Resigning from Jehovah’s Witnesses can be done by a formal request, oral or in writing, according to jw.org. In addition to that, JW view three kinds of actions as evidence that a person has resigned or disassociated himself from the congregation, 1) a violation of neutrality, 2) accepting blood without repentance, and 3) joining a religious organization.
The way the elders treat a brother who has joined a religious organization, according to the Shepherd book, is strange. They are not advised to ask him whether his actions are meant to be an indication of his intention to resign from his congregation—that would have been the natural thing to ask. But they are advised to find out if he intends to remain in the other religious organization.
During the 44 years from 1942 to 1986, a person who joined another religious organization was disfellowshipped. But in 1986, the view changed. A person who had joined another religion, had by this action disassociated himself from his congregation.
Nevertheless, the outcome of the situation, both before and after 1986, is the same—the Witness is thrown out of the congregation. And therefore, disfellowshipping and disassociation are the same thing, even though the designations are different.
The Bible has three expressions that signify that an action is a disfellowshipping offense, 1) actions that are said to be wicked, 2) actions where it is said that a person is handed over to Satan, and 3) actions where it is said that we must avoid or reject a person. Titus 3:10 speaks of making a sect, and point 3) is applied to his action. First Timothy 1:20 and 2 Timothy 2:17,18 speaks about spreading false teachings, and point 2) is applied to this action. Thus joining a religious organization is the same as joining a sect that spreads false teachings. Thus, joining a religious organization is a disfellowshipping offense authorized by the Scriptures and not an action showing that he has disassociated himself from his congregation.
According to “Shepherd The Flock Of God”, 18.3, there are four actions that are connected with disassociation:
- Making Known a Firm Decision to Be Known No Longer as One of Jehovah’s witnesses.
- Joining Another Religious Organization and Making Known His Intention to Remain With It.
- Willingly and Unrepentantly Accepting Blood.
- Taking a Course That Violates Christian Neutrality.
In this study I will discuss the action of joining another religious organization.
THE STRANGE WORDS OF THE SHEPHERD BOOK
The description of what the elders must look for is found in 18.3 (2):
Joining Another Religious Organization and Making Known His Intention to Remain With It: If it is learned that a person has taken up association with another religion or religious organization and thus is identified with it, a committee (not judicial) should be selected to investigate the matter and endeavor to provide spiritual assistance. If the individual has joined another religion or religious organization and intends to remain with it, he has disassociated himself.
There are several strange things in connection with the issue of disassociation in the Shepherd book. 18.1, 3, says:
Whereas disfellowshipping is an action taken by a judicial committee against an unrepentant wrongdoer, disassociation is an action taken by a baptized member of the congregation who no longer desires to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. (italics mine)
If a Witness writes a letter of resignation, saying that he wants to withdraw from the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses (point 1) above, this is a clear example of a situation where the person truly “no longer desires to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” But even in this case, the person is thrown out of the congregation by the three elders in the committee instead of allowing him to depart freely. In the other three cases, there is a committee of three elders who consider the actions of the Witness and decides whether the criteria are met indicating that the Witness “no longer desires to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
As evidence that in all four cases listed above, the Witness is thrown out of the congregation, I ask three questions and show the answers in table 1.1:
- Did the Witness leave by his own free will?
- Would the Witness be allowed to stay in the congregation if he wanted to stay?
- Was the Witness thrown out of the congregation by force?
The answers are found in table 1.1.
Table 1.1 Disassociated Witnesses are thrown out of the congregation
|Leaves voluntarily?||Allowed to stay?||Being thrown out?|
|(2)||Yes or No||No||Yes|
I will make a comment on the words “Yes or No” in (2) “Joining a religious organization.” In most cases, a person who joins a religious organization leaves Jehovah’s Witnesses voluntarily. But there can be situations where this is not the case.
For example, several Christian organizations are giving humanitarian aid in different countries. One of them is the Norwegian Church Aid (Kirkens Nødhjelp). Suppose now that a Witness in a country in Africa starts to work for Norwegian Church Aid in order to give humanitarian aid to persons in need, and he gets his salary from that religious organization. If he intends to continue his work, he will be viewed as one who “no longer desires to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses” and who has disassociated himself from the congregation.
But is this view correct? For a Witness to choose to work for a religious organization would be exceptional indeed. But it could be that special circumstances are behind his choice. In such a case, he may want to remain a Witness while continuing his humanitarian work for a religious organization. But he will not be allowed to do that, but will instead be kicked out of the organization under the pretext of voluntarily disassociating himself from the organization.
The words “and intends to remain with it, he has disassociated himself” at the end of the first quotation above are strange. If a brother approaches me as an elder and says that he wants to resign from the congregation, I will try to give him spiritual assistance, as the first quotation says. I will try to find his reasons for resigning, and I want to find out if this is his final decision. If a brother writes a letter to the elders, saying that he wants to resign from the organization, I will speak with him in order to find out if this really is his intention. In both situations, I will ask the question: Is this your final decision, thus indicating that you no longer desire to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses?
On this background, it is strange that what the elders are advised to find out is whether the brother “intends to remain with it (the religious organization).” Why are the elders not asked to pose the following question to the brother: “Does this step you have taken mean that you want to disassociate yourself from the JW organization?” If such a question was asked, the reason for his leaving would not be that the elders unilaterally decided that the brother had fulfilled the criteria for disassociation based solely on his joining a religious organization. But the reason would be the words of the brother confirming that he no longer desires to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. So, why is such a question conspicuously absent from the Shepherd book directions?
The reason for this strange situation may be that the Governing Body wants to be able to point to an actual scenario where they can say that the actions of a Witness invariably show that he “no longer desires to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” Having three such examples instead of just two would seem to strengthen the GB’s claim that “an action [by itself and without context] taken by a baptized member of the congregation” automatically indicates that he or she “no longer desires to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses”.
. Chapter 5 in my book My Beloved Religion — And The Governing Body, third edition, has a list of the 11 disfellowshipping offenses that are based on the Bible. Included in these is “Joining another religious organization.” The book also has a list of the 37 disfellowshipping offenses that are made up and introduced by the Governing Body without any basis in the Bible. Included in these are the four offenses that the Governing Body says indicate the disassociation of the person because he or she does not desire to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses any longer.
THE CHANGE OF VIEW — FROM DISFELLOWSHIPPING TO DISASSOCIATION
During the 44 years from 1942, when N.H. Knorr became president of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, up to the year 1986, to join a religious organization was a disfellowshipping offense. This was based on the Bible because Titus 3:10 shows that creating a sect is a biblically sanctioned disfellowshipping offense. This means that if a brother joined a religious organization, a judicial committee would be formed, and the person would be disfellowshipped. A letter from the Norwegian branch office of June 25, 1986, changed this situation:
The case of a person who joins a false religious organization has until now been considered by a judicial committee with a possible disfellowshipping as the result. However, one has concluded that it would be more proper to view one who joins a false religious organization as one whose actions show that he has disassociated himself from the congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. This is also the way that we view one who joins a worldly organization with a purpose that contradicts the Bible and which will experience Jehovah’s judgment. (italics mine)
What is the difference between the old and the new situation? Frankly speaking, the only difference is the new designation “disassociation” and the new spin on how it should be viewed. In point of fact, disassociation is exactly the same as disfellowshipping, as I demonstrate in table 1.2.
Table 1.2 A comparison with a disfellowshipped and a disassociated person
|Disfellowshipped persons||Disassociated persons|
|1||A committee of three makes the decision||A committee of three makes the decision|
|2||The person is not allowed to remain a JW if he wants to do that||The person is not allowed to remain a JW if he wants to do that|
|3||The person is shunned||The person is shunned|
|4||Repentance to be reinstated||Repentance to be reinstated|
|5||Written application to be reinstated||Written application to be reinstated|
As the table shows, disfellowshipping and disassociation are handled in exactly the same way, with a difference in only a few unimportant nuances.
Why did the Governing Body change their viewpoint regarding the joining of a religious organization? The quotation says that “one has concluded,” and this conclusion must have a particular reason. However, no substantive basis or reason is provided. How “one has concluded” that a new concept and designation called “disassociation” should replace the biblical direction to disfellowship such a person, is not stated. The new designation notwithstanding, the punitive action taken by the elders is the same, whether it is called “disfellowshipping” or “disassociation.” And the outcome is the same: the person is thrown out of the organization.
The only reason for the procedural change that I can see, as I have mentioned above, is an attempt to legitimize the concept of “disassociation.” Until 1986, the only action indicating that a person had disassociated himself was a violation of Christian neutrality. The action of “joining a religious organization” was then added, and at the end of the 20th century, “accepting blood without repentance” was tagged on as well.
. See My Beloved Religion—And The Governing Body, third edition, pages 200-205.
THE BIBLICAL VIEW OF JOINING ANOTHER RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATION
Chapter 5 in my book My Beloved Religion — And The Governing Body, third edition, shows the biblical criteria for disfellowshipping offenses. In connection with the disfellowshipping offenses that are mentioned in 1 Corinthians, chapters 5 and 6, three expressions that serve as a signal for identifying disfellowshipping offenses are seen, 1) actions that are said to be wicked, 2) actions where it is said that a person is handed over to Satan and 3) actions where it is said that we must avoid or reject a person.
The words of Titus 3:10 (NWT13) are relevant in our situation:
10 As for a man who promotes a sect, reject him after a first and a second admonition, 11 knowing that such a man has deviated from the way and is sinning and is self-condemned.
The word “reject” is translated from the Greek word paraiteomai, which means “purposely to avoid association with someone” This word shows that the man should be disfellowshipped from the Christian congregation because he has made a sect. According to the Bible, there is only one true religion, and this means that any other religion is a “sect” according to the terminology of the Bible.
According to 1 Timothy 1:20, Hymenaeus and Alexander “were handed over to Satan,” which indicates that they were disfellowshipped from the Christian congregation. According to 2 Timothy 2:17, 18, the reason why they were handed over to Satan was that they were spreading false teachings.
Thus, there are two reasons why joining a religious organization is a disfellowshipping offense, 1) joining another religious organization is the equivalent of joining a sect, and 2) joining another religious organization is to participate in spreading false teachings. This means that persons who join another religious organization should be disfellowshipped, as was the procedure until 1986. The view that such persons have disassociated themselves from the congregation was “cooked up” by the Governing Body—to use a colloquial expression. It has no biblical basis whatsoever.
According to the Governing Body, there are four actions showing that a person has disassociated himself from his congregation reflecting that he “no longer desires to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” This study shows that Witnesses who take any of these actions are in reality thrown out of the organization, in most cases against their will.
One of the four “disassociation” actions is joining a religious organization. For 44 years, until 1986, this action was a disfellowshipping offense. But after 1986, this action was said to indicate that a person had voluntarily disassociated himself from the congregation, according to the Governing Body. The term “disassociation” is made up and invented by the Governing Body and has no basis in the Bible.
Because joining a religious organization is the same as joining a sect, which also facilitates the spreading of false teachings, both these actions are disfellowshipping offenses, and therefore, persons joining another religious organization should be disfellowshipped from his congregation, as the Scriptures direct.