A leaked letter from the Governing Body has announced an enormous shift in the way Jehovah’s Witness elders are to be appointed.
The letter, dated 22 April 2014, reveals that circuit overseers are to assume responsibility for appointing and deleting elders as of September 1st this year.
The change represents a significant decentralization of power, at least with regard to elder appointments, with circuit overseers now ‘kingmakers’ – having the final say in who gets to take the lead in each congregation.
The letter reads as follows…
TO ALL CONGREGATIONS
Re: Adjustment in process for appointing elders and ministerial servants
With regard to Paul and Barnabas’ visit to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, Acts 14:23 states: “They appointed elders for them in each congregation, offering prayer with fasting, and they entrusted them to Jehovah, in whom they had become believers.” Titus and Timothy evidently are also recorded as taking part in appointing elders in the congregations. (1 Tim. 5:22; Titus 1:5) In accord with this Scriptural precedent, the Governing Body has decided that effective September 1, 2014, circuit overseers will be responsible for the appointment and deletion of elders and ministerial servants. Additional information will appear in the November 15, 2014, issue of The Watchtower.
We request your continued prayers on our behalf as the preaching work is speeding up and more and more people are beginning to worship God by going to “the mountain of the house of Jehovah.” (Isa. 2:2) Please accept an expression of our warm Christian love.
Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses
c: Traveling overseers
PS to body of elders:
Please arrange for this letter to be read to the congregation at the first Service Meeting after its receipt or after the next Watchtower Study, whichever comes first. This postscript should not be read to the congregation, and the letter should not be posted on the information board. If the circuit overseer is visiting your congregation, he will read this letter at the conclusion of the next congregation meeting. At circuit assemblies and special assembly days, the letter will be read by the last speaker on the program at the conclusion of his talk. We would appreciate your keeping this matter confidential until the letter is read to the congregation or circuit.
In due course, further direction regarding the aforementioned adjustments will be provided to all bodies of elders.
It will be interesting to see the fine print as to how this new arrangement is to be implemented. If circuit overseers are to have sole stewardship over the appointment/removal of elders, without any oversight at branch level, Witnesses can expect to see elders trying to ingratiate themselves with circuit overseers to an even greater extent than they do presently.
There is also now more scope for differences in personality and minor quibbles between elders and circuit overseers having far-reaching consequences. As mentioned in a recent article, the Menlo Park scandal is a perfect example of what could already happen if a circuit overseer and a body of elders failed to see eye to eye.
Also noteworthy in this letter is the Governing Body’s insistence that the preaching work is “speeding up and more and more people are beginning to worship God.” If this is truly the case, it has yet to be observed in the worldwide report figures. Last year’s growth figure of 2.1% was a mere 1% over the global population growth rate (1.1%), meaning that the organization is barely keeping its head above water once births and deaths are accounted for.
It will also be perplexing for thinking Witnesses that it has taken the Governing Body, ostensibly Christ’s “faithful and discreet slave,” so very long to identify such a relatively unambiguous “scriptural precedent.”