The sight of Jehovah’s Witnesses standing next to eye-catching wheeled carts brimming with books and magazines is fast becoming a familiar sight throughout the developed world as “special metropolitan public witnessing” is embraced as a new way to spread Watchtower’s message.
When you pass these displays on the sidewalks of city centers you would be forgiven for assuming that ANY Witness can engage in this form of public preaching without having to meet any special criteria.
After all, ALL witnesses can participate in door-to-door witnessing. Surely standing next to a colorful cart isn’t too different, right?
A concerned active Witness has sent us a copy of the S-73 form “Application for Special Metropolitan Public Witnessing Program,” which pioneers are required to fill in if they are interested in pursuing the ‘privilege’ of getting involved in this work.
***PLEASE NOTE: There is a difference between “Special Metropolitan Witnessing Public Witnessing,” which is carried out in densely populated urban areas between (or outside of) congregation boundaries, and “Public Witnessing That Is Organized locally,” which is organized by bodies of elders and may involve normal publishers (not pioneers). This article and the accompanying video discusses the former, not the latter. For more information, see pages 4 to 6 of the July 2013 Our Kingdom Ministry.***
A not-so-complete forgiveness
The form for special metropolitan public witnessing asks basic questions of the applicants before probing them as follows…
- Have you been reproved by a judicial committee within the last three years? If so, when?
- Have you been reinstated by a judicial committee within the last five years? If so, when?
- Are you now of good moral standing and habits?
- Are you willing and able to follow theocratic direction on public witnessing?
Bear in mind, the above questions are generally being asked of pioneers, who must already be of “good moral standing and habits” and be “willing and able to follow theocratic direction” to hold their positions in the first place.
Then there is the curious probing of how recently the pioneer has been reproved or reinstated. According to Watchtower literature, those who are reinstated after being disfellowshipped for wrongdoing are forgiven “completely and permanently.” They are to be considered as “full-fledged members of the family” for whom Jehovah has “wipe[d] the slate clean.” (w13 6/15 p.19 par.12; w98 10/1 p.17 par.16; w12 11/15 p.27 par.5)
But according to this form, the forgiveness extended through the judicial process isn’t quite so complete and permanent. Even if you’re deemed repentant by a judicial committee and thus reproved, you will still need to endure the humiliation of confessing to this in writing for the next three years if you want to participate in this form of public witnessing.
Rated from A to E
But it doesn’t end there. Once you have navigated the applicant’s part of the form, your elders then have to fill in the other side, and place your conduct under further scrutiny.
The following 10 questions are first asked…
- Is the applicant a zealous Kingdom publisher?
- Does he care well for his responsibilities?
- Does he enjoy and promote good relations with others?
- Does he demonstrate a proper view toward people of other cultures?
- Does he cooperate with the body of elders?
- (a) Does he demonstrate a willingness to approach people in different public settings in order to share the good news? (b) Does he demonstrate discernment when doing so?
- (a) If the applicant has been disfellowshipped or disassociated in the past, was he reinstated within the past five years? (b) If so, when?
- Has he been reproved by a judicial committee in the last three years? When? Date restrictions lifted:…
- Is he now of good moral standing and habits?
- Do you recommend that he be trained for this special public witnessing program?
As you can see, the issue of past sin, whether the individual was deemed repentant or not, is regarded as being of pressing urgency in whether or not he or she qualifies to stand next to a literature cart!
The bottom of the form even includes instructions that it is to be “kept on file,” meaning that the fact that the person has sinned will remain on record for an indefinite period. How does this demonstrate true forgiveness?
But the elders are still not done with you, the applicant, yet.
Each member of the service committee, followed by the circuit overseer (provided they are not close relatives of you) must finally rate your worthiness from A to E on the following table…
It is as though the Governing Body, who will be ultimately responsible for this ridiculous form, are completely oblivious to the fact that witnessing of any kind is a voluntary activity for which Witnesses receive no payment.
They should feel fortunate to have anyone interested in standing on a street corner publicly promoting their propaganda to begin with. Instead they make Witnesses go through this potentially humiliating application process in order to give of their time freely.
Not surprisingly, the person who sent me this document told me that he knows of it deterring at least one applicant from pursuing the metropolitan witnessing work. I can only say how proud I am of this unknown individual for having some self-respect rather than yielding to such invasive and pedantic questioning.
So next time you see Jehovah’s Witnesses standing proudly beside their literature carts in some bustling metropolis, spare a thought for the indignity they likely suffered to do so.
I wish to express my sincere gratitude to the individual who made this information available.