Rule by committee

by Euphemism 8 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • Euphemism

    Proplog recently started a thread about the scriptural basis for having a committee lead a congregation, rather than one man. Putting that question aside for a moment, however, I just wanted to talk about the practical realities of organization.

    For many, the change from congregation servants to the elder arrangement was welcome. It avoided the situation of local 'petty dictators' having absolute control over a congregation.

    On the other hand, it also had its downsides. Young and/or unqualified men are often given excessive authority as elders. And necessary matters can often get tied up in politics or wrangling on a committee.

    A similar paradox is also evident at the organization-wide level. The change from control by a President to a Governing Body eliminated the ridiculous situation whereby one man's personal whims became binding law on the entire organization. It also, however, reduced accountability, and made long-term change and reform more difficult.

    I was pondering this problem, and I realized that it's one that most organizations--including churches--solved a long time ago.

    Corporations generally have a CEO who has broad authority to run the company. However, he has to report to the Board of Directors, and can be removed by them. Churches only have one lead Pastor; but--depending on the denomination--they usually have an elected body of elders, wardens, or trustees, to whom the Pastor has to respond.

    Unfortunately, the idea of checks and balances is totally foreign to the Witness hierchical mentality, so I doubt that anything like that will happen anytime soon among the Witnesses. But I think that it's the only way out of their current organizational stultification.

  • kgfreeperson

    Well, as we have been brutally reminded recently, the corporate system of checks and balances is more easily corruptible than we would like to think! But, I would agree that the lack of accountability for the consequences of their decisions/actions that makes the Watchtower and JWs increasingly dysfunctional.

  • Scully

    Oddly enough, I sometimes wonder whether many R&F JWs embrace the elder arrangement as it now stands, thinking that this lends credibility to the idea that elders are (supposedly) Spirit Directed™, Spirit Appointed™, etc.

    For there to be a system of checks and balances in place - to the mind of the average JW - it means that the system is man-made rather than Theocratic™ in nature. They may see obvious flaws in an elder or in an entire body of elders, but they believe - like Achan who stole treasure that was dedicated to destruction and buried it in his tent - that Jehovah will actually root out the bad guys. They believe that this is God's Organization™ and that introducing a man-made system of checks and balances would "cheapen" the Organization™.

    Love, Scully

  • onacruse

    Actually, for almost 60 years WTS congregations ('ecclesias,' and then 'companies') elected their own elders, and disfellowshippings were also done by general congregational hearing and vote of every member. Rutherford didn't like the autonomy that, he didn't like it one bit at all. So he "replaced" the locally selected elders with Brooklyn-appointed cronies, who had for some years been strategically assigned to the larger congregations; they had no official 'elder' capacity unless otherwise granted such by the congregation (they were called 'service directors'). In 1938 Rutherford announced that there was no such thing as a Biblical elder in any official sense, but only in the sense of being 'spiritually mature.' He therefore dissolved the elder bodies, and replaced them with a committee of 3 men, led by the former service director (who became known as the company servant' and later 'congregation servant.')

    The 'new light' about elders and switch back to a 'body of elders' in the early 70s was just another example of WTS flip-flop. Of course, one thing they didn't revert: the local congregation can still only make a recommendation; Brooklyn still calls the shots, which is what Rutherford wanted all along.


    PS: There's some interesting info about this in Counsel on Theocratic Organization for Jehovah's Witnesses (1949). I was given a copy for possible inclusion on a general distribution CD. Hopefully it will be available soon.

  • Euphemism

    Scully, I think you're right.

    I was thinking, however, that the 'checks and balances' needn't even go so far as to be elected. It could still be "theocratically" appointed. The GB could choose one individual to serve as organization-wide president, and then they could move into the background, more of a 'board of directors' role. (That is to say, an active board of directors, not the puppet that existed under Rutherford and Knorr.)

    Similarily, at the congregational level, there could be a return to the old servant system as a way of actually assigning congregational duties; but there would also be a body of elders, who didn't handle the day-to-day responsibilities, but provided a backbone in case of disputes, major decisions, etc, and would serve as a counterweight to the authority of the Congregation Servant. They would still be "theocratically" appointed, however.

    I think that the fundamental problems with the JWs run much deeper than their organizational structure, of course. And there would still be politics and infighting, that's simply inevitable in any organization. But I think it would be a way of trying to combine the strengths of the committee and executive systems.

    And Ona... that sounds interesting!

  • stillajwexelder

    The checks and balances system would work if all men on bodies of elders and esp the governing body were not wimps -- now I know they removed Ray Franz -but he was not a YES man -- so if the GB were not wimps they could and should remove Jaracz -- but it will not happen becasue the yare all yes men -- like on most elder bodies

  • mizpah

    It was my experience in the organization that it mattered little if one or more were appointed for oversight. When the elder arrangement was initiated, most "congregation servants" made sure their own men got in. These, being grateful for the appointment, allowed him to take the leadership and often recommended him as the "presiding overseer."

    It is only by attrition that changes are made. These presiding overseers get old and die. But usually the same spirit remains. The elders like the status quo of their positions. And usually they will recommend a presiding overseer that will keep it that way. That is why there has been little that has changed in the congregations in spite of the "elder arrangement."

  • little witch
    little witch

    The "theocratic arrangement" is still a tempest in a teapot.

    They have no authority to act with rightousness, or mercy.

    Let's suppose there are three genuinly good fellows, who are elders, conducting a judicial committee.

    These three elders know this victim, I mean, subject, better than does the GB.

    Do the elders consider this subjects background, personality, and motives? Do they act out of concern

    for this persons well being? No. They use the watchtowers propoganda to follow company policy.

    It is all black and white, follow command, regardless of the circumstances.

    It is all workable on paper, assuming everyone follows their rules.

    Alas, even the most devoted followers have an amount of self-worth, and self-preservation. (The GB know this, and thus label it ''independant thinking'' and "apostate".

    Personally, I feel this is the reason for their decline in numbers.

    As more and more people become concerned about basic human rights, these fundamentalist groups will continue to decline.

    Interesting post, and subject, BTW.

  • Pepper

    Basicly it called "Rule By Idoits," humans want so much to be told what to do and how to fart when it come to worship it just makes me sick. At lest when you go to most main line religions the ministers there have taken some sort of higher education, where as the Elder don't know shit other than what they are forced to only concider from the WT. How stupid to put so dam much trust in a bunch of clowns like that. Pepper

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