Hello, I’m Meleti Vivlon.
Those who protest the horrendous mishandling of child sexual abuse among the leadership of Jehovah’s Witnesses frequently harp on the two-witness rule. They want it gone.
So why am I calling the two-witness rule, a red herring? Am I defending the Organization’s position? Absolutely not! Do I have a better alternative? Yes, I think so.
Let me start out by saying that I have to really admire those dedicated individuals who spend their time and money in such a worthy cause. I really want those people to succeed because so many have suffered and are still suffering, because of the organization’s self-centred policies on handling this crime in their midst. Yet, it seems the harder they protest, the more intransigent the leadership of Jehovah’s Witnesses becomes.
First, we must acknowledge the fact that if we’re going to reach the rank and file, we only have a few seconds to do so. They have been programmed to shut down the moment they hear any contrary talk. It’s like there are steel doors in the mind that clank down the moment their eyes fall on something that might contradict the teachings of their leaders.
Consider the Watchtower study from just two weeks ago:
“Satan, “the father of the lie,” uses those under his control to spread lies about Jehovah and about our brothers and sisters. (John 8:44) For instance, apostates publish lies and distort facts about Jehovah’s organization on websites and through television and other media. Those lies are among Satan’s “burning arrows.” (Eph. 6:16) How should we respond if someone confronts us with such lies? We reject them! Why? Because we have faith in Jehovah and we trust our brothers. In fact, we avoid all contact with apostates. We do not allow anyone or anything, including curiosity, to draw us into arguing with them.” (w19/11 Study Article 46, par. 8)
So, anyone who protests any policy of the Governing Body is under the control of Satan. Everything they say is a lie. What are Witnesses to do when faced with the “burning arrows” these opposers and apostates hurl? Reject them! Because Witnesses trust their brothers. Witnesses are taught to ‘trust their princes and the sons of men for their salvation’. So they will not even chat with someone who disagrees with the organization.
If you have had the opportunity to speak with Jehovah’s Witnesses when they knock on your door, you will know this to be true. Even if you are careful not to preach to them or promote your own beliefs, but only to ask questions based on Scripture and require them to prove from the Bible whatever they may be teaching at the time, you will soon hear what has become a JW maxim: “We are not here to debate you.” or, “We don’t want to argue.”
They base this reasoning on a misapplication of Paul’s words to Timothy at 2 Timothy 2:23.
“Further, turn down foolish and ignorant questionings, knowing they produce fights.” (2 Timothy 2:23)
So, any reasonable scriptural discussion gets stamped as a “foolish and ignorant questioning”. They think that by this, they are obeying a command of God.
And this, I believe, is the real problem with focusing on the two-witness rule. It empowers them. It gives them a reason—albeit a false one—for believing they are doing the will of God. To illustrate, watch this video:
Now there’s something that the apostates are talking about and trying to put forward. The media has picked it up, others have also picked it up; and that is our scriptural position of having two witnesses—a requirement for judicial action if there’s no confession. The scriptures are very clear. Before a judicial committee can be convened, there has to be a confession or two witnesses. So, we will never change our scriptural position on that subject.
Jehovah’s given us the ability to reason things out; to think it through. So, let’s do our part and not allow our faith to be quickly shaken. Then, we can have the confidence that Paul spoke of in 2 Thessalonians 2 verse 5 when he said: “May the Lord continue to guide your hearts successfully to the love of God and to the endurance for the Christ.”
Can you see the point? Gary is stating the position of the Governing Body, and indeed a position all Jehovah’s Witnesses would agree with. He is saying that these opposers and apostates are trying to get Jehovah’s Witnesses to compromise their integrity, to break God’s sacred law. So, standing firm in the face of such protests looks to Jehovah’s Witnesses as a test of their faith. By not giving in, they think they are getting God’s approval.
I know their application of the two-witness rule is incorrect, but we’re not going to win them over by engaging in a theological argument based on their interpretation versus ours. Besides, we will never get the chance to discuss it. They’ll see the sign that is being held up, they’ll hear the words that are being shouted, and they’ll shut down, thinking, “I am not to going disobey a clearly stated law in the Bible.”
What we need on the sign is something that shows they are disobeying God’s law. If we can get them to see that they’re disobeying Jehovah, then maybe they’ll start to think.
How can we do this?
Here’s the fact of the matter. By not reporting criminals and criminal behavior, Jehovah’s Witnesses are not paying back to Caesar, the things that are Caesar’s. That’s from Jesus’ own words at Matthew 22:21. By not reporting crimes, they are not obeying the superior authorities. By not reporting crimes they are engaging in civil disobedience.
Let’s read Romans 13:1-7 because this is the crux of the matter.
“Let every person be in subjection to the superior authorities, for there is no authority except by God; the existing authorities stand placed in their relative positions by God. Therefore, whoever opposes the authority has taken a stand against the arrangement of God; those who have taken a stand against it will bring judgment against themselves. For those rulers are an object of fear, not to the good deed, but to the bad. Do you want to be free of fear of the authority? Keep doing good, and you will have praise from it; for it is God’s minister to you for your good. But if you are doing what is bad, be in fear, for it is not without purpose that it bears the sword. It is God’s minister, an avenger to express wrath against the one practicing what is bad. There is therefore compelling reason for you to be in subjection, not only on account of that wrath but also on account of your conscience. That is why you are also paying taxes; for they are God’s public servants constantly serving this very purpose. Render to all their dues: to the one who calls for the tax, the tax; to the one who calls for the tribute, the tribute; to the one who calls for fear, such fear; to the one who calls for honor, such honor.” (Ro 13:1-7)
Witness leadership from the Governing Body, on through the branch offices and circuit overseers, all the way down to the local bodies of elders are not complying with these words. Let me illustrate:
What did we learn from the Australia Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse?
There were 1,006 cases of this crime in the Australia branch files. Over 1,800 victims were involved. That means there were many cases with multiple victims, multiple witnesses. There were many cases where the elders had two or more witnesses. They admitted this under oath. There were also cases where they had a confession. They disfellowshipped some abusers and rebuked others publicly or privately. But they never—never—reported these crimes to the superior authorities, to God’s minister, the “avenger to express wrath against the one practicing what is bad.”
So, you see, the two-witness rule is a red herring. Even if they dropped it, it wouldn’t change anything, because even when they have two witnesses or a confession, they still don’t report these crimes to the authorities. But call for the removal of that rule, and they mount their high horse of moral indignation proclaiming we will never disobey a law of God.
The belief they are doing God’s will is their Achilles’ heel. Show them they are actually disobeying God, and you can knock them off their high horse. You can pull the moral carpet out from under their feet. (Sorry for mixing metaphors.)
Let’s call this what it is. It is not a simple policy oversight. This is a sin.
Why can we call this a sin?
Going back to Paul’s words to the Romans, he wrote, “Let every person be in subjection to the superior authorities”. That’s a command from God. He also wrote, “whoever opposes the authority has taken a stand against the arrangement of God; those who have taken a stand against it will bring judgment against themselves.” Taking a stand against the arrangement of God. Isn’t that what apostates do? Don’t they stand in opposition to God? Finally, Paul warned us by writing that the governments of the world are “God’s minister, an avenger to express wrath against the one practicing what is bad.”
Their job is to protect society from criminals. Hiding criminals from them make the organization and the individual elders accomplices after the fact. They become complicit in the crime.
Therefore, this is both a sin because it goes against God’s arrangement and a crime because it hinders the work of the superior authorities.
The organization has systematically disobeyed Jehovah God. They are now standing in opposition to the arrangement God has put in place to protect society from criminals. When one is a true apostate—when one stands in opposition to God—does one think there will be no consequences? When the writer of Hebrews wrote, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God”, was he just joking around?
A true Christian is known by the quality of love. A true Christian loves God and so obeys God, and loves his neighbor which means caring for him and protecting him from harm.
Paul concludes by writing, “There is therefore compelling reason for you to be in subjection, not only on account of that wrath but also on account of your conscience.”
“Compelling reason…on account of your conscience.” Why does the Governing Body not feel compelled to submit? Their collective consciences should be moved by love, first to obey God’s command and second to protect their neighbors from dangerous predators. Yet, all we seem to see is concern for themselves.
Seriously, how can anyone justify not reporting a pedophile to the authorities? How can we allow a predator to go unrestrained and still preserve a clean conscience?
The fact is there is nothing in the Bible that prohibits the reporting of crime. Quite the opposite. Christians are supposed to be model citizens who support the law of the land. So even if God’s Minister doesn’t mandate that crimes be reported, loving one’s neighbor as oneself will move the Christian to protect his fellow citizens when he knows there is a sexual predator on the loose. Yet they never did this, not even once, in Australia, and we know from experience that Australia is just the tip of the iceberg.
When Jesus condemned the religious leaders of his day, one word was used over and over: hypocrites.
We can show the hypocrisy of the organization in two ways:
First, in inconsistent policies.
Elders are told to report each and every sin they are informed of to the Coordinator of the Body of Elders. The Coordinator or COBE becomes the repository for all sins in the congregation. The reason for this policy is that, if a sin is reported from a single witness, the body cannot act; but if later a different elder reports the same sin from a different witness, the COBE or Coordinator will know of both and so the body can act.
So, we do they not extend this policy to God’s Minister? True, the elders in one congregation may have only one witness to an act of sexual abuse, but by reporting even this single incident, they treat the superior authorities as they do the COBE. For all they know, theirs will be the second witness. There may well have been a different incident reported to the authorities.
It is hypocritical to enforce this policy internally and not also externally.
However, a greater hypocrisy has recently been revealed.
To save themselves from a 35-million-dollar judgment in a Montana case, they appealed to the supreme court claiming clerical privilege and the right of the confessional. They claimed that they had the right to keep confession of crimes confidential and private. They won, because the court didn’t want to pass a precedent that would affect all churches. Here we see what is important to the organization. Rather than pay the penalty for not reporting crimes, they chose money over integrity and publicly allied themselves with the Catholic Church and adopted one of its more heinous doctrines.
From The Watchtower:
“The Council of Trent in 1551 decreed “that sacramental confession is of divine origin and necessary for salvation by divine law. . . . The Council emphasized the justification and necessity of auricular [told in the ear, private] confession as practiced in the Church ‘from the beginning.’”—New Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, p. 132.” (g74 11/8 pp. 27-28 Should We Confess?—If So, to Whom?)
The Catholic Church violated Romans 13:1-7 and transformed itself into a secular authority to rival the superior authorities established by God. They became their own nation with their own government and hold themselves to be above the laws of the nations of the world. Its power became so great that it imposed its own laws onto the governments of the world, God’s Minister. This very much reflects the attitude of Jehovah’s Witnesses. They consider themselves to be a “mighty nation”, and the rules of the Governing Body, even if they conflict with the rules of the nations of the world, must be obeyed even in the absence of any Scriptural basis.
The sacrament of the confessional is such a usurping of secular authority. It is not Biblical. Only Jesus has been appointed to forgive sins and provide salvation. Men cannot do this. There is no right nor obligation to protect sinners who have committed crimes from their just due before the government. Additionally, the organization has long claimed to have no clergy class.
Again from The Watchtower:
“A congregation of brothers precludes having a proud clergy class that honors itself with high-sounding titles and elevates itself above a laity.” (w01 6/1 p. 14 par. 11)
Hypocrites! To protect their wealth, they have found a way to get around submission to the superior authorities established by God as his minister by adopting an unscriptural practice of the Catholic Church. They claim the Catholic Church is the foremost part of the great harlot, Babylon the Great, and the smaller churches are her daughters. Well, they have now publicly accepted adoption into that family by adopting before a court of the land a doctrine they have long criticized as part of false religion.
So, if you want to protest their policies and their conduct, in my humble opinion, you should forget about the two-witness rule and focus on how Witnesses violate God’s law. Stick that on your sign and show it.
Governing Body claims right
of Catholic Confessional
Governing Body disobeys God.
See Romans 13:1-7
That might have Witnesses scrambling for their Bibles.
Witnesses disobey superior authorities
hide pedophiles from God’s Minister
You’d need a big sign for that one.
Likewise, if you get on a talk show or a news reporter puts a camera in your face and asks you why you’re protesting, say something like: “The Bible at Romans 13 tells Christians to obey the Government and that means we must report horrendous crimes like murder, rape, and child sexual abuse. Witnesses say they follow the Bible, but they consistently disobey this simple, direct command of Jehovah God.”
Now there’s a sound bite I’d love to hear on the six o’clock news.
Thank you for your time.