This is an older letter I wrote to the GB in October last year in regards to their policy around shunning of dissociated ones.
The letter doesn't focus on the disfellowshiped, but am in the process right now of writing to them regarding their recent watchtower on shunning disfellowshipped relatives.
The letter I wrote back in October rambles on a bit, but wanted to express my frustration to the Governing Body about their very unfair policy toward those who simply choose to leave.
The Governing Body
Service department of Jehovah’s Witnesses
2821 Route 22
5 Oct 2015
Over the coming years, I will be writing to you about various issues on teachings and rules that I (and many others) believe needs to be reviewed.
I do hope and pray, you at least read what I have to say and take my thoughts into consideration. I truly believe that you as captains of a very large ship ‘can’ steer her on the right course. This will involve going through some stormy sea’s ahead, but essential it needs to be done.
I know that it will be hard for you as a group to make changes, particularly to particular teachings you strongly feel are correct, but change you must. You probably receive thousands of letters like mine, but please at least read, reflect, and look upon such letters as constructive feedback that will help the organisation move forward in a much more positive way; a way that will allow millions and millions more people to look upon us as ‘the way’, to true Christianity; not a high control religion or cult.
This letter is in regard to your policy on shunning. I realise there are grounds for ‘limiting our association’ as mentioned in the scriptures, such as those who practice serious sin mentioned in 1 Corinthians 5:9-13. In regards to disassociation (effectively meaning someone who officially chooses to give up their membership as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses) the current policy is that they are to be treated as disfellowshipped– therefore they are also to be shunned!
In one of your questions from readers within the WT library, Someone asked the following question - ‘Once a person becomes one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, is he always counted as such’?
Part of the answer given was: ‘in John 6:66, occasionally a Witness on his own initiative will decide to leave the way of truth. He may even make known his decision after the committee begins to look into his wrongdoing. He may inform them in writing, or state before witnesses, that he wants to disassociate himself from the congregation and not be known as a Witness. Then it will no longer be necessary for the elders to continue their investigation. However, the elders would then make a brief announcement of his disassociation so that the congregation will know that he “went out from us.” (1 John 2:19) They then will adhere to the inspired injunction ‘not to receive such a one into their homes or say a greeting to him, so as not to become sharers in his wicked works.’—2 John 10, 11.’
You will notice in the above paragraph that it is implied that the person referred to here in a general sense has been involved in some wrong doing. That may be so in some cases. But what it doesn’t say is that a person may have committed absolutely no wrong doing whatsoever other than decide to relinquish their membership – yet they are still to be shunned!
You will notice that 2 John 10, 11 is mentioned. The answer above explains that ‘he went out from us’ (or interpreted as ‘he left the truth’) which therefore is the reason for the person to be shunned. However brothers, if you open your bible and read that entire chapter to get the full context, you will find it is talking about people who outwardly denied that Jesus came in the flesh. They denied Jesus Christ despite all the proof given such as the miracles both he and the disciples performed etc. Effectively, their denial of Jesus made them ‘anti Christs’. That was why Christians were to have nothing to do with them. These were people who at first became Christians, believing that the messiah came, but then turned their back on Jesus by denying him completely. But surely as mentioned in the questions from readers, this is applied to ‘a Witness who on his own initiative will decide to leave the way of truth’.
Brothers - it is estimated that there is somewhere in the region of 44000 (forty four thousand) denominations/faith groups/organisations claiming to be Christian AND having the TRUTH! Of course many of these are small back water churches in the middle of the nowhere all around the earth! But there are also some very large organisations every bit as big as our organisation, if not bigger, who claim to have ‘the truth’! These people don’t deny that Christ came in the flesh…in fact they advocate it to a higher or lesser degree.
Before I go any further off on a tangent, why am I saying all this? Well firstly as I said, I agree with what is written regarding those committing gross sin and fully act upon this even if someone is or is not ‘disfellowshipped’. A prime example of this was a brother in another hall, who openly committed adultery, AND is currently living with another woman which everyone is well aware off. He has not been disfellowshipped, most likely, because the elders are unable to contact him and the fact he has not been to meetings for years. So in affect if he happens to be walking down the street in my home town, any Jehovah’s witness from the congregation can stop and have a chat with him – because IN YOUR RULE BOOK - officially he is not disfellowshipped.
But keep in mind what is said at 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 ‘But now I am writing YOU to quit mixing in company with anyone called a brother that is a fornicator or a greedy person or an idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner, not even eating with such a man’. As far as I am concerned, my rule book is Gods word. Therefore I am following scripture to avoid association with this man (called a brother) regardless of whether he has been disfellowshipped or not by the congregation because that is proper and right.
By the way, this exact same situation has happened before within another Congregation which I am also aware off, as are all the witnesses in that Congregation. Fair enough, if they can’t get in touch with the individuals, that’s understandable, but if strong evidence is provided that
these individuals are blatantly seriously sinning, then the congregation should be informed to limit association with such ones.
Where I and thousands of others have a huge issue is why we are to shun individuals who decide they wish to relinquish their membership as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. For example if a person grew up in the witness faith like my own child for instance, but then got to an age where they no longer felt a desire to be a witness, perhaps they are going through a bad patch or they have mental health issues, or they are still youthful and never made the truth their own and so forth; let’s say they just didn’t feel it was for them at that point in their life. Yet, not only are all members of the Congregation instructed to shun that individual, also their own relatives (who are Jehovah’s Witnesses) are to limit their association with him or her. So these ones are to be shunned (cut off) by the Congregation, as if they have committed a very serious sin. That brother’s is the part I can’t get my head around.
The reason I say this is because when I resigned from the Catholic Church some decades ago, it never crossed my mind I would ever be shunned by my Catholic relatives, simply because that was never an issue. Thankfully the Catholic Church doesn’t have such a policy. I didn’t even get burned at the stake for heresy! I also recall the time my mother told me how her own mother (my grandmother) sent my mother a letter saying that she disowned her as her daughter when she told her she was leaving the Catholic Church. For a time that was my grandmothers personal view of things – NOT Catholic policy thank God. At that time, my mother was deeply and emotionally hurt, very down hearted about it; only she will know how she felt at that time in he sacrifice to become a Jehovah’s Witness. Thankfully, she slowly built her relationship with my Grandmother again and life carried on as normal, which is the way it should be. So you can see how rejection can affect a person’s emotional wellbeing. Imagine how it would feel for those with depression!
I only found out about this policy several years after I became a Witness and even then it didn’t really sink in until about 5 years ago. At no point during my studies was I informed that if I freely decided in the future to resign as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses that I would be shunned by the entire Congregation AND to a degree even relatives who are Jehovah Witnesses.
I was never informed of this. None of us are. I strongly feel that people should be informed as it seems really unfair to do all we can to help someone commit themselves as a Jehovah’s witness, but then afterwards learn that if they simply felt it wasn’t for them as per the reasons I gave earlier, they are not allowed to leave ‘freely/officially’ for fear of shunning.
As it currently stands, because this policy is in place, I strongly feel that the people we are studying with should be fully informed of what their baptism vow means – warts and all (though obviously said with tact). The other unfortunate thing about having this policy means that there is now absolutely no way I will be allowing my child to get baptised until she is of a mature age (at least 18). I have already told my wife that our daughter is not to be baptized until she over 18. Given her sensitive nature and potential low self esteem she will face in life due to a certain condition she has, it worries me considerably to think that all her Jehovah witness friends/family could potentially one day, shun her if ever she found herself in such a situation in the future.
I would love for my daughter to be baptized sooner as a Christian to be honest. But your policy on shunning is putting us off encouraging her to do so! Just think about it. Supposing the following scenario were to happen in the future. She is adamant she wants to get baptised at 15, not really understanding fully the significance of her baptism and then let’s say she moves away at age 20. We then receive a letter from her expressing that she no longer wants to be a witness as ‘it wasn’t for her, but maybe in the future she might come back’. She then explains that she had already handed in her resignation letter to the elders. She would then have to be shunned by the entire Congregation and her association with many of her relatives would be curtailed to a higher or lower degree depending on the conscience of her witness relatives. And as you know, some witnesses are truly rigid in following all YOUR rules.
It doesn’t matter if you are a pimply teen or a 90 year old great grandmother or a person with mental health issues. This is YOUR policy. A disassociated one is to be treated exactly the same as someone who is disfellowshipped - cut off from the congregation - though as mentioned, it is up to close family members immediately related as to how far they limit their association or care for that relative depending on circumstances (September 15, 1981, issue of The Watchtower, pages 26-31.). Note: I learned that this policy only came into force after this watchtower came out in 1981. Before that, people were treated as normal by the congregation if they chose to leave officially. They were not shunned!
When someone chooses to resign as a Jehovah’s witness (just as I did with the Catholic church), the door is proverbially firmly slammed shut behind you. You are out in the cold. Having the door slammed completely shut behind you will have what affect on an individual? Will such fear and treatment help to draw them back? Or could it have the opposite affect and push them away further, even make them feel bitter about it. Supposing the door was left open… ie people continued to treat the person in a loving kind way – not that they would discuss spiritual things with them and vice versa; surely that would be the key to drawing such ones back. Christian love is what attracts people to Christianity. Let’s say a year goes by and a disassociated one decided they want to return to the meetings, surely such ones should be welcomed back with open arms like the prodigal son was treated by everyone. Yet that isn’t the case. Hoops have to be jumped through beforehand. They would have to spend several months at the back of the kingdom hall being shunned until the elders feel they are ready to reinstate the individual. I have to ask, would Jesus do that? Think about it.
However, in saying the above, if the person was clearly an out and out troublemaker and was doing everything in their power to say horrible nasty things against the Jehovah’s Witness’s religion, in that case I would certainly give such a person a wide berth as very clearly, they deserve to be avoided. I wouldn’t have anything to do with them in that case. But that is the difference! People can discern clearly between an out and out trouble maker and an individual who chooses to leave for very private personal reasons. People know who should be avoided, just as I know it is proper and right to avoid the person mentioned earlier who is very clearly sinning by committing adultery at this very moment in time.
So the reason I am writing to you brothers is that in view of the above, I would ask that you use your discernment in regards to what I have mentioned above about shunning, particularly when it comes to family. Your own bible based conscience will help you decide was is right and proper toward those who simply choose to leave the organisation. I plead with you, do as Jesus says and budge your finger by removing this captive rule in regards to disassociated ones. Christian love is what draws people back – not harsh rules.
Thank you for reading my letter
Bro J M