The Watch Tower Society is continuing to hemorrhage information. Hot on the heels of the leak of the annual meeting announcements, yet more details have emerged hinting at growing resentment among bethelites as downsizing intensifies.
JWsurvey has been contacted again by someone inside bethel who this time confirmed earlier rumors of a letter that was read to bethelites at morning worship last Wednesday warning of substantial changes.
Taken as a whole, a picture is emerging of an organization in crisis, increasingly running out of funds, led by a group of greedy, deluded men obsessed with seeing their Warwick fantasy come to fruition at the expense of everything else – including, perhaps, the health of their volunteer work force.
As with all bethel informants I have promised to strictly guard the anonymity of my source. With the annual meeting leak I was able to reproduce an entire letter, but this informant has asked that I merely convey information in my own words (rather than verbatim) so as to minimize the risk of discovery. What follows will, therefore, be my own wording based on what I have been told.
An incriminating image
Those of you who follow JW.org will be aware that Watchtower has been posting updates on the progress at Warwick in the form of “photo galleries.” The latest gallery covered work from January through April 2015 and came under the heading “Warwick Photo Gallery 3.”
My source brought it to my attention that this page has since been removed from JW.org, which indeed it has – although a Google cached page is still available on this link.
This raises the question, why was this photo gallery removed? The answer is – embarrassment over THIS picture…
The picture seems fairly innocuous at first. Some guy, presumably a brother, is working in the lake – probably putting up nets to stop debris contaminating the lake, or to stop wildlife getting harmed.
But if you scroll down the cached page, the caption sheds more light…
A hired diver in Blue Lake replaces an old valve with a new one. With the push of a button, the level of the lake can now be lowered to prevent flooding in the event of a hurricane.
Two things now become apparent. Firstly, this is NOT a brother. It’s a “hired diver” – a so-called “worldly” contractor for Watchtower – presumably being paid handsomely due to the skilled nature of his work and the expensive equipment he’s using.
The second thing to notice is the job he’s doing. This is not an effort at preserving the environment or saving wildlife. The diver is “replacing an old valve with a new one” so that “the level of the lake can now be lowered to prevent flooding in the event of a hurricane” with “the push of a button.”
You might be thinking, so what? Why would Watchtower want this image pulled? Basically, it all falls into context once you read on and learn of the reasons for growing disgruntlement among bethelites. They are seeing branches closed, construction work halted, and face lay-offs on an unprecedented scale in the interests of cutting costs, while the Governing Body is lavishing dedicated funds on outside contractors just so they can have their own remote-controlled lake.
Living on borrowed time
The lay-offs rumored to be in the pipeline are official, and will commence from the winter of 2016, conveniently coinciding with the new Warwick headquarters becoming operational.
Certain bethels WILL be shutting down their laundry, kitchen and housekeeping services to cut costs. The total number of those being shown the door is not yet known, but it is expected to be into the thousands.
Hence, as the Governing Body members begin moving into their plush lakeside retreat, many of their “fellow worker” bethelites will be sent packing into the cold of winter – the majority of whom have forsaken higher education to serve the organization.
Many, my source says, are in their 40s and 50s, with nowhere to stay outside bethel, and precious few qualifications or employment prospects. There are fears that this displaced army will place further strain on congregations as frustrated, let-down, childless and homeless former-bethelites struggle to integrate themselves into the less glamorous fringes of Witness life.
There had previously been an unspoken rule that if a brother or sister accrued more than 15 years of bethel service, they were guaranteed to be cared for by Watchtower for life – deep into their old age. But this rule is out of the window, at least for those who will be axed. Despite many years of loyal service, they will have to fend for themselves – turning to the kindness of wealthy non-bethelite brothers and sisters in their new congregations (who they would have once looked down on to some extent for not “putting kingdom interests first”).
Having announced this hammer-blow news that so many bethelites are on borrowed time, the letter concludes by assuring those who will be forced to leave that Jehovah will care for them. According to my new source, the tone of the letter is eerily evocative of the words found at James 2:15-17:
“If a brother or a sister is lacking clothing and enough food for the day, yet one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but you do not give them what they need for their body, of what benefit is it? So, too, faith by itself, without works, is dead.”
The financial crisis deepens
The letter announcing the lay-offs was read at morning worship on Wednesday 23rd, not just in the United States, but at bethels all over the world. A similar letter was also sent to those in special pioneer service, and construction servants.
The letter speaks of a need to save money, and specifically mentions the May JW Broadcasting episode in which Stephen Lett admitted a shortfall between income and expenditure. (See below)
This is interesting, because comments made by Sam Herd in the August episode seemed to imply the desired funds had since been received, but it is becoming increasingly obvious that this was not so – at least not to the extent needed.
But rather than admitting these drastic changes are being forced on Watchtower simply due to a lack of money, the letter describes the need to speed up the preaching work as being a factor. Thus, laid-off bethel workers are now expected to enter regular pioneer service soon after being tossed out to fend for themselves.
The argument that these changes are inspired by the need to advance the preaching work soon unravels, however, when you consider that special pioneers are ALSO being laid off by these changes. (Special pioneers were receiving a monthly stipend from the organization in exchange for their extra preaching hours.) And it has not gone unnoticed by bethelites that laying-off special pioneers is not a way of speeding up the preaching work, despite Watchtower’s spin. This is purely about saving money by whatever means possible.
An ivory tower on poisoned land
It is becoming increasingly apparent that, despite recent JW Broadcasting episodes heralding its grand building projects all over the world, Watchtower has now frozen virtually all its building programs worldwide so that it can focus on getting Warwick over the finish line.
Warwick will be Watchtower’s new Mecca, and its completion is now the Governing Body’s top priority even as finances dwindle.
Since its inception, the Warwick project has had more than a hint of controversy.
When announcing the plans at the 2011 Annual Meeting, the late Guy Pierce made the frank admission that the Governing Body were “not yet certain of Jehovah’s will regarding Warwick,” but irrespective of this were “proceeding to develop the site with the intention of relocating the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses there.”
Since then the Governing Body has made no secret of its lofty aspirations for their new residence, even telling those who wish to volunteer in its construction that they will be involved in a work akin to rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem under Nehemiah.
“Similar to the call that Nehemiah made to his fellow Israelites, there is a need to call upon the ‘strengthened hands’ of skilled volunteers to complete the Warwick project,” said one service meeting outline attached to a Watchtower letter dated August 21, 2013.
But far from being an unblemished utopia, ordinary bethelites are aware of a media report that circulated back in June to the effect that the Warwick site was contaminated with dangerous chemicals by its previous owners – International Nickel.
Watchtower never responded to requests for comment by Hema Easley of the Times Herald-Record, but it seems there are concerns at bethel that the Governing Body may have been less-than-transparent with Warwick workers about the contaminated nature of the environment in which they are working.
Easley’s article reports that, according to Watchtower’s suit against International Nickel, the organization knew about the problem as far back as 2012/2013 and have been “cleaning the property under the direction of the DEC.”
But given Watchtower’s own dubious track-record with handling pollution, concerned bethelites would be forgiven for wondering whether the Governing Body have really taken all necessary precautions to stop Warwick workers coming into contact with polychlorinated byphenyls – or PCBs – banned in the United States as probable human carcinogens (cancer-causing agents) as far back as 1979.
Thinking Witnesses would do well to question how the Governing Body could be considered “faithful and discreet” by forging ahead with a project while admitting uncertainty over God’s backing. And if they DID have God’s backing all along, why has Jehovah guided his organization to build its new headquarters despite having a shortage of funds, and on land drenched in potentially life-threatening pollutants?
Another scripture will no doubt come to mind for thinking Witnesses, this time in Luke 14:28…
“For example, who of you wanting to build a tower does not first sit down and calculate the expense to see if he has enough to complete it?”
We are now entering a fascinating phase in Watchtower’s history. Over the next couple of years we will all have front row seats to a bizarre spectacle – a cult running out of money, but desperately trying to preserve credibility regardless.
Previously Watchtower could at least count on its army of die-hard bethel workers to rally to its side and hold the fort, but even this alliance is not as solid as it once was, as these new leaks demonstrate.
The recently-announced lay-offs are, I am told, destroying trust in the Governing Body’s leadership among those at bethel – as well they should. These brutal measures bring to the fore the increasingly-noticeable greed and narcissism of the Governing Body – a deluded group of men who shamelessly put their own needs and comfort ahead of those who serve them.
Not satisfied with lavish accommodation and all-expenses-paid trips around the world to attend zone visits and receive adulation at international conventions, these men are now pouring everything into their lakeside retirement retreat – complete with infirmary and adjustable lake.
Those they have cut loose to help rescue their dream of a potentially cancer-causing cult compound face a more uncertain future. With few prospects, many soon-to-be ex-bethelites will be forced to rely on the already over-stretched resources and generosity of the congregations.
Some ex-Witnesses watching these events unfold remain skeptical that Watchtower truly can be running out of money. Watchtower is, in their minds, too worthy an adversary to ever be vanquished. But I am told my recent speculation regarding possible bankruptcy isn’t that far-fetched. Regardless of how much money an organization may start out with, if income fails to catch up with expenditure consistently year-on-year something will eventually have to give.
And while commercial organizations are usually able to adjust their scope of operations almost on a whim, it is virtually impossible for Watchtower to downsize to a scale corresponding to its income gracefully and seamlessly without people noticing and starting to question its religious claims. In short, the threat of the organization collapsing suddenly under its own weight is very real, and the Governing Body knows it – hence its recent desperate attempts to steady the ship.
This of course does not mean an end to Jehovah’s Witnesses. It simply means that the organization that Jehovah’s Witnesses look to as God’s sole channel with mankind could, in our lifetimes, become a shadow of its former self. And the downsizing has long since started, with Watchtower already well beyond the zenith it reached around 2005 (the last year of full magazine-printing) and 2010, when branch numbers started plummeting.
What lies in store?
The end game is far from certain, but given what we are witnessing, I fully expect Watchtower to eventually be reduced to little more than a cult-compound in upstate New York where dwindling numbers of devout followers flock on occasional pilgrimages for a photo opportunity with their dear leaders.
Nothing will be printed. Everything will be accessed online, with Governing Body members addressing their devotees through videos, assuring them that Armageddon is surely just around the corner because Jehovah’s organization is under attack as never before.
We may live to see the day when Watchtower becomes similar in size and set-up to Scientology, with its 50,000 (or less) followers and a highly-insulated leadership.
There would be no real congregations to speak of, because the vast majority of kingdom halls, having already surrendered their autonomy, would be among the first assets to be sold off. Perhaps a few “ideal orgs” (along the Scientology model) spread out across major city locations might spring up as local focal points for Witness activity. But, as the organization’s woes become more apparent, what were once millions of Witnesses will be reduced to perhaps hundreds of thousands of oblivious, hardcore cult followers who steadfastly refuse to look at objective information on the internet despite the clear evidence that their beloved organization has long since crumbled.
Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself, but now that I’m no longer a Witness I’m allowed to speculate. It may not happen overnight, or to quite that extent. But it is becoming increasingly difficult to deny that something is happening in the bowels of this fiercely proud organization, and I for one feel privileged to witness it.
- Theocratic Ministry School GONE as 2015 Annual Meeting announcements leaked in advance
- More downsizing on the way? Multiple sources report bethel letter warning of further cuts
- Is Watchtower imploding? 10 reasons why the end could be nigh
- JWsurvey articles on Warwick
- JWsurvey articles on downsizing