The background is that we have been DF'd for apostasy and are mostly being shunned. The grandparents are all still speaking to us, some other relatives (on my side) are shunning us.
So only recently one of these grandparents gets a visit from two elders who inform them their relationship with us is a cause for talk amongst the congregation and it is viewed that they are in danger of becoming a sharer in our wicked works. Perleeese. (remember that there is grandchildren involved here) So in light of that they have removed basic service priviledges to allow a period of reflection. Have you ever heard of that before? Below is the text of an email I've just sent them with some thought-provoking questions around the DF'ing policy - many thanks to Leolia and others - might be useful for new people to have all this in one place.
Sorry to hear you are having a hard time for being in touch with us - I won't pass any comment other than to say you probably know how I feel. If I were to give you any advice it would be to work out whether you want to play the JW system or not.
I'd be curious to know the scriptural basis for two elders approaching you. Have you committed a sin? if so what is it? What is the scriptural way of handling sin? I can't find a precedent in scripture for two elders coming round and denying you expressions of your Christian faith. Is there a scripture which backs up this granting and removal of certain features of Christian worship?
I'd consider asking the CO to help you reason on:
If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."--1 Tim.5:8 (NIV)
You are providing emotional support to your child and grandchildren - this is normal in family life. Withdrawal of such normal family ties, particularly when infants have been exposed to persons who are later withdrawn from their circle, can be extremely damaging emotionally. It is a recognized psychological phenomena, although not normally found in connection with religious belief - more likely in marital breakdown.
Now all the tax collectors and the sinners kept drawing near to him to hear him. Consequently both the Pharisees and the scribes kept muttering saying: "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them." Then he spoke this illustration to them, saying: "What man of you with a hundred sheep, on losing one of them, will not leave the ninety-nine behind in the wilderness and go for the lost one until he finds it? And when he has found it he puts it upon his shoulders and rejoices. And when he gets home he calls his friends and his neighbors together, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, because I have found my sheep that was lost.' I tell you that thus there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner that repents than over ninety-nine righteous ones who have no need of repentance.--Luke 15:1-7 (NWT)
Also you could ask him about the WTS position with regard to The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The WTS have in fact appealed to the principles contained in the UDHR when it suits their purposes in establishing religious freedom in certain countries.
Yet what of their adherence to those same principles when someone wants to leave?
(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State. Is the WTS policy of extreme shunning of immediate family helping to promote and protect the natural and fundamental unit of society?
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance. The WTS will acknowledge our right to change religion but as a penalty for doing so will employ community exclusion and familial alienation which amounts to psychological torture - hardly within the spirit of Article 18.
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. The WTS seeks to limit freedom of expression by current and ex-members alike and as a deterrent or penalty for doing so will employ community exclusion and familial alienation which amounts to psychological torture - hardly within the spirit of Article 19. Those who seek to hold opinions without interference will quickly be reminded to get back in line.
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
(2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association The WTS deploys a deterrent against or penalty for leaving their association ie community exclusion and familial alienation which amounts to psychological torture - hardly within the spirit of Article 20. See also Insight on the Scriptures Volume 1,p.787 Expelling One who was cast out as wicked, cut off entirely, would be considered worthy of death, though the Jews might not have the authority to execute such a one. Nevertheless, the form of cutting off they did employ was a very powerful weapon in the Jewish community. Jesus foretold that his followers would be expelled from the synagogues. (Joh 16:2) Fear of being expelled, or "unchurched," kept some of the Jews, even the rulers, from confessing Jesus. (Joh 9:22, ftn; 12:42) An example of such action by the synagogue was the case of the healed blind man who spoke favorably of Jesus.—Joh 9:34.
Also see attached file - last paragraph on page 103 may be relevant at some point.
If you have access to a Kingdom Interlinear you could 'research' the fact that the same Greek phrase (synanamignysthai) for "stop associating" is used in both 2 Thessalonians 3:14 and 1 Corinthians 5:11. One scripture is used by the WTS in connection with marking, the other for disfellowshipping. Why the difference?
The bottom line is you cannot fight and win. You will be classified as having a bad attitude - thats already been done and your cards have been marked. Possible outcomes are fight and lose or don't fight and bite your tongue, or tell them where to stick it and get on with your life.
The scripture the elders mentioned is one of the foundation scriptures for shunning - so its not hard to find commentary on that on the web. This is some of the best I've read:
2 John 9-11 can only be understood within the social setting of early Christianity. It presumes the practice of itinerant radicalism, in which charismatic teachers and healers wandered from town to town, from church to church, where they received lodging in exchange for their services. They lived in poverty without any possessions or money of their own. This is the kind of homeless vagabond lifestyle promoted or referred to in Matthew 6:25-34, 8:19-22, 10:5-42, 23:34, Mark 10:17-31, Luke 10:5-15, 12:22-34, etc. as a particularly higher calling to discipleship. Itinerant preachers and healers thus had a significant degree of prestige and authority in the Christian community (cf. the "Seventy" that were sent out as apostles in Luke 10; the church historian Eusebius claimed that these included Barnabas, Cephas, Thaddeus, Matthias, and Joseph Barsabbas Justus). Paul also lived an itinerant lifestyle for much of his ministry. Early Christian society was split between resident communities where Christians owned property and were subject to the rules of the community (cf. Matthew 18), whereas the wandering itinerants were dependent on these host communities for their hospitality. The Gospel of Thomas represents the itinerant ethos by portraying discipleship as involving homeless wandering, healing the sick, and accepting the hospitality that is provided, with the stated ideal: "Be passersby" (Thomas 14:2, 42:1, 86:1). It should not be forgotten that itinerants were not members of a given church but were usually external to it. They would stay a while for fellowship before moving on. There however was room for much conflict. Itinerant preachers did not share the same theological and eschatological perspective, and sometimes members in a given church would follow the teaching of different teachers. They also may view themselves as followers of a particular teacher or prophet. That was what happened in Corinth, with some members of the church following Paul and others preferring to follow Apollos (1 Corinthians 1-3), as well as what happened in the churches of Galatia when Paul began to lose his influence there to Torah-observant Jewish Christians (1:6-9, 4:17, 5:7-12, 6:12). The wandering poor were also sometimes discriminated against within the resident churches on account of their abject poverty. This was the perspective of the author of James. He mentions that some individuals were "chosen" (i.e. were a minority within Christian society) to be "poor in the eyes of the world" and "rich in faith" (2:5), i.e. poverty as a calling. But in some places, they were discriminated on account of their clothing and personal appearance while wealthy resident Christians were treated with higher respect (2:1-4). The Pauline focus on faith over works also devalued the importance of the itinerant lifestyle which aimed to achieve righteousness through "works", i.e. by living righteously through poverty. James 2:14-26 thus defended the value of works and encouraged resident Christians to perform their own good "works" by receiving itinerants with hospitality, using the example of Rahab who "received the messengers and then sent them out another way" (2:25). He thus condemned those who would send the itinerants away without caring for their needs: "If a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food and one of you says to him, 'Go on, I wish you well, keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?" (2:15-17). The author of James goes on to polemicize against commercial itinerism (4:13-15), wandering from town to town in order to make money. Similarly, the Didache (from the early second century AD) lays out clear guidelines on how itinerants were to be treated and advised resident Christians to reject them on account of their teaching or if they intend to profit in some way from their lifestyle: "So, if anyone should come and teach to you all these things that have just been mentioned above, welcome him. But if the teacher himself goes astray and teaches a different teaching that undermines all this, do not listen to him. However, if his teaching contributes to righteousness and knowledge of the Lord, welcome him as you would the Lord. Now concerning apostles and prophets, deal with them as follows in accordance with the rule of the gospel. Let every apostle who comes to you be welcomed as if he were the Lord. But he is not to stay for more than one day, unless there is need, in which case he may stay another. But if he stays three days, he is a false prophet. And when the apostle leaves, he is to take nothing except bread until he finds his next night's lodging. But if he asks for money, he is a false prophet. Also, do not test or evaluate any prophet who speaks in the spirit (compare 1 John 4:1), for every sin will be forgiven but this sin will not be forgiven. However, not everyone who speaks in the spirit is a prophet, but only if he exhibits the Lord's ways. By his conduct, therefore, will the false prophet and the prophet be recognized. Furtherfore, any prophet who orders a meal in the spirit shall not partake of it, if he does, he is a false prophet...If anyone should say in the spirit, 'Give me money,' or anything else, do not listen to him. But if he tells you give on behalf of others who are in need, let no one judge him. Everyone who comes in the name of the Lord is to be welcomed. But then examine them, and you will find out if you have insight what is true and what is false. If the one who comes is merely passing through, assist him as much as you can. But he must not stay with you for more than two or, if necessary, three days. However, if he wishes to settle among you and is a craftsman, let him work for his living. But if he is not a craftsman, decide according to your own judgment how he shall live among you as a Christian, yet without being idle" (Didache 11:1-12:4). This is the most detailed description of the itinerant lifestyle in early Christian literature and it casts much light on the situation in 2 John. Important here is the code of hospitality, such that even if itinerants have no real authority they have the right to be treated hospitably unless the visitor violates the stated guidelines, such as by asking for money (compare Matthew 10:9), staying too long, eating while in the spirit, etc., any of which proves that the visitor is a "false prophet" and to be shunned. Interestingly, these aspects of personal conduct seem to matter more than doctrine. The conflict between itinerant missionaries and resident Christians also plays out in 2 and 3 John, where the practice of shunning is mentioned in both letters as a reponse to itinerant visitors. In the first letter, Presbyter John (a leader from the early sub-apostolic period with significant personal prestige, as Papias and Polycarp relate) instructs the churches under his influence to refuse hospitality to itinerant teachers who teach what he regards to be false doctrine: "Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work" (2 John 7-11).
It is important to recognize that these "deceivers" are not resident members of the church but outsiders who would be "coming to you" (erkhetai pros humas) from abroad who seek to be "received into your house" (lambanete eis oikian), i.e. itinerants like those in Matthew 10:12 who seek to be received "into homes" (eis tén oikian) and receive support. This has nothing to do with shunning members of the church itself; it has to do with taking in outsiders who are already known to be teachers of different doctrines, for this would require the church to give lodging, food, and support to the person -- thereby "sharing in his wicked work". In other words, the author here regards "deceivers" as illegitimate itinerants not worthy of the support that wandering teachers and missionaries would receive.
The ironic thing however is that Presbyter John himself was on the receiving end of this policy. Writing to Gaius, he thanked him for showing hospitality to the itinerant teachers who recently arrived (erkhomenón) to his own church (Ephesus?) who "testified to the truth of your life" (3 John 3), telling him: "You are acting loyally whenever you work for the brothers and especially for strangers (xenous). They have testified of your love before the church and you would do well to send them on their way (propemsas) in a manner that God would approve" (v. 6). The strangers should be sent on "worthily" (axiós), i.e. with the support that they deserve. This echoes the sentiment in James 2:15-17 which criticizes those who would send itinerants on without caring for their needs. "We are obligated to support such men (hémeis opheilomen hupolambanein tous toioutous), so that we may prove ourselves to be fellow-workers in the cause of truth" (3 John 8). This attitude contrasts sharply with the one in 2 John 7-11 which refuses even the simplest courtesy to itinerants regarded to be "deceivers". The author likely regarded such ones as wholly separate from the itinerants who deserve support. But he was shocked to learn that his own "brothers" (adelphoi) who were visiting different churches were being shunned!
"I have written something to the church but Diotrephes, who seems to enjoy being in charge of it, refuses to accept us. So when I come, I will bring up what he is doing, making unjustified charges against us with a malicious tongue. And not content with that, he himself refuses to receive the brothers (oute epidekhetai tous adelphous); he also tries to hinder (kóluei) those who want to welcome them, and he expels (ekballei) them from the church" (3 John 9-10). Here John aligns himself with the rejected visitors by using the first person plural pronoun and in fact he had instructed them to deliver an epistle on his behalf. But the leader of the church refuses them. He treats them exactly the same way John wants to treat those he regards as heretics. It is not clear why Diotrephes refused the itinerant teachers representing John, but the reference to the "malicious charges" (logois ponérois) that Diotrephes brought against them raises the possibility that he regarded them -- and John in turn -- as "false teachers". So this practice of refusing itinerants was a double-edged sword. John also hints here that despite Diotrephes' authority inside the church, he would be able to settle the conflict if he goes there in person -- indicating that he retained much personal authority in the church. Some scholars believe that the conflict here had to do with authority, with John representing the older system of presbyters and Diotrephes being a relatively young bishop who did not recognize John's authority.