Crossing the Elders
Few things draw my interest as much as people on this board who talk about the elders, the insidious little toadies who lurk around Kingdom Halls, the proverbial big fish in little ponds. It amazes me the terror and the veneration they inspire, as well as the occasional ridicule.
It makes me wonder how they're selected and whether most of them come into the position with a sense of power, entitlement, authority and control, or whether many of them are pretty nice people and that I'm just hearing about the bad apples? From what I gather, they can counsel you regarding your personal life, scripture and its application, but that it would be improper to treat them as equals in the congregation. In other words, they can give you counsel on how to dress, groom yourself, the type of after shave to use, what to read, think and so forth, even how to interpret scripture and the articles in the WATCHTOWER, but it would not be proper to give them counsel in the same areas, right?
What happens if you're friends with a guy and he's appointed an elder? Is he ordained? How does your relationship change, if at all? And who do they report to? I've seen the organizational chart and its difficult to figure out. What if you're of the anointed class? Aren't you technically part of the Faithful and Discreet Slave (of which the GB is a part)? In other words, can elders still counsel the anointed class? How does that work?
Finally, do you call these elders "brother" or do you use their title?
I served as an Elder for many years in a number of congregations so I can answer your questions (from my own experience anyway).
I accepted the position with a genuine desire to teach, help, and care for others. I've worked with many other humble elders who worked hard to do the same without any sense of entitlement, control or power. However I also worked with some others who did act as masters over others and enjoyed a sense of "control" over people. And some who were very bad apples. So I guess its a mixed bag, though in my experience there were more of the former than the latter.
Elders are certainly not above or immune to counsel, only they usually would receive counsel from fellow elders. Though I was certainly on occasions "counselled" (and accepted the counsel) by rank and file members (including sisters).
My relationships with friends did not on the whole change when I was appointed, though some who are not close friends certainly look at you or treat you a bit differently. Some show more respect, others just hate all elders (perhaps because of a bad experience with the bad eggs) so they treated you worse!
Elders report to each other and to the branch office (usually via the Circuit Overseer, but sometimes via direct letter). An anointed member, if they were a sister or a non-appointed brother, would still be subject tot he authority of the Elders.
The anointed ones are no longer members of the F&DS - this was a recent change of doctrine (in 2013 I think), only the GB are now the F&DS.
Elders are called "Brother" not "Elder so and so". Elder is not used as a title... well not in the sense of a descriptive title when referring to an individual. It IS a title describing the position.
Hope that helps?
I second that, adding that in congregations where a domineering personality happens to be appointed, it can be a sick congregation.
Elders do not wear badges, proclaiming their status, as is tradition among the youthful LDS (Mormon) workers.
From what I gather, they can counsel you regarding your personal life, scripture and its application, but that it would be improper to treat them as equals in the congregation. In other words, they can give you counsel on how to dress, groom yourself, the type of after shave to use, what to read, think and so forth, even how to interpret scripture and the articles in the WATCHTOWER, but it would not be proper to give them counsel in the same areas, right?
That is how my father felt, he was an elder.
I found them all the same, I would not say there were good ones and bad ones. In my experience, they supported each other as they were a body of elders, I understood.
If they are truly humble, they will listen to others' thoughts. They present themselves to the congregation as being good examples, so if they are high and mighty, there will be something amuck with the rest of the congregation who are constantly reminded to "imitate their faith."
A visiting CO had an illustration in one of his talks that struck me as highly insensitive. I pictured him traveling from one congregation to another hurting the feelings of a certain type of person, so I approached him about it.(little congregation publisher, me) Otherwise it was a really good talk and he was a little defensive about it but he said he would think about it. The next time he came around he said that he had removed that point from his outline. I still love that guy and if there had been more like him I might still be in there myself.
Unfortunately, it has become a status thing. A power thing much more than a service thing. I refuse to speak with them any differently than I would speak to somebody else, excepting some "subject matter" that could get me canned.
Elder is the "highest" status most male JWs will ever attain. The group in congregations is artificially kept small (5-7) and they become the main "decision makers" as much as they can make decisions in a congregation so it is a status symbol and for many also a power trip. All they're really allowed to do is schedule some things, they have little to no appointment powers, that's the Circuit Overseer and Branch job, they can make recommendations.
They're like the middle management in a company, not quite the VP or C-level executive, think of Dwight Schrute, Assistant
to theRegional Manager.
Abusive and power hungry elders are not in the majority. Most are sincere believers who are put on to do far more than is reasonably possible.
Combining work family life and congregation duties is a ridiculous burden for most. Every congregation has its fair share of whingers who expect elders to be at their beck and call to sort out all their personal problems. The branch make unreasonable demands on elders. Elder's wives and children pay the price.
A minority are guilty of abusing their power.
From all my years as a JW and having met literally hundreds of elders, i can only think of two that i absolutely trusted. Knowing that they share information and are required to report to the CO made me think twice before telling them anything. I certainly never viewed them as more knowledgeable in the scriptures than anyone else.
My mother on the other hand regards elders as "stars in the hand of Jesus Christ" and treats them like royalty. I've dated two girls who's fathers were elders and my mum would go round telling all her friends in the congregation that my girlfriends father is an elder in such and such congregation.
Although it does not negate the fact that the Tower is full of shit to its gills, I have seen a few Elders who seemed to genuinely care. But I have also seen this to be the minority. I have seen many more who are just asshats who have made nothing of their life and because they get the blue hairs golf clapping at their scripted speech on Sunday or Thursday night they feel like they have made it. Its also an appeal to popularity. They must be great because all these dumb asses think so. Which is the real reason the society has assemblies. When dumb people see 20 thousand people all singing the same lame song it must be true. This many people could not be fooled. I have had many elders who were determined to DF me. Showing up at my door thinking how slick they were trying to get me to say that the dubbers were not gods org on earth. I would never make a statement only ask questions or say I have read this or that. They finally asked me if I did not believe why do I care? I said I never said I do or do not believe, I just have questions and that is supposed to still be OK, and if they wanted me DFed they could do the work and get it, but I was not going to hand them the rope. Mostly because they feel vindicated when you are DFed. If you can stay in "good standing " and be a apostate in their eyes it destroys the whole God keeps his org clean.
cofty3 hours ago3 hours ago4 hours agoAbusive and power hungry elders are not in the majority. Most are sincere believers who are put on to do far more than is reasonably possible.
A minority are guilty of abusing their power.
My opinion of them is exactly the opposite, only a very few of them know how to use wisely the power given to them.