The fate of elders now rests solely with circuit overseers
The fate of elders now rests solely with circuit overseers

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…


Re: Adjustment in process for appointing elders and ministerial servants

Dear Brothers:

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.

Your brothers,

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.”









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102 thoughts on “Circuit Overseers to assume responsibility for appointing and deleting elders

  • April 25, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    Another change because it is in the Bible. Although with Acts being written circa 70AD it is worrying that Jehovah didn’t point this out to the Governing Body until now.

    It always amazes me that the changes are supposedly ‘scripture based’ yet the scripture never changed. But will the Governing Body admit that they made a mistake? No, they just expect the sheep to follow the rules no matter how often they change; and disfellowship anyone who dares to question.

    I’m guessing that our local elders who are all related (cousins etc.) will be shaking in their Jehovah-fearing boots come September when the Circuit Overseer starts making decisions.

  • April 25, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    How long will it be before the holy spirit will point out to them that Acts 6:1-6 implies that deacons – ministerial servants – were to be appointed by the local congregations?

  • April 25, 2014 at 1:03 pm

    They obviously have ulterior motives for this change (they always do) and I believe it will become quite obvious once the detailed instructions are released.

  • April 25, 2014 at 1:19 pm

    YES, it is quite startling that the GB DID NOT recognise the ‘Precedent’ over forty years ago!!

    It has just struck me that JWs may only have an opportunity of between 4 or 5 years to get out of ‘BABYLON the GREAT’ before the Great Day.

    It just needs some prominent Govenor of the USA to make a visit to the completed Warkill(?) site before the whole thing goes down, marking the 40 year anniversary of the Jonestown incident and 100 or so years since the 1918-1919 years of inspection by their counterfeit Jesus Christ .

    Damn! Sure enough I sure get pi**ed with myself about being right all the time. – NOT laughing out loud this time, believe me.

  • April 25, 2014 at 1:22 pm

    Yes. No longer can the elders appointments be tied to the GB. So when in elder is appointed and does something wrong, then the GB can say we had nothing to do with appointing this person an elder or ministerial servant. The GB may not even provide any guidance so this can further remove them from being blamed for an elders or ms wrong doing.

  • April 25, 2014 at 1:30 pm

    Scrubmaster, that is exactly what went through my mind as well. Remember this organization is really being run by the all the attorneys that currently surround the GB and dictate their every move and decision. They are doing all they can to shield them from any fallout from their ill advised decisions in the past!

  • April 25, 2014 at 1:36 pm

    So two guys doing some appointing in the 1st century = one guy doing the appointing in the 21st? Paul, an apostle and a buddy = a circuit overseer? Apparently this verse could also be translated as they “had elders elected”. for instance, 1599 Geneva Bible: “And when they had ordained them Elders by election in every Church, and prayed, and fasted, they commended them to the Lord in whom they believed.”

    Perhaps they should also include verse 15, in which Paul and Barnabas had to say to the people “hey, stop treating us like gods, we’re just regular guys like you!”

  • April 25, 2014 at 2:08 pm

    So those DO’s who thought they were being demoted to CO actually are getting a promotion. Now they have sole responsibility to evaluate the spirituality of every formerly GB appointed office holder in each of their congregations!

    If local elders suffered from anxiety and angst before a CO visist, imagine the wringing of the hands now.

    It is so obvious that this is simply another attempt at protecting their ass ets. I can just hear the attorney arguing for Watchtower guiltless association with any elder or ms accused of any crime, child abuse or not. We (GB) had no idea our regional manager (CO) would ever choose such a scumbag to work for us. How can you hold us responsible for his ineptitude.

    All I can say is CO’s be wary, very wary, you are now in a position to get both adoration and blame for all that may be coming down the pipeline as respects this cult’s sins. You better enjoy your prominence and power while you can. It may be very short lived.

  • April 25, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    Reply to Danman

    You ain’t just whistling Dixie when you say that Brother!

  • April 25, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    I promise you this is a clever way for the GB to distance themselves from the ongoing sexual abuse scandals. After all, if the GB did not appoint Elder So and So who it turns out was raping young girls then they can excuse themselves of direct responsibility. “It wasn’t me….I did not know” well then be a familiar refrain at headquarters and offer the GB plausible deniability. Sickening!

  • April 25, 2014 at 2:20 pm

    Glad I’m not the only one seeing the conspiracy brewing. Distance yourself from the everyday elders so you can distance yourself from the lawsuits and culpability. How is this an organization run by god, all acting in unity and as “brothers”? Every time I see a bus, I look to see if there are any rank-and-file members under its tires. Yes, enjoy your perceived power today because you’ll be meeting a process server tomorrow.

  • April 25, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    That was a really good comment yawn! Made me smile! Thanks.

  • April 25, 2014 at 3:01 pm

    We never did see this in the Bible until now, so we need to do it just like the Bible says from now on. Really?? I guess this also means no more meetings in the back room of the hall in secret. Judicial decisions will be done publicly (“at the city gates”) so everyone can see that congregation members are treated fairly from now on too, right?

  • April 25, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    The new letterhead. So the letter is not form a legal entity any more. Seems like a cleaver trick to avoid all responsibility for any instructions given in the BOE letters, they are just from some old men now.

  • April 25, 2014 at 3:58 pm

    What I found very interesting is the letterhead and the signature. They are both from “The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses” and NOT from “The Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

    This is the first time I’ve seen this. When did this change? In a way, it doesn’t surprise me considering how much more prominenty the GB features themselves of late. But it does seem interesting: more focus is on them and less on Jesus Christ and Christianity.

    Here is a direct link to download the letter:,_2014_Elder_appointments_deletions-E.pdf

  • April 25, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    It was my impression that in practice, the local body of elders recommend someone to be appointed and deleted, and that the appointment by the branch office was a mostly administrative action (perhaps a check into his past or so). Also, appointments are already announced usually 2 weeks or so after the circuit overseer has visited so he already had some kind of say in the whole thing.

    Why is more information not available earlier than the november 15 issue? The latest is july 15, so it takes another 4 months? And the study article will probably only have inaccurate, full-of-praise content instead of the real practical details.

  • April 25, 2014 at 4:07 pm

    Micha-el. I have no idea what your talking about.

  • April 25, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    Does this mean those little envelopes discreetly given to the CO every time he visits will be getting fatter?

  • April 25, 2014 at 4:38 pm

    Does this mean those little envelopes discreetly given to the CO every time he visits will soon be getting fatter?

  • April 25, 2014 at 4:54 pm

    By the letter head saying the GB, they can now say we do not appoint the elders and ms that is the responsibility of local representatives. We have no control over who they have put into places of authority. So again when one of these men do something wrong they can point to this letter and say we are not responsible for their appointment.

  • April 25, 2014 at 4:58 pm

    Exactly right.

    This is another layer of separation between the corporate HQ and the local elders. It’s all about maintaining control while at the same time distancing themselves from any potential legal liability.

    You wouldn’t think “the God of Truth” would need to use these legalistic maneuvers and tactics to respond to “the imperfections of men.”

  • April 25, 2014 at 7:14 pm

    Light Bulb moment. A buddy of mine just said this to me. The GB is not a legal entity. Then it dawn on me if some one did try to bring a law suit it would be against a group of men(GB) who could claim nothing materially(even though they still could also wash their hands of the appointments as well). They would have free representation in court so nothing would come out of their pocket. Really clever.

  • April 25, 2014 at 8:31 pm

    This new arrangement should not protect the bosses in the current paedophile cases going through the courts.

    I am confident, also, that it will fail as a protection measure in any future cases.

    If this is the motivation, however, like the raging nonsnese the bosses are spouting about apostates and the internet, it is a sign that the Gov. Bod. are rattled and desperate.

  • April 25, 2014 at 10:54 pm

    Cheeky buggers

  • April 25, 2014 at 11:54 pm

    If I may go off on a tangent, because some detail attracted my attention.

    Acts 14:23 doesn’t mention the name Jehovah, it uses the greek word “kyrios”, which appears on several Bible translations as “Lord”. I notice NWT being the only one using the name Jehovah, but this overrides with the wording used on the original text.

    I also notice that Jesus never used the name Jehovah. Actually, is the name Jehovah mentioned on any new testament text in original greek texts ? It’s quite clear to remember the hebrew writing but I can’t recall about the greek word used …

    Sorry to digress, I don’t have a particular opinion about the main subject but I found this detail intriguing.

  • April 26, 2014 at 12:48 am

    What does this change mean for the ” normal ” witnesses?
    My wife is a very low active JW who can not fade away or
    become inactive because she still has her whole family in the cage. Will they put mor pressure on her to ” do more and become active?” Till now the elders didn’t say much about christmas trees in our home ( I am not a JW ) and the fact that she goes to the KH once every 2 weeks. Will that change?

  • April 26, 2014 at 1:09 am

    You are so right, Scrubmaster and danman!

  • April 26, 2014 at 1:52 am

    I can’t see how this will change things on a local level. As long as elders are following the flock book as opposed to the bible when keeping the cong clean I can’t see the CO taking that much of an interest. The local body will still make recomendations.

    I agree with most posters who said it is all about legal strategies and culpability.

    There will always be ladder climbing suck up brothers who don’t care about JWs, they will continue to get appointed. I’d like to think also that there are sincere JW brothers who just want to help other JWs that will get appointed and then reocognise the hypocrisy and want to step down. The more things change the more they stay the same.

    Kate xx

  • April 26, 2014 at 2:01 am

    I really do appreciate the time and energy that you put into writing these articles Ceders. Thank you very much.

  • April 26, 2014 at 2:13 am

    Reply to R.Avonn

    Reassure your wife that she’s still part of a group that has already contributed towards completing about 220,000 years of witnessing work last year alone according to the hours reported in the 2013 Yearbook.

    Then ask her to add up all the millions of years spent witnessing over the last 50 or 100 years and ask her to report that to her elders and Circuit Overseer.

    Witnessing work by there own definition competed.

    OK – Done that – Time to move on or what?

    • April 26, 2014 at 2:32 am

      Wow compared to this, Jesus seems to have spent much less time in a few years’ time … But he must have made such an impact that 2000 years later it’s still read and spoken about.

      Not only JW’s, but no one who came after to continue witnessing made a follow up to such an impact and actually, they did nothing else than distorting and putting shadow on his key message.

  • April 26, 2014 at 2:51 am

    And here I though the “elders” were appointed by the holy spirit. Holy Shit can this be possible?

  • April 26, 2014 at 3:57 am

    JB – Yes, you are quite right, the original Greek texts, from as far back as the 4th Century, did use the word kyrios, rather than YHWH. We find only two instances in the Greek text where the term Jah was used.
    Of course, once Jesus came on the scene, the emphasis was to be on him rather than his father. The disciples were to follow in HIS footsteps. It was, and is, much easier to relate to someone you can physically see and talk to.
    This is quite like what the GB are doing, passing on the responsibility to the CO’s to elect elders, because they are ‘on the ground’ as it were!
    So you see it can still apply to the subject under discussion!

  • April 26, 2014 at 4:44 am

    of course I am telling her since 25 years what it is all about, but you know, it is her religion. How many times did I speak about all the false ” end of the world prophecies ” to her and I think she realises what it is all about. But in the moment it is her religion ” just like being a non practisant catholic ” and I have to accept it.

  • April 26, 2014 at 5:12 am

    I thought the appointments are made by the Holy Spirit according to the Tower.
    No point for JW members to be fearful of the elders anymore. God has nothing to do with them.

  • April 26, 2014 at 5:39 am

    Gym Bob – that is a great point. But can you image them pulling out the elders manual (instead of using the bible)in front of everyone and saying let’s see how we should proceed with this case according to the GB…and then start asking all of the personal details about the particular sin why, when and how? I wonder if the Witnesses seeing this would be shocked?

  • April 26, 2014 at 6:46 am

    What they are doing is building a Chinese wall between the elders and themselves. It’s plausible deniability. Wiki states, “In business, a Chinese wall is an information barrier implemented within a firm organization to prevent exchanges of information that could cause conflicts of interest. For example, a Chinese wall may be erected to separate and isolate persons who make investment decisions from persons who are privy to undisclosed material information which may influence those decisions. Firms are generally required by law to safeguard insider information and to ensure that no improper trading occurs.”

    This is most definitely motivated by their team of lawyers. They are arrogant, spineless, cowardly, twits that have been listening to the sound of their own voices for too long now.

    This will have the unintended consequence of creating a cult of personality among the circuits. Human nature will ensure that these overlords will elect personalities that mimic their own. They will surround themselves with “yes” men that are loyal to them first. With no checks from watchtower I think this move could backfire and schism based on circuit as human ego among these overlords fester. Just a guess.

    This pedophile protecting religion is such an obvious leach on society. It has no reason to exist other than to suck billions from it’s poor adherents who have been told in no uncertain terms that it is honorable to shun education and work way below their talents. Such a shame that generations of kids have been told to squelch their dreams and hopes and serve this greedy deluded corporation instead.

  • April 26, 2014 at 8:02 am

    Plausible deniability.

    When yet another victim of abuse comes forward, the GB can say, “nothing to do with us, go see the Circuit Overseer!”

    One wonders if charismatic COs will take followers after themselves, becoming “classic” apostates. The power to appoint Elders is not insignificant. Will favours be asked and given?

    That being said, I still would like to believe that most COs are good people and will try their best to appoint decent men as elders.

    Time will tell!

    Peace be with you


  • April 26, 2014 at 11:10 am

    Knowing their penchant for referencing scripture to validate their practices, I’m surprised they missed the opportunity to include a reference to Colossians 4:16 after this bit in the PS: “Please arrange for this to be read to the congregation…”

  • April 26, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    I think I’ll make a comment about the article topic as well, after all … :-)

    As much as I share quite the same feelings about the organization as many do, I still feel some unease from an impartiality point of view. There are quite some negative comments, some anticipating different scenarios. However, purely speaking, it’s a organizational change. In itself, unless I lack vision (which is perfectly possible) it’s not harmful by definition. For instance, if such a change happened with some our favorite group of ours, the subject would attract less negative opinion, maybe even some positive, it all depends.

    As I said, I’m not trying to discredit any comments against the topic but somehow, I don’t feel easy if a topic goes too easily towards a negative reaction just because the involved organization has other faults. To me it’s not such a change I could read harm immediately, but like I said, I may be missing a point and be a little naive about it.

    • April 26, 2014 at 2:46 pm

      JB – you always have to take into consideration a whole big picture. And at least do critical thinking. Why now. Why after the GB just barely escaped being called into court. Why all of a sudden does the letter head no longer say Christian Congregation a legal entity but instead a non-legal entity? By the way yes sometimes it is harmless changes. But that is the problem I often see, people except change and do not ask questions, this can be dangerous. Even ones in the bible ask Jehovah questions. This scripture has always been in the bible and is not really hard to understand so why now did they see the need to implement this change?

      • April 28, 2014 at 2:48 pm

        Thanks Scrubmaster, yes, combined with other incidents the questions you raised would be reasonable enough to suspect other intentions.

        The scriptural interpretation question is a very strong argument too ! Like many other doctrinal details, one wonders how the light gets brighter, when it’s always been there !

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