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Watchtower Society ceases disfellowshiping action?

This is a developing story. First time readers should scroll to the bottom of the page and read about the developments in chronological order. Abundant documentation is available to verify this change. Perhaps more complex, however, is trying to understand what prompted this change in policy. AJWRB has been slow to respond to this development and has made every possible effort to obtain the views of both WTS insiders, dissidents and former members. On July 8, 2000 AJWRB issued a position paper regarding this development. Again it is suggested that you first scroll to the bottom of this page and familiarize yourself with the developments and available documentation regarding this important development.

AJWRB position paper on the cessation of disfellowshipping in blood cases

Dateline: June 26, 2000

Two independent sources indicate that the Watchtower Society (WTS) is not communicating this change in policy by letter to local congregations but that a letter has been sent to the circuit overseers instructing them to share this information privately with just the elders at their next regular scheduled visit. How ironic that the WTS issues a press release (see link below in June 14th report) and that non Jehovah's Witnesses know about policy changes that the vast majority of Jehovah's Witnesses know nothing about. As bizarre as this seems it is very typical of the WTS to obfuscate their intentions and withhold information from members of the organization. Information which might impact life and death decisions.

Dateline: June 22, 2000

An AP story confirms that the WTS is no longer disfellowshipping members who accept blood transfusions. This story quotes
a Brooklyn Bethel spokesman so it is safe to conclude that the HLC letter cited below is accurate and that the policy is probably being  introduced on a global basis.

Dateline: June 20, 2000

Today we received a copy of a letter that the WTS has sent to all HLC committees in response to the story carried in the London Times. The letter confirms the fact that the WTS has in fact instituted the kinds of changes described in this section. Interesting, the letter thrice reminds HLC members that the WTS position has not changed when it clearly has as anyone vaguely acquainted with Jehovah's Witnesses realizes. It is well documented that until now the use of  blood transfusions or forbidden blood components was a disfellowshipping offense requiring the prompt formation of a judicial committee.  It seems quite important to the WTS to try and convince even HLC members that nothing has changed so that they in turn can try and convince anyone who asks that nothing has changed. This entire position is disingenuous.

Dateline: June 14, 2000

We began receiving reports in late May that the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses (JWs) had recently decided that JWs who accept blood transfusions would no longer be subject to investigation by congregation judicial committees. While these reports came from sources we deemed reliable, it appears that the reports were incomplete or that the original decision was modified at some point.

We must emphasize that as of this writing we are yet to see any of the correspondence that has supposedly been sent to branch offices or local congregations. The following remarks will address comments made by a London Bethel Watchtower Society (WTS) representative to the London Times and assume that he had accurate information concerning the new policy.

While the WTS has instructed member congregations to cease disfellowshipping JWs who accept blood transfusions, it will from this point forward be understood that one who accepts blood will have unilaterally disassociated themselves from the WTS, unless they express remorse and sincere repentance that satisfies local elders. Read the BBC story that appeared on June 14, 2000.

We have obtained a copy of a press release issued by the WTS's Public Affairs office that confirms the policy has changed.

It is important to remember that individuals who are "disassociated" JWs are treated identically to those who are disfellowshipped. They are shunned by JW friends and denied normal family relations with JW family members. We agree with the WTS that this is in fact a minor change and is primarily a diversionary tactic aimed at reducing the WTS's liability in these cases. It is also possible that the WTS is attempting to deflect some of the criticism it has been receiving in medical journals in recent months over the contradictions and inconsistencies in the policy and improve its position with some European governments who feel that the WTS is a dangerous sect. Finally, this adjustment may pave the way for further modifications in the blood policy, including implementation of a "don't ask, don't tell" policy. We will simply have to wait and see how things develop.

It should be noted that the WTS only uses "disassociation" in special cases. For example, if a person is charged with violating WTS policies but refuses to appear before a judicial committee to face expulsion or disfellowshipping, he has the option to simply "disassociate" himself. This can be done by writing a letter to the congregation or telling two elders that he no longer considers himself a Jehovah's Witness. As mentioned earlier the entire congregation will treat him as an unrepentant sinner and shun him. If a congregation member refuses to shun him, they too will be disfellowshipped or disassociated.

The other special case where "disassociation" is used is when a JW joins the military. To avoid potential problems with governments, the individual will not be charged and asked to appear before a judicial committee. Rather, the congregation simply makes an announcement that they "disassociated" themselves. In this way the WTS hopes to avoid difficulties with the authorities. As can be seen from the above, "disassociation" is basically a streamlined or "fast track" to expulsion and shunning.

We believe that this procedural change coupled with the WTS new blood policy as announced in the June 15, 2000 Watchtower is a strong indication that the WTS has in fact decided that the policy is in error and is taking steps to reform the policy, minimize the death toll and limit liability. At the same time, it seems fairly clear that they will do their best to obfuscate their intentions and avoid provoking controversy within the JW community. It remains to be seen how long it will take the WTS to disentangle itself from this tragic policy and how many more lives will be lost in the meantime.