Jehovah`s Witness/Procedure for dealing with JWs who sin
QUESTION: Hello, Mr. Jones. I hope you are doing well today.
Sir, I have a couple of questions for you in regards to the procedure which is followed among Jehovah's Witnesses, in dealing with wrongdoers. Not where their is merely a question of wrongdoing, but where there is actually proof of it.
I have also sent this question to Expert Benyamin Grunbaum, as I know he views himself as a man of honesty and righteousness, and claims to have a great zeal for keeping Jehovah's Organization "clean". Also, he does not like for questions of this nature to be asked of non-Witnesses, but since I am asking you because of your experience in this matter, I feel it only fair to give him the opportunity to answer also.
My questions are:
1. Can an accusation of wrongdoing against a Jehovah's Witness in good standing, be brought before Watchtower officials by an outsider, or does it have to come from within the congregation itself? I am asking this, because I am curious as to what, if anything, is done to a JW who wrongs someone on the outside of the religion. Can this person bring an accusation and present their evidence against the JW in good standing?
2. If the answer to the above question is "yes", could you please elaborate on what actions are taken towards the JW who has committed the wrong, if in fact there is documented evidence that the JW is guilty of the charges?
3. Do the same rules apply to all JWs, or at times do some of the elders/officials "play favorites"?
Your answer to this question will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
ANSWER: I am doing well, thank you. I hope all is well with you and yours. I will be curious to see how another expert answers this question, as two people often approach a matter from different perspectives, or the same. We'll see. :)
1. An accusation of wrongdoing can indeed be brought against a JW by an outsider, that is, by a non-JW. It doesn't happen often since most non-JWs are not aware of the formal judicial process used within the organization. I can assure you that the local elders are very concerned about the image of the organization in their community and they take quite seriously any accusations from the outside of bad conduct on the part of its members. Typically what happens is that the "worldly person" tells a JW associate about another JW's bad conduct and then the JW reports the matter to the elders.
This non-JW person can bring an accusation themselves and present their own evidence. But before this would happen, the elders will have sent a fact-finding committee of two elders to gather information from the witness[es] to the wrong, and they will have questioned the accused to see what he has to say about the matter. Sometimes the accused will confess upon hearing that there are witness[es] to the wrong. When the elders have a confession, although not a voluntary confession, the elders consider it no longer necessary to have witness[es] since the person has confessed. But if the person denies any wrongdoing, or minimizes the wrong, or says that the witnesses are mistaken, the elders may then ask the witness[es] if they are willing to appear before the congregation elders to make their accusation. The two elders then report back to the entire body of elders with their fact-finding results. The entire body of elders then determines whether the sin is serious enough and has sufficient merit to form a Judicial Committee of 3 elders to formally try the matter. Here is where it gets tricky.
If there is only one witness to the wrong and the accused JW says that there is nothing to the accusation and that it never happened, the elders will likely invoke Deut. 19:15, "The testimony of one person alone is not to suffice to convict anyone of any iniquity, sin, or guilt. But the matter will stand on the testimony of two or three witnesses." A second or third witness does not have to be another person. A corroborating witness could be a newspaper article about the matter, written evidence, or recorded voice or images that give credence to the accusation beyond one person's testimony.
2. What happens to the accused when there is documented evidence? What happens is decided during and after the formal Judicial hearing with the 3 elders. And it depends on the severity of the sin and the remorse of the accused over the wrong. The elders have a guidebook that tells them what sins are serious enough that the accused could be disfellowshipped. These "serious" sins would be direct violations of Biblical law such as lying, stealing, public drunkenness, acts of violence, fornication and adultery. A person might well be expelled, disfellowshipped, for unrepentant sins as these. Other less sins could result in a person being "marked as a wrongdoer" without being disfellowshipped. In almost all cases, the accused will be stripped of any congregation privileges such as praying before congregation, pioneering, speaking before the congregation, or giving comments at the meetings.
3. Do elders play favorites? I have never known of elders intentionally playing favorites. By that I mean that when it happens, and it does happen, that the elders are not conscious that they are playing favorite unless it is pointed out. It's sort of like preferential treatment towards prominent people, or pretty people, or tall people, or people that everyone just likes. Compare those preferential biases to someone that is fat, or short, or sloppy, or has a whiny voice. Elders are human and human preferences come into play whether the elder is aware or not.
That's my best first shot at it. Please follow up if you need more details on a point.
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QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Jones, for your clear and concise answer. It was very helpful in helping me understand how things like this are supposed to be handled.
I will not take up your entire evening with follow-ups, but I would like to ask for clarification on one particular point. In point #2, you made reference to "lying". I want to make sure I understand...
If it can be documented that JW is lying, and proof can be offered that the statements made by the JW are a lie, then you are saying this is a matter that the congregation SHOULD act upon?
I found it significant that you used the word "unrepentant". The situation I am referring to, involves the JW not only making the false statements, but refusing to make those statements right. It is difficult to understand how this can be viewed as Christian in any way, shape, or form.
Anyway, thank you for your time, Sir.
Most certainly. A congregation cannot be clean before God if the elders shrug their shoulders at a member lying but haul a young person in for questioning for showing interest in a "worldly" classmate at school. Lying, uttering falsehoods, bearing false witness, and even gossip and slander are all serious sins in the Bible. Intentionally lying, or whatever synonym is popular for it today, ranks right along with idolatry, fornication, and spiritism. This are not my idea. The Bible is very clear about it.
Rev 21:8 But as for the cowards and those without faith and those who are disgusting in their filth and murderers and fornicators and those practicing spiritism and idolaters and all the liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur. This means the second death.”
Eph. 4:25 Wherefore, now that YOU have put away falsehood, speak truth each one of YOU with his neighbor, because we are members belonging to one another.
The term "unrepentant" is used by Jehovah's Witnesses for those who commit serious wrongs, like lying, but shrug it off like it's no big deal. Like everyone else does wrong too. True repentance is about being struck to the heart about one's own sin, one's own falling short. Jehovah's Witnesses take pride in keeping the congregation above reproach in all these areas, or at least that was my experience for many years. It sounds like you have something specific on your mind. May I suggest that you bring the matter to the attention of JW elders in your area?