Bible guidelines

Disfellowship


Upon examining the Scriptures used by the Watchtower to justify disfellowshipping, it becomes apparent that Christian writers prescribed marking a Christian wrongdoer but did not provide for the Watchtower practice of disfellowshipping and strict shunning.

Jesus Advice

Jesus commanded that we not judge but love all, particularly those we consider our enemies.

Luke 6:27-37 But I say to YOU who are listening, Continue to love YOUR enemies, to do good to those hating YOU,to bless those cursing YOU, to pray for those who are insulting YOU.To him that strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also; and from him that takes away your outer garment, do not withhold even the undergarment.Give to everyone asking you, and from the one taking your things away do not ask [them] back. Also, just as YOU want men to do to YOU, do the same way to them. And if YOU love those loving YOU, of what credit is it to YOU? For even the sinners love those loving them.And if YOU do good to those doing good to YOU, really of what credit is it to YOU? Even the sinners do the same.Also, if YOU lend [without interest] to those from whom YOU hope to receive, of what credit is it to YOU? Even sinners lend [without interest] to sinners that they may get back as much. To the contrary, continue to love YOUR enemies and to do good and to lend [without interest], not hoping for anything back; and YOUR reward will be great, and YOU will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind toward the unthankful and wicked. Continue becoming merciful, just as YOUR Father is merciful.Moreover, stop judging, and YOU will by no means be judged; and stop condemning, and YOU will by no means be condemned.”

Jesus introduced the standard on how Christian wrongdoers should be treated, saying at Matthew 18:15-17:

Moreover, if your brother commits a sin, go lay bare his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take along with you one or two more, in order that at the mouth of two or three witnesses every matter may be established. If he does not listen to them, speak to the congregation. If he does not listen even to the congregation, let him be to you just as a man of the nations and as a tax collector.

Jesus did not say to never utter a word to an unrepentant wrong doer but to treat them as a tax collector. He himself spoke to and ate with tax collectors. (Matthew 9:11).

1 Corinthians 5:11

The majority of information on how to treat wrongdoers within the congregation comes from Paul and the main support the Watchtower uses to enforce shunning is from 1 Corinthians 5.

Paul showed a balanced approach to wrongdoers, advising not to socialise with such ones, but to still admonish [them] as a brother. 2 Thessalonians is key to understanding that wrongdoers should be marked, not disfellowshipped.

2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14-15 Now we are giving YOU orders, brothers, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to withdraw from every brother walking disorderly and not according to the tradition YOU received from us . 14 But if anyone is not obedient to our word through this letter, keep this one marked, stop associating with him, that he may become ashamed. 15 And yet do not be considering him as an enemy, but continue admonishing him as a brother.

Paul did not indicate that marking was only for non-serious sin as the word through this letter at 2 Thessalonians included those not glorifying the name of our Lord Jesus, those refusing to work for a living, and any who had been seduced by apostasy. Paul did not say to disfellowship and shun such people, but rather instructed the congregation to mark or take note of such a person, yet continue admonishing him as a brother. In similar vein the following scriptures do not instruct complete shunning of the person, but rather to take note so as not to be influenced by their wrong ways.

Romans 16:17 “Now I exhort YOU, brothers, to keep your eye on (the word ‘mark’ is used in many translations) those who cause divisions and occasions for stumbling contrary to the teaching that YOU have learned, and avoid them.”

Titus 3:10 “As for a man that promotes a sect, reject him after a first and a second admonition; knowing that such a man has been turned out of the way and is sinning, he being self-condemned.”

At 1 Corinthians 5 Paul specifically outlined practices for which to cease mixing with a brother, yet this too is similar to the advice given when marking a brother.

1 Corinthians 5:11 “But now I am writing YOU to quit mixing in company with anyone called a brother that is a fornicator or a greedy person or an idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner, not even eating with such a man. For what do I have to do with judging those outside? Do YOU not judge those inside, while God judges those outside? Remove the wicked [man] from among yourselves.”

1 Corinthians does not say to totally shun a brother who is a wrong doer, rather it says to quit mixing in company with such a person and not eat with such a man and hence refers to socialising. As the Watchtower has explained, this refers to socialising as friends.

“God’s Word states that we should ‘not even eat with such a man.’ (1 Cor. 5:11) Hence, we also avoid social fellowship with an expelled person. This would rule out joining him in a picnic, party, ball game, or trip to the mall or theater or sitting down to a meal with him either in the home or at a restaurant.” Kingdom Ministry 2002 Aug p.3

This does not state that this type of person must never be spoken to. As Paul explained at 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15 (quoted earlier), if they are at a meeting it would be reasonable to encourage them. Most certainly a polite greeting is acceptable.

1 Corinthians is also specific as to who these words apply to. This advice is in regards to a person “called a brother” who “is” a wrongdoer. No indication is given that they should be avoided when they are no longer recognised as a Jehovah’s Witness brother. Nor does it say to shun a person who has stopped their wrongdoing. It is regularly the case that a teenage Witness is disfellowshipped for smoking or fornication. Years later they no longer practice what they were disfellowshipped for and are no longer known in the community as a brother, and so their continued shunning is unjustified.

It can also be noted that Paul did not insist that everyone participate in the shunning. Later he wrote that the “majority” participate in the rebuke, showing that some in the congregation may choose not to show rebuke to the person.

2 Corinthians 2:5-6 “Now if anyone has caused sadnessM, he has saddened, not me, but all of YOU to an extent-not to be too harsh in what I say. This rebuke given by the majority is sufficient for such a man.”

The New World Translation reference M shows Paul was here referring to the situation discussed at 1 Corinthians 5, (as do Christian scholars).

Paul gave similar advice on a number of occasions to ‘mark’ and ‘avoid’ wrongdoers. This does not mean that the person must be totally ignored, never uttered a greeting, avoiding eye contact, crossing the street to get away from, all common experiences of disfellowshipped Jehovah’s Witnesses.

2 John 10

Watchtower extreme treatment of not even saying “hello” to a disfellowshipped Witnesses is not based on the above scriptures, but rather on a single statement at 2 John 7-11:

For many deceivers have gone forth into the world, persons not confessing Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. Look out for yourselves, that YOU do not lose the things we have worked to produce, but that YOU may obtain a full reward. Everyone that pushes ahead and does not remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God. He that does remain in this teaching is the one that has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to YOU and does not bring this teaching, never receive him into YOUR homes or say a greeting to him. For he that says a greeting to him is a sharer in his wicked works.

2 John is referring to the antichrist and should not be applied across the board to all forms of sin, as done by the Watchtower Society.

In order to justify their stance, the Watchtower describes those that stop being Witnesses as apostate and of the Antichrist, saying that “the word apostasy comes from a Greek word that literally means a standing away from but has the sense of desertion, abandonment or rebellion … [and included] abandonment of right moral standards … willfully abandoning the Christian congregation thereby become part of the ‘antichrist.” Watchtower 1985 Jul 15 p.31 In reality, many who stop being Witnesses continue to follow Jesus and Bible morals, but have come to believe that the Watchtower Society is not directed by Jesus.

Interestingly, Johns advice here was not limited to former Christians. It included anyone denying Christ. This included Jews that rejected Jesus and people of the nations worshipping other Gods. Yet the Watchtower stance is to apply this only to Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The meaning of the phrase never receive him into YOUR homes should be understood in the context of the hospitality of first century Jerusalem. Since Christians held congregation meetings in their homes John possibly felt that inviting a denier of Christ into a home could be viewed as sharing worship with non-Christians.

Likewise the term to never “say a greeting” needs to be understood in light of first century practice. In the following article, the Watchtower incorrectly claims that John used the term “greeting” to indicate a simple hello.

“John here used khairo, which was a greeting like good day or hello. (Acts 15:23; Matthew 28:9) He did not use aspazomai (as in verse 13), which means to enfold in the arms, thus to greet, to welcome and may have implied a very warm greeting, even with an embrace. (Luke 10:4; 11:43; Acts 20:1, 37; 1 Thessalonians 5:26) So the direction at 2 John 11 could well mean not to say even hello to such ones.” Watchtower 1988 Apr 15 p.27

This article claims the word khairo is used to forbid a simple greeting, instead of aspazomai which means a more affectionate embrace, enfolding in the arms, kiss, greeting or welcome. This is incorrect, and the opposite is true. Strong’s Concordance states;

  • 5463 chairo {khah’-ee-ro} 1) to rejoice, be glad 2) to rejoice exceedingly 3) to be well, thrive 4) in salutations, hail! 5) at the beginning of letters: to give one greeting, salute
  • 783 aspasmos {as-pas-mos} 1) a salutation, either oral or written

2 John does not indicate a polite greeting is wrong. John here shows that a person is a sharer in the Antichrist’s wicked works if he shows acceptance and agreement with the evildoers cause or teachings, or wishes them favour and success.

The Watchtower Society uses this single Scripture in 2 John to dictate that every disfellowshipped or disassociated person should not even be politely greeted. This is applied regardless of what the person was disfellowshipped for, including a long list of Society originated rules such as gambling, smoking, or authorising a blood transfusion. Every single one of a disfellowshipped persons Witness friends is told to never greet them again, unless they repent and are formally reinstated by the Watchtower Society. I am aware of friends whose own mothers or their own children have not spoken to them for upwards of 20 years. Yet such shunning is only ever discussed once, was only to apply to the Antichrist, and as such is being misused to its extremity.

Unscriptural Process

The process Jehovah’s Witnesses follow for disfellowshipping strays from biblical principles in a number of areas.

Reasons not Mentioned in the Bible

There should always be clear Scriptural reason for disfellowshipping, and John reprimanded Diotrephes for attempting to throw people out of the congregation unnecessarily at 3 John 9-10.

Bible discussion of shunning by Paul and John is limited to just the following areas; Fornication, Greed, idolatry, Revilers, Practicing Drunkenness, Extortion and One who does not remain in the teaching of the Christ. Revelation 21:8 does not relate to shunning but at a stretch could be drawn on, and adds adultery, men kept for unnatural purposes, men who lie with men, thieves, cowards, those without faith, those disgusting in their filth, murderers, spiritism, and liars. This list should be the full extent of reasons for which to be disfellowshipped. The long list of Watchtower offences includes a number of practices never mentioned in regards to shunning, such as use of blood. However, the Watchtower goes even further. Common practices never specified in the Bible as sins have become grounds for being disfellowshipped. These include:

  • Oral and anal sex
  • Gambling – common throughout history, such as the casting of lots over Jesus clothing
  • Use of Drugs such as marijuana – in common use in the first century
  • Celebrations – Romans 14:1-18 specifically says not to judge anyone over the observance of days

If Jehovah wanted his followers to shun those for engaging in these common practices, the Bible would state so. Should the Society be creating disfellowshipping decrees beyond Bible offences? Of course not! Jesus condemned the Pharisees for creating thousands of laws for every situation, rather than promoting Godly principles and understanding the meaning of mercy. When a Pharisee expressed surprise that Jesus did not do ritual washing before dinner, Jesus’ rebuke was particularly harsh.

Luke 11:42 “‘But woe to YOU Pharisees, because YOU give the tenth of the mint and the rue and of every [other] vegetable, but YOU pass by the justice and the love of God!” (see also Matthew 12:1-10) Matthew 12:7 However, if YOU had understood what this means, I want mercy, and not sacrifice, YOU would not have condemned the guiltless ones.

If God spoke directly to the Governing Body as he did with the Apostles and they were infallible, then it may have authority to add to the scriptures. By their admission this is not the case. The Governing Body is not infallible and not inspired by God to write additional rules that do not appear in the Bible. For this reason the list should be based strictly on scriptures.

Further rules continue to be introduced, such as the Watchtower 2006 Jul 15 pp.29-31 explanation that “gross uncleanness” and “uncleanness with greediness” allows disfellowshipping to at times extend to heavy petting, sexual phone calls and viewing pornography.

Behind Closed Doors

In determining if a person should be disfellowshipped the elders form a “judicial committee” to meet with the wrongdoer. This is done in private, and the wrongdoer is not allowed an onlooker, lawyer or recording device.

“Hear only those witnesses who have relevant testimony regarding the alleged wrongdoing. Those who intend to testify only about the character of the accused should not be allowed do so. The witnesses should not hear details and testimony of other witnesses. Observers should not present for moral support. Recording should not be allowed.” Shepherd the Flock of God p.90

This star-chamber setting opens the procedure to abuse.

The word “judicial committee” does not appear in the Bible and goes against Bible guidelines. Both the Israelites and early Christian congregations kept matters open to ordinary persons. Rather than being done in private, in front of elders only, matters were held by Israelites at the city gates so a fair discussion with onlookers could be made, or in front of the Christian congregation. This prevented the injustice that can take place before small closed bodies of elders.

“The Bible regulations and accounts indicate that cases of wrongdoing came before the city elders at the gates primarily when controversies were involved, as in cases where an offender would not acknowledge having wronged another, and also when the community as a whole was seriously affected or endangered by the wrongdoing.” Watchtower 1976 Dec 1 p.732

“Since the local court was situated at the city gates, there was no question about the trial being public! (Deut. 16:18-20) No doubt the public trials helped influence the judges toward carefulness and justice, qualities that sometimes vanish in secret star-chamber hearings.” Watchtower 1981 Jan 1 p.17

At Matthew 18:17, Jesus instructed that unresolved wrongdoing should be taken “to the congregation”, not a select committee of congregation leaders. This is how misdemeanors were originally dealt with. As discussed above, the judicial committee arrangement was not inaugurated until 1944 by Knorr.

Reasons hidden

When the person was disfellowshipped or publicly reproved the congregation was to know why. Paul openly told the congregation of the wrong conduct of Peter, Hymenaeus, Alexander and Diotrephes. To avoid legal problems, the Society does not follow this Scriptural advice. The extent of both the disfellowshipping and disassociating announcement is restricted to:

“[Name of person] is no longer one of Jehovahs Witnesses.” Organised to do Jehovahs Will (2005) p.154

Speed of process

In the scriptures it makes no mention of a time limit over which the process must take place. It does indicate that quite some period of time may be involved;

Galatians 6:1 “Brothers, even though a man takes some false step before he is aware of it, YOU who have spiritual qualifications try to readjust such a man in a spirit of mildness, as you each keep an eye on yourself, for fear you also may be tempted.”

To readjust a brother could take considerable time. If a person is addicted to certain practices or if they are having doubts about doctrine it could take months of effort to overcome these.Yet in many cases when a Jehovah’s Witness confesses or another person reports their activities to the elders they are disfellowshipped within a few weeks. Furthermore, if the process is to readjust someone, it implies the person would not be disfellowshipped in the event the offender is readjusted and quits his ways, such as after taking blood or stopping an adulterous affair. Yet the general practice in these cases is automatic disassociation or likely disfellowshipping.

Punishment

Shunning was to be used for readjustment or to protect the congregation. However it is regularly used as punishment. When a person confesses to a wrong practice committed and ceased many years ago they have often been disfellowshipped for a wrong attitude, which is clearly done for punishment.

Overly Harsh

A review of Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 1 p.788 Expelling shows that many scriptures that relate to disfellowshipping discuss assisting or reproving the person.

2 Corinthians 2:5-8 “Now if anyone has caused sadness, he has saddened, not me, but all of YOU to an extentnot to be too harsh in what I say. This rebuke given by the majority is sufficient for such a man, so that, on the contrary now, YOU should kindly forgive and comfort [him], that somehow such a man may not be swallowed up by his being overly sad. Therefore I exhort YOU to confirm YOUR love for him.”

Persons can be so traumatised by being disfellowshipped that many contemplate and even carry out suicide. It is common to suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The harsh stance of the Watchtower has a counter productive affect. Being Disfellowshipped has been the catalyst to cause many to doubt whether the Watchtower is the true religion. The trauma and effort involved in being reinstated that caused them to begin researching outside Watchtower publications and to come to the conclusion that the Watchtower it is not Gods chosen way.

With many religions when a person no longer believes or is practicing sin they will tend to drift away from Church and associate with like minded individuals outside the congregation. This is how it is with unbaptised Witness youths; they leave over time, generally in their teens. Most that do not follow Watchtower guidelines or that do not believe it is the Truth stop going to meetings. However disfellowshipping is a form of entrapment that forces baptised Witnesses, including myself to spend years going to meetings whilst not believing or adhering to Watchtower regulations. This is done to avoid being disfellowshipped, in order to prevent being shunned by family. By encouraging people to stay and lead double lives disfellowshipping possibly results in more people being influenced than if the wrongdoers are encouraged to drift away.

Pharisaic

Since the word disfellowship does not appear in the Scriptures, the New World Translation Reference Bible “Bible words indexed” directs the reader to the term “expelled”.

“DISFELLOWSHIP(PED). See EXPEL, EXPELLED”
Rbi8 p.1507

Under Expelled the Scriptures are

“EXPELLED,
Joh 9:22 e. from synagogue
Joh 12:42 not to be e. from synagogue”
Rbi8 p.1510

Both references are regarding the Pharisees practice of expelling from the Synagogue.

John 9:22 “His parents said these things because they were in fear of the Jews, for the Jews had already come to an agreement that, if anyone confessed him as Christ, he should get expelled from the synagogue.”

The closest Scriptural example the Watchtower can find for the term disfellowship is that of the Pharisees.

Hatred

The direction given in the Watchtower goes strongly against Christian examples when demanding members hate an apostate.

“The obligation to hate lawlessness also applies to all activity by apostates. Our attitude toward apostates should be that of David, who declared: Do I not hate those who are intensely hating you” Watchtower 1992 Jul 15 pp.12-13 Christ Hated Lawlessness Do You?

“Apostasy is, in reality, a rebellion against Jehovah. Some apostates profess to know and serve God, but they reject teachings or requirements set out in his Word. Others claim to believe the Bible, but they reject Jehovahs organization and actively try to hinder its work. When they deliberately choose such badness after knowing what is right, when the bad becomes so ingrained that it is an inseparable part of their makeup, then a Christian must hate (in the Biblical sense of the word) those who have inseparably attached themselves to the badness. True Christians share Jehovah’s feelings toward such apostates; they are not curious about apostate ideas. On the contrary, they “feel a loathing” toward those who have made themselves God’s enemies, but they leave it to Jehovah to execute vengeance.”Watchtower 1993 Oct 1 p.19

“Haters of God and his people are to be hated, but this does not mean that we will take any opportunity of bringing physical hurt to them in a spirit of malice or spite, for both malice and spite belong to the Devil, whereas pure hatred does not. We must hate in the truest sense, which is to regard with extreme and active aversion, to consider as loathsome, odious, filthy, to detest. Surely any haters of God are not fit to live on his beautiful earth. The earth will be rid of the wicked and we shall not need to lift a finger to cause physical harm to come to them, for God will attend to that, but we must have a proper perspective of these enemies. His name signifies recompense to the enemies.” Watchtower 1952 Oct 1 p.599

Jesus and Paul both said we should not hate but rather love our enemies. This was to apply even when someone is attacking our faith and practice.

Matthew 5:44-45 “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust,”

Romans 12:17-21 17 “Return evil for evil to no one. Provide fine things in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, as far as it depends upon YOU, be peaceable with all men. 19 Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but yield place to the wrath; for it is written: Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says Jehovah. 20 But, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by doing this you will heap fiery coals upon his head. 21 Do not let yourself be conquered by the evil, but keep conquering the evil with the good.”

When discussing a person seduced by apostasy Paul said at 2 Thessalonians 3:15 And yet do not be considering him as an enemy, but continue admonishing him as a brother.

When discussing that for everlasting life it is necessary to love your neighbor as yourself, Jesus used the illustration of the Good Samaritan to explain who ones neighbour is. (Luke 10:25-37) The Jews regarded the Samaritans as apostates of the Jewish religion, yet Jesus says our love is to encompass these people as well.

Family

A former Jehovah’s Witness recalls:

I was told that I could not speak with my owndaughter due to sins for which she had been disfellowshipped, leveling an idiotic assumption that I was not mature enough to resist the potential gravity of her sinful life, and needed protection. For God’s sake – she had sexwithout being married – nothing more or less. She was no danger to me or my integrity. And I washer father, the one she was supposed toturn to at times of need.At the time she needed the most support to get over ‘normalhuman adolescent confusion and hormonal overkill’ I was supposed to treat her as if she was ‘dead’.

The New Testament never specifically extends shunning to immediate family members. Rather Paul stated at 1 Timothy 5:8 Certainly if anyone does not provide for those who are his own, and especially for those who are members of his household, he has disowned the faith and is worse than a person without faith.

Reinstatement Procedures

In the parable of the prodigal son Jesus outlined the type of love the Father has for us and that we should show each other. (Luke 15:11-32) The youngest child of a rich family spent years squandering his inheritance living a life involved in numerous contemptible sins. Jesus showed that despite this, on seeing his son return home the aged father ran to his child with open arms. He did not wait to question the sons current actions, did not attempt to determine his sons motives and repentance, nor give him a period of lower status as punishment.

Nowhere in the Bible does it discuss a detailed process for reinstatement, nor give a timeframe in regards to how long before reinstatement can take place. Paul simply stated that a person who is a wrongdoer should be avoided. When they are no longer practicing the wrongdoing there is no reason to keep shunning them.

The Watchtower specifies a period of time to pass, even though acknowledging the Christian example allows for shorter periods.

“If these necessary evidences of sorrow and change are present, then his reinstatement could be considered by the congregation committee after sufficient time had elapsed, which in most cases is at least a year.” Watchtower 1963 Aug 1 p.473

“Although it seems that the wrongdoer in Corinth was reinstated within a relatively short period of time, this is not to be used as a standard for all disfellowshippings.” Watchtower 1998 Oct 1 p.18

Though the scriptures give no legalistic approach to determine when a wrongdoer is to be associated with, the Watchtower Society has developed a formalistic procedure for determining if a person is worthy of having their disfellowshipped status removed. They must attend meetings regularly for several months whilst being shunned before an application for reinstatement will be considered. After this they must be examined by the elders to determine if they have ceased the wrongdoing and have a repentant attitude. Once this is determined, a public announcement is made. Only after this procedure and announcement are family members and others within the congregation free to talk to that person.

Take the fairly common example of an engaged couple that commit fornication in the weeks prior to their wedding. If discovered they may be disfellowshipped. Once married they are not immediately reinstated as time is made to pass before their request for reinstatement will be considered. They then are forced to go through the formal process of being deemed repentant. Yet on the day of their marriage they are no longer fornicators as they are scripturally married. There is no scriptural reason they should no longer be associated with. That they are not automatically and immediately reinstated indicates that the Witness practice is based on punishment. This punishment extends for some months after their reinstatement until the elders determine they are worthy to once more participate at meetings.

Likewise, many are disfellowshipped as teenagers for drunkenness, smoking or immorality. Over the years they stop this behaviour, possibly marrying and having children. Scriptural principles show that since they are no longer practicing wrongdoing and are not known in the community as a brother it is acceptable for them to be spoken to. On the other hand, Watchtower legislation dictates they must not be spoken to until they resume meeting attendance, apply for reinstatement, are approved and then had a public announcement made. For a high percentage of those raised as Jehovahs Witnesses there is no desire to return to the Watchtower Organization and so this process is never initiated, meaning their family relationship is damaged for the remainder of their lives.

Once reinstated more rules have been created to outline what activities they may participate in. Over time they will be allowed to resume field service, then answering at meetings, then giving talks. It will be several years before they finally are in line for privileges such as pioneering or being considered a Ministerial Servant. The Bible writers gave no such rules.

“Restrictions should be imposed to help the person see the need of continuing to make ‘straight paths for his feet’ and also out of consideration for the congregation’s conscience.” Pay Attention to Yourselves and to All the Flock p.131

Sharing in the field service is restored when the individual is reinstated. Other privileges, such as commenting at meetings, handling parts on the program, and offering prayer at meetings, can be restored progressively when it is determined that the individual has progressed spiritually to the point that he is qualified and when it is judged by the elders that the extending of such privileges will not be offensive to the congregation.

“A full year must have passed from the time a judicial reproof was given or since reinstatement following disfellowshipping before one could be considered for auxiliary or regular pioneer service.” Kingdom Ministry 1986 Aug p.6

“If at one time a person had been disfellowshiped or disassociated, may he ever give a public talk? This might occur, but only after at least ten years from reinstatement. (For details see The Watchtower, 8/15/65, p. 497; Lamp, p. 121.) Kingdom Ministry 1970 Dec p.4

The following 17 minute recording was taken by a girl attempting to be reinstated, and highlights the procedure well. It starts slowly, but is quite heartbreaking at the end. You will probably agree with the girl’s comment regarding the elders lack of heart.

If your browser is unable to play this audio file, it can be downloaded as an MP3 8.4Mb, WAV 16.4Mb, OGG 8.7Mb.

Baptized without understanding

Since 1985 the second Jehovah’s Witness baptism vow became;

“(2) Do you understand that your dedication and baptism identify you as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in association with God’s spirit-directed organization?” Watchtower 1985 Jun 1 p.30

At baptism a person commits themselves to the Watchtower Organization, despite the word organization never appearing in the Bible. Few realise that they have committed their bedroom lives, work choices and life long relationship with family and friends to the Organization. Terms such as ecclesiastical government of Jehovah’s Witnesses are never used in the Watchtower publications that are issued to the public, but are terms used within confidential letters to branches and the elders. Would as many people be baptised if they realised it was not only to Jehovah, Jesus and the Holy Spirit that they were being baptised but to an ecclesiastical government that had the right to introduce any rule at any time?

When a person is baptised, very few have even an inkling of the true history of the religion. No person that gets baptised has any idea of the full list of things that they could be disfellowshipped for as this list is unattainable, and many of the reasons are not clearly specified in the Bible. Most of the reasons are scattered through various Watchtower publications, but a newly interested one is rarely shown all of these. Neither do the Watchtower publications contain a full list of reasons for being disfellowshipped. Even people involved in the organization for years are generally unaware of all the reasons. In regards to disfellowshipping, Pay Attention to Yourselves and to All the Flock states on page 101 that elders should be sure to proceed “in harmony with the most recent statements by the Society.”

Only elders have access to Pay Attention to Yourselves and to All the Flock and letters from the Society. In 2010, a updated Elder’s book – “Shepherd the Flock of God” – was released. Seven of its twelve chapters are devoted to disfellowshipping. A Letter to Elders, October 7, 2010 shows how secretive this book is, when it says women are not allowed to bind the book, even under supervision:

“There is no objection if an elder personally spiral binds or laminates his own textbook or does so for other elders. If he has another baptized brother who is not an elder do the work for him, the elder must watch while the work is being done. Outside companies, unbelievers, or sisters are not permitted to do this work. The material in the book is confidential, and confidentiality must be preserved.”

Likewise, Letter to Elders, 23 Aug, 2010 states:

“The information is designed for use by the elders only, and other individuals should not have any opportunity to read the information.”

Even elders do not get to know the guidelines for all situations, as more difficult scenarios are discussed in letters specifically to the Bethel Branches. Most people are baptised with no knowledge that these books and letters even exist, let alone know what is contained in them.

How much information did Jesus provide the Apostles that he forbade sharing with anyone else? A religion that disfellowships and shuns should be transparent with providing full access to information regarding these rules prior to a persons involvement, rather than hiding it even from long term members.

Minors

It is particularly disturbing that the Watchtower encourages children raised as Jehovahs Witnesses to be baptised as minors. Even a pre-teenage child can get baptised and for the remainder of their life be subject to the principle of being disfellowshipped.

“In the summer of 1946, I was baptized at the international convention in Cleveland, Ohio. Although I was only six years of age, I was determined to fulfill my dedication to Jehovah. That summer I served as a pioneer for the first time.” Watchtower 1992 Mar 1 p.27

Baptism as a Jehovah’s Witness is a binding verbal contract with the Watchtower Society and as such baptising minors is wrong both legally and scripturally. Never is the baptism of a minor mentioned in the Bible. Jesus was not baptised until he was 30 and Jews felt a person became an adult at 30. When Cornelius and his family were baptised it does not state that any non adults were baptised and there is no scriptural evidence of any children or teenagers ever being baptised. A childs knowledge and ideas change dramatically between the teens and twenties, and for this reason the law protects the rights of minors. A minor is usually not permitted by law to enter contracts, drink, vote, join the army or marry.

When a person baptised as a minor chooses they no longer wish to be known as a Jehovahs Witness they are regularly disfellowshipped. Once this happens that teenager may not associate freely with family or friends for the remainder of their life! Even a person that is still a child they can be disfellowshipped.

“When a baptized minor becomes involved in wrongdoing that threatens the cleanness of the congregation, the assigned committee should meet with such individual just as they would with any other member of the congregation.” Pay Attention to Yourself and to All the Flock p.98

Conclusion

It is readily apparent that the Jehovah’s Witness practice of disfellowshipping is not Christian. The Bible shows how to avoid being influenced by wrongdoers by limiting association. The Watchtower has misapplied these principals to create a highly legalistic framework that is used as an effective way to manipulate their members, which has tragically affected lives and destroyed hundreds of thousands of families.

As a JW, how did you feel about shunning?

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2 thoughts on “Bible guidelines

  1. Thanks a lot Adrienne. Lots of XJWs turn to other denominations. If you’re an ateisht like I am, it can be hard to find things to talk about with them. Half of our complaints about the WTS can also be applied to many other faiths, so it gets awkward.If you’re looking for friends with more in common with you, have you tried or JWD is a very large forum with lots of users from all over the map. But JWR, which is smaller, seems to attract more secular-minded exxers. And XJWSec is a secular forum for XJW by definition. Another one is which has a chat room you could visit. There isn’t usually much there until Friday nights, but you can meet other XJWs that way. The visitors there tend to be more secular, though not always. I also have a forum that I just started, but nothing much is going on there just yet.

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