Disfellowshipping and shunning – a not so loving arrangement

Far from being a loving provision, Watchtower's disfellowshipping arrangement causes real harm
Far from being a loving provision, Watchtower’s disfellowshipping arrangement causes real harm

The hurtful practice of disfellowshipping (or shunning) engaged in by Jehovah’s Witnesses has been defended by apologists as a loving and righteous arrangement approved by God Himself.

It is interesting to note that many times when arguing against the Trinity doctrine, Jehovah’s Witnesses will relish the argument that the word “Trinity” is not to be found anywhere in the Bible. Well, the word “disfellowshipping” isn’t in the Bible either, but that doesn’t stop Witnesses from enthusiastically implementing this practice.

Apologists will often misquote from among the few Bible verses that are intended to suggest merely limiting association with those considered harmful to one’s spirituality. (1 Cor 5:11) Such scriptures never imply that wayward Christians should be altogether abandoned and never spoken to. Christ said that those who do not listen to the congregation should be considered as tax collectors, with whom he was known for sharing meals. (Matt 18:17; Mark 2:15-17) And Paul’s words at 2 Thessalonians clearly state that those who are “not obedient” should continue to be entreated as brothers. (2 Thess 3:15)

Ruling through fear

The Jehovah’s Witness faith is led by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, a small group of highly controlling men who rule through fear and punishment. I would know, because I was a volunteer at their World Headquarters in Brooklyn, New York (Bethel) during the 1980s. I lived with these leaders and got to see the fruits of their “tree” first hand. – Matt. 7:17-20

Journey to God's House gives a  revealing insight into what life in Bethel is really like
Journey to God’s House gives a revealing insight into what life in Bethel is really like

In my book, Journey To God’s House, I describe a very controlling and punishing type of religion. Having been a Witness almost from birth, I didn’t know any better as to how to respond to this type of control. One story I tell is that of a powerful brother at Bethel who saw fit to complain about the underwear I chose to wear, which he noticed because we changed in the same locker room.

Rather than entreating me respectfully about it, he tried to control me by hurling hurtful epithets my way. That’s right – a so-called “mature older man” resorted to name-calling with a young idealistic volunteer over nothing more than my wearing of colored briefs.

In retrospect, what business was it of his what kind of underwear I was wearing anyway? After I stood up to my overseer for calling me names in front of my friends, I was convinced I would get kicked out of Bethel – such is the way Jehovah’s Witness leaders think. They can threaten you, insult you and ultimately eject you at any time if you don’t toe the line.

The disfellowshipping practice is one of Watchtower’s best ways of controlling the “flock.” Shunning has gotten so out of hand that it can be wielded for any number of reasons. (For a list of reasons, click here) All you need to do is say you don’t really believe the year 1914 has any significance in Bible prophecy, or accept a blood transfusion to save your child’s life. Do any such thing, and you should brace yourself for brutal reprisals.

Bad association – shunning on a whim

But what is not often discussed is the paranoia surrounding “bad association.” This can be more insidious than disfellowshipping in my opinion, because at least with disfellowshipping you have a kangaroo court of elders charged with doing the deed. Marking someone as bad association is something any individual JW can do on their own.

In my final story in Journey To God’s House I relate how simply leaving Bethel was enough for me to get “marked” by everyone at Bethel I had ever known. Because I didn’t have a satisfactory excuse for leaving, and simply wanted to go home and start a family and have a normal life, I was marked as a spiritual loser to be avoided. It was as though I had a disease that was contagious.

In the end, however, I believe these practices have done more harm than good to the faith. People are seeing the religion for what it really is. I left the Witnesses myself due to the unloving conditions I endured over the years. Thanks to the influence of extreme mind control it took me many years to figure it all out.

But now that my eyes are wide open, I can see that in the end it is I who “marked” them.







Brock Talon is the author of Journey To God’s House – available from Amazon on this link.

145 thoughts on “Disfellowshipping and shunning – a not so loving arrangement

  • November 6, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    “Then one night my father came to my door with my sister, she had been heavily involved in drug abuse and had burned all her bridges with her friends and had become homeless, jobless and had even tried on that evening to kill herself”

    Well, I don’t know how you didn’t get a committee yourself for associating with a disfellowshipped person and especially for taking them into your home because that’s what has happened in the past and I have seen personally in almost identical circumstances to what you have described…

  • November 6, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    Then it was handled improperly by the elders and against the direction of the wtbs.

  • November 6, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    Of course we are ‘allowed’ to have non-JWs over; I have done it innumerable times and have gone to many parties too, even a bah-mitzvah (sp). No repercussions as an elder in the congregation. Where the problem may arise is with the person with a weak conscience (read Romans 14) may rule everything off-limits because ‘what if?’ – the ‘worldly’ man tries to seduce me … Get me drunk … Sing Christmas songs … Etc. Plenty of examples where parties have gone wrong.

  • November 6, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    My comment was in reply to Freethinker non jw. I can see there is a firestorm going on. I think C
    edars has created quite the open forum. Bravo good man!

  • November 6, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    We’ll I might as well relate my own experience. My wife was baptized age 10 back in the 60’s, got df’d, ran away from home with siblings. She is reinstated and the others are still in df status. They do not claim to be jw, have good families etc, which is different than assoc. with those who are still practicing sin (1 Cor 5:9). Recently my wife helped one start a business by painting the sign and contributing clothing. The other we have visited and they love us, no bitterness. The elder body knows this and still my wife pioneered and have been approved to go to International Convention in Africa.

  • November 6, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    My wife has two aunts in the same situation. D’fed many years ago never have claimed to be witnesses scince then. We see then on occasion we even spent the night at the house of one when visiting my wifes grandmother whi lives with her. There are occasions where you have to use your own conscience

  • November 6, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    Milo and Rob,

    If you are such spiffing non shiners, why don’t you be dears and go read the article on shunning that gives a report on the convention speech on association with disfellowshipped ones?

    It seems that there is a lot of variation in interpretation that will only end in law suits.

    I’m delighted you don’t shun. Pass on what you do then. Off you go!

    Peace be with you


  • November 6, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    Hmmm, I see excelsior took you to task. I would respond regarding df: ‘when would you resume association with a heroine addict”? That happened to me (stepson) and when they have stolen from your house and they take your car and blow out a tire and abandon it and you have to search the city for it …

    And still we are involved spending 1000’s on treatment, bailing him out of jail, getting him into halfway houses. Elder body knows. Yes he was raised jw.

  • November 6, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    I have told you before this site is jw survey, aka opinion, aka my experience. I do not feel compelled to reply to your antagonistic replies. In the future desist from your attacks.

  • November 6, 2013 at 4:28 pm

    “I’m delighted you don’t shun. Pass on what you do then. Off you go!”

    Haha! Reminds me of the scene in The movie “Vacation” Where Chevy Chase as Clark Griswald is trying hard to convince his son Rusty that Christie Brinkley was naked in the pool with him because “She’s a pool waitress!” and Rusty finally at the end says, “You think mom’ll buy it?”…Chevy says, “Nice talking with you son”…(- :

    I’m sure the Society is happy with you both…you planted your “Puff pieces” for the day and we all can see what they are so the American version of “off you go!” that’s printable for the open forum is, Take a walk! Take a hike! Book it! Boogie on outta here! Cheeze it! Scram! 24 skidoo! beat it! Beat feet! hoof it! bail!
    (- :

  • November 6, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    Some have an issue with what tgey think is a fact: if you associate with someone that is not a witness or has been labled as bad association that you will be d’fed. Not true in fact many witnesses marry non-witnesses and are not d’fed nor are they reproved. In fact we just recently had a k.m. about reaching out to nonbelieving mates of witnesses.

  • November 6, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    milo says:

    On November 6, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    “Some have an issue with what tgey think is a fact: if you associate with someone that is not a witness or has been labled as bad association that you will be d’fed. Not true in fact many witnesses marry non-witnesses and are not d’fed nor are they reproved. In fact we just recently had a k.m. about reaching out to nonbelieving mates of witnesses”.

    Can it already…I for one have actually sat in front of a committee, more than one under mere suspicion and I’ve seen what others have gone through and I’m getting very tired of dealing with you! You are here for one purpose and one purpose alone as is “Rob” and it is not to benefit from the information presented in the articles or by other posters…

  • November 6, 2013 at 5:39 pm

    i never askef any one to deal with me. If you dont like my post dont read it i dont care. I do realize that things are handled improperly by people that is bound to happen just remeber this: if in your search for truth and knowledge you expect imperfect men to do things perfectly your journey will never end.

  • November 6, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    Milo, we don’t expect perfection. We expect honesty and humility. Don’t you?

    Yet again you are trying to use the “few bad apples” argument when you know that there are institutional problems in the WTBTS.

    Yet another stooge. Read the articles and then post a rebuttal.

    Peace be with you


  • November 6, 2013 at 6:01 pm

    I think honesty and humility is the only way. If you are following christ you have to display these qualities. I have read the article but strongly disagree with its message. In my personal experience the men who are appointed for the most part display christ like qualities as best as they can. I wont hold them to a higher standard than is expected of them on the bible or than i myself can achieve.

  • November 6, 2013 at 6:07 pm

    “i never askef any one to deal with me. If you dont like my post dont read it”

    I’m sure! And you would both just love to be free and unbridled to use and abuse the people’s posts and the articles as well as the forum itself to propagate your lying, twisted and perverted pro Watchtower agenda while no one said a word…ain’t likely!
    Fortunately most readers have been in or around that organization long enough to see through the tissue of lies for what it is…
    No one puts forth this kind of effort or exhaustive energy without an agenda so who sent you here? You aren’t here for your benefit but on a mission but for who? I want you to say it…Do you know “Rob?” You both seem to be on the forum at about the same time…

  • November 6, 2013 at 6:42 pm

    Konrad in your reply to johnny b good you said you cannot nor should not allow anyone to attack a new posters motives. I work for no one i was sent by no one i have no ulterior motive. Just offering an alternative view to what the article said. No harm. I am not trying to coerce nor attack anyone.

  • November 6, 2013 at 6:54 pm

    “Konrad in your reply to johnny b good you said you cannot nor should not allow anyone to attack a new posters motives”

    You betcha!

    One post…IS a new poster…

    You, after a considerable number have established your motives and don’t try turning the tables on me…you won’t win!
    You are here for one reason and it is not to learn and benefit but to propagate an agenda!
    Pure and simple!

  • November 6, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    I think that the point of the article was that all jw’s judge and shun. I was simply trying to show that i do not devote my life to this practice nor have i ever been coerced into feeling to do so. Some witnesses do have a problem with being judgemental its a tale as old as time we all fall guilty to this part of our imperfect nature. Even yourself you have judged me based upon my personal beliefs. Thats fine. That does not concern me. Just trying to take part on an open forum.

  • November 6, 2013 at 7:44 pm

    “Even yourself you have judged me based upon my personal beliefs. Thats fine. That does not concern me. Just trying to take part on an open forum.”

    Nnnnyeah okay then…

  • November 6, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    Do i know Rob? No i have never met the man. But when you are part of a unified worlwide organization you have similar thoughts on these kind of subjects.

  • November 6, 2013 at 11:27 pm

    milo says:

    On November 6, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    “Do i know Rob? No i have never met the man. But when you are part of a unified worlwide organization you have similar thoughts on these kind of subjects.”

    Thanks for ‘splainin’ that…

    After 30 years and all my experiences on several continents and countries of Europe, in my birth language, my cultural/ethnic language, and virtually almost every State in the contiguous USA, Alaska and every Province of Canada from Ontario westward…most of Northern/Central Mexico and so many places that I can’t even remember…experiences I couldn’t begin to relate! Or care to! Nobody ever explained it that way before!

    You are both here on a mission…period!

  • November 7, 2013 at 7:34 am

    If thats true then i am glad i was the first. If that is sarcasm, thank you for reaffirming that we are a worldwide united brotherhood thst does not give conflucting answers. I had asked a question earlier, which was one of the reasons for joining the discussion, if a person disagrees with disfellowshiping what is an alternative? I have asked this question to myself many times and cannot come up with an answer. I was hoping to have a fair discussion on the subject.

  • November 7, 2013 at 7:50 am

    Milo, no conflicting answers? Really?

    Here’s an example from my life about shunning.

    I am disfellowshipped and live in my mum’s house. My mum is a JW.

    Our first witness cleaner was so freaked out by my being in the same room as her and her brother that she stopped cleaning out house.

    Our second witness cleaner will quite happily talk to me briefly about non spiritual things.

    Is that a unified message?

    As for an alternative to shunning, why not follow the second cleaner’s example?

    You can still disfellowship someone, and have a spiritual shunning only. That way families can still retain their natural affection for each other and the congregation will be kept clean.

    This will fit in with the scriptures a lot better than the current “treat them as dead” approach which has caused immense psychological harm.

    I hope that this has helped you to reason on shunning and that you will take these ideas on board.

    Peace be with you


  • November 7, 2013 at 8:01 am

    “If thats true then i am glad i was the first. If that is sarcasm, thank you for reaffirming that we are a worldwide united brotherhood thst does not give conflucting answers”

    Quit! With the innocent and stupid act! And your persistence alone on this thread and site exposes who you are…no typical inquirer or passerby would continue on after such scolding and exposure and warning except a Watchtower plant on a mission! An average person…Once their point was made and they were no longer welcome? They would move on…There is no reasoning and there is no, “fair discussion” since it is never, ever possible with any JW and it is not your objective! You lie again!

  • November 7, 2013 at 8:04 am

    Rob, you speak of resuming contact with your drug addicted step son. Why did you stop having contact in the first place? Was it the stepson’s decision or yours?

    As for attacking you, I see it as my duty to robustly confront posters who tow the society’s line on everything.

    I notice that you haven’t responded to my detailed questions regarding child protection policies, and the rules written in the shepherding the flock of god book.

    The best way to get me to stop attacking you is to answer my questions and actually read the articles that I refer you to.

    Are you going to respond to my detailed questions?

    Are you going to read and consider the articles posted here?

    You see, we ex Witnesses aren’t interested in apologists who come on this site to paint a picture of a benign religion when we have experienced first hand the wrongs of the WTBTS.

    Please respond to my questions. Please read the articles.

    Until you do, expect me to robustly challenge your statements and call a lie when one is told.

    Peace be with you


  • November 7, 2013 at 8:10 am

    Rob, my “off you go” comment was not meant to substitute a swear word. It was more in the way of Jesus saying to go and make disciples. I wanted you and Milo to “go” and spread the word that mercy is a good thing to show to people.

    Apart from that one explanation, see my post above!

    Peace be with you


  • November 7, 2013 at 8:34 am

    At this point perhaps “Rob” and Milo need to find the response they seek and crave on behalf of the Society from someone else…all bases have been covered and it’s a Cedars matter!

  • November 7, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    This is absolute rubbish and you know it. Full of shite you are.

  • November 8, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    Supposedly there is a huge global conspiracy being perpetrated by the WTBTS to cover up and house child molesters. Could it be true? Well lets look at what a WT article frankly admitted some years back.
    January 1, 1986 Watchtower admits: “Shocking as it is, even some who have been prominent in Jehovah’s organization have succumbed to immoral practices, including homosexuality, wife swapping, and CHILD MOLESTING. It is to be noted, also, that during the past year, 36,638 individuals had to be disfellowshipped from the Christian congregation, the greater number of them for practicing immorality. Jehovah’s organization must be kept clean!(1 Corinthians 5:9-13)”

    Someone needs to teach the Governing Body how a cover up works. Admitting that there have been members of the organization, even those in “prominent” positions who have been guilty of, amongst other things, child molestation is a horrible way to cover your tracks. What’s more, they put it right in a magazine that they then actively try to get the public to read. They didn’t even put it in one of their “secret” books, like the Shepherd the Flock of God Under Your Care book. Oops!! I’m not an elder!!! How did I know that book exists? Truth be told I asked one of my elders about it one time and he reached I to his book bag and handed me the book. He said “Knock yourself out. Read the whole thing if you want.” And no, he wasn’t some “rogue” elder. He is still faithfully serving in the same capacity. The truth is that it is simply a compilation of material that has already been printed in our publications on judicial matters. It is there for quick reference to said material. The only additional I formation I saw was some recommendations on what to do in extreme cases. Such subject matter would not be suitable to print in a publicly circulated publication, as some of it is pretty graphic.
    I know that certain people on this forum will thoroughly rip me apart for my posting my own personal observations. But I do t care. I’ll answer whatever sincere question anyone may have for me as best I can with my limited intelligence. After all, I barely even know how to read as a jw. It took me two hours to type this.

  • November 8, 2013 at 6:28 pm

    Sorry to have delayed in commenting, i have been very busy at work. @excelsior there is no conflict in the two sisters aproach to your situation. They both gave a proper and united answer. How os this so? Because we cannot make a broad rule for every situation even with disfellowshipping. For instance in dealing with family members the WT says, ” we cannot know every circumstance”. The same goes for funerals, weddings, and business dealings, in fact many situations. So where is the unity? In this bible principle: you must let your consoence be your guide. We all know the basic command to not fellowship with unrepentant ones. Yet we must also use oir condcience when sotuations dictate. So niether sister was right or wrong, to say so would be to push your conscience on another person. The sisters were united on their thinking. Different answers do not always equal disunity, it depends on the circumstance.

  • November 9, 2013 at 3:10 am

    Pot calling Kettle,

    If you have read the articles on child molestation on this site, then you would know what you talk about.

    If an elder gave you his shepherding the flock of god book to read, did you notice the subtle use of language where an elder MAY contact the police? There is no compulsion to involve the superior authorities in this disgusting act.

    Many cases, where only one witness to the crime is known, are simply not acted upon, and is left with Jehovah to deal with.

    One article back in the 80s does not cut it, as many court cases are from after this supposed admission.

    I cannot agree with your opinion. I would urge you to read the articles on child abuse and the undeniable cover ups that have occurred over decades.

    The truth is that most people, when confronted with the WTBTS’ reaction to child abuse, are appalled by their lack of care.
    I know I am.

    You are entitled to your opinion, but I must say that it has been formed with a singular lack of facts.

    Your post has failed to change my opinion, I’m afraid. It simply does not address the issues correctly.

    Peace be with you


  • November 9, 2013 at 3:25 am


    We’re back to the stock answer are we?

    Individual conscience, eh? So the GB don’t “push their conscience on another person” do they?

    Have you read the articles on disfellowshipping? The GB tell the witnesses not to contact family members. Is that leaving it to individual conscience? I think not!

    The official line is that shunning is down to individual conscience. I agree. The reality is that article after article in the watchtower, and the latest speech at the last district convention have spent considerable time telling witnesses exactly what to do. There is no mention of individual conscience.

    I am sorry, but you have not got your facts right.

    I really fail to see why you have posted this information, when it can be readily debunked by even a cursory glance at watchtower articles.

    The act of shunning is an act of mental cruelty that Jesus never engaged in. I fail to see why followers of Christ should shun as they do.

    There have been many posters in the last few months that have merely regurgitated the official line of the WTBTS. If we want to read the official line, we can easily look on jw.org and consult our extensive libraries.

    Milo, I hope that you read the articles on shunning and child molestation and take these to heart.

    Good hearted people will agree that shunning and the cover ups of child abuse must end. They do not praise your God and they do not honour the people involved.

    Peace be with you


  • November 9, 2013 at 3:41 am

    Pot calling kettle

    A further rebuttle!

    The shepherding the flock of god book has been specifically barred from non elders. The letter from the WTBTS clearly says that you are not supposed to read it.

    Your comment that it shouldn’t be readily available because it contains shocking details is ridiculous.

    Have you read the Old Testament? It is full of murder, gang rape genocide etc etc, pretty graphic stuff I am sure you’d agree – but I don’t see the WTBTS withholding it from the general public!

    It is a false argument. The fact is that the child protection policy is fatally flawed and must be thoroughly overhauled.

    I notice that you did not post this comment on child abuse on a blog that deals with it. Why is that? Didn’t you want to read the facts about the many abuse victims? Or didn’t you want others to read them and then compare your comments?

    I have read the shepherding the flock of god book, and I think it is the most unChristian book the WTBTS have ever produced. It fails to protect the vulnerable and meek. It is fundamentally unChristian and should be rejected.

    If you are an elder, can you guarantee that you would contact the police as soon as you became aware of an alleged abuse? If you’re not, do you agree that the police should be involved as soon as the allegation is made?

    What is your opinion? Should the superior authorities deal with the crime, or should the local Bethel decide what to do?

    Finally, your passive aggressive sarcasm about how ill educated you are is in very poor taste. There are many people, myself included, who have learning difficulties and your playing dumb is rude and a deliberate attempt to cast contempt on this issue.

    I recommend that you read the articles on child abuse on this site. They will reveal a systematic coverup of abuse that has continued unabated for decades.

    It must stop.

    Peace be with you


  • November 9, 2013 at 7:21 am

    In many civil societies, kinds of shunning are practiced de facto or de jure, to coerce or avert behaviours or associations deemed unhealthy. This can include:

    restraining orders or peace bonds (to avoid abusive relationships) court injunctions to disassociate (to avoid criminal association or temptation) medical or psychological instructing to avoid associating (to avoid hazardous relations, i.e. alcoholics being instructed to avoid friendship with non-recovering alcoholics, or asthmatics being medically instructed to keep to smoke-free environs) using background checks to avoid hiring people who have criminal records (to avoid association with felons, even when the crimes have nothing to do with the job

  • November 9, 2013 at 7:33 am


    Shunning often involves implicit or explicit shame for a member who commits acts seen as wrong by the group or its leadership. Such shame may not be psychologically damaging if the membership is voluntary and the rules of behavior were clear before the person joined. However, if the rules are arbitrary, if the g

  • November 9, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    Here is the question I wish I could shout from the top of Mt. Everest to every single JW in the world…..How is shunning any different than bullying?

  • November 9, 2013 at 6:26 pm

    Milo, again you are comparing shunning to legal sanctions.

    Need I remind you that legal sanctions are:

    1 decided by an independent judicial system

    2 for a set time, with access to family and friends normally allowed

    Comparing shunning to avoiding smoke for a asthma sufferer is just plain bizarre. I should imagine that any medical impediment to association would be self applied, and not enforced by the threat of sanction.

    Milo, why don’t you telephone a Psychology department and ask them about shunning? There has been a lot of research that will aid you in your opinion.

    I hope to read that you and Pot calling Kettle have read Cedar’s articles, and are willing to discuss them.

    Peace be with you


  • November 9, 2013 at 7:48 pm

    @excelsior. Why do you asdune i have not read cedars articles? Because i dont agree with much of what he says? Do you understand what a discussion is? It is not always two people agreeing on every issue. I have agreed with you on one point it can be damaging to shun and ve shunned however i also understand that jehovah will not put us under more than we can bear. No matter how hard that may seem.

  • November 9, 2013 at 8:03 pm

    @excelsior. You ask what @pots opinion on letting the local branch handle molestation cases is. I cannot speak for @pot, but i think you are being cold towards some of my brothers and sisters who live in other lands. You pressume your stance based upon the laws of your land and others that have strict laws concerning chid abuse. Yet we are a worlwide organization. Imagine JW’s in Nigeria having to wait for legal action to be taken until a judicial decision could be reached. Research the attrocities that are happening there. OIt is disgusting and perverse. No regard is given to the welfare of children even though they have some laws to protect them. Does going to the authorities make sense sure. Will it solve every problem? No. Sometimes the judicial procedures in the congregation supercede the tlaw of the land.

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