The last few weeks will have been deeply frustrating for the Governing Body, as multiple leaks have exposed a growing resentment of their attitudes and policies among an increasing number of bethel workers.
And now a fresh leak from a Watchtower insider has blown the lid wide open on how the organization deals with issues affecting the rank and file.
“Correspondence Guidelines” is a 118-page document issued to key staff at bethels around the world, giving cookie-cutter responses to a long list of scenarios involving various doctrines.
Previously only available to a privileged few, a 2011 edition of the document is now freely available, effectively meaning that anyone who has the document knows how Watchtower will reply to almost any letter they write before they even put pen to paper.
For the avoidance of further entanglements with Watchtower’s legal department over its interpretation of copyright law, we at JWsurvey have decided not to distribute the Correspondence Guidelines on this website.
Whether you, the reader, choose to access the material from elsewhere on the internet is entirely your decision.
The Correspondence Guidelines were virtually unheard-of until mentioned by former Governing Body member Ray Franz in his follow-up to Crisis of Conscience – In Search of Christian Freedom – on page 242.
After spending an hour or so last night perusing the pages of this fascinating document, I can fully concur with Franz’s characterization of it as “Talmudic.” A plethora of subject headings delve into areas as diverse as transvestism, refugees, animal blood, hermaphrodites, sterilization and “retarded persons” with giddying pedantry.
The writers of the document themselves seem to recognize how ridiculous it is by their attempts at defending it in their opening remarks…
Bear in mind that much of what is published on matters of conduct is to be viewed not as law but rather as mature Christian counsel. So it is not always necessary to think in terms of imposing sanctions if a person does not fully conform to the counsel given.
But this disclaimer is overtly contradicted on only the next page…
If the one inquiring reflects a challenging, disrespectful attitude, it may be advisable first to contact the elders to determine the person’s standing in the congregation and what assistance they have been able to render.
Therefore, anyone who writes to the organization with anything other than praise and flattery, or who gives the impression they know what they’re talking about, can expect their local elders to get a phonecall – an underhanded breach of confidence that surely represents a “sanction” in and of itself.
Further contradictions present themselves as the reader delves into the various subjects. For example, accepting a blood transfusion without regret, even if it proves to be life-saving, remains a disfellowshipping offense…
A baptized person who willfully and unrepentantly takes a blood transfusion thereby chooses to reject the Scriptural sanctity of blood and violates God’s law. Three elders (not a judicial committee) should meet with him. If a blood transfusion has been accepted without repentance, the congregation will consider that the person has disassociated himself. It would then be announced: “[Name of individual] is no longer one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” The matter would be dealt with as in other cases of disassociation.—w86 10/15 31; w73 9/1 543-4.
But if you happen to be a JW nurse or doctor, and you are instructed to administer a blood transfusion to a non-JW patient, you can do so without fear of reprisals…
A Christian who is a nurse or a doctor respects the Scriptures and therefore would not recommend or order a blood transfusion for a patient. If he or she as an employee is not responsible for deciding the matter and is directed by a superior to administer a transfusion to a non-Witness, whether to obey is a matter for personal, conscientious decision.—w99 4/15 28-30; w75 4/1 215-16.
On the other hand, if you’re a farmer and allow a blood transfusion for one of your animals, expect a slapped wrist at the very least…
It is not proper for a Christian to administer a blood transfusion to an animal owned by him or to authorize another to do so.—w64 2/15 127-8.
Since this is a 2011 edition, we have no way of knowing whether the subject of child abuse has been addressed more comprehensively in more recent editions (which seems likely given all the media exposure on that subject since the Candace Conti victory in 2012).
Even so, given the fact that mishandling of child abuse among Jehovah’s Witnesses has been highlighted since at least 2002 (when BBC Panorama and Dateline documentaries first exposed the issue to a mass audience), you would expect the safeguarding of the children of Jehovah’s Witnesses from sexual predators to merit more column inches than, say, discussing the propriety of Tae Bo.
But child molestation gets only three passing mentions in this document. Pages 41 and 110 give far-from-unequivocal guarantees that molesting a child will prevent a Witness male from serving in a position of responsibility.
For example, the sin may involve past child abuse, and this would likely disqualify him for many years.
Some who are guilty of child molestation, even if not disfellowshipped for such actions, might never qualify for special privileges in the congregation.
Then on page 53 the writers ponder the situation of a minor girl who is raped and falls pregnant. Rather than worrying about the girl’s well-being and the urgent need to pursue justice for her assailant, attention turns to the living arrangements of the resulting baby, and whether the abused child will have to marry her attacker or not.
Child that results either from fornication or from rape of a minor girl: The father of the single, minor girl (or the mother in a singleparent home where there is no father) bears the responsibility to decide whether the infant will be raised in the home or elsewhere. It shows consideration on his part to consider the minor’s valid wishes. He must also decide whether to permit the girl to marry the male who caused the pregnancy. Being pregnant does not require marriage to the father of the child simply to avoid illegitimacy. A hasty or improper marriage may only make a bad situation worse. Emotional support from individuals in the congregation is sometimes helpful.
The failure of the writers to adequately explore and address what we now know to be a rampant problem of child abuse in the organization, with 1,006 suspected pedophiles on the records of Watchtower in Australia alone, highlights either stunning naivety on the part of the Governing Body (who will have sanctioned this material), or deliberate negligence of their duty to protect children from a clear threat.
The proper handling of domestic violence, also a huge problem in the organization, is similarly given short shrift. Page 51 briefly mentions court action as being favorable in the case of a violently abusive husband for the protection of his victim, but nowhere does it suggest that a believing woman who finds herself in such a situation would be allowed to find happiness with a new husband.
In contrast to the terse treatment of such a pressing issue that affects battered spouses in countless marriages, nine pages are devoted to the various nuances of divorce, adultery and remarriage. Every conceivable permutation of marital infidelity is explored in fanatical detail.
Again, “Talmudic” is the only word that can do justice to Watchtower’s obsession with sex and morals. And only the word “pharasaical” can describe their corresponding indifference to the countless victims, past, present and future, of physical abuse in its various forms.
Finally, I was struck by the section on “bloodguilt,” which had the following to say…
The Bible condemns murder, a sin for which a person may be disfellowshipped.—Rev. 21:8.
Bloodguilt may also be incurred if a person causes loss of life through carelessness or because of violating a traffic law or other safety law of Caesar. If a Witness is liable for someone’s death in an accident, the elders should investigate and if warranted appoint a judicial committee to hear the matter, for the congregation wants to avoid community responsibility for bloodguilt.
One can’t help but wonder just how much blood is on the hands of Watchtower leaders past and present, from Knorr to the likes of Morris, Splane and Lett, for the countless lives that have been lost due to the ridiculous prohibitions on blood.
How many lives have been brutally cut short as a result of indoctrinated cult victims declining medical treatment with blood, a practice on which the scriptures are silent? We may never know. And that is to say nothing of the unknown number who have ended their lives as a result of Watchtower’s ruthless shunning practices.
One thing is certain, namely that the Governing Body won’t be making changes to save lives or protect the vulnerable any time soon. But at least there is some comfort in knowing that a growing number within bethel corridors are awakening to the full reality of a shared struggle, and working with myself and others to give thorough exposure to this devastating cult.