To many who have been associated with Jehovah’s Witnesses for some considerable time, the title of this article will sound outrageous – perhaps even blasphemous! However, it is a conclusion drawn from observing the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and specifically the manner in which they have disseminated the news of their “new understanding” related to the faithful and discreet slave of Matthew 24:45.
This website first reported on the new understanding with an article entitled “Governing Body says: ‘We are the faithful and discreet slave!’“, which was published on October 7th, only 24 hours after the announcement was made by the Governing Body from the platform at the Annual Meeting at Jersey City Assembly Hall. The article was widely read, and in the first week of it going online this website received over 5,000 unique visits – no doubt mostly from active witnesses curious to learn whether the rumours were true.
The news circulated on other JW-related websites and forums for weeks, until finally the Watch Tower Society confirmed the news on JW.org (their official website) on November 9th – more than a month later! To read their belated news article yourself, please click here. Predictably, the JW.org article features no acknowledgement whatsoever that the news had already been in wide circulation online for more than a month, nor is there any attempt at an apology for being so slow to confirm the drastic new shift in doctrine that was announced at the Annual Meeting weeks before.
A privileged few hear it first
For those of us who are familiar with how the organization has historically imparted spiritual food and changes in understanding, the above series of events will have been curious to say the least. True, there is nothing unusual about announcing a change in understanding or organizational procedure at a meeting. What is strange is the manner in which a select group of just over 15,000 who watched or attended the Annual Meeting were given privileged access to this “new light” weeks ahead of anyone else, thus allowing a lengthy window in which the news could be circulated online before being officially confirmed on the Society’s website.
Surely it would have been much better if reasonable effort had been put forth to spread the news to the global brotherhood simultaneously either through printed publications or through a convention or assembly program. The apparent rushed and slipshod manner in which this new understanding was hurried into circulation by the Governing Body represents a radical departure from the Society’s traditional approach to imparting scriptural “new light” in a way that allows everyone to hear it at the same time.
Consider the following quotes from Watchtower articles related to the dispensing of spiritual food…
“Jehovah provides something else to safeguard us: spiritual food at the proper time. (Matthew 24:45) By means of printed publications, including the journals The Watchtower and Awake!, as well as by meetings, assemblies, and conventions, Jehovah supplies us with what we need when we need it.” (The Watchtower, December 15th 2002, pp. 15-16 par. 12)
“Another avenue that Jehovah uses to speak to us today is identified by Jesus at Matthew 24:45-47. There he spoke of the spirit-anointed Christian congregation—’the faithful and discreet slave’ appointed to provide spiritual ‘food at the proper time.’ As individuals, the members of this class are Jesus’ ‘domestics.’ These, along with ‘a great crowd’ of ‘other sheep,’ receive encouragement and guidance. (Revelation 7:9; John 10:16) Much of this food at the proper time comes in the form of printed publications, such as The Watchtower, the Awake!, and other publications. Additional spiritual food is dispensed in the form of talks and demonstrations at conventions, assemblies, and congregation meetings.” (The Watchtower, May 1st 2000, pp. 15-16 par. 10)
When you dwell on the above quotes, it’s difficult to notice any similarities in the manner in which the “food at the proper time” has found its way to the global brotherhood on this occasion. No printed publications were used to convey the timely “spiritual food”, nor was it announced at any assemblies, conventions or congregation meetings. It was announced at an annual meeting in front of a select few, and then the news was leaked on the internet before finally being confirmed on the Society’s website.
True, Annual Meetings have historically been events at which interesting news has been announced, but generally such news has involved changes of a procedural or administrative nature rather than momentous new revelations of scriptural understanding concerning the manner in which God guides his people.
The Society’s literature and congregational or assembly programs have always been the preferred means of disseminating new scriptural knowledge – and rightly so, since this enables the entire global brotherhood to receive the information at roughly the same time rather than a select few hand-picked delegates at an invitation-only meeting.
Internet access = the key to understanding?
To illustrate, imagine you are a poor publisher living in a remote rural location in a third world country. You have no internet access, and you gather all of your information about the organization from the publications and weekly meetings, which you put forth considerable effort to attend. You would have no idea about the “new light” about the faithful slave until months later when it finally appeared in printed form in the publications, or was otherwise announced at the meetings (assuming you didn’t hear about it beforehand through word of mouth).
Is it truly fair or reasonable that whether or not you receive “new light” or spiritual food from God’s organization in a timely manner now depends on whether you have an internet subscription or some other means to access the internet? Should not all brothers in all countries have an equal opportunity to receive “spiritual food” from the organization at the same time, and not simply those who are in a position financially or otherwise to access the Society’s official website?
A period of silence
Furthermore, what about the 34-day period between the announcement at the Annual Meeting and the publication of the news article on JW.org? During this “silent” period it was left to websites such as JWsurvey.org and Jehovahs-Witness.net to convey information about the change in understanding – effectively handing the role of conveying spiritual food over to unofficial JW websites, which the Society urges us to avoid.
Is this really the way in which Jehovah would direct his organization to impart knowledge to his servants – through unapproved websites? Did the Society expect that nobody would want to share the news about the radical change in understanding online in the weeks before they finally published their own official review of the Annual Meeting? If the Governing Body simply misjudged the level of interest in this matter, and the enthusiasm with which the news would spread online, does this testify to any great prudence or wisdom on their part?
A sloppy job
Whichever way you look at it, the haphazard manner in which this “new light” was shared seems extremely shoddy and ill-thought out. I can’t help but wonder whether the Governing Body are seriously regretting going about this in such a careless manner, not least because it serves to prove that publishers really CAN access reliable information about Jehovah’s Witnesses on websites such as this before anyone is supposed to hear it.
After writing my article on the subject just over a month ago, I kept a close eye on the amount of traffic entering this website from search engines. A considerable number of visits were from people who were typing keywords such as “new light faithful slave” etc. No doubt many of these were active witnesses who have never visited a website such as this before, but they heard the rumour and wanted to investigate. Such ones who stumbled upon the information on this website will doubtless now be wondering: “if this unofficial website gave reliable information on the issue BEFORE it was confirmed on the official website, then what else is there to discover about the organization that can’t be found in the official publications?”
By giving websites such as this one the opportunity to report on important developments such as new understandings of scripture before these become commonly known among the worldwide brotherhood, the Society has set a dangerous precedent for the future. No longer can they boast that spiritual food is only ever disseminated through the publications or from the platform. In this case, spiritual food was spread to the “domestics” via the internet – and even via websites that are not officially approved by the Watch Tower Society! If the Governing Body can mess-up over such a relatively straightforward issue, it leads me to wonder what other significant mistakes lie in store in the near future.
Read a translation of this article in Hungarian by clicking here.