As some of you may be aware, last year I began taking an annual online survey of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The results of this 2011 survey have now been published, and are available to download in PDF format with full analysis and an explanation of the survey’s development. If you would like to see a brief overview of the results, then by all means click here.
Seven copies of the survey results have been sent for the attention of the Governing Body by recorded delivery, and I await their response. The survey results include my personal message to the Governing Body, which is reproduced below for those of you who are interested.
If you have not yet voted on our new 2012 survey, then I would encourage you to do so. The survey is designed so that it can be taken anonymously, and you can enter as much or as little information as you like. At the end of this year, a similar results document will be compiled, which will also be received by the Governing Body.
I go by the name ‘Cedars’ – a pseudonym to conceal my real identity. I derive no pleasure from going about my work anonymously, as I am in no way ashamed of the cause that I have recently adopted. However, there are obviously judicial repercussions for any who would speak out against your authority. Because I wish to maintain contact with my family, it is therefore advantageous for me to conceal my identity and remain listed as a publisher with my local congregation rather than risk being unmasked and disfellowshipped for what you would consider as “apostasy”.
If you would like to know my background, I am a former elder and bible school graduate. In the early summer of 2011 it became obvious to me that there are many areas in which Witness teachings do not harmonize with the scriptures. At this point, I stopped actively participating in meetings and field service. Over the past six months I have contributed articles to JW websites and forums that discuss my particular areas of concern with your policies and teachings. I was also heavily involved in the recent media interest over your “mentally diseased” Watchtower article (w11 7/15 p. 16).
As you may already be aware, on September 21st 2011 I began taking a survey of all current and former Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world. The Survey canvassed the opinions of all who share a connection with Jehovah’s Witnesses, irrespective of whether they are active, inactive, disfellowshipped, disassociated or even non-baptized family members. The purpose of the Survey was to find out what people really thought of your leadership on certain issues, particularly since you go to such vigorous measures to prevent people from freely voicing any dissenting opinions.
It has not gone unnoticed that you recently advised the brothers to even stop writing to you or your representatives with any questions that are not covered within your publications (w11 10/15 p. 32). It is against this backdrop of increasing apathy on your part towards the personal views or questions of those in your flock that this new global Survey has been founded, and the results are enclosed herein.
The total number of those participating in this initial 2011 Survey is a relatively modest 1,118. However, the survey has only been available since late September (ending on December 31st), so it is envisioned that future surveys will gather a greater and more indicative number of responses over a longer period – particularly as awareness of the Survey website’s existence gathers momentum among the worldwide brotherhood. I currently plan to publish the results of the 2012 Survey for your attention at a similar time next year.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, you are likely wondering, “why should we be interested in what disfellowshipped or disassociated ones think of our leadership?” Well, the Apostle Paul demonstrated what sort of attitude should be shown towards such ones in 2 Cor 2:5-11, where he exhorted the Corinthian brothers to “confirm” their love for a man who had been cast out of their congregation. This scripture therefore shows that we should continue to demonstrate love and concern for those who are removed from among our midst.
Many who have been the subject of disfellowshipping or disassociation over a period of many decades have become “overly sad”, particularly wherever their judicial treatment has been based merely on the fact that they disagreed with your directives – which you yourselves are allowed to disagree with, albeit retrospectively. In reference to Paul’s words in the above-quoted scripture, they feel that you brothers have been “too harsh” in applying the scriptural principle of disfellowshipping – namely by broadening its scope to encompass the family circle, and not restricting its enforcement to the congregation, as was envisioned by Paul’s original counsel on this issue. – 1 Cor 5:11; 2 Cor 2:5; 1 Tim 5:8
You brothers may not be aware of this, but of all the issues that provoke outrage among so-called “apostates”, the harsh and unscriptural application of the shunning principle is one of the most contentious and hurtful. Many who you would class as “apostates” would have little or no interest in trying to persuade their family members and former colleagues that their beliefs are flawed were it not for that fact that you make their lives intolerable by tearing them apart from any meaningful interaction with their loved ones. Many disfellowshipped and disassociated ones carry deep mental and emotional scars as a result, and yet you expect them to remain silent. It is my firmly-held belief that anti-Witness forums and websites would either close down or drastically reduce in their visitor numbers if you were to extend just a little more mercy on this issue alone. – Matt 9:13
It is the shunning issue more than anything, particularly against the backdrop of a seeming indifference and apathy on your part, which has resulted in this Survey being launched. You are kindly urged to read and consider the results, and decide for yourselves whether you can find room to extend further mercy or reasonableness in certain aspects of your decision-making.
Please do not take this Survey as a personal attack on you brothers. Some who have commented have expressed their feelings towards you in ways that are less than flattering, or even abusive. Some of the more abusive or profane comments have been removed entirely from my report, as they serve no constructive purpose – despite being born from an intense frustration towards your indifference over certain issues.
When reading this survey report, you must also consider the fact that you brothers, in accepting your respective appointments to serve on the Governing Body, have assumed a weighty responsibility for yourselves. (Luke 12:48) The decisions that you make at your weekly meetings have a very real impact on the lives of millions around the world. You have also assumed a degree of responsibility for the legacy of your predecessors who served on the Governing Body before you, many of whom introduced unscriptural and unmerciful directives that you now so vigorously defend against all reason.
I do not feel it is fair to question each of your personal motives, or bring your characters under scrutiny in any way. Frankly, it would not surprise me if there are some among you who are more interested in proliferating the legacy of the organization and making your own positions more secure than in actually propounding bible truth and shepherding the flock in a loving, merciful and Christ-like way. However, I cannot be assertive in this conclusion. Without knowing each of you personally, I must give you the ‘benefit of the doubt’ and assume that some of your more harmful decisions have arisen through simple naivety or ignorance rather than any malevolent or self-serving intent.
I therefore submit these survey results to you in the hopes that they will be considered with the seriousness that befits them. They do not constitute a rebuke, but rather heartfelt admonition for you to retract some of your more harmful and unscriptural teachings. As I mentioned earlier, it is my intention that regular surveys will be conducted on an annual basis with a copy of the results subsequently published for your attention. Be assured that these surveys will continue indefinitely until you take decisive action in response to the needs of Christ’s flock for greater mercy to be shown.
Each one of us is personally responsible for our relationship with Christ. As much as you would like to think that all of Jehovah’s Witnesses serve with absolute uniformity of thought, there is an increasing number within your own ranks who do so whilst burdened by their own personal ‘crisis of conscience’. They privately disagree with what they are taught, but they have been conditioned to think that “waiting on Jehovah” means ignoring their own consciences and going against what they know to be true. It is suchlike ones, and those departed brothers who are “overly sad” at your seeming indifference, whom you must reach out to with greater humility and reconciliation. I am of the firm conviction that, if you were to do so, your efforts would be favorably received.
If, having considered these survey results, you brothers decide that you would like to meet with myself and those with whom I work to discuss these issues in an amicable spirit of mildness and reconciliation – then we would be happy to arrange this, provided that certain assurances are given to respect our anonymity and immunity from any judicial action. Alternatively, you may wish to write me with your response to my email address, which is email@example.com.
You should know that these survey results will also be available to any journalists who take an interest in Witness affairs, and I see no reason not to cooperate fully with any media enquiries.
The 2012 survey has already been launched and votes are in the process of being cast. I feel it would be in your interests to ensure that this and other future surveys are rendered unnecessary by taking the decisive and truly humble step of climbing down on some of your more damaging policies, including the shunning of family members. If you are not willing to consider doing this, then our surveys will continue to run year after year – growing in notoriety and popularity among the worldwide brotherhood and media groups. Since you refuse to give a voice to the brothers whom you claim to care for, whilst depriving them of the basic freedoms to which they are entitled, then we see no reason why we should not do this instead for as long as is required.
I trust you will consider these results carefully and prayerfully.