Special Judicial Committees

by JEMIMAH 36 Replies latest jw friends


    For this example. you will have to understand that I have to change a few details here and there so that I can't be identified.
    As many of you are aware I serve as an elder, and from time to time I have been asked by the service desk to handle matters for them by means of "The special committee arrangement". (a phrase you will not find in any Wt Letter or Elders textbook.) just to explain.

    "A special committee is often set up when, an original committee (ojc)decides to disfellowship an individual, who then appeals against the judgement. An appeal committee (ac) is then set up of "experienced elders!" who meet with the individual and the original committee. In a few rare cases, the 2 committees can be at complete "loggerheads" over the decision. The original committee will not accept anything except a disfellowshipping, and the appeal committee can't in all good conscience disfellowship what they see is a repentant individual. In the case of a complete disagreement with no hope of movement from either side, the service desk may (not every time) decide to appoint a "special committee (sc)to meet with both committees.""

    On with the example........
    About 9 months ago, I received a call from the service desk to set up such a committee, with another brother who serves as a travelling overseer on the district.

    We met at a kingdom hall, 9 bros (4,ojc, 3 ac, 2 sc) and instantly we felt a great deal of hostility from the 4 bros ojc. The problem was that the offender had been their PO for 15 years and the 4 bros (ojc) had tried all sorts of ways to remove him from his position over the years. So when the PO makes 1 serious mistake, he rightaway tries to right the wrong, immediatly confesses ( no one else would have been aware of his error.) the 4 bros where cock a hoop and form an (ojc) and disfellowship him without him even being present. They were secretly taped saying "if it was anyone else, a private (reproof) would have done."

    Thankfully, the appeal committee saw through these 4 malicious bros as did myself and the D.O, his appeal was upheld.
    All 4 ojc elders continued to appeal against the decision. and where eventually removed.

    Up to this point I had fully agreed with the idea of judicial committees and disfellowshipping.
    This example has really turned my stomach that brothers could quite readily spiritually stone a man to death with out a moments hesitation, not because of any biblical reason, simply because they didn't like him.

    That sort of power wielded by elders is fundamentally wrong, however others may argue how can you keep the congregation clean, how can you protect the congregation from child abusers (I make this comment in the understanding that there are major changes for the better to the way the society will deal with the issue of child molesters and other dangerous people).

    Where will the society go from here with the whole issue

    Is keeping the "congregation clean" vitally important, important enough to disfellowship for???
    If disfellowshipping is the right idea, is it right to use elders from a different congregation for impartiality.

    I await your comments


  • ozziepost

    In answer to your question, Jem: No, it isn't.

    I have been through several similar episodes including looking into a branch committee, and it only serves to highlight that we are all sinners. If only those with oversight would have that insight!

    The truth is, the whole judicial apparatus is unscriptural. So it cannot succeed because it's man-made.

    There is no record in the Bible of a judicial committee.
    There is no record in the Bible of an appeal committee.
    There is no record in the Bible of a special committee.
    There is no record in the Bible of restrictions placed on a re-instated person.

    There's just no record!

    About all we can say is the matter of disfellowshiping in 1 Corinthians. Not much of a precedent, is it? Just one reference in the whole of the New Testament.

    No wonder there's so much antipathy toward the judicial committee and DF/DA procedures.

    BTW Jem, don't give too much away!


    "You can know the law by heart, without knowing the heart of it"
    Philip Yancey, What's So Amazing About Grace?

  • SixofNine

    Well my friend, this is probably not the kind of comment you are looking for, but, I just have to say it.

    Up to this point I had fully agreed with the idea of judicial committees and disfellowshipping.

    Being in your position, this is NOT the first time you have seen feces fed to a congregation in a "gods will" cereal bowl. That it takes something this base to move you, should give you a hint at just how incredibly far you need to be moved.

    Man to man hint. Let go of everything.

    I'm glad your eyes were opened a bit. You have much yet to see. Being an elder for so long, can only pervert a persons scope of vision in ways that, I guarantee you, you CANNOT yet understand.

  • BoozeRunner

    Hi Jemimah,
    I was on the other side of the issue, that is, I was the subject of the DFing. The ojc was hellbent on their decision. The ac disagreed-so much so that I was asked to leave the room as the 2 committees argued quite LOUDLY.
    Off went a letter from each to the Society, with the WTS upholding the ojc's decision.
    The ac had realized that at that particular time in my life, I was going thru extremely traumatic problems, and that the congregation elders were NO help at all to me. Once I had levied this charge about my elders, my fate was sealed, I am sure.
    To answer your question tho, so-called cleanliness is not as important as treating people with dignity and respect. Its not right to separate people from friends, family, etc.

  • Tina

    I really detest the whole 'overseer,elder' patriarchal concept. Untrained men,gender imbalance.....good formula for abuse.
    The whole stupid arrangement should be done away with.Tina

  • D wiltshire
    D wiltshire

    I at one time was an elder.
    So I ask?

    Can brothers really judge impartially when it come to a disagreement one may have with the Society?

    Can they really look at what the Bible teaches and judge whether one is really an appostate?

    Can really look at the facts objectivly?

    Do committees have hidden agendas?

    Can elders really be objective and carry out justice without worry of flak from the WT Org.?

    If elders make a wrong decision and stumble one of these little ones who put faith in Jesus are they in serious trouble?

  • Mulan

    Man, as I read this post, Jemimah, I really thought you were on the committee that DF'd Venice's father. The situation was nearly identical, but he didn't appeal.

    Marilyn (a.k.a. Mulan)

  • troubled

    Your posting has given me a lot to think about, and it spurred me to post an offshoot question regarding DFing, DAing, etc.

    I am currently an active JW, but like you, have seen some very disturbing things in the organization. (Though, being a sister, I've seen them from "a distance.") Not being able to just turn a blind eye to some of it and have a clean conscience, I am finding myself having to reevaluate and research in an attempt to find scriptural answers to my questions and fortify my faith.
    It sounds like that's what you are trying to do too. Whether the info proves to build up our faith or erode it, the bottom line seems to be to make sure of what we're told, as the Boreans did.

    Thanks for posting your very honest message. It takes courage, I know.

  • silentlambs

    I have personally sat on many of these committees. You well know seldom if ever is a ojc's decision ever overturned. No one wants to rock the boat and it causes much less turmoil to get rid of one person with problems than to have "elders" at odds with one another. That is just the cold hard facts, all elders know this to be true. It is much the same issue with molested children. The interests of one damaged child or family against the interests and image of the organization. Can you guess who loses? 90% of the time it will be the child. The jc process is a travesty in justice and does far more damage than is ever accomplished for the congregation. The jc process in itself would have to be done away with in the interests the molestation issue.

  • Ustabee


    Also having served as an elder and sat in on a few committees, and then having been DF'd myself, I think I have a unique perspective to offer on this issue. Here goes:

    In all the committees I sat on, the only reason the person was there was because they had 'confessed' some serious sin. Usually, these persons were considered 'weak' by the BOE. If they weren't repentant about the sin, why did they 'confess' and face a committee? The ones who didn't care what we did or said, usually didn't meet with us, anyway. Case closed. I always wondered, 'Why are we thinking about DF'ing this person when it is so obvious that they need help and support, not 'the spritual axe.''

    I'm sure you've heard the old saw, "They need to be taught a lesson, and this is the only thing that will wake them up." Hogwash! Cutting someone off from their family and support structure really teaches them a lesson all right. In almost every case of DF'g in my 22 yrs in the JW's, it did more harm than good. The DF'd individual never recovered from the humiliation it caused. And let me tell you, it is the most humiliating thing to have to come into the KH and sit in the back and ignore people you thought were your closest friends, ["Closer even than a brother."] And have them ignore you like you were an invisible ghost. To get reinstated, you have to grovel and whine like a baby to even to get a hearing.

    In one case, a brother had been DF'd by an out of state cong, after 2 or 3 yrs, the guy applied to us for reinstatement. We recommended it to the other cong. Guess what? No go! "Not enough time" Here this poor guy was in our cong, hadn't been anywhere near the other BOE for years and they knew better than we did! So, he writes the WTS in Brooklyn, lo and behold! two months later here comes a letter from the BOE in the other cong, 'We have considered Bro. 'Bad Guy's' letter for reinstatement and have decided to reinstate him.' If the guy hadn't got their 'bags' in a wringer with the CO and DO, he would still be waiting for reinstatement.

    In a nutshell, the Judicial Arrangement is full of @##!. It is impossible for imperfect men to render a perfect decision. It causes more problems than it solves; and, it is heartlessly administered by the untrained and underinformed. In those 22 years, I never saw a case where the cong needed to be 'protected'from an individual who had come to the BOE with the problem. Most of the time, the 'practicer of sin' had quit attending the meetings and didn't want anything more to do with the cong. So why DF them? Gotta keep things 'clean.'

    You are quite right to be questioning the Judicial Arrangement, it is just what some of the other posters have called it. Look at it from the other side of the fence and you will gain a new insight.

    Good Luck!

  • BoozeRunner

    You are right on when you said the df'd person has to grovel. I endured the sneering looks of the PO every time I stepped foot in the KH. He pretty much refused to get me a KM even tho I was told @ m DFing, "you are entitled to all the publications as any other publisher."
    I never got to the point of groveling for a hearing-I left after a year of attending meetings while DF'd.


    "free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, I'm free at last."

  • Marvin Shilmer
    Marvin Shilmer

    Hi, Jemimah!

    We seem to peer through the same eyes.

    I think we agree there is a scriptural basis for a congregation of Christians to sometimes initiate shunning of “brothers.” This calls for judicial action, though maybe not the same as promoted by the WTS. It is entirely reasonable for a congregation to set rules and enforce those rules. But this is an internal concern and it should not interfere with external needs that are legitimate ones, like helping protect an entire community from a child abuser.

    Your observation that JW judicial committees sometimes act with inappropriate biases is also mine, and I think others here too. These biases are of all types, and, as you say, they end with injustice. I don’t see any change in this among JWs until one of at least two things change. Either the WTS must allow an accused party to have third party observers to witness proceedings or else the entire judicial process must be scrapped and completely revamped—if at all. At least this would minimize biased decisions and make sure decisions are according to internal rules. But then we get to the problem of whether internal rules are fair ones, including making those rules FULLY known to new ones before baptism, the turn-key event—I don’t see this ever happening. This makes me favor scraping and revamping.

    I like the idea of additional layers of protection from predators. If an organization provides this protection in addition to secular protections then I see no problem with it as long as it meets the test of reasonable jurisprudence. Some will also want moral discrimination. I see no problem with this either, as long as it does not imposed life threatening results on anyone AND as long as EVERYONE knows the rules in ADVANCE.

    Right now the JW system does not always provide additional layers of protection because it does not always encourage reporting of violent crime to other authorities. It encourages reporting of suspected rape and murder, but not suspected sexual molestation of a child. Also the present JW system has led many times to life threatening results—like severe depression and anxiety. These results are sometimes caused by a person’s own convictions of right and wrong, but not always. Often they are caused by harsh chastisement at the hands of would-be-comforters also acting as judges on a judicial committee.

    As an elder I have witnessed these things first hand. I too have experience in the arena of appeals and special committees. They all have the same flaws. The controlling system is where the problem is, not its levels of critique.

    Dear Silentlambs,

    Most people seem to appreciate your work. I certainly do.

    It is good you have an opportunity to voice your views. Why should we chastise someone else for doing the same thing? I can see rebuking dishonesty or criminal behavior, but hurling insults without SURE evidence of either is a bit too much for these eyes. If anyone here wants to share more than they have, fine, let them. Do we know the other person’s circumstances better than they do? Maybe they are doing all they can do. If you can do more, fine. Do more.

  • JeffT

    Since 1989 I've attended a Christian church with 4,000 members. In that time there as been ONE (1) example of church discipline. This involved a man who was cheating on his wife with multiple partners and simply refused to stop. What was his discipline? Four thousand of us got on our knees (the only time I've seen this done) and prayed for him to see a need to repent. It was the last any of us ever heard of the matter. Either he repented and got counseling, or stopped going to church. Either way solved the matter and certainly none of were told to stop talking to the individual.

    I'm not saying no one in my church sins, that would be foolish. The difference is how we handle it. We have a large staff of trained counselors and some one who needs help is encouraged to get it. I know from personal experience that the counsel given is given in love and not harshness.

    What a difference.

  • philo

    I think the judicial system is inextricably part of the WT hierarchy, from elders up to the Watchtower directors. Without the executive powers of DF, DA, and shunning, the organisation could not maintain 'unity'. So as the organisation has grown, centralised control could only be maintained by intensifying these powers.

    Why is interfering with the Royal Mail such a serious crime in Britain and other countries? Vandalising a post box is not viewed at law as vandalism but something closer to sedition. It's about the necessity for keeping control. So too with the WTBTS.

    I can see judicial policies relaxing only if there are large decreases in WT membership.


  • Helen

    Tina says it all..

  • Moxy

    umm, mr bowen, what the hell are you going on about?

    jemimah already explained about the KMS part he was assigned and promised to upload the text when he received it. your soapbox ranting is not doing anything to help your cause.


  • Maximus


    I see the wheels turning, and I understand ....

    An old hand at sitting on special committees, I can tell you that thoughtful men at some point ponder what role Holy Spirit plays in what almost by definition are travesties of justice. One either becomes inured, calloused to the system, or ripped open inside with the reality we are enacting some medieval morality play. Through the years, sensitive and thoughtful men start to duck being a part of judicial proceedings. Keep yourself tender, Jem.

    We all hope the new Flock book will revamp the system rather than add to accreted policy. Otherwise the org will continue to reap negative consequences. In my experience it is extremely difficult for anyone who has associated for a very long time to think in terms of anything other than organization/organization/organization. We see all Scripture through that filter, and even scriptures that apply just to individuals become hugely distorted.

    Others have posted most thoughtfully and I would belabor the point with any further expression. I would like to address one issue.

    It's easy to crow about JW "higher standards" of behavior in keeping the organization clean. I've seen many posts stating JWs are no different than Catholics, Episcopalians, Presbyterians and the like when it comes to protecting child abusers. That's simply not true. (Adventists have real problems, but that's another story.)

    It may shock you to learn that Babylon the Great has some very enlightened approaches. I don't have the time to produce an essay on the subject, but I'd like to cite a point or two from a short manual used globally used by one of the groups cited above. It's for those who do any lay teaching or have interaction with small groups within the church. Note the emphasis on individual responsibility.

    While you read it, imagine: Babylon the Great insisting on high moral ethics, individual "Christian" behavior ...

    Two guidelines are given: First, ANY complaint must be taken seriously and dealt with promptly, even from a child. The second is that the leader and the group must not get caught up in keeping secrets or rigid procedure.

    "Most sexual misconduct becomes seriously harmful when the person receiving unwanted attention or abuse is ignored and when the behavior is kept secret. It is important for us, as Christians, to find ways to confront sexual misconduct and abuse in ways that quickly and firmly say, 'No, this behavior is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.'

    "The Christian community must provide clear boundaries and enforce them. ('We are going to notify and cooperate fully with the authorities and seek professional guidance in the matter.')"

    "These situations are not opportunities to become moralistic .... Excessive moralistic 'preaching' often drives the perpetrator into deeper denial, away from accepting responsibility for his or her action and even away from the community in which they can be held accountable."

    Psychopaths/sociopaths are differentiated from "recovering" pedophiles, and even this former category is considered to have need to be "in a covenanted relationship with members of the larger community who will help them control their behaviors."

    "The community has to make sure that the individual with uncontrollable behaviors (e.g., having sex with children/youth) always has someone with him or her while in the community, and that a significant number of people are able to be consistent in being absolutely honest with the person about his or her behavior. Recovering pedophiles need a 'buddy system' to function appropriately in the community and to enable the community to be comfortable with and accepting of the person."

    "There is a danger of subtly pressuring the injured person to be reconciled to the offender because it makes everyone feel better. The injured person determines what he or she needs to heal and when she or he is ready for reconciliation. "

    The community must support the injured person in their healing; expect confession, making amends, and "amendment of life" of the offender; and develop ways of enabling the reconciliation of all persons involved.

    "The process needs to be open, honest, and loving, and yet very serious. It will take time and tears and be painful. But it can be both healing for the community and individuals and also helpful for others to see how they too can acknowledge their sins, make amends, seek amendment of life."

    Latter defined as seeking therapy on one's own, joining self-help group; taking medication; removing self from situations such as touching or holding children, change jobs, change lifestyles, whatever it takes.

    "Feel the guilt and sorrow that comes with seeing the pain you have caused; accept responsibility for your actions."

    "The ministry of reconcilation, which has been committed by Christ to his Church, is exercised through the care each Christian has for others."

    What do you think?


  • reagan_oconnor

    ustabee sed:

    And have them ignore you like you were an invisible ghost.

    When I was DFed and sitting in the hall between my ex-husband an ex-mother-in-law, an unbalanced sister (another one!) leaned over between talks and said to my ex, "Tell Reagan we miss her."

    Um, hello, dumbass, I'm, sitting RIGHT HERE!!!

    How stupid this is. I can't believe I submitted myself to this moronic suffering for a year and a half...


    I am the master of my fate/I am the captain of my soul.

  • metatron

    My experience with serving on committees is this:
    Most brothers simply form a 'gut' reaction to whatever
    situation is presented before them and then go with it.
    Asking them to serve without bias is like asking water not to be wet.
    Whatever rules or scriptural principles exist are simply ignored,
    'bent' or re-interpreted to fit whatever outcome is desired.

    Don't think there aren't brothers eager to df. There are - and
    they used to get frustrated with me ( "just df 'em and go home")


  • Francois

    If disfellowshipping is the answer, then we need to re-examine the question...not to mention our own hears.


    Where it is a duty to worship the Sun you can be sure that a study of the laws of heat is a crime.

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