submitted by ohmyjw
JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES IN POLAND
05-830 Nadarzyn, ul. Warszawska 14 • tel. +48 22 739 16 00 • fax +48 22 739 17 00
October 15, 2015
TO ALL BODIES OF ELDERS IN POLAND
Re: Charter of "Jehovah's Witnesses in Poland" association
We're glad to give you additional details about the May 21th, 2014 letter to all congregations regarding change of our legal name to "Jehovah's Witnesses in Poland" [polish: Świadkowie Jehowy w Polsce] (thereafter called "Religious Order"). A copy of current edition of the Charter is attached to this letter. Because this document is used for administration and legal matters, we'd like to inform you about some of its points and their consequences.
- Reason for changing the charter. Governing Body advised the Branch Committee to revise the charter of our legal body and to make necessary changes. These changes were made because, according to polish law, religious organization can be registered as a religious order, and not only as a legal person. This means that all Jehovah's Witnesses who belong to congregations in Poland are now legal members of the Religious Order. In short, the purpose of Religious Order's Charter is to mirror — with means and on terms defined in polish law — organization structure of Jehovah's Witnesses as described in Organized To Do Jehovah's Will book and other publications prepared by the Governing Body. It is very important that elders know current Governing Body guidelines and scrupulously apply them. Otherwise it may lead to negative legal consequences for them, and also for the local Kingdom work.
- Membership. Every properly baptized Jehovah's Witness belonging to one of the congregations in Republic of Poland [polish: Rzeczpospolita Polska] is a member of the Religious Order (par. 73 of the Charter). It doesn't change in any way the position of congregation publishers or our theocratic order. For example, how judicial matters are handles is described in Organized book, Watchtower magazines and other publications that are available to all congregation members.
- Legal situation of elders. According to biblical standards Jehovah's Witnesses do not have paid clergy class. However legal system treat a special way individuals, that are responsible for spiritual care and organization of religious life in a community. It was described in chapter 6 of the Charter. Elders can make use of privileges of so called Seal of the Confessional (or: confidential religious communication privilege) [polish: tajemnica spowiedzi], because according to the Charter the elders are hold a clerical position in the congregation. That also means that elder actions can lead to legal consequences against the Branch Office. We're certain you will pay attention to rulings in par. 54 and 80 of the Charter, regarding confidentiality. It's very important that elders apply guidelines sent to all bodies of elders in November 6th, 2014 letter regarding procedures when legal issues are involved. In paragraphs 5 through 12 the importance of confidentiality and not divulging confidential information to persons who are not authorized to receive it was highlighted. Should any questions on that matter arise, elders should apply guidelines laid out in that letter.
- Non-profit character of our work. The Religious Order is a non-profit organization and funded entirely by voluntary contributions. According to par. 6 of the Charter the purpose of Religious Order is to give a witness about the name, word and authority of the Almighty God JEHOVAH, and to preach the good news about God's Kingdom under the ruling of Jesus Christ (Psalms 83:18; Isaiah 43:10-12; Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20). Although funds to carry this work are required, the Religious Order nor any of its organizational units do not collect any fees for membership and are not involved in any commercial activity. Also, as stated in par. 84 of the Charter, all belongings of the Religious Order can be used exclusively to realize the Order's purpose as laid in the Charter. Therefore no one can make profits from the activity of the Religious Order.
- Representing congregations legally. As stated in par. 4 of the Charter, the Religious Order is a legal body only when considered as a whole. It means that all organizational units — including all congregations — are legally represented by the Brach Committee of the Religious Order, or by persons appointed and authorized by the Brach Committee of the Religious Order to represent it in individual matters (par. 12, 17-19 and 33 of the Charter)
- Ownership of real estate. The Religious Order is the legal owner (bearing the title of ownership) of all real estate used by the congregations and circuits. Acquiring or disposing of any real estate requires a resolution made by the Brach Committee of the Religious Order. There is no need for the congregations to gather money or take a loan from Branch Office, because it is the Local Design and Construction Department who is responsible for all the planning and construction work. We'd like to remind you though, that Branch Office depends on the elders to a great extent, who are responsible for day-to-day usage and maintenance of these buildings so they meet our current guidelines. That includes keeping the Kingdom Hall and it's surroundings clean, and caring for safety — especially in challenging weather conditions. Elders will do what's in their power to prevent any accidents on the Kingdom Hall. Congregations should use the Kingdom Halls only for organizing christian meeting and purposes related to them, that are approved by the Branch Office. It is prohibited to use the real estate by anyone else or in any other way, especially for commercial purposes.
- Accounting. Congregations are units of the Religious Order, therefore it is required that the financial book-keeping of the congregation is done in a proper way. It has to be made sure that all purchases done by the congregations are done in a proper way and documented by invoices, especially for the purposes of an external audit. Payments should be made from congregation's bank account. It is not allowed to make any purchases of goods or services outside of Poland (including European Union countries) without approval of Local Design and Construction Department, because it will require to make a tax declaration. If a congregation needs to make use of services or purchase materials from a natural person who is not a VAT tax payer, please consult Accounting Desk first, to make sure that there's no need to make a tax declaration.
We hope that you will find this information helpful. There is no need to discuss contents of this letter during the meetings. However should any published ask you about the full copy of the Charter, you can share it to them. Additionally you can inform the publisher, that the matters contained in the Charter were already published in our publications.
- Protection of personal data. Elders as men appointed to a clerical position are obligated to comply with personal data protection laws. Elders are responsible for safe storage of congregation records, which should be kept up to date. We urge you to recall current guidelines from the Branch Office and apply them rigorously. Should you receive any questions or complaints regarding personal data protection, contact the Legal Desk of the Branch Office immediately. Remember, that failure to do so can lead to legal consequences against the elders, as well as the Branch Office.
Please accept our warm love and brotherly affection.
Jehovah's Witnesses in Poland
Attachment: Charter of the religious order of "Jehovah's Witnesses in Poland"
cc: circuit overseers