Reports are emerging of an announcement at the 128th Annual Meeting of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania that the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses now considers itself to be the Faithful and Discreet Slave Class of Matthew 24:45 in its entirety.
Previously it was understood that the Governing Body were merely humble “representatives” of the “Slave Class”, which comprised the 12,000 or more anointed remnant of Christians with a heavenly calling still on earth. Despite claiming to be “representatives” of this group of people, suspicions were raised in the minds of many thinking Witnesses after reading articles such as the Questions From Readers of the August 15th 2011 Watchtower, where it was admitted that the Governing Body has no actual communication with memorial partakers (the “anointed”) and even feels that some of these ones may be mentally imbalanced. (see w11 8/15 p. 22)
Many have predicted that, at some point in the future, the Governing Body would end this confusion by claiming that they themselves are the Faithful and Discreet Slave, with the anointed remnant playing no special role. According to numerous reports this has finally happened. However, this remarkable claim opens a labyrinth of fresh doctrinal puzzles that future publications must now attempt to explain.
The Annual Meeting at which this “new light” was revealed was held at Jersey Assembly Hall (The Stanley Theater), New Jersey on October 6th – the same day that a sensitive Watchtower letter was leaked on the internet.
Although I previously reported in this article that the meeting was NOT broadcast to other locations, this appears to be untrue. The meeting had a total audience of 15,514 including those watching via video link from Brooklyn, Patterson, Walkill and Canada. Some in attendance took notes of what was said during the meeting, and have leaked this extaordinary new information online, so the news is gradually spreading around the world even though this “new light” has not yet been presented officially in the publications as it normally would be. (Update: to read about the printed explanation of the “new light” in the July 15 2013 Watchtower, please click here)
Anointed demoted – Governing Body promoted
The new understanding was explained over a series of six talks delivered by various Governing Body members over a two-hour period. The purpose of the talks was to impart the following adjustments:
- The Faithful and Discreet Slave was NOT appointed at Pentecost 33CE, meaning that there has not been a continuous line of members of the Slave Class on the earth down through the ages. The Slave Class was only appointed for the first time by Christ in 1919.
- The Faithful and Discreet Slave is a small group of anointed brothers during Jesus’ presence serving at Watchtower Headquarters who are directly involved in the preparing and dispensing of spiritual food. The individual members of the Governing Body are not the Faithful and Discreet Slave. They only act as the Faithful and Discreet Slave when they are working as a collective body in making decisions regarding the dispensing of spiritual food.
- The “domestics” of Matthew 24:45 are all those who are fed spiritually by the Governing Body, whether of the anointed or “other sheep”. This includes individual members of the Governing Body when they partake of spiritual food.
- The events described in Matthew 24:46,47 now refer to Jesus coming during the Great Tribulation and giving the Governing Body their reward in heaven along with the rest of the anointed.
- The “belongings” of Matthew 24:47 refer to all of Christ’s heavenly and earthly interests.
- Despite founding the Watch Tower Society, Charles Taze Russell was not part of the Slave Class because he was not alive and serving at Headquarters when Christ made his selection in 1919. The work of Russell and his associates was like that of the “messenger” in Malachi 3:1.
- The cleansing of God’s people is ongoing because, apparently, the bible gives two accounts of Christ doing a “cleansing” work, once at the start and once at the end of his ministry
In addition to the doctrinal changes, it was also explained that:
- The Governing Body members now make decisions based on a total majority, meaning that if a doctrinal understanding does not have full agreement by all Governing Body members, it is “shelved” until a future date.
- The lecture for Gilead and Branch Schools about the Faithful and Discreet Slave being 1,900 years old has now been deleted.
It is understood that the above doctrinal changes will be explained in further detail in future Watchtower articles. However, it could potentially be months before these articles are published and then studied at congregation meetings. Reports on Annual Meetings are not normally published until the August 15th Watchtower is released in April of each year. In the meantime, many brothers will likely be confused and bewildered that the Governing Body has made such a radical departure from their previous understanding of Matthew 24:45. Still more will wonder why these dramatic adjustments were not first published in a Watchtower article so that they could be simultaneously disseminated throughout the entire organization rather than announced to a select few at a New York corporate meeting.
Anointed Christians who entertain a heavenly hope will feel particularly aggrieved at this latest humiliation. As memorial partakers they had already suffered the indignity of being labelled as potentially “mentally or emotionally imbalanced” in the aforementioned Questions From Readers article of the August 15th, 2011 Watchtower. In the same article, the Governing Body bluntly dismissed the suggestion that there was any requirement on their part to contact such ones when deciding over doctrinal matters.
Now the 12,000+ crowd of anointed spread throughout the earth has suffered the final insult of being demoted as members of the Faithful and Discreet Slave in favor of eight men in New York who have deemed themselves the only ones worthy of this title. When it comes to teaching Christ’s followers, the anointed must now share equal standing with the millions of the Great Crowd as Christ’s “domestics”, even though they are supposed to rule over such ones as kings and priests with Christ at some future date.
A subtle use of words
It is noteworthy that this “new light” stops short of expressly naming “the Governing Body” as the Faithful Slave – rather a “group” of anointed brothers serving at Watchtower headquarters, which can only be applied to the Governing Body in our present day. This distinction is significant, because it acknowledges that there was no Governing Body as we know it prior to 1971 – only the Watch Tower Society Board of Directors who, as I have explained in a previous article, were informally described as a “governing body” (lower case) only from 1944 onwards.
The significance of this is that, if Christ had come to inspect the organization and appoint the Governing Body as his Faithful Slave in 1919 he would have been disappointed, because this entity would not exist as a collective decision-making body for another 52 years! However, if Christ was less specific and instead chose “a group of anointed men at Headquarters” at that time, then Rutherford as Watch Tower President and his board of subordinate directors were available to be chosen collectively as the Faithful Slave. Even if you are prepared to accept this rather bewildering explanation of Matthew 24:45 (a scripture that most people regard as a mere parable), there is one particularly problematic doctrinal flaw that the Society will need to address.
No scriptural precedent for apostolic succession
If Rutherford and his anointed associates were selected in 1919, then on what scriptural basis can it be automatically assumed that their roles as the Faithful and Discreet Slave were transferable, or could be “inherited”, by successive generations of the Board of Directors of the Watch Tower Society – which, after all, is merely a legal entity?
Part of the basis of this new understanding appears to be that Jehovah has always used a small group of people to teach and dispense spiritual food to the many, and that in the First Century it was the apostles and older men who were given this role by Christ. However, the bible provides no example of how those appointed by God to be his representatives may pass their duties on to someone else in the event of their death without God’s clear and unambiguous approval. (Numbers 27:18-20) The idea of someone inheriting someone else’s position because they have died is clearly a fleshly concept rather than a spiritual one.
True, the Kings of Israel and Judea were succeeded by their male offspring, but they played no distinct role in instructing the people. Most importantly, the arrangement of kings in Israel was not favored by God, but rather instituted to placate the Israelites who demanded a king to serve under in the same way as the nations around them. (1 Samuel 8:5-8, 19) It’s therefore inconceivable that a monarchic arrangement in which those appointed by God may choose their own successors would be a feature of “Spiritual Israel” – an institution that is not subject to the whims of humans but is of purely divine origin.
In the case of the twelve apostles appointed by Christ, once these died off they were not replaced by successors. Matthias was the only apostle “of the twelve” who wasn’t appointed directly by Jesus, but he was only appointed as a replacement of unfaithful Judas by the casting of lots. (Acts 1:23-26) The Society themselves admit that the reason for the appointment of Matthias in this manner was due to the unfaithfulness of Judas, rather than as a response to Judas’ death. As further evidence, when faithful apostle James died (as with the rest of the apostles) there is no record of any concern over whether a replacement should be appointed. Consider the following quote from the Insight book…
“Sometime during the ten days between Jesus’ ascension and the day of Pentecost it was viewed as necessary that another be selected to fill the vacancy left by Judas, not simply on the basis of his death but, rather, on the basis of his wicked defection, as the Scriptures quoted by Peter indicate. (Ac 1:15-22; Ps 69:25; 109:8; compare Re 3:11.) Thus, by contrast, when the faithful apostle James was put to death, there is no record of any concern to appoint anyone to succeed him in his position of apostle.—Ac 12:2.” – Insight On The Scriptures, Volume 1, Page 129
The Governing Body has long pointed to Christ’s apostles as a divinely approved model for their collective authority, but they have never once explained how Christ has any involvement in their individual appointment. They are now asking us to believe that Christ directly chose Joseph Rutherford and his anointed associates as his modern-day “apostles”, or Faithful and Discreet Slave, in 1919 – but they will never be able to satisfactorily explain how, once Rutherford and his associates died, the divinely appointed authority of these ones was conferred to successive generations of Watchtower leaders.
In the past, the Society was able to evade this issue with comparative ease, because they could point to the Faithful and Discreet Slave CLASS as being ever-present throughout history from Pentecost 33CE onwards (i.e. individual anointed ones were not “succeeded” by anyone on their death), with the Governing Body assuming an albeit self-appointed and symbolic role as representatives of these ones in recent times.
Now, the Society has effectively scrapped the idea of the Faithful and Discreet Slave as a “class”, and now insists that the office of the Faithful Slave was bestowed by Christ on the shoulders of Rutherford and his associates in 1919, and this office was somehow passed down to successive members of the Watch Tower Society Board of Directors until the Governing Body arrangement was introduced in 1971. Thereafter, they insist that this “succession” continued as Governing Body members died and were replaced until we arrive today at a situation where eight individuals, none of whom had even been born in 1919, are now Christ’s “Faithful and Discreet Slave”. Not only does this sound incredibly implausible – most significantly there is absolutely no scriptural precedent for things to be done by God in this manner whatsoever.
In the bible, God’s favored way of doing things has always been to appoint either an individual or group of individuals to lead his people, and once these ones died their office (or position) died with them – unless God made clear that he was handing it to somebody else. In other words, God appoints people according to their individual merits, not based on who has gone before them. There is no reason to believe that God or Christ would do a complete U-turn and now do things entirely differently, especially during times such as these when the Earth is supposed to be on the brink of falling under Christ’s millennial rule, and divinely appointed direction is said to be needed more than ever by God’s people deep in these “last days”.
It is also interesting to note that, according to reports, the Governing Body is now insisting that the organization has been in an ongoing period of “cleansing” since 1919. Whether this will be somehow used to explain the idea of succession remains to be seen. The Governing Body may try to claim that part of this ongoing “cleansing” involves Christ appointing new members of the Faithful Slave. Regardless of how they try to explain it, thinking Witnesses will wonder why Jesus Christ needs 93 years and counting, not to mention successive generations of Watchtower leaders, to cleanse his organization and impart divine truth.
A talk by Samuel Herd apparently attempted to reinforce the link between the Apostles and the Governing Body, but admitted that once these Apostles died the “restraint” was removed allowing apostasy to set in. As I have already asked in this article, how can the Governing Body justify likening themselves to every feature of the First Century apostles apart from the key characteristic whereby no apostles were replaced once they had died?
A poor choice of slave
Not only is the “successor” element of the Governing Body’s new teaching highly suspect, but prior to this new teaching questions were already being raised as to how Christ could possibly have chosen Joseph Rutherford and his associates as his approved earthly organization in 1919. There are two main reasons for this…
Spiritual Food – I have already published an article detailing how the publications of the Bible Students in circulation between 1918 and 1919 were not just partially inaccurate – they were shockingly misleading and downright fanciful in their application of scripture. There are few more obvious examples of this than the Finished Mystery, which spoke of the distance between the place where it was written and the place where it was printed as having prophetic significance, and described Charles Taze Russell as speaking from beyond the grave through its pages and supervising the “harvest work” even after his death!
In another of my articles, on InsideTheWatchtower.com, I have presented evidence of racist bigotry in the pages of early Watchtower publications both before, during and after Christ’s supposed inspection. Rutherford in particular described black men and women as a cursed “race of servants” in a Golden Age article ten years after Christ’s inspection was supposed to have taken place (see The Golden Age, July 24th 1929, page 702). Bear in mind that the Golden Age, the forerunner of today’s Awake! magazine, is still considered a vehicle of spiritual food just like any other Watchtower publication.
In summarizing the publications of the Bible Students that were in circulation during the period of Christ’s inspection in 1919, nobody put it better than former Governing Body member Raymond Franz when he said…
“A direct investigation of the publications of the Watch Tower organization in the years from 1914 to 1919 reveals none of the prudent discretion that causes a man to ‘keep his lips in check’. It would be an insult to Christ Jesus to say that he selected this organization on the basis of what it was teaching, uniquely and distinctively, as of 1919.” (Raymond Franz, In Search of Christian Freedom, page 145)
The personal character of Rutherford – I am still relatively recent in my “awakening” from the indoctrination of my upbringing as a Witness. Throughout my young life “Judge” Joseph Rutherford was frequently held aloft as a shining example of a humble servant of God, and to this day he is lauded by the Watch Tower Society as a man of great wisdom and courage. Such a depiction of him features prominently in the recent Faith In Action DVD series. Even so, the more I read about “Judge” Joseph Rutherford, the more I realize what a monstrous and vile man he truly was.
The Society’s problem with Rutherford is that, try as they may, they cannot prevent documented evidence of his questionable character from surfacing – especially since the internet has made it easier than ever before to share such information that would otherwise be hard to obtain. For example, I will shortly be publishing an article that will attempt to pull together some of the documented evidence of Rutherford’s temperament – in particular that which came to light during the libel lawsuit with Watchtower lawyer Olin Moyle between 1939 and 1940.
I will go into these matters in greater detail in my future article. However, suffice to say there is documented evidence connected with the lawsuit to suggest that:
- Rutherford allowed an atmosphere of alcoholism to prevail at Brooklyn Bethel, to the point where Bethel family members who decided to abstain from alcohol were ostracized and ridiculed.
- Rutherford was a bully, and used rude, abusive and patronizing words to humiliate Bethel workers that he disapproved of.
- Rutherford afforded himself a life of luxury with multiple residences across the United States while ordinary Bethel workers lived in cramped and squalid conditions.
- Rutherford was discriminatory in allowing one sister to get married and live in Bethel with her husband even though he had forced another brother to leave Bethel in disgrace because he chose to marry.
Added to what I have already mentioned about the racist material that was printed in Watchtower publications under Rutherford’s presidency, it seems inconceivable that Christ, who favored no race above another and encouraged his followers to be meek and humble, would choose a man of Rutherford’s bigoted and contemptible character to form part of his “original” Faithful and Discreet Slave. (Mark 9:35; 19:14) Even so, with this latest change of understanding, we are now being asked to believe that Christ not only approved Rutherford’s character, but found him and his associates the only worthy candidates out of all the humans on Earth at that time to form part of his “faithful and discreet slave”.
Fast forward to the 21st Century, and similarly we have a group of men who, despite having nowhere near as bad a reputation as Rutherford, still leave much to be desired in both humility and intelligence. As I have explained in another article, I recently started uploading videos to YouTube that focus on the words spoken from the platform by various Governing Body members.
One such Governing Body member, Anthony Morris III, boasts of disobeying orders from a superior during the Vietnam War, and even routinely calls himself “the Shoemaker” – insinuating that the guidance in his talks originates from his own wisdom rather than God’s. Anthony also uses a “monarchical ordinal” (a roman numeral) after his name to distinguish himself and honor his ancestors. Is this really one of the eight most humble men available on the Earth today for Jesus to appoint as part of his Faithful Slave?
Outstanding intelligence has never been a prerequisite for those who are used by Jehovah. Moses was not a fluent speaker, being “slow of mouth and slow of tongue”. (Exodus 4:10) Jesus’ followers were said to be unlettered and ordinary. (Acts 4:13) Even so, in an era where the ability to communicate effectively is so important, it is surprising to observe the lack of basic knowledge in certain Governing Body members.
In one talk, Anthony Morris III coined the term “thinkingest” to describe Jehovah’s people, and in another talk Stephen Lett felt compelled to explain to his audience that God’s “express will” has nothing to do with express trains, or “expresso” coffee, but simply means God’s clearly stated will. The fact that Stephen saw the need to explain this simple term, or research it for his talk, raises serious questions as to his intellectual credentials as one who is called upon to teach millions of God’s people around the world. Again, would Jesus select men who fall so desperately short with even their basic knowledge of words to communicate globally with his people (or “domestics”) out of the billions of potential candidates at his disposal?
A Predictable Change
I’ve already mentioned that some have long predicted this new change in understanding. I myself considered the possibility a few times, but I felt it would be some time before I would see the teaching actually introduced.
Interestingly, some time ago we ran a mini-survey on this website asking “Who is the Faithful and Discreet Slave?”, and 15% of the 530 who voted said they thought the term referred to the Governing Body. This well-illustrates that a good number of Witnesses are already oblivious to the matter. It also gives evidence of the cunning way in which the Society has incrementally slipped suggestions of this teaching into its publications over some time in readiness for the change.
As an example, at the 2012 Safeguard Your Heart District Convention a new brochure was released entitled Who Are Doing Jehovah’s Will Today? Page 22 of this brochure carried the heading “Who Is the Faithful and Discreet Slave Class?”, and answered the question (in part) as follows…
“They are genuine, spirit-anointed followers of Jesus. The ‘slave’ dispenses timely spiritual food to fellow worshippers of Jehovah. We are dependant upon this faithful slave class to keep giving us our ‘measure of food supplies at the proper time.’” – Luke 12:42 (Who Are Doing Jehovah’s Will Today?, p. 22)
Most people reading this paragraph before being told of the new “understanding” would fail to spot that the word “all” is crucially missing after “they are” and before “spirit-anointed followers of Jesus” in the first sentence in bold. Whether the omission of this word was deliberate is, I suppose, a matter of conjecture – but it seems more than a coincidence that, just a few months after printing this brochure, it was announced that NOT “all” spirit-anointed followers of Jesus are to be considered part of the Faithful and Discreet Slave. Supposedly, only eight individuals in Brooklyn now have this special role in God’s purpose.
What this change means
All of this is first-and-foremost about increasing power and control. By claiming that they are now the Faithful and Discreet Slave in its entirety, the Governing Body reinforces their authority over the organization and their influence over millions of Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world. Rather than, in the minds of many Witnesses, being theoretically answerable to a larger group of thousands of anointed fellow worshippers who they claim to serve as “representatives”, they are now answerable to nobody but Christ. Nobody can question their position because, just as with the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, they can now claim their authority has been granted to them directly by God through Jesus.
Even though I understand their reasons for making this change, I believe it will cause more problems for the Governing Body than it will solve. Not only have they opened up an entirely new Pandora’s Box of doctrinal issues in their need to explain plausibly how the 1919 Faithful and Discreet Slave has magically become the Governing Body of today – there is something even more troubling that they should concern themselves with.
Many Witnesses were already baffled by the total authority assumed by the Governing Body, and how they have wielded this authority as representatives of the Slave Class without any communication with their anointed fellow christians. This was indeed a major source of doubt for me, and one of the many things that led to my eventually “awakening” from my indoctrination. The obvious disparity gave me the courage I needed to research my beliefs more objectively.
Now that the Governing Body has so brazenly swept aside their anointed colleagues and stripped them of any significance whatsoever in the dissemination of truth to God’s people, I feel there may be a backlash from thinking Jehovah’s Witnesses who were already harboring serious doubts but who will now feel “enough is enough”.
There are only so many lies and deceptions that you can load up on an intelligent human being and ask them to take seriously and base their entire life upon before something snaps. Eventually these falsehoods become too numerous and too hard to believe, and (as happened in my case) an individual will finally decide they have had enough. I believe this may happen on a considerable scale with Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world once this new teaching becomes widely known.
Added to the already considerable downsizing in the organization caused by a slowdown in global growth, it may be that before long we will start to see the number of publishers enter negative growth as those who are already mentally on the fringes start to leave the organization in droves. Only time will tell whether the new teaching will play a significant role in this likely exodus, but the downsizing of the organization has already begun, and I certainly don’t believe this new teaching will improve matters for the Society.
Over the years the Governing Body has grown increasingly arrogant and out-of-touch. You can only hide those sorts of attributes for so long before they become plain for all to see. For a while I entertained thoughts of new brothers being gradually added to the Governing Body who would see through the lies and do the honest and humble thing by admitting that they do not enjoy God’s blessing and eventually dissolving the organization – thereby setting millions of misguided worshippers mentally free. However, the more I observe the frequency with which the Governing Body is making mistakes both doctrinally and procedurally (particularly in relation to handling child abuse), the more I feel that the future of the organization will be irretrievably jeopardized far more quickly and effectively if the existing members are allowed to continue undisturbed in their obvious self-importance and ineptitude.
A PDF of notes taken at the Annual Meeting is now available, and can be downloaded by clicking here.
Please read my follow-up article by clicking here.