Sudbury Elders: Reconsider Your Actions

By Rory Sullivan


© Copyright Oxyman and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.Editor’s Introduction:
Even though this letter has appeared on other websites by now, Mr. Sullivan was kind enough to let me to publish and share his excellent thought-provoking “open letter” with our readers. He brings up issues that should concern all Jehovah’s Witnesses, but especially those honest-hearted Jehovah’s Witnesses who must carry the burden of serving as elders in their local Kingdom Hall.


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“Seeds of dissent” against the Governing Body?


Editor’s Note: I just received the following news release announcing an attempt to organize an underground movement of Jehovah’s Witnesses who want a voice in how they are treated by their own religion. Ever since “Brother Siam” wrote and submitted his “Open Letter to the Governing Body” back in January, the level of dissent has grown, led by a small group of Witnesses who are hoping to find a way to get the leaders of the Watchtower Society to take note of their honest concerns and act on them in a positive way. Although it is clear that many ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses and non Witness critics will back this new movement, what has surprised observers is the amount of support apparently coming from many who identify themselves as “active” rank and file JWs. It’s clear from the recent chatter on message boards and forums frequented by both active and former JWs that there is a growing level of honest and intelligent concern about the direction the Governing Body is taking. This applies not only to the Governing Body’s questionable religious teachings, but also a growing rebellion against the way local elders and publishers are being affected by the hard-line policies recently laid down by Watchtower headquarters. Follow the links listed in the news release and you will soon find dozens of threads and comments on this new movement.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 27, 2011

Seeds of Dissent Appear
Within the Jehovah’s Witness Religion

Jehovah’s Witnesses are widely known as Bible carrying door-to-door evangelists with an unusual religious doctrine. They are the kids in your class who refuse to salute the flag or the co-worker who refuses to sing “Happy Birthday” at an office birthday party. This group is also known for their frequently shifting doctrinal stances on a number of important issues, including blood transfusions and Armageddon.

This religious group of over 7 million followers is led by a self-appointed committee of seven older men headquartered in Brooklyn, NY (USA). It is from there that the committee, known simply as the “Governing Body,” issues organizational and doctrinal direction for the entire Watchtower organization. Jehovah’s Witnesses are expected to follow direction coming from Brooklyn without question. Recently though, there has been increasing concern within the rank and file of the organization about the tone and content of the directives and teachings coming from this group of seven men.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are expected to have unity and harmony of thought and understanding of their unique teachings. To accomplish this, a strict regimen of education is used worldwide with 100,000 plus congregations studying the same catechistic material every week.  Individuals who no longer hold fast to every unique doctrine are quickly expelled from the congregations and shunned by their family and friends.  Some Witnesses are expelled because they speak out against practices and policies of the Governing Body.

This practice of enforcing unity through ad hominem attacks and threats of expulsion has resulted in a subculture of dissenters within the ranks. These individuals generally remain anonymous out of fear of excommunication, but include former and active Elders of the Congregation, as well as Circuit and District representatives.  They’ve resorted to making their concerns known though surreptitious methods on Internet message boards, through email, and in conversations with trusted friends.

Recently an Elder resigned as an Overseer and then wrote an “Open Letter to the Governing Body” of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In his letter he lays out the reasons he resigned as an Elder. They include “promotion of false prophecy,” and policies of hiding child molesters within the organization.  This letter was posted online at Ex-JW.com and Jehovahs-Witness.net. The response to his letter has been overwhelming from active Witnesses who agree with the sentiments expressed by this ex-Elder.

Several individuals have taken this letter of dissent and used it to start a campaign to reach as many active Witnesses as possible.  This caught the attention of the Governing Body who, instead of trying to respond publicly to the very real issues posed in the elder’s letter, have instead sent “cease and desist” letters to the email host of the campaigners.  The letter has also struck a chord with some Witnesses who also feel that the Governing Body is acting in an hypocritical and corrupt manner, promoting the interpretations and policies of men as “the sayings of God.”

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Takeover: What really happened at Menlo Park?

On May 23, 2011 former elders of a California congregation filed two documents in Federal Court in San Francisco as part of their lawsuit against certain representatives of the Watchtower Society. The plaintiffs were elders of the Menlo Park Kingdom Hall prior to July 2010.

Because their court documents have been released and are in the public domain, we can present them here for your inspection and enlightenment.

Understand, of course, that the editor of Ex-JW.com can not guarantee that everything alleged in these two documents is factual and verifiable. Some statements seem to be sprinkled with a fair amount of conjecture and hearsay. Several items will likely be subject to court review and may face challenges to their veracity. Other statements might be deemed inadmissible by the court, stricken from the records, or not allowed as part of any testimony.

On the other hand, the plaintiffs surely understand that it’s considered extremely bad form to submit anything to any court, and especially to a federal level court, that is blatantly untrue and unsupportable. To do so might result in censure or possibly treated as committing perjury by the court. While you can present your side of a case and give evidence to support your position, you must never lie to the judge or a jury. Providing false evidence rarely wins a court case, but it will always piss off a judge.

Based on that understanding, we provide these documents exactly as they were filed with the court. We hope those who are following this case will gain a broader understanding of the issues that must be identified and resolved – as well as a closer look at who the real players are in this drama.

While the documents attached to this article were prepared by the plaintiffs and presents their side of the case, you can also refer to our earlier article “Fear and Loathing in Menlo Park” and read documents that were filed with the court by the defendants and their attorney.

We recommend that you read all the documents and closely review the exhibits. There are certain pages that you should not overlook. You’ll discover that there are factors in this case that go far beyond the communities of Menlo Park, East Palo Alto, and Redwood City, California. Issues brought up in these documents affect nearly every Kingdom Hall in the United States and Canada – and perhaps even worldwide.

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Watchtower’s Pecking Order

Adapted from a post by “Mad Sweeney”

Let’s face it: The Watchtower Society is really just a big publishing corporation that happens to print and distribute religious literature. Like any corporation, it has an “organization chart” that outlines its structure, showing the various levels and what they are supposed to do. Each level supervises the level below and reports to the level above. By looking at the organization chart, you can tell “who does what to whom.” The Watchtower Society calls each of its organizational levels “classes.”

Over the history of the Watchtower, the leaders have defined so many levels and rankings that now they’ve given up trying to use the word “classes” to describe them anymore. Let me help you understand how the organization is supposed to work.

Heavenly Headquarters

At the very top you have, of course, JEHOVAH. Being “Almighty God,” He is nominally in charge of everything but doesn’t actually do anything.

Reporting only to Jehovah and in second position, you have “The Now Reigning King,” JESUS CHRIST – who, like Jehovah, is supposedly in charge of everything – but also doesn’t actually do anything.

Next in line are those of the 144,000 ANOINTED who have already died and been resurrected to heaven. They are in place and waiting to rule as “kings and priests” for a thousand years. Like their brother Jesus, and Father Jehovah, these ANOINTED also have nothing to do at present.

Earthly Headquarters

Down here on Earth, the leaders of the organization are the legal CORPORATE OFFICERS and ATTORNEYS for the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. Besides being visible, this group is the first that actually does anything as you head down the Kingdom’s corporate ladder. These are the guys who decide what the “Governing Body” can and will tell the all other Jehovah’s Witnesses what they are supposed to do. Although these guys are human and therefore “visible,” for the most part they try to hide in the background and remain “invisible” as much as possible.

Supposedly “in charge” is the GOVERNING BODY. These seven men sort of do some things. For example, every Wednesday morning they meet for a couple of hours. They talk about the work their committees are doing and then decide to agree that the status quo is treating them all pretty well. If they’re feeling saucy (or mischievous), they may discuss some “new light” to spring on rank and file Jehovah’s Witnesses later in the year. They will then commission someone in the “Service Department” to put this “new light” into a talk outline – or have the “Writing Department” include it in a Watchtower or Awake! magazine article. Otherwise, the members of the Governing Body spend their time rubber-stamping orders from the corporate types above them or suggestions from the Department Heads below.

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Takeover in Menlo Park – Part One

A small group of Jehovah’s Witnesses, former elders at the Menlo Park (CA) Kingdom Hall, have filed a lawsuit in federal district court charging several ranking representatives of the Watchtower Society with “Conspiracy, Conspiracy to Commit Fraud, Collusion, Fraud, Extortion, Defamation, Mail and Wire Fraud, and Religious Fraud.” [United States District Court For the Northern District of California: CV10-3907 – click here to read the actual complaint as filed in court.]

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe, as all Christians do, that theft of another’s property, and then lying about it, is a sin. In fact, three of the Ten Commandments speak to this issue:

The 8th Commandment: “You shall not steal.”

The 9th Commandment: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”

The 10th Commandment: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house…nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”

For the most part, faithful Jehovah’s Witnesses try to live by these standards, even though they teach that Jesus replaced those Ten, and in fact all the Law of Moses, with just two commandments as recorded in Mark 12:30, 31:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

It’s clear that true Christians would not consider using theft, misrepresentation, outright lies, or illegal manipulation to take away the property of another brother – or anyone else. It would be considered a “sin” – a clear violation of the commandments of both the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures. Baptized Jehovah’s Witnesses are often punished by being reproved or disfellowshipped for violation of those commandments, and that’s in addition to any secular legal penalties.

We might argue about some of the predictions, teachings, and practices of the Watchtower Society. But most of us, Jehovah’s Witnesses and non-Witnesses alike, would assume that every Christian should strive to follow those clear commandments. Most would agree that a “Christian” stealing from another brother is not really a “Christian” at all, but would be considered “an evil one, demon possessed, or serving Satan.”

Apparently the Watchtower Society’s leaders feel that they are not bound by the same rules that apply to rank and file Jehovah’s Witnesses. There have been many past examples, but the latest and most blatant violation by the Society of the Lord’s Commandments is taking place in Menlo Park, California (USA).

How Kingdom Halls were built and financed in the past

Like most Kingdom Halls built between 1945 and 1970, the Menlo Park Kingdom Hall was financed and managed by local Jehovah’s Witnesses. In order to hold the deed, order utilities, and meet local land use and building codes, a non-profit corporation was formed to hold title to the property. In most cases, little or no financing help was forthcoming from Bethel Headquarters in Brooklyn, NY. Any loans or mortgages were arranged locally, usually through a bank or a private party – often arranged with the original owner of the land or by a wealthy JW who was willing to guarantee the Note.

Trustees of the Kingdom Hall corporations were selected from among the local Kingdom Hall servants, and usually included the Congregation Servant, the Assistant Congregation Servant, and one or two others. If one of the Trustees left the Kingdom Hall for any reason, including death or disciplinary reasons, the Trustees would nominate a replacement. The nominee would be announced to the assembled congregation and a vote was taken to affirm the appointment.

Local contributions and donations paid for the mortgage, utility bills, insurance, and maintenance. The Watchtower Society rarely assisted local congregations financially, except in very extreme situations not fully covered by the Hall’s insurance policies.

Menlo Park’s Kingdom Hall

This was basically the method used to build the Menlo Park Kingdom Hall. The local brothers and sisters OWNED the Hall at 811 Bay Road, just a stone’s throw from the Bayshore Freeway (US 101). There was easy access to the Hall from surrounding communities. It was the “parent” of several other local Kingdom Halls built over the next 50 years. As the local community grew, so did Jehovah’s Witnesses within the region.

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Sick of it!

By “A Survivor”

Editor’s Note: This article was submitted by a former Jehovah’s Witness who is now a married mother in her late thirties. Many of the stories she has shared with me about her years growing up in a Jehovah’s Witness family are quite graphic and very upsetting. They are stories of verbal, physical and even extreme sexual abuse by her father, an active Jehovah’s Witness and elder for much of his life. For obvious reasons, her name and those of her family members are disguised along with the two boys mentioned in her story. I think her story has value to Jehovah’s Witnesses – and ex-JWs as well – as she uncovers some of the stress placed upon children who are forced to live different lifestyles and under very restrictive rules in some Jehovah’s Witness families.


 

I think being raised as a Jehovah’s Witness is a different experience than for someone who “studied” and became a JW later in their life. You are taught from a young age to look at the world and other people from a distance. You are also taught that you are superior to them because you know “The Truth.” Pretty soon they won’t be here. They won’t make it through “Armageddon” because they are all “sinners” and “worldly.”

I remember a time when I was a young child when I actually believed what I was being taught. Now that I think about it, I realize that it was really the stories of the Biblical and historical figures that fascinated me. Depression [photo by Oscar Williams]As I got older, more and more of the doctrines, principles and rules made less and less sense to me.

I think if there had been more Witnesses my age, school would have been a lot different for me. There were very few kids in the local congregation, and they were either quite a bit younger or older and went to different schools than I did. I remember being the only Witness at my school for many years.

In elementary school I was set apart. First because of my “accent” (my first grade teacher told me that it was not “I went to the store”, but rather it was “I went to thee store”). I wouldn’t salute the flag each morning and I would also have to leave my class and sit out in the hall during all the birthday and holiday parties (talk about embarrassing!)

Later when I attended middle and high school I was not able to have any social contact with anyone outside of school. When you add in my love of reading, always raising my hand with the answer, and my agility impairment – all together they equalled my being considered as one giant oddball.

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