Over the course of decades as a JW, an elder, a bethelite, then learning TTATT and wanting to leave, I'd collected a lot of insight into the power of "confidentiality." Although the confidentiality in a judicial hearing is supposedly to protect the sinner, in actuality, I saw that it was about control and was protecting the power of the JC.
I didn't use any of this knowledge until I was called before the BoE because the other elders figured they had grounds to remove me as an elder. It was a work situation that only lasted a matter of hours, but it was enough that they seized the moment. During the course of the meeting, those elders really thought they were geniuses who were going to really teach this ex-bethelite a lesson on how things were to be done. But I listened very carefully and asked for clarification on certain strategic issues along the way. When they called me back in and told me their decision to remove me, I was greatly relieved since I had been trying to figure out a way to step down. But I didn't like the way that things had gone down, so I changed it all in a matter of days.
As soon as I left the meeting, I went and told my parents everything that happened. My parents were horrified, and I told them what I was going to do next:
One of the glaring problems was that the elders' didn't get their story straight. They claimed that my removal was an issue because "many of the friends" knew about the event and were "upset and stumbled". Yet when I asked who some of these were, so that I could clarify the issue and correct some of the rumors, the elders were like "oh, we can't give you names, but it was a lot of people that called us elders." Then at the end of the meeting, their story had changed to be, "nobody has to know about your 'wrongdoing' and you can get busy and be reappointed before long." I responded, "so most of them won't know the reason for my removal? They'll be left to speculate why I was removed? You realize that most elders in a situation like this would be removed for viewing hardcore porn or sex chat. Is that how this is supposed to play out?" The elders glossed it over with, "oh, the friends aren't like that. They wouldn't make up stories that would put you in a bad light like that."
Armed with that information, I told my parents that I had a scriptural obligation to go and make peace with whoever in the congregation might be holding this against me. It was more than reasonable to my parents that I should try to clarify what had happened. I invited them to talk about the incident to others as well. I made it clear, and gave the references to my dad, that it was my choice for this to not be "confidential". The elders book says that confidentiality in judicial matters was to protect the sinner. I didn't feel the need for such "protection", and would rather it was addressed "before all onlookers." I said that since this was supposedly an issue with "many of the friends" it wasn't confidential, and I choose for it not to be confidential from my vantage point. Certainly in biblical examples, when Paul "disfellowshipped" the immoral man, everything was disclosed publicly in Corithians. Also, in Ancient Israel under the Mosaic Law, every judicial matter was done at the public gate before anyone and everyone in the city. I wasn't ashamed of what I'd done, so I wasn't going to treat this as some "secret sin." I was throwing their "confidentiality" control away.
And it was strategic to tell this to my dad. Since he was an elder, he would be able to tell the elders what they were in for, since they had seriously under-estimated the size of my gonads.
Within the next couple of days, I had some strategic conversations with several of "the friends." These were ones that I knew had no issue with the event. I stuck with my rule 101 and kept my cool. But in the conversation, I could tell they they were all ready to blow a gasket at the notion that the other elders would remove me for something that was really nothing. And I told them that I wasn't viewing this as confidential and if they every heard of any other "friends" that were upset about the incident to please let me know so I could clarify. Of course, I really knew the 3-4 "friends" that were behind this, and I never approached them directly, because I knew they would deny their involvement.
Not a lot of conversation about the matter came up in front of me, but there was lots of debate behind the scene. It didn't go well for the reputations of the elders.
So that was what happened among "the friends" when I crumpled up their "confidentiality" control. But I certainly didn't stop there. Next:
During the inquisition, the elders said that if the public found out what I'd done, it would be a scandal and other publishers may get challenged at the door or by other nonJWs, bringing reproach on the congregation. Hmmm. Well, I was probably one of the best known local JWs in the community. My work had me in almost constant contact with nonJWs during the workday. So there was only one option for me. I told these "worldly" people exactly what had happened. I really hadn't talked religion to them much, but they knew how much I'd slaved for the religion. They were all horrified. One of the local doctors I spoke to asked, "Who can I call to get this straightened out? Why would they do something like that to you for something we don't care about at all?"
Of course, enough of this rippled back to "the friends" and the elders, that they were very uncomfortable with what the elders had done, not with what I'd done.
About a week after that kangaroo court, one of the moderate elders paid me a "friendly" visit at work to "encourage" me. Again, I kept my cool, but I'd practiced such a conversation enough times that he was left speechless.
When he tried to pursuade me to "just move on", it was easy for me to respond, "there wasn't such a 'let's just move on' attitude in the room with the BoE that night. Charges were leveled, accusations were made, and consequences were decided. I'd like to 'just move on', but I still have to end what was started in that room. What was said can't be unsaid, and I've been removed and will remain removed for at least 5 years."
He redirected with, "oh, it doesn't have to be as long as 5 years."
I responded, "you really don't think that I will ever choose to serve on this BoE again do you? If I've been removed once for something like this, I can only expect that I'd get removed again whenever someone dislikes something I say or do."
Another debate rule I have, is that I won't be the one to have to retreat and walk away from a conversation. So of course, he looked at his watch and had to leave "because of the time". He was so pale, I was afraid I'd have to be prepared to catch him if he had stayed any longer.
It took nearly a month before the letter came back from the branch, making it official that I was no longer an elder. I was in attendance when it was announced, and nobody showed any surprise since everyone knew what had happened. The late arrival of the letter made it interesting since the controversy was beginning to die down, only for the flames to reignite at the announcement. Respect for the elders was at an all-time low. And at this point, I didn't have to say anything more. Everyone else was doing the talking.
After that, the elders left me alone as much as they could. When the sub CO came, he tried to meet with me and give me a "pep talk", I listened politely and then we changed the subject and talked about their upcoming trip to an international convention. I'd already been on several and gave them some really good advice on scheduling and what sights to see.
The next CO came, I've told this story before, it went like this:
He was a really nice guy, single, about my age. He invited me to go out to lunch to talk. He chose a restaurant where there were no other JWs. I was expected a similar "pep talk", but that's not what I got. He had a lot of questions and observations for me. He asked me about my removal and I explained the situation. He groaned at how terribly they'd handled the case and told me that the BoE's documentation and letter to the branch made no sense. He asked me if there was anything Iwanted him to do to try to correct the matter. I explained that what was done, was done. And that I really didn't want to serve with the BoE.
He said, "I'm so glad that you don't want me to get involved. Dealing with the branch is very frustrating." He went on to explain how he's been a CO for a long time, but the branch has been giving him a hard time lately because he's been having some health problems. So he would rather not make any waves. Among other things, he said, "When I went to the school for travelling overseers at Patterson, it was all very depressing to me." I listened as he told me a lot of his inmost thoughts and feelings about a lot of things. We didn't talk about religious beliefs, but we talked about reality and life.
After listening to everything, he asked for my advice. I won't say exactly what I said. But within 6 months, he left the circuit work. And I hope he's doing well. He's the type of guy that was just too kind, good, and caring to be a CO. Nowadays, COs and DOs have to be egotistical, judgmental pricks in order to be in that business.
Before I moved, there was only one more time that two of the elders tried to meet with and encourage me. We were all so cautious about anything we said that the conversation went nowhere. The next to the last time the replacement CO came through, he didn't try to meet with me. Instead, he met with my dad and threatened to remove him since his son, me, wasn't active enough preaching and commenting. When Dad told me about the conversation, I just about lost my cool. What an incredible coward he was to threaten an elderly man rather than talk to me. Again, this got back to the elders and when the CO came through the last time before I moved, the decision was to completely drop the entire matter because I was going to be moving away soon.
In my case, the situation was such that I was able to control the "confidentiality" and had the upper hand. And I've revealed enough that they would be very cautious about making any waves with me. I imagine that Dad has told them enough about one of our conversations that they are happy to stay away:
Toward the end of a rather non-controversial conversation with Dad, he said, "well, I just don't want you to get disfellowshipped so that contact would be disrupted."
I said, "Well, if they would decide to disfellowship me because of my "apostate, yet true" statements, they would have to realize that it won't go easily for them. Instead, during the week before the announcement, I'd make my own public announcement that I'm disfellowshipping them for obeying men instead of obeying God. I'd explain the situation to any of my JW friends and family that would listen to me. AND I will explain the situation to all our nonJW family and friends, so that they will understand why my JW family and friends are shunning me."
Of course, it doesn't work for the local BoE to try to tell nonJWs that they aren't allowed to read letters from, or have contact with "apostates" like I would be.
And I also made it clear to my parents that I would never shun them, no matter what transpired. And that's a topic for another thread.
What the future will bring for me, I don't know. But for now, the BoE in my old congregation is more than happy to leave me to enjoy a relatively peaceful fade.
Does anybody else have any "encouraging experiences" with throwing the "confidentiality crap" back at the elders?