Elders refuse to Testify

by The Scotsman 38 Replies latest jw friends

  • The Scotsman
    The Scotsman

    Came across this article -

    The case goes to court today I think.

    You will notice that the org + the local elders are only interested in protecting confidentiality and are refusing to testify.

    The rights of the victims are lower on the priority scale.

    Makes me shudder

  • Tatiana

    Thanks, scotsman...I will be posting this at every site I belong to. This infuriates me. They are exactly like the churches they condemn.

  • JK666

    May they all rot in hell.


  • nomoreguilt

    Same old crap, isn't it? But you know very well that everyone in the cong heard all the nitty gritty from the jc.


  • blondie

    So the elders are "clergy" eh?

    California law protects statements made to clergy members who are required by their faith's practices to keep them secret.

    Many of the nation's courts have traditionally respected the rights of religious organizations to keep communications secret and beyond the reach of the law, said Colorado-based attorney L. Martin Nussbaum, partner in the firm Rothgerber Johnson & Lyons.

    This protection encourages people to confide in their spiritual leaders, said Nussbaum, who is co-chairman of his firm's Religious Institution Group.

    Lawyers who bring suits against religious groups often say the law's penitent-clergy privilege is used to conceal evidence in child sex-abuse cases.

    *** jv (Proclaimers 1993) chap. 15 p. 204 Development of the Organization Structure ***

    The Bible Students were keenly interested in understanding not only Bible doctrine but also the mannerinwhichGod’sservicewastobeperformed, as indicated by the Scriptures. They realized that the Bible made no provision for titled clergymen, with a laity to whom they would preach. Brother Russell was determined that there would be no clergy class among them. Through the columns of the WatchTower, its readers were frequently reminded that Jesus told his followers: "Your Leader is one, the Christ," but, "All you are brothers."—Matt. 23:8, 10.
    *** w03 8/1 p. 24 Happy Is the One Whose God Is Jehovah ***Little by little, though, I understood why the clergy-laity arrangement was unscriptural and why God did not approve when the clergy blessed the war effort. (Isaiah 2:4; Matthew 23:8-10; Romans 12:17, 18)

    *** g76 9/8 pp. 27-28 Are Clergy-Laity Distinctions Scriptural? ***

    What Is the Bible’s View?

    CLERGY-LAITY distinctions have existed in the religious system of Christendom for many centuries. Few persons give thought as to the Scripturalness of having a professional clergy class presiding over the rest of the believers. Yet it may be asked, Is the dividing up of believers into clergy and laity in harmony with the inspired Scriptures?

    In the first-century Christian congregation clergy-laity distinctions were unknown. These were a later development. Says the EncyclopaediaBritannica: "The 2nd century of the Christian church witnessed the emergence of a distinction between clergy and laity (Gr. laos, ‘people’). This distinction received form and recognition by the privileges and immunities granted to the clergy by Constantine I [4th century]."

    Well, has the bringing in of a professional clergy class been in the best interests of the church members? The Jesuit monthly Etudes states that it "maintains ‘the faithful’ in a state of ignorance and irresponsibility." This is not an exaggeration. As part of a laity class, people generally take little initiative on their own to find out what the Bible says and to grow in spiritual comprehension. They simply leave this up to their clergyman, much the same as they entrust their health problems to their doctor.

    This, however, was not the arrangement in the days of the apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ. All men within the congregation were encouraged to make spiritual progress and to work at becoming qualified teachers of God’s Word. According to the rendering of the Catholic JerusalemBible, the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy: "To want to be a presiding elder is to want to do a noble work." The Catholic NewAmericanBible reads: "Whoever wants to be a bishop aspires to a noble task."—1 Tim. 3:1.

    The office of "presiding elder" or "bishop" was not beyond the reach of Christian men. However, this office was not what is commonly thought of today. It was an office of oversight held, not by just one man, but by a body of men. Those appointed to that office were called "overseers" or "elders." Acknowledging that a body of men presided over a congregation, a footnote on Titus 1:5 in the JerusalemBible tells us: "In the earliest days each Christian community was governed by a body of elders (‘presbyters’, whence the English word ‘priests’)."

    One’s qualifying as an "elder" or "overseer" was not a matter of ascending a hierarchical ladder, starting with the lowest rung. Catholic theologian Legrand writes: "The ordained ministry is not a cursushonorum [race for honors] to be run like climbing the rungs of a hierarchical ladder. In fact, the word hierarchy is not to be found in the Bible. Its earliest use goes back to the beginning of the 6th century, when Pseudo-Dionysius used it, although quite differently from the meaning given to it in the Middle Ages, limiting it to ordained ministers, whereas for Dionysius it [hierarchy] included the laity and even catechumens [learners]."

    The fact that being an overseer or elder is not restricted to a limited number, nor dependent upon some seminary training, encourages Christian men to strive to measure up to the qualifications outlined in the Holy Scriptures. This encourages all to grow in knowledge and to want to be of service to fellow believers. Unlike the clergy-laity arrangement that contributes to people’s being Bible illiterates and failing to shoulder Christian responsibility, the Scriptural arrangement encourages their taking positive action in growing in Christian knowledge and in serving fellow believers. This has been the experience of Jehovah’s Witnesses, who are striving hard to pattern their congregations according to Biblical guidelines.

    Furthermore, those serving as elders in the first-century congregation were under command to avoid taking a superior position with reference to its members. No man was to be viewed as an official leader or head of the congregation. Elevating titles were ruled out for all. Jesus Christ stated: "You, do not you be called Rabbi, for one is your teacher, whereas all you are brothers. Moreover, do not call anyone your father on earth, for one is your Father, the heavenly One. Neither be called ‘leaders,’ for your Leader is one, the Christ. But the greatest one among you must be your minister [servant]."—Matt. 23:8-11.

    The Christian congregation was to be like a family under the headship of Jesus Christ. Accordingly, elders were to treat members of the congregation in harmony with that fact and humbly serve them. The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy: "Do not severely criticize an older man. To the contrary, entreat him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters with all chasteness."—1 Tim. 5:1, 2.

    The whole spirit of the Bible’s counsel to Christian elders is against the development of a clergy-laity distinction. The emphasis is always placed on unselfish service and avoiding anything that would imply an exalted position over fellow believers. The apostle Peter, for example, admonished fellow elders: "Shepherd the flock of God in your care, not under compulsion, but willingly; neither for love of dishonest gain, but eagerly; neither as lording it over those who are God’s inheritance, but becoming examples to the flock."—1 Pet. 5:2, 3.

    The objective of Christian elders who were not inspired apostles was to avoid exercising a dominion or lordship over the "flock of God." Their obligation was to help the members of this "flock" to hold onto what faith they already had and to help them to keep it pure and thereby work for the Christian joy of all. Just as the apostle Paul, when writing corrective letters of help to the Corinthian congregation, said: "It was out of consideration for you that I did not after all come to Corinth. Do not think we are dictating the terms of your faith; your hold on the faith is secure enough. We are working with you for your own happiness."—2 Cor. 1:23, 24, TheNewEnglishBible; see also TheJerusalemBible.

    Truly the facts establish that clergy-laity distinctions of today are not based on the Holy Scriptures. They have actually hampered Christian growth by discouraging spiritual initiative. Such distinctions that exist in the religious organizations of Christendom are in fulfillment of prophecies that pointed to a turning away from true belief and practice. For example, the apostle Paul told the body of elders or overseers of the Ephesus congregation: "From among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves." (Acts 20:30) Is this not something that should be given serious consideration by those belonging to organizations that approve clergy-laity distinctions?

  • OnTheWayOut

    I tend to support confidentiality of confessions made to priests or other "spiritual" counsellors.

    However, I would only support the confidentiality of a confession made to the elders, not the
    confidentiality of a judicial committee:

    Statements by a man accused of child molestation to elders during a judicial committee are not covered by the penitent-clergy privilege, because the committee was not required by the organization's practices to keep the statements a secret, according to Judge Raymond Guadagni's decision.

    The committee had to share information about potential child-molestation cases with its headquarters, the ruling said.

    California already dealt with this issue, and the WTS lost, hence the settlement before revealing
    what they knew.

    Even in the case of a member coming forward and confessing to one or two elders, they must
    follow the law on reporting. (The law should clearly be written that they MUST come forward and
    report knowledge of the crime.) Only what was said in confidentiality would remain that way, but
    any knowledge of evidence should be reported.

    If the elder(s) break that confidentiality IN A COUNSEL SESSION by reporting to Headquarters or
    to lawyers about what was revealed, then they should have to report who they spoke to, and that
    lawyer or GB representative or whoever could be forced to testify.

    Even though we know their reasons for doing things are to protect the organization ahead of the
    victims, the core of the clergy confession privilege is a good rule. The article mentions that it
    encourages the person to come forward and confess to his spiritual advisor, then that person can
    offer to help him come forward to the police. It's just another thing that WTS has warped and is
    trying to take advantage of.

    Edited to add: And as Blondie points out, they claim there is no clergy class in JW's, so there
    really cannot be any privilege in that religion.

  • The Scotsman
    The Scotsman


    I can see your point about confidentiality having a place in certain circumstances.

    But when we consider the serious nature of this crime, and others, their must be a responsibility on those "with relevent information" to come forward, especially when it involves the potential conviction of criminals.

    To think - a child molester could walk free due to a lack of evidence when a few elders in the local cong heard him confess to the crime!!!

    The whole thing is pretty depressing.

  • chickpea

    pond dwelling bottom-feeders

  • OnTheWayOut
    But when we consider the serious nature of this crime, and others, their must be a responsibility on those "with relevent information" to come forward, especially when it involves the potential conviction of criminals.

    The law should be clear that they should report the crime. They can say that they are aware of the
    need to investigate a molestation of [Victim] by [confessor] without breaking any confidentiality.

    Even if the law doesn't require that, they should do so.

    They should report any known evidence, like other victims or video or photos or names of
    witnesses (My wife saw me do it, so I came to confess).

    The only thing I advocate as confidential is the testimony in a voluntary confession from the assailant to
    his spiritual advisor, provided that the spiritual advisor kept it in confidence. In that case, the clergyman
    should not be compelled to testify in court nor tell prosecutors what the assailant has testified to him.
    They still would have already reported such crime (or possible crime) to authorities along with any
    knowledge of evidence.

    Remove that clergy privilege, and many people won't come forward to a clergyman for help. That help
    often steers them toward getting the nerve up to do the right thing and face their crime. People feel
    safe coming to their clergyman. The lawyer/client privilege is still in place if the clergy privilege were
    taken away, but who confesses to a lawyer before they are arrested? The clergy privilege probably
    leads to more successful convictions than it interferes with. Correct the "reporting" part of the law,
    don't kill the privilege.

  • AlyMC

    The difference is obvious, and I doubt they will win here. If you go to confession you are confessing to one person and that person is bound by an oath not to tell ANYONE. The elders have already talked about it openly with the victim's mother and perhaps even more. Obviously it isn't a true confidentiality issue.

    I'm glad the Victim's mother is pursuing this instead of just rolling over and assuming the "firm talking to" and the bible is enough to stop this man (assuming his guilt of course).

    It is hard not to become irate about stuff like this, regardless of what religion it is. You can't just ignore molestation because you were told in confidence. I think there are some things the sinner needs to STFU about and rot in their own guilt if they don't want it "out there". The idea of being able to confess to molestation, do a penance and move on is really quite sickening.

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