curious about the history of the disfellowshipping practice

by anakolouthos 10 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • anakolouthos

    A few weeks ago, someone made a comment that the disfellowhipping policy had changed considerably throughout the Society's history, with the early organization showing a much gentler attitude toward disfellowshipping. It was stated the the Society has even used the same scriptures to justify different attitudes toward disfellowshipping. Has anyone researched this? Any scans or quotes? I'm especially interested in seeing how the same scripture could be interpreted to justify 2 opposing views of disfellowshipping. If anyone could help me with some info, i would really appreciate it!


  • littlerockguy

    I remember reading in one of the old bound volumes that I used to have from the 50's or 60's in which a questions from readers asked about blood transfusions and reference was made about a sister who received one and apparently back then in those days it was not a disfellowshipping offense. Im not at home so I cannot give the reference for it but over the years they have added to the list all different kinds of reasons you can be DF'd; going beyond what is written IMO.


  • anakolouthos

    LRG, i remember someone mentioning that on here too... they do indeed go far beyond what is written.

    Forum Assistants: My net connection is kinda flaky today, i accidently posted the same topic twice. If someone could consolidate them that would be great. Sorry for the bother.

  • blondie
  • Confession

    JWFacts piece on disfellowshipping is by far the best and most complete I've found. Thanks to him--and to Blondie for linking us to it.

  • james_woods

    There are many variances with the practice that are not reflected in the official history. This practice was mostly carried out at the whim of whoever controlled the congregation committees of the place and the day.

    I will give you an example: When I walked out in 1981, I wrote them a long letter that could only be considered a DA letter. They did not read anything for over 6 months, and then called me one Sunday morning out of the blue to tell me I was DFd. Not DA - DFd.

    At this same time frame, in Okla. City and suburbs, there were at least 7 elders who left, and at my last count over 50 publishers - all within about a year. All because of disbelief in core doctrines.

    To the best of my knowledge, I believe there were only around three "official" disfellowshippings - and no readings of any other DA letter announcements.

    I have always thought that this was because they simply could not afford the morale shock associated with so many leaving within 6 months to a year.


  • garybuss
  • Leolaia

    Here is Russell's more nuanced and Christian view on things in the book New Creation, published in 1904:


    We exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. See that none render evil for evil unto any, but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves and to all men .” 1 Thess. 5:14, 15

    To take notice of each other’s imperfections, from the standpoint of criticism, would be to do ourselves much injury, cultivating in our hearts a faultfinding disposition, keenly awake to the weaknesses and imperfections of others, and proportionately, perhaps, inclined to be blind to our own defects. Such criticism is entirely foreign to the spirit and intention of the Apostle’s exhortation... But while this spirit of love is properly condoning the offenses and weaknesses of the brethren, it is to be on the alert, nevertheless, to do them good—not by bickering, strife, contention, chiding, faultfinding and slandering one another, but in a manner such as the Golden Rule, would approve. With gentleness, meekness, long-suffering and patience, it will seek to make allowance for each other’s weaknesses, and at the same time to help each other out of them, each remembering his own weaknesses of some kind.


    unruly are not to be comforted and supported and encouraged in their wrong way; but in kindness, in love, they are to be admonished that God is a God of order; and that in proportion as we would grow in his likeness.... If we were all perfect, and our judgment of the Lord’s will perfect, we would all think exactly the same—there would be no particular necessity for submitting one to another; but since our judgments differ, it is necessary that each consider the other and the other’s standpoint of observation and judgment, and that each seek to yield something in the interest of general peace—yea, to yield everything so as to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace in the body of Christ, except where principle would be infringed by such a course.


    It would be a great mistake, however, to suppose that the Apostle, in using this general language to the Church, meant that every individual of the Church was to do such admonishing. To admonish wisely, helpfully, is a very delicate matter indeed, and remarkably few have a talent for it. The election of elders on the part of congregations is understood to signify the election of those of the number possessed of the largest measure of spiritual development, combined with natural qualifications to constitute them the representatives of the congregation, not only in respect to the leading of meetings, etc., but also in respect to keeping order in the meetings and admonishing unruly ones wisely, kindly, firmly. Indeed, as we have already seen, the Lord’s people are not to judge one another personally; and only the congregation as a whole may exclude one of the number from the fellowship and privileges of the meeting. And this, we have seen, can come only after the various steps of a more private kind have been taken—after all efforts to bring about reform have proved unavailing, and the interests of the Church in general are seriously threatened by the wrong course of the offender...


    This admonishing, under some circumstances, might need to be done publicly before the congregation, as the Apostle suggests to Timothy: “Them that sin [publicly] rebuke before all, that others also may fear.” (1 Tim. 5:20) Such a public rebuke necessarily implies a

    public sin of a grievous nature . For any comparatively slight deviation from rules of order the elders, under the law of love, and the Golden Rule, should surely “consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works,” and so considering they would know that a word in private would probably be much more helpful to the individual than a public rebuke, which might cut or wound or injure a sensitive nature where such wounding was entirely unnecessary, and where love would have prompted a different course. But even though an Elder should rebuke a grievous sin publicly, it should be done, nevertheless, lovingly, and with a desire that the reproved one might be corrected and helped back, and not with a desire to make him odious and to cast him forth. Nor, indeed, does it come within the Elder’s province to rebuke any to the extent of debarring them from the privileges of the congregation. Rebuke to this extent, as we have just seen, can proceed only from the Church as a whole, and that after a full hearing of the case, in which the accused one has full opportunity for either defending himself or amending his ways and being forgiven...

    While considering this phase of the subject, we might pause a moment to inquire the extent to which the Church, directly or indirectly, or through its elders, is to exercise this duty of admonishing the disorderly, and of eventually excluding them from the assembly. It is not within the power of the Church to exclude permanently. The brother who, having offended either a brother member or the whole Church body, returns again and says, “I repent of my wrong course, and promise my best endeavors to do right in the future,” or the equivalent of this, is to be forgiven— fully, freely—as heartily as we hope the Lord will forgive the trespasses of all. No one but the Lord has the power or authority to cut off any individual everlastingly—the power to sever a branch from the Vine. We are informed that there is a sin unto death, for which it is useless to pray (1 John 5:16); and we are to expect that such a wilful sin as would thus bring the penalty of the Second Death would be so open, so flagrant, as to be readily discerned by those who are in fellowship with the Lord. We are not to judge of any by what is in their hearts, for we cannot read their hearts; but if they commit wilful sin unto death it will surely become manifest outwardly—by their lips, if they are doctrinal transgressions, denying the precious blood of atonement; or by their immoralities, if they have turned to walk after the flesh, “like the sow that is washed, to her wallowing in the mire.” It is respecting such as these, referred to in Heb. 6:4-8; 10:26-31, that the Apostle warns us to have no dealings whatever—not to eat with them, not to receive them into our houses, and not to bid them Godspeed (2 John 9-11); because those who would affiliate with them or bid them Godspeed would be accounted as taking their places as enemies of God, and as partaking of the evil deeds or evil doctrines, as the case might be.

    But in respect to others, who “walk disorderly,” the regulation is very different. Such an excluded brother or sister should not be treated as an enemy, nor thought of as such; but as an erring brother, as the Apostle says further on in this same epistle, “If any man obey not our word by this epistle [if he be disorderly, unwilling to submit himself to sound reasoning and loving, generous rules of order] note that man, and have no company with him, to the end that he may be ashamed; yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.” (2 Thess. 3:14,15) Such a case as this would imply some open, public opposition on the part of the brother to the rules of order laid down by the Apostle, as the Lord’s mouthpiece; and such a public opposition to right principles should be rebuked by the congregation, should they decide that the brother is so out of order that he needs admonishing; and if he does not consent to the form of sound words, sent us by our Lord through the Apostle, he should be considered as so out of accord as to make it no longer proper that he should have the fellowship of the brethren until he would consent to these reasonable requirements. He should not be passed by on the street unnoticed by the brethren, but be treated courteously. The exclusion should be merely from the privileges of the assembly and from any special brotherly associations, etc., peculiar to the faithful. This is implied also in our Lord’s words, “Let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.” Our Lord did not mean that we should do injury to a heathen man or a publican, nor treat either in any manner unkindly; but merely that we should not fellowship such as

    brethren , nor seek their confidences, nor as New Creatures give them ours. The household of faith is to be cemented and bound together with mutual love and sympathy, and expressions of these in various ways. It is from the lack of these privileges and blessings that the excluded brother is caused to suffer, until he feels that he must reform his ways and return to the family gathering.

  • jgnat

    Nuanced. What a nice word. There was nothing nuance-ish about Rutherford. Prison changed him.

  • Finally-Free

    It all started one day, long ago, when a kid who was a real suck picked up his ball and went home, sniveling and whining, saying to his now ex-friends, "I'M NEVER GONNA SPEAK TO YOU AGAIN!!! AND I'M TAKING MY BALL WITH ME!!!" The Watchtower Society liked the whole concept, and adopted it as a policy to be used whenever things don't go exactly as they like.


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