply to this critical attitude and used his position as elected pastor of the International Bible Students Association to strike any opposition against his new teachings down. Thus it became rapidly apparent that it was impossible to reject the new teachings and concurrently remain within the IBSA; and the dissident Bible Students refused remaining silent.


Russell did not seem to notice that he had strongly contributed to that sectarian thinking, which he hated so much in his initial years, and that he had placed the foundation to that authoritarian attitude, which should become a marking characteristic of the Watchtower movement after his death. Within one year about ten per cent of the Bible Students left the Watchtower Society at that time - among them also A.E. Williamson (a nephew of Russell) from New York - as well as the majority of the Melbourne congregation and further brothers and sisters from all around the world.
Geatano Boccaccio
1906 - 1996

1909 the separated recognized the necessity to unite and from now on named themselves "Free Bible Students". In Australia the "New Covenant Fellowship" was founded and in America the "New Covenant Believers".


1928 one further congregation in Hartford (Connecticut) affiliated the Free Bible Students. It predominantly was formed by Italian immigrants and under co-operation of Geatano Boccaccio, an elder, created the "Christian Millennial Fellowship". In 1938 for the first time they published the magazine "The New Creation" in irregular intervals, then finally starting from 1940 every two months until today it is published regularly. In 2008 we celebrated the Free Bible Students conference it's 100th years - making it the longest running Bible Student conference in the world. Since then Free Bible Student congregations developed in more than 45 countries of the earth.


Free Bible Student congregations today are autonomous. There is no central authority or publishing house. There are no membership rosters. There is no solicitation for funds. We meet as an association and strive for the organizational simplicity of the early church. We find our head or central authority in our one Lord and Master, Christ Jesus.

 

Ecclesia