My final act as a Jehovah's Witness was to attend my judicial committee, or apostasy trial
My final act as a Jehovah’s Witness was to attend my judicial committee, or apostasy trial

I received the phone call on Friday night. I was expecting it. My mother-in-law had been approached at the kingdom hall by my “coordinator” (chairman of the local elders), who told her he would be phoning me.

She could tell from his sullen demeanor that it wouldn’t be to talk about the weather. The elders wanted to meet with me.

And so I had plenty of time to brace myself for the inevitable. I knew this was likely to be about my website.

Though I’ve been running JWsurvey for more than two years, it has only been within the past two months that I have shown my face and stepped out, as it were. I knew it was only a matter of time before confrontation with the local elders would ensue.

I will refer to my coordinator as Bob.*

Bob is a likeable guy who has risen through the ranks rapidly since his baptism. When I first met him in 2006 on my first trip to Croatia he had only been baptized a couple of years before. Now he was my local coordinator, which (with all due respect to Bob) epitomizes the shortage of male Witnesses eligible to assume oversight in Croatia. Bob would probably still be handling the microphones by now if he were a Witness in Britain or the States, no matter how capable he may be.

What Bob lacks in charisma and experience he makes up for in kindness and positivity – always wearing a smile on his face. This time, however, I could tell he wasn’t smiling.

“We know about your website,” Bob said in a melancholy voice, after an awkward introduction partly in Croatian, partly in his broken English. At that point, I knew this was finally it. I had been discovered.

“I see,” I replied.

“Could you come to meet with us at the kingdom hall on Sunday night, six o’clock?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said. “But on one condition…”

I explained to Bob that I seriously disliked two of our elders, and I didn’t want either of them involved in my judicial committee. One elder, Tom, had pulled my wife into the backroom at a meeting without me being present, and interrogated her about me and our private life. The other, Dean, had used information he gleaned from inviting us round for dinner to theorize, entirely mistakenly, about our motives for becoming inactive.

I wanted neither of these men involved in the final act of my 23 years as a Witness. And this still left at least two elders for Bob to choose from to make up the three needed for a judicial committee.

Bob agreed to my condition regarding Dean and Tom. He also agreed that, because I am English with a weak command of Croatian, the meeting would be held in English to the extent possible. It was for this reason, apparently, that an elder from the Branch Office in Zagreb would be attending. I later learned that the branch representative was also invited at least partly due to the fact that Sisak elders had no experience in dealing with apostasy, so they needed some guidance from higher up the chain.

When Sunday evening finally rolled round, I felt reasonably in control. I knew this was basically a formality. Some of my Ex-JW friends were suggesting I take along a lawyer, but I couldn’t imagine how this would be necessary. After all, both parties wanted the same thing – a parting of the ways between me and the organization.

Others suggested I record the meeting for uploading to YouTube as others had done. My wife and I discussed this and both reached the same conclusion. Not only would it be unkind to Bob and the other elders to push them into the limelight without their permission, it would also potentially compromise my integrity.

I would almost certainly be asked not to record the meeting, or whether I was carrying any recording equipment. I wanted to go into the meeting confident, with nothing to hide. I also wasn’t comfortable with lying on tape as to whether I was recording or not. Not recording the meeting and simply writing about it seemed the best course of action to take.

In the hours leading up to my judicial I was bombarded with messages of support and solidarity from others who had been through the same thing. Emails, Facebook messages and tweets came flooding in, giving me great confidence. One tweet, which I found particularly heartwarming, simply said…

 

Misha was right, I HAD already won. These guys had no power over me. They were simply oblivious spectators in my ongoing struggle with a cruel authoritarian cult that threatens my family. In fact, were it not for my desire to protect my family, I wouldn’t be going at all. I needed to let the organization know what would happen if my local elders made things worse for me than they needed to.

A last-minute email

Moments before I was due to get in the car I received an email. It was from Dad. I had emailed him two days ago to tell him about my judicial committee, inviting him to call me but only if it wasn’t too much for him to handle. His reply read as follows…

You’re right, it is too much, heartbreaking I think for us both. The happiest and most rewarding times of my life as well as the darkest convince me of my beliefs. I am so sad that that has not been you experience. The hardest thing for a parent is to let go when you feel they are making a bad choice. It’s yours to take and I must respect that.

We both must stand the consequences of our determination. You soon will become a parent yourself you will do your best I am sure to give her what you believe to be the best, that’s all your mum and I wanted for you.

I will never give up my hope for you despite your making it clear that if you are put outside you will never return.

I do not know how I will bear it if you reject the way I have chosen to walk, but despite how you feel about my sincerity I cannot put into words the love I feel for you, [your wife], and my prospective grandchild.

Love Dad

I was stunned. My mind had already been grappling with my impending face-off with the organization, and now I had Dad’s email to think about. He had wrongly assumed that I doubted his sincerity.

I knew why he had said this. I also knew that in my reply I would need to put his mind at ease, at least on that score. I don’t question my Dad’s sincerity at all – merely his unbending allegiance to a corrupt organization and refusal to look at the other side of the argument considering what is at stake.

Dad had also pointed out a fundamental difference between us. For him, the times of happiness and sadness in life are the driving force behind his beliefs. For me, periods of good and bad fortune and emotional responses to the same mean nothing when it comes to affirming religious convictions. There is no room for such sentimentality, especially if family ties are in the balance. What is of overriding importance to me is what is true, and what isn’t.

Sadly, Dad cannot see things that way. He cannot see that, in putting trust in an organization that makes him feel good, he is doing nothing different from the billions of followers of other religions across the globe.

It was this contradiction that was highlighted in our last face-to-face encounter. I had been left speechless and sobbing by his seeming indifference to the fact that his logic could lead him to be a follower of ANY religion.

When he came to console me, I shrugged him away. “Don’t you dare pretend to love me!” I yelled in the heat of the moment. That confrontation had clearly left both of us bruised.

Now he was letting me know that “we both must stand the consequences of our determination” – his way of saying, “I will shun you because you no longer share my beliefs, because that’s what my religion tells me to do and I must be obedient.”

It wasn’t unexpected, but it rattled me all the same. I tried to put it to the back of my mind. If anything, this was further proof that I was doing the right thing. No son should ever have to receive that sort of email from his father. My progeny would certainly not see me abandon my relationship with them for ANY reason, let alone personal beliefs. The line would need to be drawn, and it would be drawn tonight.

The trial begins

I parked round the corner from the kingdom hall by the River Kupa, which flows through Sisak, my home town. After filming a quick video in my car, I walked the short distance through the rain to the kingdom hall. The gates to the car park were open. The lights were on, and there were two cars in the car park.

I stepped inside and was greeted by Bob. I entered the auditorium and two other elders greeted me in perfect English, neither of whom I recognized.

One, named Davor, was from the Croatian branch office. He must have been in his forties, schoolteacher-like in appearance. The other elder from Zagreb (about my age or perhaps younger) was called Dean. He seemed jolly and likeable. Bob joked that this was not the same Dean I had specified, so he assumed it was okay to invite him. I said that was fine by me.

We sat down facing each other over a small table that seemed to serve mostly as Davor’s desk. It quickly became obvious that Davor would be chairing the meeting.

I was asked whether it would be okay to conduct at least part of the meeting in Croatian. I said this might be a problem since my Croatian is extremely poor, so if the meeting is to benefit me I would appreciate if they could use English as much as possible, but I wouldn’t mind if I heard the occasional Croatian. They were fine with this.

They asked if it was okay for them to open in prayer, to which I said “yes.” All bowed their heads and Bob said a prayer in Croatian, none of which I could follow – not that I was really trying. I had too much on my mind. I went along with the prayer and said a loud “amen” at the end, just to put their minds at ease more than anything.

I was told that this was a judicial committee, formed on the basis that I was accused of apostasy. Did I understand this? “Yes,” I said.

For the sake of my own privacy, this meeting would not be recorded, and it would be appreciated if I did not record the meeting. I found this logic strange, since I had no concerns over privacy and would have been only too happy for it to be recorded, but this was clearly the Watchtower way of saying “we don’t want you to record this meeting.”

I assured them I wasn’t recording it, and that it was important to me that they understood that I wasn’t recording it. This seemed to put them at ease.

Davor explained that the purpose of the meeting was two-fold. They wished to “offer help” to me spiritually. I found this amusing, not least because it was later explained that doctrine was NOT to be discussed. How could they help me spiritually without discussing doctrine, since the reason I was there was due to my disagreement WITH doctrine? This alone highlighted, for me, how pointless the meeting was.

!cid_DF81B1D9-F625-4EFB-8757-A19D1EED9B7EDavor then made a throwaway remark to the effect that I was free to leave any religion if I so wished.

I had to interject.

“Respectfully, no – I am NOT free to leave this religion. I won’t have any of you tell me that. If I wasn’t being faced with repercussions for leaving, THEN you could say that I am free to leave. But I’ve had an email only this evening from my father telling me that he will shun me once I’ve left. My family is being used by Watchtower as a weapon against me. So you can say whatever you like, but I won’t have it said that I am free to leave this religion. Is that absolutely clear?”

There was awkward silence, begrudging acknowledgment, and the meeting continued.

The second purpose of the meeting, it was explained, was to protect the congregation. Two scriptures in the book of Galatians were read out, as follows…

“Brothers, even if a man takes a false step before he is aware of it, you who have spiritual qualifications try to readjust such a man in a spirit of mildness.” – Galatians 6:1, New World Translation (2013 revision)

“A little leaven ferments the whole batch of dough.” – Galatians 5:9, New World Translation (2013 revision)

The latter scripture made me chuckle to myself. Were they aware that they were insulting me by referring to me as leaven that could corrupt others? Apparently not. I was to take it as a given that I was no better than a lump of yeast in their eyes. And again, how were they hoping to “readjust” me with a “spirit of mildness” while refusing to discuss my issues with the organization? It was plain crazy.

With the scriptural pretext to the meeting out of the way, conversation turned to my apostasy. Davor explained that they had found out about my website. A stapled print-out of one of the articles was produced and placed on Davor’s table, facing him. I was asked if these were my words. I strained from my position to see which article it was, being as it was facing away from me. Davor noticed that I couldn’t see and turned the print-out so I could see it. I saw that it was my “coming out” article – The Story of Cedars – A Prisoner No More. I could see that certain sentences had been highlighted in pink.

I was asked, “did you write these words, and do you stand by them?”

“Absolutely,” I responded. “I would also add that there is a promise on my website that if there is anything wrong, or incorrect, or misleading, I will change or remove it if it is brought to my attention. I have never had a serious email asking me to make changes in reference to this promise – only the occasional angry email from a Witness who stumbles on my site and complains about some point or other because they don’t know as much about the organization as I do.”

Again, my words received begrudging acknowledgment. Davor continued.

“Do you still consider yourself as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses?”

“No, I do not.” I replied.

Davor then brought up that I had mentioned in my article about my wife and I preparing letters of disassociation. I was asked if I had brought these letters with me. I said that yes, I had.

“In that case, the matter is settled,” said Davor. “You are no longer one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Do you have anything to add?”

I replied that yes, I did have a few things to say. First, I would appreciate being told how they came to learn about the website.

Davor looked at Bob, and Bob said that it was a sister in Croatia who had found the website and emailed him about it. Apparently this sister was not in our congregation.

I was slightly disappointed. I had hoped for a more romantic story involving frenzied phone calls from Brooklyn etc., but it seemed it was a simple case of a local snitch. Apparently the circumstances surrounding this woman’s discovery of my website, and precisely what she had been doing on it, were of no pressing concern. She had reported to her superiors like a good loyal Witness, and that was good enough for them.

Threatening my aggressors

I then explained that my main reason for being there was my family. My parents in-law, who live under the same roof, are both heavily reliant on my wife and I for a number of reasons. We had reached an agreement with them that religious matters, and particularly our objections to Watchtower, were not open for discussion in our household.

Like my Dad, my wife’s parents simply refuse to look at evidence. Not discussing our issues, and not making any attempts to awaken them, was the easiest and least distressing solution for all concerned.

I was also mindful of the need on my part not to pursue other members of the congregation, or Witnesses elsewhere in Croatia, for the purpose of enlightening them. This too would distress my parents in-law, and put strain on a relationship on which we are mutually dependent.

As I explained to Davor, my wife and I are happy with the status quo. I am happy with my work on the internet being limited to English-speaking countries and not to the country I live in if this is the price I must pay for caring for my family.

If, however, my parents in-law were to be coerced into not speaking to us, things could change very quickly. I would no longer have any reason NOT to turn my attentions to Croatia, with its modest 5,000-or-so publishers. Newspapers would be contacted. Television and radio appearances would be made. Websites would be set up, leaflets would be distributed, and respectful demonstrations outside conventions could be expected.

The choice was therefore theirs. They could let me leave and allow my parents-in-law to deal with the situation in their own way without coercion, or they could make things harder for us and thus remove any reason I have not to create havoc for the organization in Croatia.

The elders looked at each other.

“We can only tell your parents-in-law, if they approach us, what it instructs them to do in the Bible,” said Davor. The others nodded.

I could feel myself losing my calm. They hadn’t grasped my threat.

“So you’re saying that you will tell my parents to shun us, even though this will create problems for them and for you?”

“We can only tell them what it says in the Bible. The Bible is our only authority.” An air of confidence swept across Davor’s face. My frustration mounted.

Fortunately, as the mood of the meeting darkened, I managed to gather my thoughts and find the route around what they were saying. This was one of two occasions during the meeting when my feelings got the better of me and I struggled but somehow managed to regain composure.

“Ah, if you’re saying that you will tell them to do what it says in the Bible that is fine by me,” I said, “because nowhere in the Bible does it say family members should shun each other. In fact, it says the opposite.”

There was a nervous silence.

“In the parable of the prodigal son, which I’m sure you’re all familiar with, the son only returns to his father for… I forget the exact phrase… insincere reasons. He did not show true repentance according to the organization’s rules by rejecting his course of conduct.” (Luke 15:17-20)

The parable of the prodigal son contradicts Watchtower's shunning practice
The parable of the prodigal son contradicts Watchtower’s shunning practice

I struggled to remember the organizational phrase “worldly sadness,” which is the term used for when someone only returns to the congregation for improper motives rather than a sincere determination to cease wrongdoing, but it escaped me in the moment.

“The son goes away and has sex with prostitutes. He lives a life of sin and debauchery. And what is the only reason that he decides to return to his father?”

I paused, waiting for Davor or one of the other elders to answer. There was silence.

“We know the answer to your question,” he said coolly.

“Great, if you know the answer to my question, then what is it?” I asked.

“We don’t need to answer your question,” Davor replied sternly.

“What do you mean you don’t need to answer my question? It’s a simple answer, what is it?”

“None of us need to answer your scriptural question. We know what it is. We don’t need to answer any scriptural questions,” Davor asserted. His eyes seemed vacant. It was as though the friendly schoolteacher had evaporated, replaced by a cold Watchtower interface.

“That’s very interesting. Very interesting indeed,” I said. “I have asked you a simple scriptural question, in much the same way as Jesus would have asked the Pharisees a scriptural question, and you have refused to answer it. That tells me a lot.”

I lingered for just a moment to allow the awkward silence to drive home my point.

“The reason why the prodigal son returned to his father is…” I paused, and placed my hands on my stomach, “because he was hungry. He only came back to his father because he was hungry, not because of any real repentance. And how did his father respond?” I gestured with my arms, spreading them as if to receive the son in a warm embrace.

My point was made. The family bond surpasses everything, including perceived wrongdoing. The elders looked at each other and offered no reply.

“There is just something I’m not sure about,” Dean interjected. The other two elders looked at him. Dean had been mostly silent throughout, following what I was saying intently. I was beginning to warm to him, and was intrigued as to what he would say.

“You seem like a really nice man,” he said. “What I don’t understand is why would a nice man like you threaten us? It doesn’t make sense to me. It’s like…” Dean struggled to find the proper word to complete his question in English. A brief discussion ensued in Croatian as the other two tried to help him. I waited for them to quieten down before answering.

“That’s a very good question Dean. All I would say is this. You can take a lot of things from a man. You can take his house. You can take his money. You can take his car. You can take his pet. All of these things a man can cope with losing. But if you take a man’s family away from him, you will find he is capable of doing a lot of things. And building a website is the least of the things you need to worry about. You have to understand, from MY perspective Watchtower is the aggressor here. I am the one being threatened, and I am only telling you all that will happen if you remove my reasons for not doing anything.”

Dean seemed bewildered. Perhaps he was feigning disapproval in front of the others, or maybe what I said was lost in translation. All the same, when I look back I don’t think I could have explained myself better. Watchtower were the bullies in this scenario, not me.

A letter not accepted

“Right,” said Davor, “well I think that brings things to a conclusion. I just need to see the letters of disassociation.”

“Of course,” I said, reaching for my folder and handing over a piece of paper containing handwritten, signed statements from both my wife and I. The end was in sight.

Davor placed the paper in front of him and began reading it aloud, beginning with my wife’s message in Croatian. My wife had written it rather hurriedly as I had been making my way out the door. She had offered to read it to me, but I told her she could tell me what it said when I got back. I was therefore in the dark as to what the letter said.

Davor finished reading the letter and muttered something in Croatian to the other two, who nodded. He then read my letter aloud, which simply read as follows…

To whom it may concern,

From henceforth, let it be known that I, [my real name], am no longer one of Jehovah’s Witnesses – nor do I have or seek any affiliation with the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society.

Yours sincerely, [signed].

I confess, I enjoyed hearing them read this out loud! But there was a setback in store.

“We can accept your letter,” said Davor. “It’s very clear and unequivocal. However, we cannot accept your wife’s letter. She doesn’t quite make it clear enough that she no longer wants to be a Witness.”

I couldn’t believe it. All sorts of thoughts began flying through my head. Up until now the meeting had gone almost entirely according to plan. Now it seemed my wife hadn’t been clear enough in her letter? I couldn’t imagine how that could be.

“Why, what does she say?” I asked.

“It says that she no longer feels like she is a Witness. It isn’t clear enough.” said Davor.

This actually made sense. My wife is the ultimate peacemaker and hates upsetting or offending people. It wouldn’t surprise me if, in her efforts to be diplomatic, she had failed to be quite as forceful in her statement as a judicial committee requires.

“No problem,” I said. “I don’t have credit on my phone but I see you have a phone there. Do you mind if I use it to call my wife and have her speak to you? I’m sure we can sort this out.”

“No, that won’t be necessary,” said Davor.

“Please, it won’t take a moment.”

“No,” said Davor, “that wouldn’t be appropriate.”

“Listen, one way or another this ends tonight,” I said, growing in frustration. “Do you want me to go and drive her here through the pouring rain so she can tell you how she feels herself?”

“No, it would be too stressful for her,” said Davor, “we will arrange a separate meeting just for her.”

“Look, there’s absolutely no way my wife will meet with you,” I said. “Bob can tell you what she was like when he called me the other day to arrange this meeting. She refused to even come to the phone to translate for him. She just can’t handle anything like that.”

Bob nodded in agreement.

“You must understand,” said Davor, “we are meeting to discuss you, not your wife. We will need to arrange to meet with her separately so that we can find out how she feels and offer spiritual help.”

I could feel my anger swelling. My protective instincts began to kick in.

“Are you seriously telling me that you can’t accept her letter, even though she says she no longer feels like a Jehovah’s Witness?” I said.

Davor nodded.

“So let me get this straight. You’re saying that even if my wife had written exactly the same words that I had written, you wouldn’t have accepted it because this meeting is about me and not her?”

“Yes, that’s correct.” said Davor.

“So why did you even read her letter if this meeting is only about me?” I asked.

“She wrote us a letter, and we wanted to see what she said!” he replied smugly.

“I feel as though you’ve tricked me. Right at the beginning you asked if we BOTH had letters. You made it sound as though you were ready to receive statements of disassociation from both of us.”

“John, you know how this works,” said Davor. “You’ve been an elder. You know we need to follow procedures handed to us, and the procedures clearly state that we need to meet with your wife separately.”

At that moment, as had happened over the shunning issue, the fog in my mind suddenly lifted. From somewhere I regained my “elder head” and was able to find another way around the problem.

“Okay this is very simple,” I said. “All my wife needs to do is write the same letter that I have written and make sure Bob gets it, and then you will have to accept it as her letter of disassociation.”

Davor’s smug demeanor vanished. I had rumbled him.

“Er, we would not want to encourage you or your wife to do that,” he spluttered.

“No problem,” I said, calmness restored. “That’s precisely what we’ll do. I’ll tell my wife to send Bob a letter as soon as possible. Not that I want you thinking I’m telling her what to do – this is her decision.”

And with that, the meeting was concluded. There was no final prayer. All four of us rose from our seats.

“Can I shake your hands?” I asked Davor.

“Yes,” he said.

I shook the hands of all three enthusiastically, lingering a moment with Dean as he stifled an unexpected sneeze.

I thanked all three and headed for the exit. Bob watched to see me leave before returning to be with the others as I walked out the door.

The rain had stopped falling. I was finally free.

 

new-cedars-signature2

 

 

 

 

 

 

All conversations in the above article have been paraphrased to the best of my recollection. It should not be assumed that I have rendered a verbatim account of everything said, or the exact order.

Special thanks to Vincent Deporter for contributing artwork to this article.

* Out of respect for their privacy, I have slightly altered the names of the elders involved apart from Davor, who I refer to by first name only.

# I have since learned from my wife that a more accurate translation of the relevant part of her letter was: “I do not consider myself as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” She has today sent an email to Bob telling him that she wants to be announced as disassociated on the same night as me, and doesn’t wish to be pursued on the matter.

Further reading…

Article translations: Polish | …

Related video…

132 thoughts on “My 21st Century Apostasy Trial

  • January 2, 2014 at 2:36 am
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    Sorry I meant Vincent’s drawing is great. (Not Victor) Should have double checked.

  • January 2, 2014 at 4:04 am
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    Sincerely, I just can’t express how happy I am to read this article. You indeed are free and I am amazed at the way you controlled the whole situation. I do hope this article serves as an encouragement to the myriad of JWs out there facing the same trauma.

    Also had a friend of mine who was disfellowshiped around 2008 because he disagreed with the Org regarding issues like 1914 Invisible Presence, 1918 Resurrection, 1919 Cleansing, Michael the archangel, Blood Transfusion and Torture Stake. He was just as firm as you are and wasn’t even threatened by the risk of losing his family and friends in the process. In 2010 he got reinstated and this moved really stunned us greatly but as time went by, I got to know exactly what he was doing. November 2013, he wrote a letter of disassociation to his Kingdom Hall and to our greatest surprise, his family members followed suit in doing so. Towards the end of last Year, he and his family were free from the Watchtower’s grip even though they lost their daughter in the course of rejecting blood transfusion around March last year.

    When I inquired about why he got reinstated, he told me that he just wanted to get close to the family again and with him being back into the Org, he could share his views easily with them since he wasn’t an “apostate” while reinstate (Because JWs don’t listen to “apostates”).

    One question he said shook him was that which I asked his Trainee when they preached to me few years back (which I even forgot I asked):

    “Since the Watchtower has closed the registration of the 144,000 anointed class in 1935, what happens if one of them apostatizes or is disfellowshiped? How is that one replaced to make that LITERAL number 144,000 remain the same since the registration closed in 1935?”

    I remember getting two answers like “It can never happen!” and “Jesus knows his sheep and they would never leave him!” But by the time he told me this, he said that he and his Dad knew a couple of anointed Witnesses who apostatized after 1975 and never came back to Org before they died. He himself said he knew up to 6 of them.

    I guess that little cloud of thought must have planted a seed of doubt which later led him to a research that exposed other falsehoods within the Watchtower.

    One thing he said to me on phone that I still remember was:

    “I couldn’t picture the fact that the Book of Revelation was unwittingly rendered a false prophecy by the Watchtower; [the number 144,000 being short of just 6 that I knew alone (which equals 143,994) made Revelation 7:4-8 a false prophecy.] I just don’t know if there are other Witnesses who realise this.” (Words in bracket [] added).

    Many are even called upon to the Judicial Committee for merely being seen with a disfellowship person. Such unbiblical actions make it unfathomable why Witnesses are Foolish or Robotic enough not to see the Cultism depicted in them.

    They come to you smiling; preaching catchy promises to those who join their cult, love-bombing and trying to make sure you see them as the best and one-and-only, but they’ll NEVER tell you the consequences of being disassociated, disfellowshiped or apostatizing. Such are features and charateristics of a cult. They tell every Newbie how wonderful it’d be when you join, how “catchy” the rewards are but never even hint you of how terrible it would be if you dare get in the hands of the Judicial Committee. Only brave ones survive the traumatic effects and from the looks of things, I think you are one. A JW in pursuit of freedom from the borg is a rare gem and such a person needs to be helped and encouraged.

    I’m so happy for you Cedars. They say “You never leave a cult without a cut” and I agree. I just hope you’ll be able handle being away from your family. It’s really sad bro but always never forget that you’ve won that’s what matters.

    Stay blessed :-)

    Christopher Ibe.

  • January 2, 2014 at 4:12 am
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    Hi, Cedars
    I was a CoAl (Circuit Overseer Alternative) and a JW for about 20 years. I’m writing from Italy (Sicily), and I’m very glad to read yor experience with the Croatian elders. I and 40 other Witnesses disassociated ourselves here, in Syracuse, 25 years ago, and with me the intere Body of Elders. If you want, I can send to you our letter of resignation for your italian readers. I appreciate very much your calm and equilibrate way to express your story and your comments. Excuse me for my poor english. Warm regards, Sergio Pollina

  • January 2, 2014 at 4:13 am
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    What an inspiring story of courage. Best wishes for you and your wife.
    I find it so encourageing to know that other people all over the world are facing the challenge of leaving the watchtower. I have been out for 3 years now, and although have not been officially DF, I have been shuned by most JW friends. I have also faced those long conversations with loved ones and friends where it feels more adventagious to reason with a rock. Interestingly, at the same time you were facing this judicial comity, I was having a very long discussion about disfellowshiping with someone I love. A member of the family had just been disfellowshiped.
    More and more people are leaving, I have definitely seen that in my area. Don’t loose hope. Even though your family and old friends may shun you, I’m sure deep down they have to respect you and your wife for your courage and will to live a genuine life. Even though it has been really hard at times to say the least, I feel much more at peace inside knowing that I’m living my life in freedom and not pretending to please others. You all will also have that peace, and your child will grow with unconditional love!
    I like how Desmond Tutu said that the ocean may seem big, but it is only made up of drops of water. Rosa Parks siting at the front of the bus may have seemed small, but it eventually bought on the flood waters. I think the watchtower will drown in all of their efforts to deny freedom, change will come.
    You and your wife keep you head up high and enjoy your wonderful new baby! My husband and I are new parents as well and there is no greater joy in the world!
    Peace be with you!

  • January 2, 2014 at 6:23 am
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    It is heartbreaking story… But my friend it is a reality. You know that it is my story too. I am going through hell right now, and I hope, because you have each other with the same form of thinking, you two will have lighter path than me. I wish you happiness with your family!

  • January 2, 2014 at 6:30 am
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    They will never have their “day in Court”, they have too much money and to many Lawyers!!!!

  • January 2, 2014 at 9:39 am
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    So Proud of you my friend ! And yes…you have already won.

  • January 2, 2014 at 12:39 pm
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    This is just one more example of why this organization doesn’t work and is on the decline. lets really look at the reality of it all. If this truly was Gods organization and they were following bible principles and not their own man made doctrine then they truly would be open to discussion of what the bible Gods Word truly tells us. More and More people would be flocking to this organization and would stay with it for life if it truly benefited them. Instead as I recently found a graph in a College Sociology Book dealing with education vs a specific religion and what percent actually have gone to college it was of no surprise to first see Jehovahs Witness’s listed but that also they were at the bottom of the list. It showed only 7 percent of JW’S have a basic College Education and also that they have the lowest income.
    So my point goes without saying that if you keep your ranks uneducated and confine them to reading only their publications then its no wonder that when they do perhaps finally yield to there rightfully sown doubts that they then embark on a journey of educating themselves and start seeing the real facts.
    The Watchtower is Crafty just like business people are in order to gain whatever they can out of you for there own personal gain. Once that relationship cease’s producing a benefit to them then they discard you and move on to the next victim.

    The Watchtower is a business plain and simple.
    They just want to rid any who don’t go along with what they say. As been said in a recent Watchtower whether it really is true or not just because we say it then you need to do it. You are either totally Brainwashed or have to be the most Gullible person to buy into such ill fated Logic.
    As has been said before this is about serving a Religion Not God. Period!!
    Happy New Year to one and all!

  • January 2, 2014 at 3:49 pm
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    Freedom!!!

  • January 2, 2014 at 3:56 pm
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    Well now that’s over you can get on with a new life. I trust your experience doesn’t put you off God himself. He is not the problem. I hope too that you continue to monitor “them” for our benefit. I have a situation where my wife and parents are still JWs but I am not and I can well see the time approaching when the GB will ask elders to enforce things that may affect me yet through my family. Mid last year you mentioned something to that effect. So keep up the good work and may you have a good life with your wife and child to come and never forget love. Don’t succumb to bitterness hatred or regret. Negatve emotions must be dealt with but I am certain you won’t succumb. Blessings to you

  • January 2, 2014 at 4:38 pm
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    I’m very sorry to hear that you had to go through such an excruciating final meeting. At the same time I applaud your determination (they taught us that in the first place…to stand up for what we believe in–but yet they don’t like it when you stand up against them).
    May you find peace and liberty in knowing you are finally free….and may you soothe the emotional pains inflicted on you and your family—that never seem to heal 100%.
    Peace be with you

  • January 2, 2014 at 10:03 pm
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    I’m curious to see how this public discussion of all things through the internet is going to change things. It’s only been a little over 100 years. What will the next 10, 20 years bring?

    • January 3, 2014 at 6:32 am
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      Erik, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”!! Jesus started with only 12 stupid men in and could say, just in 3.5 years wandering here and there, (Matthew 10:34) . . .Do not think I came to put peace upon the earth; I came to put, not peace, but a sword.

  • January 3, 2014 at 11:06 am
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    Erik,

    I’m hoping that the WTBTS will either reform itself, or begin dying. It is clear to me that they have no superior understanding of scripture than any other reader. Furthermore, most people who read the bible wouldn’t interpret it in such a hateful and negative way.

    We all must decide for ourselves how we will treat others. No one should be forced to decide between loyalty to a publishing company in America and their family.

    What Cedars has done is the right thing to do. I respect him and his partner for making that decision, despite the WTBTS using their family and friends as weapons.

    The internet has allowed thousands of individuals to share their experiences with this cruel religion. Verifiable facts about the WTBTS’ deluded and damaging policies are many and manifest. Cedars has taken time and effort to help people access these facts.

    Peace be with you

    Excelsior!

  • January 3, 2014 at 1:00 pm
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    ….not sure why you would have given the elders the satisfaction of attending your apostasy trial ???

  • January 3, 2014 at 7:21 pm
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    LOL! I have been called Victor more than you will know, dear Sue! :D

  • January 3, 2014 at 7:37 pm
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    Love reading the comments.
    You did well to be at the meeting, you won — they have to live with pushing you away and not allowing you to defend your concerns.

    In time, I would not be surprised if at least one of those elders think back at this and THINK.

    Good job, bro!

  • January 3, 2014 at 7:41 pm
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    Cedars,

    You are a diamond, and a source of inspiration to many. All the best with the nipper.

    CUTHBERT_THE_GREAT

  • January 3, 2014 at 9:52 pm
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    Cedars, I like that point you bring out about the Prodigal Son if he came to a Judicial Committee . When did you decide to return to your father? OOOH! It was AFTER the money ran out! Then you are unrepentant wrong doer! (I TOOK IT ONE STEP FURTHER) Please let your Father know we will be meeting with him next. Because the Organization frons of large gatherings where Jehovah’s name could posibably be tarnished or a gathering could get rowdy. Did he have any knowledge that you the unrepentant wrong doer hadn’t talk to the Elders and NOT been reinstated? OH! By the way, because of the Watchtower of 12/15/13 we also would like you to provide names of other Brothers and Sisters that were at this gathering.
    Ceaders, I think you get the point, so I’ll stop here before I have to much fun with this!

  • January 4, 2014 at 12:37 am
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    I’m not sure what REDEEMED is trying to say — ???

    In any case, I thought the Prodigal Son argument was a logical and smart one — reminding that shunning is not a Christian thing, EVEN when the son comes back for selfish reasons.
    Hence, shunning family for a change of understanding an/or a disagreement with any organisation is far from any Christian comportment.

    *(Still perplexed by the comment above, that seems to be missing the point. Oh well…)

  • January 4, 2014 at 1:10 am
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    Ceaders is an apostate according to the Watchtower Society but innocent from Jehovah’s point of view! It is funny!! If he had not been innocent, what do you think would have happened during his trial?

    (Numbers 16:31-35) . . .And it came about that as soon as he had finished speaking all these words, the ground that was under them began to be split apart. 32 And the earth proceeded to open its mouth and to swallow up them and their households and all humankind that belonged to Ko′rah and all the goods. 33 So down they went, and all who belonged to them, alive into She′ol, and the earth went covering them over, so that they perished from the midst of the congregation. 34 And all the Israelites who were round about them fled at the screaming of them, for they began to say: “We are afraid that the earth may swallow us up!” 35 And a fire came out from Jehovah and proceeded to consume the two hundred and fifty men offering the incense.

  • January 4, 2014 at 1:36 am
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    I am a disturbed witness with no where to go… Sad, but I feel trapped… I admire cedars for his courage and conviction! I have so much to say…, I need a therapist!

    • January 4, 2014 at 10:58 am
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      Ther are a lot of us out here who feel like you do. You may feel alone, but you aren’t. Talk to a friend and share how you feel. I understand where you are. It’s not easy. Just don’t despair. Life is still grand. Lots of life beyond the borders of the WT.

  • January 4, 2014 at 2:06 am
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    Cedars did not only disagree with JWs but also denies the Bible is inspired by God n have doubts of HIS existence.
    The judicial comnitee will only have to discuss Bible inspiration and not doctrines,and this was not the setting.

    • January 4, 2014 at 2:20 am
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      Thanks for your comment Emmanuel. My agnosticism doesn’t negate the fact that Watchtower ignores and contradicts many bible teachings and principles, and goes “beyond the things that are written” by adding teachings not found in the bible (i.e. beards, masturbation, dress code, birthdays, explanations of prophecy, I could go on…). Also, my agnosticism was not questioned in the committee (for whatever reason). I am sure that, even if I had been a believing Christian, discussion of doctrine would have been firmly off the agenda. It’s simply a case of “do you accept everything the Governing Body teaches, or not?”

  • January 4, 2014 at 2:27 am
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    Either you or them have not followed jw teachings closely .it has long been taught that anointed detectors will be replaced just like J.Iscariot.so your question has answers

    • January 4, 2014 at 2:31 am
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      I’m not sure what the anointed has to do with this?

  • January 4, 2014 at 3:18 am
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    Gal 5:21 mention “and things like these ” considering the context what will you include in “these”? Acts that wipe up sexual appetite or defantasies it?
    Lthe issue of circumcision,ressurection, etc was still not
    accepted by some in the first century whether taught by apostles and older men or by apostles letter. The bible clearly indicate what actions to take. If someone back then was to advocate publicly contrary to ‘slave’ teaching what would be the last resort? Agreed the gb have had course to make adjustments and will continue to make if need be (the issue of circumcision was resolved years after the law ende)for its more interested in alligning with the bible than shielding itself from criticism.
    The prodigal returns illustration did not and will not provide answers to all questions but Jesus who reads the heart will not use a pretender as an example of. true repentance ,for the aim of the parable is TRUE repentance and TRUE forgiveness. Jehovah knows the heart.

    You said not all things can be understood now “we are gradually learning more about how life evolved “,Did not the gb said if some things are difficult to understand what ti do?

    You are free now,whatever the freedom means.
    When your daughter grows up if she decided to be a member of any religion(even jw) do not stiffle her freedom .
    Wish her well.
    life is making decisions,you made a new one.
    best regards

  • January 4, 2014 at 3:30 am
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    Emmanuel,
    Seems to me the reason the issue of circumcision was “resolved” very early on was because the GB were all men and did not fancy any cuts. Sorry its just getting hysterically funny now!

  • January 4, 2014 at 3:32 am
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    pardon me. the comment on annointed ought to be for Christofer Ibe.

  • January 4, 2014 at 4:09 am
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    emmanuel, How can a daughter of such an intelligent man decide to become a jw? You need to read more about laws of genetics!!

    For example, in this very issue of the Awake! we are discussing, there is another article “SNAKE SKIN” where you can read “BECAUSE they move without limbs, snakes need robust skin that can withstand constant friction…”

    As usual, the article ends with a stupid question: “What do you think? Did snake skin come about by evolution? Or was it designed?”

    I find this question stupid since the Bible says (Genesis 3:14) . . .And Jehovah God proceeded to say to the serpent: “Because you have done this thing, you are the cursed one out of all the domestic animals and out of all the wild beasts of the field. Upon your belly you will go and dust is what you will eat all the days of your life.

    According to the GB, the snake skin come about by CURSE and not by evolution nor design!!!

    If Ceaders’ daughter fails to understand the difference between CURSE, EVOLUTION AND DESIGN and fails to grasp the meaning of “Because you have done this thing (no idea of design)…” Let her become a JW and no one will complain!

  • January 4, 2014 at 5:20 am
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    Cedars,
    Well done for reporting the JC, I haven’t watched the youtube yet, but the JC was great the way you used the prodigal son approach.

    I used that example in my JC too. I bet you are relieved it’s all over, I know I am.

    All the best with your new life, send my love to Mrs Cedars

    Sam xx

  • January 4, 2014 at 10:52 am
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    Aloha all, I hope everyone has seen the Petition to investigate the WT society. Please post it everywhere so that all lovers of their fellow man can sign it. My heart bleeds for all the devastated families of former JWs. I never agreed with this doctrine when I was an elder. Now that I am shunned I see personally how cruel and unChristian it really is. Any former JWs in Hawaii, I would love to chat. I go to the mainland often and I would enjoy positive discussions with good people who truly love their fellow man. Big aloha, mike

  • January 4, 2014 at 6:59 pm
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    We need to decide for ourselves what journey we are to take, what we personally decide to believe and how we live our lives. Read, learn grow, and become the person you are meant to be. Love, that is the greatest emotion of all. Cedars you have a loving community that is lovingly supportin. You are not alone. I hope that you and your wife, and children will find peace…

  • January 5, 2014 at 12:05 am
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    All the best Cedars, for you and the family.

    This Watchtower practice of disfellowshipping people who have committed no wrongdoing but simply don’t agree with the current doctrines reminds me of George Orwell’s Quote ” in a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” I doubt many JW’s have read his novel 1984 but if they did they would probably recognise many of the WT practices in it such as family members being expected to spy and report on each other. The way history is constantly being falsified, (misrepresentation of what the societies past beliefs were and what was written in the old publications etc.) Likewise it relies on total blind obedience to its teachings for the organisation to function. If people with questioning minds (aka apostates) were allowed to remain, the deceit and hypocricy would gradually be exposed and those at the top would eventually lose control and with it the power and prestige they have.

    • January 16, 2014 at 11:20 am
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      Wow, thanks so much for your comment, and for quoting the sage words of Orwell! That remarkable quote is especially poignant for me at this moment. I appreciate it.

  • January 5, 2014 at 12:32 pm
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    @Emmanuel, sorry I wasn’t able to reply on time (was having some issues with my internet).

    Now, I expected it that you’d bring up the Judas Iscariot (being replaced with Matthias) example but the very thing you failed to see in my argument is that:

    1) There was no “date” where Jesus said that his selection of people into being his disciples was “stopped”. On the contrary, Jesus explicitly made that position open when he said, “Go therefore to the nations AND MAKE THEM MY DISCIPLES baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19). Thus, Jesus made it open for any possible replacement to any disciple that stumbled.

    On the contrary, the Watchtower rendered such a move totally impossible when they enforced that the date 1935 was when all registry of the anointed member were selected “STOPPED,” thus, any addition or replacement would render the date 1935 false, non-binding and ineffective.

    2.) Moreover, the date 1935 renders any possible replacement or addition problematic as being a “stop date” for any possible addition means that all JWs after 1935 are known as the “great crowd” (Watchtower Aug. 15, 1996, p.31). Thus, in replacement, the Watchtower would have to turn a JW with “earthly hope” to a JW with “heavenly hope” (“other sheep” to “heavenly flock”; “great crowd” to “144,000”) which is absolutely absurd at best and unscriptural at worst.

    I hereby hope you now understand my point.

    Stay blessed :-)

  • January 5, 2014 at 11:22 pm
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    This story is really moving. I was disfellowshipped 10 years ago and since then my life has become hell. I wasn’t disfellowshipped by apostasy, but it doesn’t matter whatever we did, it hurts! I lost part of family, my friends, and part of my life. I tried to get back at least 3 times but unsucceefully. Just because my life doesn’t fit in the so-called ” bible standards” (yeap, I’m gay). My current friends don’t understand when I talk about this issue because they weren’t witnesses. I feel alone in this world because of that. Anyway, congrats John! I hope you find happiness in your life. Don’t let anything to block the road that leads to freedom. Greetings from Venezuela!

  • January 6, 2014 at 5:04 pm
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    I really admire what you did. I’ve been disfellowshipped 10 years ago, and since then things became hell. Yes, I admit I deserved discipline, but It’s so hard to lose familiy and friends. When I talk about that with my current friends they don’t understand. And I feel alone in the world because I feel misunderstood. Anyway, don’t let anything, whatever it is, to block the road to freedom. I hope you find peace of mind (which I still don’t have since 2004). Greetings from Venezuela!

  • January 6, 2014 at 5:20 pm
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    Bravo, thanks for the theater for all your adoring internet fans. You could have simply sent in the letter of disassociation and refused further requests from the congregation. An announcement would have been made at the next service meeting, end.

    Your parents will still visit to see their grandchild. They will converse and keep you up to date on family news. They will no longer discuss religious matters. So stop your whining about them being ‘weaponized’.

    Really, I find this stunning, along with the evolution post that you ‘now worship the creation’ for evolving itself. Google ‘evolution can explain survival of fittest but not arrival’.

    • January 7, 2014 at 1:04 am
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      One last angry rant from a Watchtower defender showing his true colors.

      If I have “fans” that is what it is, but fans are not something I set out to acquire – unlike your masters the Governing Body who actively seek followers who must obey their words without question. All I want to do is tell my story and tell it like it is on a “take it or leave it” basis. If people like me doing that, what am I supposed to do – beat them away?

      You, on the other hand, seem to want everyone to immerse themselves in Watchtower’s ignorance with you, including its propaganda that evolution is a “false teaching” when, in fact, it’s all around us. Like any JW, you can only be truly happy as one of Jehovah’s “happy people” if everyone around you believes exactly as you do. If you find that a rewarding outlook on life, go for it. But don’t expect me to join in the fun.

      You’ve clearly missed the whole reason why I attended a judicial committee rather than sending in a letter, which was my initial plan. Since you can’t be bothered to read my reasons for going through what was an extremely stressful ordeal I won’t indulge your ignorance by repeating myself.

      As to family being weaponized – that is exactly what happens when you are shunned. You are not simply cut off from your family, as though they are taken hostage, still desperate to be reunited with you. Your family is coerced and manipulated into hating you as a means of emotional blackmail to lure you back to the fold. “Weaponizing” is a perfect way to describe this hideous, sadistic and truly evil process. It seems only those who aren’t under Watchtower’s spell can grasp that.

  • January 7, 2014 at 4:52 am
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    Ah, Rob, you’re back with another post!

    Just for the record, Rob, I’m not an adoring fan of Cedars. I admire his courage and his honesty. It’s such a shame that the same can’t be said for you.

    Cedars’ family are going to travel all the way to Croatia, are they? Well, maybe they will, but it will be few and far between visits, with no communication in between. You make it sound as if nothing has changed, when it has.

    Evolution is a fact. I’m sorry that you cannot see this, I really am. You can dance around and mention “kinds” and all the other pseudo scientific mumbojumbo that your religion likes to spout, but it doesn’t change the evidence.

    I think that you are trying to imply that Cedars is trying to carry off followers after himself, like the classic apostate that you read about in the watchtower. I can assure you that none of us are following Cedars! We merely avail ourselves of the forum he has created to comment on the factual articles that he writes, and to participate in his survey.

    It’s time to face facts. We are not how we are painted by your organisation. We are not liars, we are not mentally diseased.

    Your sarcastic and caustic comments on this post and on others reveal who you are. You have attempted to denigrate the integrity of all of us over the months you have posted here.

    So here’s the thing. Either give us evidence for your claims or learn to just go to the jw.org site, which has been provided for you by the faithful and discreet slave for your spiritual benefit, according to their blurb.

    I am growing weary of your constant negativity and worrying lack of knowledge on the subjects you speak of.

    We know we are right. No amount of ill informed mudslinging is going to change that.

    Change the record, please!

    Peace be with you

    Excelsior!

  • January 7, 2014 at 12:13 pm
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    Thank you for sharing your experience with all of us. It pains me to see over and over again that no matter what facts are put forward that they will “fall upon deaf ears” when it comes to discussing with a Witness – hence why I gave up years ago with my mother (and thankfully we are able to speak as I was very close to baptism when I was a young teen but ironically a sister’s lie stopped that from happening). I wish you and your wife the best, and if you ever find yourself in NYC, I wish to buy you a drink, sir not necessarily near Brooklyn Bethel.

    Excelsior, thank you for keeping a cool head with Bob.

    Bob, the last thing I think any of us are looking for is another “following” such as a “fans of Cedar” and I won’t even start on how many ways that goes against everyone’s thoughts on here. If you come up with some solid facts supporting your “truths” then we are all ears, but we treat you like everyone else: respectfully share your feelings as much as you want, but if you start selling snake oil, you will be called out, if you bring a fact-based argument, then you will be respected.

    Every good blog has it’s trolls.

  • January 7, 2014 at 6:43 pm
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    Cedars, here’s the Romanian version of this article: http://martorii-lui-iehova.ro/experiente/john-cedars-comitet-judiciar/
    As customary nowadays in Watchtower literature, I used Romanian names for Bob, Tom, and Dean (Dan, Mihai, and Sorin, respectively) in the localized version. Speaking of localization, Bucharest Bethel had applied it extensively with the “Prodigal Son” DVD. Among the languages I understand, Romanian was the only one that localized the characters’ names as well (David Barker > David Barbu; Al Phillips > Alex Filip etc.) I found it pretty funny.

  • January 7, 2014 at 9:18 pm
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    Come on, Rob must be kidding!!!

  • January 8, 2014 at 2:59 am
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    All I can say is, …how can the Watchtower Society accept your letter of disassociation with their record of apostasy to the teachings of Christ,….how do they view their presumptuous dates they preached to the world ????????

    How do they view their attitude to fractions of blood they allow members to have , yet do not allow members to give blood for fractions.

    How do they view the United Nations Department of public information they worked with as evidenced by the UN Directories, stated by the UN , NGO’s are UN partners ?????? The Watchtower teaches anyone helping the UN has the mark of the beast.

    The birds will be busy at judgement time!!!!!

    Apostasy to any organization, is not the same as apostasy to the teachings of Christ.

    Jesus said with the judgement you give. others will judge you. Jehovah is not partial.

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