It is possible that internal discussion about Watchtower policies has begun, at least among some Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Internal discussion or debate is very rare – those who attempt to initiate such are quickly disfellowshipped so that their “unsheep-like” attitude does not “infect” the congregation. The Watchtower Bible and Tract publishing empire/religious group is totalitarian – very much a “top-down” organization. They believe that their Governing Body is literally God’s earthly representative. Disagreement with the Governing Body or the Watchtower publication’s interpretations are not tolerated. Members do not hold them accountable for anything.
To be honest, I can’t tell if this is from any organized group of people or not. There is a forum and a site, but I don’t know how many people may be in agreement with what it says. I don’t know how many among them might actually be active JWs, either. But when I got this via a news bulletin from Silent Lambs (where it was submitted) this morning, I saw it as a hopeful sign that some JWs might be opening their eyes on this issue.
To the people of Russia and of the world
D E C L A R A T I O N of active members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses International Organization
We are compelled to write this Declaration because of recent events in the United States that have to do with established incidents of sexual abuse of minors involving some appointed servants (including elders) of the Jehovah’s Witnesses religious organization. We want to express our opinion about the situation and about the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society position in this regards.
Our organization’s leadership — the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses — remains silent and pretends that nothing extraordinary is going on. Nevertheless we cannot remain silent any longer, because we see it all, we face these problems in our everyday lives and we feel confused and ashamed when others point us to such incidents. Thus we in Russia feel very uneasy about these facts.
We do recognize clearly that the present internal policies of our organization are favorable and conductive to concealment of such transgressions against law and morals. All who attempt to press for just punishment of the offenders will themselves come under condemnation unless they have enough evidence against an accused person – oftentimes presence of two or more eye-witnesses of a given incident is requested, whereas one-man witnesses of crimes committed against close kin are dismissed. Therefore a criminal often goes unpunished and privately continues to commit felonious acts against his victim.
We do not know of any single instance when elders of a congregation would turn to the law enforcement agencies with a request to investigate claims of sexual abuse, although crimes of such kind should be investigated by experts.
This probably happens because the elders themselves, as we know, are often involved in similar transgressions (including, to be sure, not only sexual sins, but also deceit, licentiousness, rudeness etc,). Praise God, we do not know of any instances of pedophilia in Russia, but in other situations actions of elders are being portrayed in such a way as if nothing has happened — elders being often “shielded” by fellow elders and/or regional overseers. All this gives rise to feelings of indignation and aversion. We have enough examples to prove our case, but it is not our goal to publish these.
Unfortunately it turns out that it has become more important for Jehovah’s Witnesses to maintain authority of the elders and of the organization in general than to maintain biblical ethics and morals.
We’d be glad to find ourselves mistaken, but thus far all facts speak in favor of such conclusion.
On behalf of all Jehovah’s Witnesses indignant with the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society policies we would like to make apologies to those who have suffered from such actions on part of Jehovah’s Witnesses. We are truly ashamed of their actions. We do this because we recognize that the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, with its usual practice of improper “pudency”, will never do it. Public should know that among Jehovah’s Witnesses both in Russia and in the world there are hundreds and thousands of honest people — they see all the lawless deeds of their organization and sincerely mourn it.
We also do recognize that many policies of our organization are not biblical, but rather based upon dogmas put forth by the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. One result of such unchristian position is their “policy of concealment” as applied to various crimes committed by members of the organization. Rank-and-file Jehovah’s Witnesses are mostly unsatisfied with this policy, but they remain silent for fear of being repressed by the leadership which has only one interest: to maintain a positive public “image” of the organization.
We do not want to be condemned by God along with those who stubbornly persist in their delusions (2 Thes. 2:11-12). Having put our hope in His mercy and submitted everything under His mighty hand (1 Peter 5:6), we pray for our brothers that God may open their eyes (Rom. 10:1). Members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses International Organization
I see here open criticism – and it seems to me that it may come from a grounded integrity that feels compassion and sorrow, a sense of priorities, and a more evolved form of ethics. An apology to victims – because the Governing Body will never do it. An acknowledgment that JWs will not refer these cases to the police for investigation. The practice of “shielding.” An understanding that the dogmas exceed biblical justification. (Side quibble: I don’t even want to know what they mean by pudency. It is a word, ranging in meaning from modesty to shame to prudery (as you might guess, it refers to pudendum). Do they mean “prudence”, perhaps?)
I keep hoping that – for the sake of JWs themselves – they will learn how to begin local discussions and debates, and that they find within themselves the wherewithal to step outside the controlling structures and think things through for themselves.
In order to prevent such discussions from happening (or to deal with them if they start), I am speculating (if not outright predicting) that before too long the Governing Body will be forced to announce that they have “received new light from Jehovah” on some of these issues. (I have always wondered about the specific mechanism of the new light delivery system – is there a receiver near the Brooklyn Bridge?)
I know that some Jehovah’s Witnesses have to have noticed the steep decline of compassion and kindness (among other things) among their “sisters and brothers,” their “friends” over the last several years. JWs often quote the scripture about the “fruits of the spirit” as a way of arguing that only they are the true religion. Protecting predators while ignoring victims is not a comfortable stance for people who do their best to conduct their lives in the way they believe God wants and is asking of them.
It is my feeling that the greatest change would occur when JWs find the courage to start having local discussions on some of these issues, rather than simply parroting the talking points sent over from Brooklyn on how to answer questions at the door. True friends and sisters and brothers share their insights, and each one’s gifts contribute to the body as a whole. Spirit does not reside only in the head (so to speak). The fact that almost no JWs partake of the wine and bread at the Memorial, and that even those who consider themselves of the 144,000 never meet with the Governing Body, could make them think about what kind of “communion” or “network” they might really be involved with, but it doesn’t happen.
Some of them know, deep inside, that there are more important things than maintaining the image of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the eyes of the world. Reform is long overdue.