Governing Body instructs congregations to pledge fixed monthly donations
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Congregations will be ordered to pledge a fixed monthly amount to the organization

Congregations will be ordered to pledge a fixed monthly amount to the organization

A leaked letter dated March 29, 2014, has been circulated to all elders advising of a huge shake-up in financing arrangements for kingdom hall and assembly hall construction.

The letter is four pages long, but only the first page is to be read out to publishers. The three-page postscript, containing further details of how the new arrangement is to be implemented, includes the sentence (in bold): “This postscript should not be read to the congregation, and this letter should not be posted on the information board.”

The first page is due to be read out at congregation service meetings for the week of May 5, 2014.

“Having sufficient, adequate places of worship is vital, as Jehovah continues to ‘speed up’ the gathering of ‘a mighty nation,'” it reads. “In order to meet these ever increasing needs, the Governing Body has directed that an adjustment be made in the way Kingdom Hall and Assembly Hall construction projects are financed.”

Congregations now have the "opportunity" to commit to sending a monthly amount to Watchtower

Congregations now have the “opportunity” to commit to sending a monthly amount to Watchtower

What is this adjustment? “In harmony with 2 Corinthians 8:12-14, congregations will now be asked to pool their resources worldwide to support the construction of theocratic facilities wherever they are needed.”

What will this “pooling” of resources involve? “…all congregations will have the opportunity to support Kingdom Hall and Assembly Hall construction work worldwide by resolving to make a monthly donation from congregation funds.”

Once the letter has been read, congregations will have just four weeks (with a final deadline of May 31) to agree on a monthly figure to be sent to Watchtower, ostensibly for the construction of kingdom halls and assembly halls worldwide.

Figures that don’t add up

“The need for Kingdom Halls and Assembly Halls is greater than ever before,” the letter insists. “At this time, over 13,000 Kingdom Hall projects and 35 Assembly Hall projects are needed worldwide.”

After listening to the above statement, publishers would be forgiven for assuming that more than 13,000 new Kingdom Halls are needed each year to keep pace with publisher growth.

However, when you compare the number of congregations in 2013 (113,823) with the number of congregations the year before (111,719), you note that there has been an increase of only 2,104 congregations worldwide – some of which will be sharing existing kingdom hall infrastructure. The 13,000 figure is therefore either a gross exaggeration, or kingdom halls are being refurbished and rebuilt at an astonishing rate – faster than is actually required.

Never-ending loan repayments

According to the leaked letter, “Congregation and Assembly Halls will no longer be asked to repay a loan.” However, in the elders-only part of the letter, congregations are instructed that their new monthly pledge must be “at least the same amount as the current monthly loan repayment” for congregations repaying loans for building work.

In other words, if your congregation is paying off a kingdom hall build or refurbishment, your loan repayments must effectively continue indefinitely.

If a congregation isn’t already making loan repayments, then a confidential survey is to be taken by passing out slips of paper to determine how much local brothers are willing to pledge.

Room for maneuver

Congregation elders will have at least some flexibility to alter the congregation’s monthly pledge in the future according to circumstances, but this works both ways.

“Elders should review this resolution annually in May to ensure the amount is what the congregation is realistically able to donate on a monthly basis. For example, there may be a significant increase or decrease in the number of publishers in the congregation, or the local economic conditions may appreciably improve or deteriorate, thus affecting the amount that the congregation can reasonably contribute. If necessary, the elders may take a new financial survey, as described above, to determine whether the resolved monthly contribution to Kingdom Hall and Assembly Hall construction worldwide should be adjusted for the coming year.” – March 29, 2014 BOE letter, page 2

The monthly pledge can thus be adjusted downwards or upwards at the elders’ discretion on an annual basis.

But who actually owns a kingdom hall, and thus bears responsibility for paying for it?

Who owns a kingdom hall?

Most congregations now have arrangements in place where kingdom halls are under the legal ownership of a board of trustees made up of local elders. But this doesn’t give elders the freedom to do what they want, even if they are all in agreement. Watchtower ultimately holds all the aces.

The Menlo Park scandal exposed that Watchtower effectively owns kingdom halls, not the local congregation

The Menlo Park scandal exposed that Watchtower effectively owns kingdom halls

You see, elders can only BE elders if they are approved by Watchtower. Elders who are removed by Watchtower are automatically no longer trustees, and will have no say in how their kingdom hall is run.

This state of affairs was recently highlighted by the Menlo Park scandal, in which an entire body of elders in California was removed by the organization for failing to comply with the circuit overseer’s insistence that their kingdom hall be refurbished, even though a refurbishment wasn’t deemed necessary.

A lengthy legal battle ensued in which some of the ousted elders argued for their reappointment, but they proved to be ill-prepared. They assumed they were victims of one or two rogue individuals in the organization, and thus failed to grasp that the problems they were trying to address were systemic.

Their true foe was Watchtower itself.

Perhaps the most poignant moment from the Menlo Park case came when Watchtower’s legal representative, Calvin Rouse, made the following declaration in court…

“Ordinarily I wouldn’t be here, but this is one of our 13,000 congregations in the United States. We are a hierarchical religion structured just like the Catholic Church. And when the order from the Pope comes down in the church defrocking a priest and kicking him out, he no longer has any say in any matter in the local parish priest – in the parish. The same situation as here. In his complaint he brings one claim. He claims that he wants to be reinstated as a director and an officer in the Menlo Park Congregation. This is contrary to our church rules and regulations and bylaws. We brought our organizational bylaws book, our rule book here, and we are prepared to present witnesses that this is a hierarchical organization.”

The court transcript featuring the above statement is available on this link.

Hence the organization, which is a self-confessed hierarchy, has an over-riding controlling interest respecting kingdom hall buildings, but congregation members are still expected to pick up the tab.

No more “surplus funds”

The final undermining of any vestiges of financial autonomy at congregation level is accomplished on page 4 of this new letter, where a section headed “Surplus funds” effectively ends any possibility of the existence of wealthy, self-reliant congregations.

surplus-fundsCongregations are thus to financially surrender themselves to the organization. There is no longer any excuse for the amassing of funds for a rainy day. Only “minor renovations or repairs” are to be cared for locally. If there are surplus funds, elders must discuss sending these to Watchtower.

Such reliance on ‘big brother’ may seem refreshing in the eyes of many Witnesses, but it has its risks. If Watchtower is ever declared bankrupt, individual congregations will be on their own, and without any nest egg to fall back on when their kingdom halls start to deteriorate.

An “opportunity” taken under compulsion?

The idea that congregations should become perpetually indebted to Watchtower in this manner by means of a monthly pledge, which they are being ordered to agree to within a four-week window, is a strange one – at least by bible standards.

According to the bible, Jesus Christ encouraged the forgiving of debts (Matt. 6:12; 18:23-35), and the Apostle Paul counseled that Christians should not have to give “under compulsion.” – 2 Cor 9:7

For the Governing Body to be so forthright in pursuing congregations for funding under whatever pretext will be curious to some, especially after it has been revealed that the organization is set to pocket a staggering 1 billion dollars in proceeds from the sale of its Brooklyn property.

But when you consider Watchtower’s apparent financial woes as evidenced by the unprecedented organizational downsizing, not to mention the increasing threat posed by child abuse lawsuits, the Governing Body’s assault on congregation coffers for extra cash is all too predictable.

 

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To protect the anonymity of my source, a scan of the letter will not be made available. However, you can read the text from the full letter below…

***PAGE ONE***

March 29, 2014

TO ALL CONGREGATIONS

Re: Adjustment to financing Kingdom Hall and Assembly Hall construction worldwide

Dear Brothers:

On September 1, 1983, the Kingdom Hall Fund was created to help finance the increasing need for Kingdom Halls. For more than 30 years, this arrangement has served to expand the construction of Kingdom Halls worldwide in a tremendous way by means of Regional Building Committees and the program for lands with limited resources. Having sufficient, adequate places of worship is vital, as Jehovah continues to ‘speed up’ the gathering of “a mighty nation.” (Isa. 60:22) In order to meet these ever-increasing needs, the Governing Body has directed that an adjustment be made in the way Kingdom Hall and Assembly Hall construction projects are financed.

In harmony with the principle at 2 Corinthians 8:12-14, congregations will now be asked to pool their resources worldwide to support the construction of theocratic facilities wherever they are needed. Congregations and Assembly Halls will no longer be asked to repay a loan, and use of the separate contribution box labeled “Kingdom Hall Construction Worldwide” has been discontinued. Instead, all congregations will have the opportunity to support Kingdom Hall and Assembly Hall construction worldwide by resolving to make a monthly donation from congregation funds. If individual publishers wish to donate specifically to support Kingdom Hall and Assembly Hall construction worldwide, such donations will be accepted gladly and used wisely by the branch office. From now on, all funding for approved projects will be provided by the branch office from the funds that have been donated by you dear brothers and sisters.

The need for Kingdom Halls and Assembly Halls is greater than ever before. At this time, over 13,000 Kingdom Hall projects and 35 Assembly Hall projects are needed worldwide. Much of this need is in parts of the world where the cost of property and building materials is high. A tremendous amount of funds is needed to care for this work. However, we are confident that Jehovah will provide what is needed by your generous support. Time and again we have seen this take place. For example, it has been 24 years since we began offering literature under the donation arrangement, yet Jehovah’s blessing on this adjustment has been obvious. We are confident that by means of Jehovah’s continued blessing and the generosity of the worldwide brotherhood, the new arrangement for financing Kingdom Hall and Assembly Hall construction will be a success as well.—1 Chron. 29:11-14; Ps. 127:1.

May Jehovah continue to richly bless your hard work and loyal service as you generously support Kingdom interests.

Your brothers,

Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses

***PAGE TWO***

Re: Adjustment to financing Kingdom Hall and Assembly Hall construction worldwide March 29, 2014 Page 2

PS to body of elders:

At the Service Meeting for the week of April 28, 2014, the congregation should be informed that use of the contribution box labeled “Kingdom Hall Construction Worldwide” will be discontinued on May 1, 2014. and that further information will be provided at the following Service Meeting. This letter should be read to the congregation during the local needs part on the Service Meeting for the week of May 5, 2014. (Congregations having an assembly the week of May 5 should have the letter read the following week.) This postscript should not be read to the congregation, and this letter should not be posted on the information board. After the reading of the letter, either a resolution should be presented to the congregation or the survey described below should be taken. The December 7, 2009, letter to all congregations should be removed from the congregation permanent file of policy letters and be destroyed. Updated congregation accounting instructions and forms will begin to be provided in May 2014.

Resolved donations: All congregations are asked to establish a monthly resolved donation to support Kingdom Hall and Assembly Hall construction worldwide by no later than May 31, 2014.

•    What amount should be used for this new resolved monthly donation?
The elders in congregations currently making loan repayments would likely propose a resolution that is at least the same amount as the current monthly loan repayment, keeping in mind that donations will no longer be received from the “Kingdom Hall Construction Worldwide” contribution box. The elders in congregations without loans or those having standing resolutions to support Kingdom Hall construction worldwide should take a confidential survey of all publishers to determine the amount of the new resolution. This can be done by passing out slips of paper to be filled out anonymously by the publishers indicating how much they are able to contribute monthly toward local congregation expenses, including the resolution to support Kingdom Hall and Assembly Hall construction worldwide. At the time the survey is taken, it may be helpful to also review with the congregation the average monthly operating expenses that need to be covered.

Elders should review this resolution annually in May to ensure the amount is what the congregation is realistically able to donate on a monthly basis. For example, there may be a significant increase or decrease in the number of publishers in the congregation, or the local economic conditions may appreciably improve or deteriorate, thus affecting the amount that the congregation can reasonably contribute. If necessary, the elders may take a new financial survey, as described above, to determine whether the resolved monthly contribution to Kingdom Hall and Assembly Hall construction worldwide should be adjusted for the coming year.

•    What should be done with other existing resolutions?
Any previous resolution to support Kingdom Hall construction should be discontinued. All other resolutions, such as those for contributing to the worldwide work, the Convention Fund, the Traveling Overseer Assistance Arrangement, and the Kingdom Hall Assistance Arrangement, should continue to be honored. Where more than one congregation shares a Kingdom Hall, resolutions to contribute to a shared Kingdom

***PAGE THREE***

Re: Adjustment to financing Kingdom Hall and Assembly Hall construction worldwide March 29,2014 Page 3

Hall operating account to cover the operating costs, minor renovations, and repairs may be adjusted as needed.

•    How should this new resolved amount be submitted to the branch office?
Each congregation should establish its own resolution to contribute to Kingdom Hall and Assembly Hall construction worldwide and submit the resolved amount with its monthly remittance to the branch office. These resolved amounts should not be submitted through Kingdom Hall operating accounts. If revised forms for congregation accounting are not yet available in the language of the congregation, the resolved donation amount for Kingdom Hall and Assembly Hall construction worldwide may be recorded on the line “Kingdom Hall Construction Worldwide (Resolution)” that appears on the form(s) currently being used.

•    What should be done if congregation funds are not sufficient to cover resolved donations?
If sufficient funds are not available for all resolved donations in a particular month, additional funds should not be solicited. The elders should determine what amounts from the congregation funds that are available at the end of the month will be applied toward the resolved monthly donation(s) and whether the shortfall should be made up in future months. However, it would be appropriate for the elders to remind the congregation of the resolved monthly commitments. If the congregation can no long¬er contribute the amount(s) they resolved on a regular basis, the elders may consider the situation at the next annual review of the resolution for Kingdom Hall and Assembly Hall construction worldwide.

Contribution boxes: As noted above, on May 1, 2014, each Kingdom Hall should have only two types of contribution boxes, one labeled “Local Congregation Expenses” and one labeled “Worldwide Work.”
•    What should be done with existing “Kingdom Hall Construction Worldwide” boxes or boxes set up to accept donations for a local building project?
These boxes will no longer be used for accepting donations in support of Kingdom Hall or Assembly Hall construction. They should be removed or relabeled to accept donations for the worldwide work on May 1, 2014.
•    What type of expenses can be paid from funds received in the “Local Congregation Expenses” box?
These funds should be used to pay approved congregation expenses, including Kingdom Hall operating expenses, minor renovations, and repairs (through the operating committee, if applicable), as well as for all monthly resolved donations that are sent to the branch office.
•    Are there any changes to the existing “Worldwide Work” box?
No. Funds received in the “Worldwide Work” box will continue to be forwarded to the branch office each month. No congregation expenses or monthly resolutions should be paid from these funds.

***PAGE FOUR***

[as shown above, see “Surplus funds”]

Further reading…

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287 Responses to Governing Body instructs congregations to pledge fixed monthly donations

  1. anonymous says:

    @Jacob. I don’t know if your Kingdom Hall had a renovation but ours did and it wasn’t that old but they borrowed $39,000 from the Society to do the renovations. From what I am understanding, most Kingdom Halls are now owned by the Society and it had to do with those renovations that the Society went around telling all these Kingdom Halls that they needed and then inflating the costs so the Kingdom Halls would have to repay these inflated costs back to the Society even though all the labor was free. It was a trick to get all these Kingdom Halls to sign over their deeds to the Society and so if a Kingdom Hall is sold, even though the brothers and sisters paid for the Kingdom Hall and the property, the ownership goes to the Society.

    If this is all true, this was one of the biggest frauds ever done to a trusting society of innocent people, even worse than what Bernie Madoff did to his so-called “friends”. The Society has it’s ways of extorting money, without passing the plate.

    If you are the trusting sort, would you be brave enough to ask your presiding overseer if your Kingdom Hall now belongs to the Society?

    I think every one of Jehovah’s Witnesses should know how they have been taken advantage of.

    It’s not only your life that they Society has stollen from you, but it’s your trust and your money.

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  3. Andrew says:

    It costs the watchtower society at least 1 million dollars a month worldwide to feed, stipend, and shelter bethelites and other ministers that are stipened including the governing body. That’s between 12-17 million dollars each year worldwide at their various locations. Voluntary donations number well over 7 Billion 79 million US dollars worldwide.

  4. Andrew says:

    That’s 7 billion 79 million US dollars each year for Watchtower Society. I think they can afford brekfast and lunch at the conventions and assemblies but they don’t want to it’s a lawsuit threat if something happens if the food is no good or if someone doesn’t thoroughly chew their food without choking.

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  6. robin bean says:

    i can not believe wt is taking over ownership when it is not theirs but local peoples !!!!!!!

  7. robin bean says:

    i can not believe wt is taking over ownership when it is not theirs but local peoples !!!!!!!
    another taxation from wt org terrible

  8. Sally-Anne Westendorf says:

    There are still legal costs involved in building these properties, regardless of how ‘free’ the labour and most of the materials MAY be. My understanding is that the poorer countries benefit most, as the Worldwide donations now pay for things that they otherwise could never afford… to shift their meetings out of huts and such and into a proper, comfortable, Kingdom Hall of their own. It also means that larger Kingdom Hall communes (where 4 or 5 congregations meet, having to plan their use of the hall meticulously so as not to clash with other congregations) can be split up into 2 or 3 Kingdom Halls.

    Important things like air-conditioning, that fall out of the category of ‘minor expenses’ are also covered by this ‘pool’. I know, because it was used to replace ours in Qld.

    There is much more involved than you are prepared to give credit for. Ultimately, the financial decisions are in the hands of the Governing Body… How can they budget these finances to benegit congregations worldwide, without some kind of monthly pledge from the congregations? THEY don’t dictate what those pledges are. The appointed Elders put forth proposals to the people of the congregation, based on prior congregation finances. Individuals still ‘give, not under compulsion, but willingly’, and discreetly, in their own time, not via a public plate with everyone else’s eyes upon them!

    This is over and above the fact that voluntary donations are also wholly and solely financing the production and distribution of millions of books and magazines etc in several hundred languages worldwide that are distributed at no charge to the reader!

    I do not and will not believe that there is ANY misappropriation of funds!

    Do the Churches of Christendom account for every dollar that THEY receive through ‘voluntary’ donations? Do THEY provide accurate Monthly Accounts to their Congregations both verbally and in writing?

    Have you looked into ANY other religions regarding these matters so ‘meticulously ‘?

    It would be interesting to see how they compare.

    • Ricardo says:

      @Sally-Anne,
      Sounds like you are another witness on this site. The more the merrier.

      I am also from Qld. I live near Caboolture. The cong in Caboolture sold their hall and didn’t quite have enough funds to buy a new one. The CO came and strongly recommended in his talk that we help Caboolture, loan the cong some money. But who would know, before they bought their new hall the new arrangements came in and the money was taken away, leaving them with no hall and needing to meet near Bribie Island.

      As to the new arrangements where the cong sends donations to the branch based on how many publishers are in the congregations- you say: individuals still ‘give, not under compulsion, but willingly’, and discreetly.

      There are several witnesses who comment on this site who are still attending meetings: me, Whip It (from SE Qld) and Messenger who do not make donations, but who have donations sent on their behalf, without their approval, by the congregation to the branch. I have not donated a single cent in the past decade in protest to the bullying I have received from leadership. I did not raise my hand in agreement to the new arrangement of secret ‘tithing’. Yet a donation is sent to the branch from me whether I like it or not. And I don’t like it.

      As to what you said: This is over and above the fact that voluntary donations are also wholly and solely financing the production and distribution of millions of books and magazines etc

      Are you aware that millions of dollars of donations have been used to pay compensation to victims of child abuse? Condace Conti received a payout of 3 million dollars in the US. ‘Amelia’ in the UK received about a million aussie dollars. The girl Fessler just received an out of court payment. We are not told about this. Why not? Why keep it a secret? We can find out all about the payouts from sites like this. But why should we need to go to an apostate site to find out such information about these things? Doesn’t it strike you as odd?

      So, donations are not being used solely for the purposes you mentioned. Our donations are also used to pay people to be quiet because our Governing Body has set ways of doing things which the GB think are set in stone, and which are giving pedophiles a hay day full of loopholes, putting our children at risk. The GB is unwilling to change this. Unwilling to add one more clause (which we now see in Australia’s Child Protection Document thank God) that says to report the matter to the police. Thus, we expect a lot more of the donations (my forced ones also) to be spent fixing up the GB’s mess. This is a gift (or expense) that keeps on giving.

      I hope these thoughts were able to balance your comments somewhat. You will find much valuable information at this site.

    • Rowland Nelken says:

      Well,Sally-Anne, Welcome to the apostate world! No doubt Jehovah’s exclusive earthly reps, the WT Gov. Bod. will be proud of your breaking their commandments!

      I remember how I too used to believe the nonsense about the JWs not being part of Christendom!

      Of course the JWs, as one of a range of late 19th century Adventist spinoff sects are part of Christendom.

      The absence of Kingdom Halls anywhere in the universe save on Planet Earth also means you are part of the world. Yes, you, too are ‘worldly’. The world is a wonderful place. I hope you learn to enjoy it.

      Best wishes and here’s to your recovery!