The Watchtower Society’s website, JW.org, now claims that “Those who were baptized as Jehovah’s Witnesses but no longer preach to others, perhaps even drifting away from association with fellow believers, are not shunned.” [LINK]
This is an amazing statement. It’s actually so amazing that tens of thousands of former Jehovah’s Witnesses will be surprised to know this amazing fact – especially since most of their former JW friends and family have indisputably shunned them for years – and for some, decades.
Here is a common and accepted definition of “shun” and “to shun:”
shun: persistently avoid, ignore, or reject (someone or something) through antipathy or caution. To avoid, evade, eschew, steer clear of, shy away from, keep one’s distance from, give a wide berth to, have nothing to do with.
Jehovah’s Witnesses may be surprised to learn that this is the Watchtower’s official policy – or at least the public version of their handling of wayward members.
A very high percentage of former Jehovah’s Witnesses would be very happy to have their separation from the Watchtower religion managed by that published and public definition.
Unfortunately, the reality appears to be quite different – especially when comparing the above statement with recent policy statements presented at the Watchtower’s 2016 conventions and TV.JW.org video presentations. According to reporter “Covert Fade” at website JWSurvey.org [LINK to article]:
“Essentially, any action that would result in a baptised Jehovah’s Witness being disfellowshipped will now result in an inactive one being shunned without the requirement for Judicial Committee action…
“…This will come as deeply upsetting news for the many inactive ones who have “faded;” the term often used for those who, by a mixture of good fortune and careful planning, have managed to leave the Watchtower religion without sanction from a Judicial Committee, and thus avoided the penalty of shunning. Many such ones still have contact with their Jehovah’s Witness families; contact that now may be cut off if their families consider this person to be “sinning” in the way prescribed by the Governing Body.”
There may be another reason that there seems to be a disconnect between what the Q&A page on JW.org states with very firm and straightforward wording – and what Jehovah’s Witnesses are being taught at their 2016 summer conventions. Maybe the Watchtower wants to have a “public” policy AND an actual “internal” policy. They’ve been known to present a different story to the public than what may be actual fact within their congregations. Anyone remember the infamous term “theocratic strategy”?
Many former Jehovah’s Witnesses who may have decided to just fade away by no longer attending Kingdom Hall meetings or being involved in the door-to-door ministry, may suddenly find themselves unwelcome among their former friends and family for no other reason than the Watchtower making a policy change.
Those of us who closely watch the actions and changes (both public and private) within the Watchtower religion understand what is happening. The organization is bleeding members and losing more potential new converts because of two factors:
1. The effects of public disclosure by former members and the public press of their lack of credibility in dealing with child abusers and other criminals within their ranks.
2. The ever growing expansion of published news and private bloggers that expose unfair and unsupportable (not to mention “unChristian”) policies, handling of child abuse, and financial management by the Watchtower’s leadership.
It is no surprise to us at all that the Watchtower would use their JW.org website to publicly misinform readers, news agencies, and potential new recruits by misrepresenting the truth.
What is even more inexplicable is the fact that since their 2016 summer conventions, the Watchtower has reportedly begun to tighten the rules even more than publicly announced. The Watchtower leadership is taking a very hard line against any kind of dissent within their ranks. They are clearly using the threat of shunning to rein in those who might consider fading away into some forgotten obscurity. Taking away someone’s friends and family connections is cruel hammer, but the Watchtower’s leaders clearly do not care.