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.
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.
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.
DEPARTMENT HEADS ( I think they are called “Committee Elders,”) have some real authority – because they have real people working for them who they get to boss around. Department Heads can’t really develop or change doctrines, at least not without permission from the Governing Body. So they spend their time creating clever new ways to enforce rules and explain existing doctrines to rank and file Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Next in line are BRANCH, DISTRICT, and CIRCUIT OVERSEERS – in that order. They basically do what they’re told by the Service Department and Department Heads – or they’re replaced. But they are able to bully elders at local Kingdom Halls, as well as at assemblies and conventions. That “privilege” gives them a bit of an ego boost.
It’s the LOCAL ELDERS that hold your life in their hands. If you don’t constantly kiss their ass you are in danger of being a labeled a “free-thinker” – and probably won’t live out your whole life as a JW. In fact, it’s likely that you’re already on your way out. If you want to stay IN THE “TRUTH,” you will obey the local elders without question. (I questioned and was counseled, but I was pissed off enough to do research. And then I left. That’s just one piece of anecdotal evidence for you. – Mad Sweeney )
Beneath the local elders are ANOINTED BROTHERS. These are brothers who should be in heaven with the rest of the 144,000, but they just haven’t died yet. Like their heavenly counterparts, they have no authority and are not allowed to do anything. But they do get to drink a sip of wine and eat a cracker once a year – so they’ve got that going for them.
Beneath the anointed brothers comes MINISTERIAL SERVANTS. These brothers are volunteer slaves. They happily do menial jobs and whatever they’re told by the local elders – or else they’re replaced.
Beneath ministerial servants are BAPTIZED BROTHERS. These can be any age (usually between 8 and 100), as long as they have been baptized. They have no real authority unless there are females around.
Beneath baptized brothers are ANOINTED SISTERS. These are just like anointed brothers, being part of the 144,000 waiting to rule as “kings and priests” – but they’re women. As long as they are alive and on Earth, they will never have any authority, can never be elders or ministerial servants, or be more than they are – because they are women.
Beneath “anointed” sisters are regular BAPTIZED SISTERS. This is the lowest rank on the JW organizational ladder, even lower than their own baptized minor male children. Because they are women, the only “privileges” they can ever qualify for are “pioneering” and cleaning the Kingdom Hall.
Which brings up PIONEERS. This isn’t a separate rank, because people from all baptized levels can be “pioneers.” But if you are a “pioneer,” and put in dozens of extra hours knocking on strangers’ doors each month, you’ll get a little bump in prestige within your own Kingdom Hall. But you won’t get any special privileges or real “extra juice.”
That summarizes the Watchtower Society’s Jehovah’s Witness “Class” system as it currently stands. The ANOINTED could be divided into “pre-1935” and “post-1935” sub-groups, but there aren’t enough “pre-1935 anointed” still alive to be of any significance, and most of the “post-1935 anointed” are suspected as being either deranged or frauds, so their influence is minor when compared to the real leaders of the Watchtower Society’s headquarters in New York.
Poster “James Woods” offers the following: “May I add two sub-classes?”
First: Non-baptized children of Jehovah’s Witnesses from about the age of ten and up. They are required to do everything a baptized JW does, but are not considered to be “real” JWs. They will be hounded by their parents and elders to get baptized and required to avoid school activities, sports, or anything fun. They are also expected to go door-to-door.
Second: Non-baptized children below age ten. They are taken to a back room and beaten black and blue when they misbehave in a Kingdom Hall. They are dragged to meetings whether they like it or not. At the age of ten, they will advance to being a preteen JW kid. See the sub-class above.
Editor’s note: “Mad Sweeney” is a frequent poster on JWN, one of the most popular Jehovah’s Witness discussion forums. He can always be counted on to come up with biting humor or a perceptive observation on almost any pertinent subject. We thank him for allowing us to adapt his original post for this article.
He describes his life experience as a former Jehovah’s Witness this way:
“My mom was exposed to the JWs when I was a small child. So for all intents and purposes I was raised ‘in the truth’ (man, that loaded language is insidious) and have most in common with born-ins. Even though I was in for around forty years, I was never an elder; I think they never thought I was humble enough. It took me a long time just to make Ministerial Servant, but when I did they quickly assigned me all sorts of ‘elder level’ things like public talks, service meeting parts, and going along with elders for shepherding calls. I think they knew I could do all that stuff easily, but I was too much of a thinker and not enough of a follower. They were grooming me to be an elder (I think), but weren’t in any rush to add me to their body.
“My family, like most JW families, is mixed. Half are JWs and half are normal people. My early life as a JW estranged me from my non-JW family, so for the past few years I have been working at rebuilding the bridges that should be natural in families -but those the Borg strives to destroy.
“We’re still working at re-establishing family ties and establishing new friendships after our cold-turkey fade. It’s a long process – but freedom is worth any price.”
You can read “Mad Sweeney’s” original posting by clicking here. We also thank “James Woods,” another frequent JWN poster for allowing us to include his comment.