The latest August 15th Study Edition of the Watchtower includes a 4-page review from the annual meeting of the Watch Tower, Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania.
An interesting insight was given into the Governing Body’s plans to build a new world headquarters complex in Warwick, upstate New York. It was particularly interesting to note the uncertainty shrouding these plans, and the Governing Body’s eagerness to proceed regardless – despite the supposed urgency of the times in which we are living.
After showing delegates a video of various Society-owned sites at Wallkill, Patterson, Warwick and Tuxedo, Governing Body member Guy Pierce spoke of plans to build a 248-acre property at Warwick, saying: “Although we are not yet certain of Jehovah’s will regarding Warwick, we are proceeding to develop the site with the intention of relocating the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses there.”
Many Jehovah’s Witnesses who are familiar with the role and function of the Governing Body will doubtless be bewildered at the above comments. Though candid, their statements reveal a Governing Body that is willing to forge ahead with lengthy, elaborate and costly construction projects at a time of supposed urgency, despite admitting uncertainty over Jehovah’s will in this regard.
After outlining further plans to develop a 50-acre site for the “staging of machinery and building material,” Pierce revealed: “Once construction is permitted, we hope to complete the entire project within four years. Then our property in Brooklyn can be sold.” Ironically, a construction project is already underway for a new 300-room residence building at Walkill – scheduled for completion in 2014 – a year that will mark 100 years of the “short period of time” mentioned at Revelation 12:12.
And so, a four-year building project to build a new multi-million dollar world headquarters is also about to get underway, despite professed doubts over Jehovah’s backing, and the immense time and costs involved in the undertaking. Pierce acknowledged the irony of such a lengthy project being launched when the world is supposedly on the verge of Armageddon, saying: “Has the Governing Body changed its mind about the closeness of the great tribulation? Not at all. If the great tribulation interrupts our plans, that will be wonderful, absolutely wonderful!”
Regardless of the Governing Body’s assertion that it would welcome the interruption of the “Great Tribulation” during the course of its construction project, there is no denying that it will take enormous effort and resources for their plans to come to fruition at a time of supposed unprecedented urgency. For example, can you imagine all the volunteer hours required for construction of such a vast complex over a four-year period? Does the Governing Body not believe that the time and efforts of this vast volunteer workforce would be better spent in the preaching activity, given the supposed nearness of Armageddon?
Moreover, what about the inevitable drain on donations during the construction phase before they sell the Brooklyn properties? Undoubtedly, they will recoup the money eventually. On the other hand, is it really wise to devote millions of dollars in donations for the worldwide work toward the building of a brand-new headquarters complex, when the Society already has perfectly adequate and functional headquarters in Brooklyn? Don’t forget, this is all happening at a time of significant economic uncertainty, when real estate prices are at record lows. Is this really the ideal time to sell such potentially lucrative property in Brooklyn? It’s no wonder that the Governing Body admits to being uncertain about “Jehovah’s will” concerning the project. What is remarkable is that they are forging ahead with the project regardless.
In reading the report from the annual meeting, I remembered Jesus’ parable of the ten virgins, which immediately follows his remarks about the faithful and discreet slave. The parable, found at Matthew 25:1-13, demonstrates the need to stay alert in waiting upon the master, and to not allow oneself to become preoccupied by material concerns. In the scripture, the five foolish virgins were denied a place at the marriage feast of the bridegroom, who tells them “I tell you the truth, I do not know you.” They squandered their places as guests at the proceedings by not bringing enough oil for their lanterns, and running off to buy more oil at the last moment.
On the one hand, the Governing Body tells us that the times are urgent, and that we are on the cusp of the “Great Tribulation.” On the other hand, they distract themselves with real estate transactions and lengthy building projects that drain both the time and resources of their flock. They unwittingly mimic the five foolish virgins by busying themselves with non-essential material concerns at a time of supposed urgency. After all, why exactly is a new world headquarters needed? Has Jehovah provided insufficiently with the existing facilities at Wallkill, Patterson and Brooklyn?
It’s difficult to look at these lavish plans and imagine behind them a group of men who are truly representative of the “faithful and discreet slave.” How can these men be entirely focused on “delivering food at the proper time” to a global brotherhood, when they are so easily distracted by needless projects that drain both time and donations?
As I discussed in a recent article, a vast segment of the Earth’s population has never heard of Jehovah’s Witnesses. A closer inspection of the worldwide report indicates that 27% of the earth’s population in the so-called “30 Other Lands” is barely being reached with the good news at all. These banned countries form a gaping expanse that covers 17% of the earth’s land surface, stretching unbroken from Africa’s Atlantic coast right across to the Korean peninsula in the Pacific. If the Governing Body were truly serious about its self-proclaimed position as representatives of the Slave Class, would it not instead be devoting funds to find new ways of reaching people in these countries where the work is under ban with “food at the proper time”? Don’t the 1.9 billion people in these mostly Arab and communist countries deserve to have the kingdom message reach them before the end comes? Is building a new 100-hectare lakeside complex in upstate New York more important than their salvation?
I believe there is more to these plans than simply improving the Society’s headquarters facilities, which are already more than fit for their required purpose. It’s my understanding that the primary motivating factor behind the Governing Body’s plans is their urgent need to liquidate funds now tied up in the remaining property assets in Brooklyn. They would rather risk doing this in the short term even if this means selling property at below the normal asking price during a downturn in the real estate market. For some time now, the Watch Tower Society has been experiencing decline in income due to reduced growth in developing countries – their principal source of donations.
As a result, we are seeing a reduction in the monthly magazine printing commitments, the widespread closure of branches, and the selling-off of real estate (sometimes far below the asking price). It seems that in a further act of desperation, the Society is now “throwing the dice” with dedicated funds donated by well-meaning publishers, and then spending this money on lucrative property schemes. In this case, they are building a new headquarters complex in upstate New York. This allows them to finally sell off the last of the Brooklyn properties, which despite the deflated market values will still be worth substantially more than when first purchased. Even so, in these times of economic uncertainty, there can be no assurances.
This is happening at a time when Armageddon is supposedly almost upon us. During our recent District Convention, the speakers attempted to reinforce this belief by reminding us of the immense image in the book of Daniel. They told us that the stone has all but struck the feet of the statue, signifying the imminent arrival of God’s kingdom to rule over mankind. If this is truly the case, then why the frantic buying and selling of property?
Guy Pierce assured us that the Governing Body would still welcome an interruption of the “Great Tribulation” if it came during the building project. However, when he made this glib remark, he missed the point altogether, betraying his own arrogance and ignorance – and that of his colleagues.
The significance of our times supposedly requires us all to focus our efforts and resources on the preaching work in order to draw in the “Great Crowd” out of all nations. Whether the Governing Body feels that the arrival of the “Great Tribulation” in the midst of their construction plans would be “absolutely wonderful” is irrelevant in such a context. Given the urgency of these times, what should be of paramount importance is that they fulfill their duties towards the kingdom preaching work with full wisdom and discretion.
I find it interesting that in their apparent preoccupation with buying, selling and building property, they’ve forgotten their self-proclaimed commission. I am confident this will not go unnoticed.