Thanks, TJKMO! In fact, I believe I did find that Question Box before, but again Im confused. When I refer to the OM book (1983) page 170, it makes no reference whatsoever to such a policy. Was this a previous edition of the OM book?
The question of confession was actually the flashpoint that has assisted in my awakening about this organization. It all began when I was serving as chairman of an expanded 5-member Judicial Committee, hearing the case of a fellow elder whod been charged with pedophilia. Of course I now recognize that those accused of this crime often refuse to confess, but at the time I was troubled by it. I asked the committee to consider all the possible reasons why he wouldnt confess other than that he simply didnt want to face the music. The possibility occurred to me that this man didnt believe he had to confess to men, having perhaps already confessed to Jehovah. I decided to do the research needed to demonstrate that it was an obligation and thus to restore my brother.
Problem: I simply couldnt find the scriptural support for such a teaching. No matter how many times I read James 5:14-16, I just couldnt see it as describing the situation existing in JW congregations in which a person sinning was obligated to go to the elders. It seemed merely to be describing the way a person who was suffering could receive help and encouragement from others. The presumed response from a Pharisaical elder might be?
Oh yes, we ARE going to help you! Just come to us and we will refresh you! We will build you up! Yes, its true that we will do so by pulling out legal pads, recording your every word, subjecting your sorry, wicked ass to an onslaught of prying questions, consulting our secret, legalistic Elder Book, and of course unless you reverently kowtow to us we will nail you quicker than you can say Fred Franz. But demonizing you and having you shunned by your whole family and the entire community of friends you have known since birth might just be the refreshment you need!
Okay, so what are all the other scriptures that suggest such a policy? What? They dont exist? Wait a minute! I remember very clearly my own mother telling me when I was seventeen that Unless you confess to the elders, Jehovah wont forgive you. Wow! Phantom Memory! You know what else I recall about my mothers saying that to me? That when she was talking to me she was looking me straight in the eye, but when she uttered the above comment, she looked away and down for several seconds. Oh my gosh! Is it possible that Mom herself was uncomfortable about this Watchtower policy on confession?
All right, now what? So I go to the WTS? publications. Im a loyal subject, putting full faith in this organization as being the sole channel of communication from Almighty God. Lets see what they say on the subject. Why not start with the book that JWs refer to more than any other: Reasoning from the Scriptures. Most of us even have it bound together with our Bibles. Under Confession if soundly lambastes the Catholic church for its policy of confession and absolution.
a person sins against God
Matt. 6:6-12: When you pray, go into your private room and, after shutting your door, pray to your Father who is in secret . . . Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified . . . and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
Ps. 32:5: My sin I finally confessed to you [God], and my error I did not cover. I said: I shall make confession over my transgressions to Jehovah. And you yourself pardoned the error of my sins.
The italics are the Watchtower Societys--not mine. They seem to suggest that confession is something we do to Jehovah as opposed to men. In referring to James 5:14-16, it is preceded by the following heading When Someone Becomes Involved in Serious Wrongdoing and Wants Spiritual Help Huh? So its not really an obligation to confess then? Its just there if you want it? An option? Says the Pharisee...
Well yes, only if you want the help. Nothing legalistic or authoritarian here. Your decision. (pause) But of course if you dont want the help we will have no choice but to view you as wicked and wont hesitate to slam you like the bald-headed stepchild that you are. (smile) So do you want the help?
Heres what Insight on the Scriptures has to say about confession...
sins to one another. The disciple James counsels: Openly confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may get healed.? (Jas 5:16) Such confession is not because any human serves as helper [advocate, RS] for man with God, since Christ alone fills that role by virtue of his propitiatory sacrifice. (1Jo 2:1, 2) Humans, of themselves, cannot actually right the wrong toward God, on their own behalf or on behalf of others, being unable to provide the needed atonement. (Ps 49:7, 8) However, Christians can help one another, and their prayers on behalf of their brothers, while not having an effect on Gods application of justice (since Christs ransom alone serves to bring remission of sins), do count with God in petitioning his giving needed help and strength to the one who has sinned and is seeking aid.
Now from the Watchtower...
w97 12/1 p. 14 Jehovah, a God Ready to Forgive? ***
Despite what mistakes you may have made, if you have truly repented, taken steps to right the wrong, and earnestly prayed for Jehovahs forgiveness on the basis of Jesus shed blood, you can have full confidence that the words of 1 John 1:9 apply to you: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous so as to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
So, if you read carefully, they DO get it. Confession IS something the scriptures teach that we do to God, and not man. But since they have assumed authority on earth, they apparently believe they can counteract the scriptures, requiring the flock to confess to them or face their wrath.