My parents started attending the Glendora Congregation in 1961. My mother had a strange feeling about the congregation. There was something going on there that just didn’t feel right. There was a huge exodus going on of people leaving this congregation’s Kingdom Hall too. So my parents (probably mostly my mom) decided to go to the Azusa Kingdom Hall instead. The funny thing is, we lived about a hundred yards from the Azusa congregation’s territory line.
Mom requested her publisher record cards to turn in to her new Kingdom Hall. In those days, you had to go to the Bible Study overseer to get your record cards. These cards reported all your field service active and any other information a new congregation might need to know about you. They like to keep close tabs on everyone.
They don’t give these cards to the publishers themselves any more. Now, they mail them to your new congregation. The reasons is that people would get their cards and throw them away and stop being Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Society wants to know if you quit nowadays. Why is that? The only reason I can think of is so they can punish you. They want to be able tell everyone that a certain brother or sister so is no longer a Jehovah’s Witness. That way, they can make sure everyone knows when you leave. No fading allowed. Let the shunning begin!
Something strange happened when Mom requested the cards. Instead of Mom getting the cards, the Brothers in charge said they wanted to meet with my parents. Back in the 1960s, there were three Brothers in charge of the congregation: the overseer, the assistant overseer, and the theocratic ministry overseer or the Bible study overseer.
At the meeting the three Brothers requested my parents to stay and not leave the Glendora congregation. In essence, they needed to stop the exodus out of the Glendora Kingdom Hall. Since my family was well known in the hall, they chose us to make an example of. There really was no rule about going to a congregation outside your territory, so my parents held their ground.
My parents ended up writing a letter to the Brooklyn Bethel, the headquarters of the organization, to complain about these overseers. My parents didn’t know it at the time, but the letter that they wrote was not confidential. The headquarters forwards all letters to your overseers or Elders. So these overseers got really mad. There were more meetings and more yelling. At one point, they called my father “a monkey on a string.” I’m not sure what that means. Whatever it meant, my dad didn’t like it and let them have it. I heard there was a lot of yelling and name calling that went on in those meetings.
All my parents wanted to do was go to a different Kingdom Hall. It ended up with my mother being “publicly reproved” and my father was “dis-fellowshipped for slander and rebelliousness against the organization.” They said they would have dis-fellowshipped my mother too but she had a bad heart and the shock might kill her. They were right, it would have killed her.
For many years when you got dis-fellowshipped or publicly reproved , the presiding overseer would announce your expulsion/reproof and they would announce the sin you committed to justify this action to the whole congregation.
“Brother Jones has been dis-fellowshipped for immorality!”
“Sister Smith has been publicly reproved for gossiping and drunkenness.”
The Society stopped doing that years ago. Why? Because they thought it was a cruel and unloving thing to do? No. That’s not the case. I’m sure they would still love to do it that way. They stopped announcing the nature of the sin because they were being sued for defamation of character and losing these court cases.
I’m guessing my father could have done some activity that might have deserved this kind of punishment. So maybe on some level he did get justice. On the other hand, my mother was the perfect Jehovah’s Witnesses follower and what they did to her stabbed her to the heart.
This treatment by the Witnesses totally destroyed our family. My father blamed my mother and her religion for his public humiliation. My mother was in total shock and disbelief that there could be such an injustice in Jehovah’s loving organization.
My father ran a crew of about thirty men on a construction site. One day he overheard one of his men tell another. “You know Marty got kicked out of his church. What kind of terrible thing do you do to get kicked out of a church? Have sex with farm animals?” My father had a lot of pride, so this cut him to the core.
My father stop going to most of the meetings. He didn’t need any more humiliation. My mother was a diehard. She was never going to give up. She was more diligent than ever. Are whole family was of course shunned. So we got the looks at the Kingdom Hall and the whispering behind our backs. She never flinched.
We ended up going to the Azusa congregation anyway. Why not? We had paid the price for wanting to go there already. Six months of faithful meeting attendance in her new congregation and her “public reproof” was lifted. My mother was “in good standing” again. True she was forgiven, but do you really think people in a small congregation really forget stuff like that?
My parents went to the circuit overseer to straighten this problem out. He was on his last trip through his circuit and didn’t want to get involved. The next circuit overseer wasn’t much better. Since these three “Brothers” were appointed by the Society and thus were considered appointed God himself, they were untouchable.
Since my father was still dis-fellowshipped, in 1964, my parents flew back New York City to the world headquarters of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. My parents wanted to plead their case to the big boys. They talked to Harley Miller in the service department. After hearing their story, he set up a special committee to retry their case. Finally after four years, the matter was reopened. My parents were not just reinstated they were exonerated. It didn’t matter anymore for my father. He would never be an active Jehovah’s Witness again. He would lead my mother on by going to the meetings now and then and of course the Memorial/Passover every year. He was done. He would never let them hurt him that way ever again. He told me years later, “If that is what they call love, I’ll go somewhere else.” I thought my father was stupid and foolish back then and I didn’t believe him. Later, I saw at Bethel how right he was.
What happened to the three overseers who did this to my parents? Nothing happened to them. Oh guess what? They all left the religion years later also.
According to the Society, all Elders and servants are appointed directly by God’s Holy Spirit. So I guess it was God who made the real mistake here, not these guys. Of course, whenever things like this happen in the organization, the Witnesses will be the first to tell you “we are all imperfect.” Yet, why are you telling your people that God appoints your leaders?
Just another catch 22 in action.
Bottom line: Even though our family did nothing wrong, we were all still shunned by the Witnesses. So shunning is not just reserved for wrongdoers. Anyone in good standing or not, can experience this unique Jehovah’s Witnesses punishment.