[Translated from Spanish by Vivi]
By Felix of South America. (Names are changed to avoid retaliation.)
Introduction: Felix’s wife discovers for herself that the elders are not the “loving shepherds” that they and the organization proclaim them to be. She finds herself involved in a sexual abuse case in which the offender is appointed a ministerial servant despite the accusation, and it is discovered that he had abused more young girls.
The congregation receives the “preventive order” via text message to stay away from Felix and his wife just before the “The Love Never Fails” regional convention. All these situations lead to a fight that the branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses ignores, presuming its power, but which serves for both Felix and his wife to achieve freedom of conscience.
As I mentioned before, my wife’s awakening was faster than mine, and I think that what helped with this was a situation she personally experienced.
My wife had a Bible study with a young sister who was recently baptized. This sister told my wife a year earlier her uncle had sexually abused her when he was not yet baptized. I will clarify that when my wife found out about the situation, the man was already baptized and was being considered by the elders in another congregation for an appointment. My wife knew that in these types of cases the alleged abuser could not assume any kind of responsibilities in any congregation. Due to the seriousness of the matter, my wife advised her study that it was a matter which the elders of the congregation had to know about.
So my wife, together with a sister who accompanied her that day in the study (Sister “X”), and the student went to tell the elders of the congregation we were attending of the situation. The elders told them to stay calm, and that they were going to deal with the matter with due urgency. Two months passed, and my wife and the student went to ask the elders about what results they had obtained, since they had not been informed of anything that had been said. The elders told them that they reported the problem to the congregation where the abuser attended and that very soon they be contacting the sisters to let them know how the congregation to which the abuser belonged resolved the matter.
Six months went by and since the elders didn’t tell them anything, my wife went to ask about the matter. The new response now from the elders was that the matter had already been addressed, and that it was now the responsibility of the elders of the congregation where the alleged abuser was attending. Soon, we learned that he had not only abused this young sister, but that he had abused three more minors; and that in the last Circuit Overseer’s visit, he had been appointed as a ministerial servant.
There were two possible scenarios: either the elders did not do anything or what they did was “cover” for the abuser. This confirmed to my wife what I had been telling her for a long time, and because of this she told me, “We cannot be in an organization that is not the true religion”, as I narrated previously. Aware of all these facts and having lived through these experiences, for my wife and I, going out to preach knowing that most of the things we were going to talk about were lies, became to us a burden of conscience impossible to bear.
After some time, we finally had a long-awaited visit by my in-laws to our home and they agreed to let me show them the evidence on the basis of which we claimed that Jehovah’s Witnesses were not the true religion. I was able to show them all the books and magazines I had, each prophecy, each statement of being prophets of God and what the Bible said about false prophets. Everything. My father-in-law seemed to be the most impacted, or at least that was what it seemed at the time. While my mother-in-law did not understand at all what I was showing them.
After a few days of not receiving questions or rebuttals on the matter, my wife decided to ask her parents if they had the opportunity to research what we had discussed with them or what they thought of things related to what we had shown them.
Their response was: “Jehovah’s Witnesses do not stop being human. We are all imperfect and we can make mistakes. And the anointed can also make mistakes.”
Despite seeing the evidence, they could not accept the reality, because they did not want to see it.
In those days, my wife also spoke to her brother who is an elder about the false prophecies that have been declared by Jehovah’s Witnesses throughout history. She asked him to explain how Daniel’s supposed prophecy of “seven times” reached 1914. But he only knew how to repeat what the Reasoning book said, and he only did this because he had the book in his hand. Despite how hard she tried to get him to reflect, my brother-in-law was adamant and unreasonable. The time arrived for the international convention, “Love never fails”. A month earlier, my sister told me that her husband, who is an elder, met one of the elders in my congregation at a pre-convention meeting. My brother-in-law (my sister’s husband) asked him how my wife and I were doing in the congregation, and the elder replied that “we weren’t doing well at all, that we did not attend the meetings, and that they had to discuss a very delicate matter with us because my wife’s brother called the elders of my congregation informing them that we doubted many doctrines and said that Jehovah’s Witnesses were false prophets. And for them to please help us. ”
“To help us”!?
Being an elder, my wife’s brother knew the consequences of what he did by throwing us under the bus as doubters. He knew that the elders were never going to help us, even less so after what I explained to them in my talk with them. With this we were able to verify the words of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 10:36 about “the enemies of each one will be those of his own house”.
Upon learning of this betrayal, my wife got very sick both emotionally and physically; so much so that one sister of the congregation (Sister “X”, the same sister who had gone with her to talk to the elders about the sexual abuse with her Bible study) asked about what was happening to her since she could see she wasn’t well. But, my wife could not tell her what had happened, because they would brand her an apostate. Instead, she decided to tell her that it was ill because nothing had been done to resolve the problem of sexual abuse with her Bible study. In addition, she explained that she had also heard that the same thing had happened in many similar cases in other congregations, and that it was common for the elders to leave the abuser unpunished. (She said all this because she thought that with knowing what had happened as well as having her own experience to go by, Sister X I was going to understand and thus a doubt about the organization policies would be planted). My wife said that all this made her wonder if this was the true organization as she could no longer justify such actions.
However, this time, Sister “X” did not see the importance to the situation, telling my wife to leave everything in Jehovah’s hands; that she did not agree with many things such as disfellowshipping—so she spoke with some who were disfellowshipped; that she did not like the videos of society—that they even disgusted her; but that she did not know any other place where love between brothers is demonstrated as in the organization.
This conversation occurred two weeks before the convention, on a Monday. By Wednesday, Sister “X” wrote a text message to my wife saying that if she had such doubts regarding the organization, she could no longer consider her a friend and she blocked her from WhatsApp. By Saturday my wife realized that a great majority of the brothers in the congregation had blocked her from their social media sites. I checked my social networks and also observed that most of the brothers had blocked me without even saying a few words. Suddenly, an inactive friend of my wife who had not blocked her told her that an instruction was circulating among the brothers that came directly from the elders in which they ordered the brothers of the congregation to avoid any kind of contact with us because we had apostate thoughts, and that they were already dealing with the matter and that after the convention, they were going to have news about us in the first meeting, and to pass the message on to everyone they knew. This same inactive sister, additionally, received a message from Sister “X” who told her that my wife tried to convince her that the organization was a disaster; that she had even tried to show her apostate videos on the Internet. It is evident to me that this sister “X” had spoken to the elders about the conversation she had had with my wife and also that she had no problem with exaggerating things.
The funny thing here is that the elders were violating the procedures established by the Governing Body itself by not listening to the other party. Without asking us if these things were true, without making a judicial committee for us, the elders had already disfellowshipped us virtually and literally by sending that text message to all the brothers without even making a formal announcement to the congregation. The elders curiously behaved more apostate and rebellious than my wife and I towards the Governing Body. And worst of all, the supposed shepherds, supposedly appointed by the Holy Spirit, disobeyed the direct order of the Excellent Shepherd in Matthew 5:23, 24.
Not only did the brothers in our congregation block us from their social networks, but the same happened with all the surrounding congregations and even some of the more distant ones. They all blocked us and did this without even asking any questions. This was a bucket of cold water for my wife who was crying like I had never seen her cry in my ten years of marriage. It hit her so hard that she was seized with panic attacks and insomnia. She did not want to go out for fear of meeting someone and that they would not speak to her and turn their faces away. My youngest son, as never before, started to wet the bed, and the eldest, who was 6 years old, cried about everything. Evidently, seeing their mother in such bad shape affected them, too. We had to seek professional psychological help to deal with this situation.
My wife decided to text one of the elders asking him why they sent this message to all the brothers. The elder told her that no message was sent to the brothers by them. So my wife forwarded to him the message from this sister where she told my wife not only that the elders gave that directive, but also telling what my wife was supposedly saying. By then, we had many other messages where several and various brothers told us that those who gave the directive not to have dealings with us anymore came from the elders verbally or by text message, but never by a formal announcement to the congregation. Additionally, some brothers and sisters sent us voice messages stating that they spoke with the elders and the elders confirmed the directive and that this order was issued preventively.
Does the Shepherd the Flock of God book now contain “new light” from the Governing Body concerning taking these types of preventive measures? We got access to all this information thanks to this inactive friend of my wife who never blocked her. Yet, the elder repeated that he knew nothing of those messages. My wife told him then to stop this Sister “X” who was spreading the messages and who was at the same time defaming us. And the elder told her that before speaking with this Sister “X”, the elders had to speak first with us.
My wife and I then understood that if the elders did not want to stop the situation, it was because the decision had already been made. All that remained was to formalize it, and they already had the entire framework practically armed to disfellowship us: the testimony of this Sister “X”, the testimony of my wife’s brother and mine in that meeting with the elders. And when they gave that order to “reject us in a preventive way”, they did this because they could no longer back down, and the elders asked us to meet with them at the first meeting after the convention.
While investigating on the Internet, we became aware of cases of many other witnesses who were unjustly disfellowshipped. We knew that the only outcome of our situation was that we would be disfellowshipped. Our assessment was that there could be no other result. Personally, I had been preparing to face this situation a long time in advance and reading the elder’s book, Shepherd the Flock of God. It said that if in a judicial committee meeting the accused said that he was going to sue them, the procedure was halted. And that is what we did. We sought legal advice and sent a document letter to the branch and another to the elders of the congregation (See end of article for translation of the letter.) highlighting that we decided to send the letters not because we care about being in the organization, but so that our relatives can continue talking to us without problems, and only for that reason. The letters arrived on Monday, just after the international convention. We had three days to decide whether to attend the meeting. We decided to attend the meeting to see what the brothers or elders would say to us, but we were never going to agree to speak to them without the guarantees we asked for in the letter. We arrived on time. No brother or sister dared to look us in the face. When we entered, there were two elders who, when they saw us, their faces transformed as if to say, “What are these two doing here!” And since they didn’t know what to say, or didn’t have anything to say to us, they, in fact, said absolutely nothing to us.
It was the most tense meeting of my life. We were waiting for some elder to speak to us and have a conversation, but that didn’t happen. Even when we left at the end of the meeting, all five elders were locked in Room B, as if hiding. By attending the meeting we gave them the opportunity to have a dialogue, so we complied. After that, we have not attended the meetings nor have we received messages from the elders.
A month later, we received the reply to the letter that we sent to the branch and we were basically told that they rejected any request from us and that if they wanted to they could disfellowship us, all the same. We received no response to the letter that we sent to the elders.
I have personally passed several elders while out walking, but none have asked to resolve the matter. We know that sooner or later they will disfellowship us, but at least we have gained a little time.
We found out that many brothers saw that time had gone by, and they wondered why the elders did not make any announcement about us. Many asked them directly, but the elders told them that they were giving us help—a complete lie. They wanted to give the appearance that they had exhausted the ways of helping us. They wanted to show how loving they supposedly are. But obviously the congregation wanted results or something that justified that all that had been said was not a rumor, so much so that the elders had to give a warning talk to the congregation, saying that it was wrong to question the decisions made by the body of elders. Basically they told all the brothers and sisters to obey and not ask questions. The announcement of disfellowshipping has not been made to this day.
The last contact we had with the elders was a call in March 2020 from one of them asking us to meet with them to discuss why we sent the letter. They know “why”, because the letter itself clearly states the reason. They think that we do not know that the book “Insight” says that “wanting to declare yourself righteous through the law constitutes apostasy.” So the only reason to quote us is to disfellowship us in one way or another. But, we told them that it was not the time to meet because of my wife’s health situation.
Now with the world quarantine due to coronavirus, nobody, no brother or elder, wrote to us not even to know if we needed anything, not even those who claimed to be our friends. Obviously, the thirty years of friendships within the organization are not worth anything to them. They forgot everything in a second. Everything we have been through only confirms that the love of this organization is fictitious, does not exist. And if the Lord said that love was the trait by which to identify the true worshiper, it became clear to us that this was not God’s organization.
While we have lost many things by standing firm to our convictions, we gained much, since we currently enjoy a freedom that we never felt. We can spend much more time with our children and relatives. Once a week we meet with our family members to study without the doctrinal bias of jw.org, using more than ten translations of the Bible and interlinear Bibles. We get a lot out of our personal study. We have understood that to worship it is not necessary to belong to a “formal religion” or to meet in a temple. We have met more people like us who seek to worship in the right way. We have met people who even meet online to learn from the word of God. Mainly, we enjoy a clean conscience knowing that we are not offending God by being part of a false religion.
(This link to the original article in Spanish provides links to the five audio recordings of the elders’ meeting as well as links to the letters mentioned in this article.)
Translation of Felix’s letter to the Branch Office
[To view the letter in Spanish, click here.]
I am speaking to you in my role as a brother in the faith. I want to express that I will not disassociate myself in writing or verbally before any elder or member of the [redacted] Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Having been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (Romans 8:35).
First, there is no passage in the Bible that indicates that you should write a formal disassociation letter. Second, I have no problem with the congregation or any of its members. I have certain questions regarding certain actions, policies, teachings or writings contained in the publications produced, and verbal teachings promulgated either individually or collectively by the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses and their representatives in my country and in the United States: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York Inc., Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, Inc., Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses Kingdom Services, Inc., Religious Order Of Jehovah’s Witnesses and in the United Kingdom: International Bible Students Association, and in the Argentina Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses. However, such questions or doubts cannot in the future be used to prevent me from maintaining relationships with my family members or having social gatherings with brothers from the congregation.
Taking into account that I have been called to meetings for discussion, I understand that the elders have the intention of forming a judicial committee, that is to say, an “ecclesiastical tribunal” of Jehovah’s Witnesses on charges of apostasy, with the intention of formalizing a disfellowshipping of me as a member of the congregation. Factors leading me to make this statement are, having seen the evasive responses, untimely loss of conversation, and blocking of social networks by other brothers in the congregation.
Within the next two days, I want defined beforehand and in writing, what apostasy is and what the crime of apostasy is, where that is explained in the Bible and what that crime includes? I also want to see the evidence that you have against me, and I want you to allow the presence of a professional defense attorney at the time of the meetings. I require that I be notified in a timely manner and with an advance notice of no less than 30 business days, the time, place, name of the elders, reason for the meeting, and in the case that a judicial committee is formed, that a written accusation must be presented to me containing the names of the people who are making the accusations, the evidence submitted as proof against me, and a list of the rights and duties that are mine in relation to the prescribed process.
I request that minimum guidelines be established to ensure my right to a defense in the judicial procedure, that is, to have the presence of people selected by me to act as observers during the course of the judicial committee, for me to be allowed to take notes either on paper or in an electronic format of situations that arise during the process, that the attendance of the general public be allowed, as well as that the hearings be recorded both in audio and video on my part or by third-party observers. I request that the possible decision results of the judicial committee be given notification to me through a notarized document signed by a notary public, detailing the exact nature and reason for taking that action, and that it should be signed by the elders of the judicial committee, with their full names and addresses. I request that an appeal be provided regarding the decision adopted by the judicial committee, establishing a minimum period of 15 working days from notification to file an appeal. I request that the Appeal Commission be made up of elders who are different from those who participated in the previous committees; this, in order to guarantee the impartiality of the procedure. I request that the necessary means be established to access an effective judicial remedy and/or process that guarantees the review of the acts of the intervening judicial and appeal committee. All these requests are formulated in the terms of Article 18 of the CN and Article 8.1 of the C.A.D.H. If the Committee does not conform according to the requested guarantees, it will be null and void and any decision adopted by them will have no effect.
On the other hand, bearing in mind that to date I belong to the Congregation, and that I have not been disfellowshipped or disassociated, I suggest that the elders avoid convincing by means of talks, teachings, or by encouraging through private counsel or suggestion to any member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ community to treat me differently than any other member of the congregation, to reject me or to avoid me, to cease or in any way modify any commercial activity with me from members of the congregation; these, among other habitual practices. If any of these circumstances described are observed to occur, I will take legal action against the elders and those who promote such attitudes in the terms of arts.1 and 3 of Law No. 23.592, since we would be faced with acts that are aimed at promoting religious discrimination. I will consider any communication between the members of the judicial committee and/or the appeal committee or an attempt to reveal the essence or tone of these communications to any person or group as a violation of such privileges and will take legal action. This includes any announcement regarding the act of an eventual expulsion, a talk or any other public, private, verbal, or written communication. I inform you that if these things in the aforementioned assumption are incurred, those incurring them will be responsible for any damages that their conduct may cause me, both personally and with respect to my family and social relationships. In the terms indicated above, I make known to you that these rights are enshrined in articles.14 (associate for useful purposes and freely profess their worship), article 19 (private actions) and article 33 of the Constitution. National, law. 25.326 and articles.10, 51 (dignity of the human person) 52 (effects on personal and family privacy) and 1770 (protection of privacy). You have been notified. Designated lawyer sponsor (redacted)
Translation of Branch’s Response to Felix’s Letter
[To view the letter in Spanish, click here. (Two were written, one to Felix and a duplicate to his wife. This is a translation of the wife’s letter.)]
Dear Sister (redacted)
Much to our regret we are forced to contact you by this means in order to answer your [redacted] 2019, which we can only describe as inappropriate. Spiritual matters, whatever these may be, should not be handled by means of registered letters, but rather by means that allow for preserving confidentiality and maintaining trust and friendly dialogue, and which always inside the realm of the Christian congregation. Therefore, we deeply regret having to respond by registered letter—given that you have chosen this means of communication—and it is done with great displeasure and sadness since we consider that we are addressing a dear sister in the faith; and it has never been the custom of Jehovah’s Witnesses to use written communication for this, because we strive to imitate the model of humility and love that Christ taught should dominate among his followers. Any other attitude would be to act contrary to the basic principles of the Christian faith. (Matthew 5:9). 1 Corinthians 6: 7 says, “Actually then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another.” Therefore, we are obliged to mention to you that we will not answer any more registered letters from you, but will only attempt to communicate through friendly theocratic means, which are appropriate to our brotherhood.
Having clarified this, we are also obliged to reject your all your assertions as being completely inappropriate within the religious sphere, something you are well aware of and which you accepted at the time of your baptism. The local religious ministers will only act according to theocratic procedures based on the Bíble without imposing any of the actions your letter alleges. The congregation is not governed by human procedural norms nor by the spirit of confrontation typical of secular courts. The decisions of the religious ministers of Jehovah’s Witnesses cannot be overruled since their decisions are not subject to review by the secular authorities (art. 19 CN). As you will understand, we are obliged to reject all your allegations. Know this, dear sister, that any decision by the elders of the congregation made according to the established theocratic procedures, and that are proper to our religious community on a biblical basis, will be fully operative without there being any legal recourse on the basis of alleged damages and/or harm and/or religious discrimination. Law 23.592 would never apply to such a case. Finally, your constitutional rights are not higher than the constitutional rights that also support us. Far from being a question of competing rights, it is about the necessary differentiation of areas: the state cannot interfere in the religious sphere because acts of internal discipline are exempt from the authority of magistrates (art. 19 CN).
You well know that the work carried out by the congregation elders, including the disciplinary work—if this were the case, and to which you submitted when you were baptized as a Jehovah’s Witness—is governed by the Holy Scriptures and, as an Organization, we have always adhered to the Scriptures in performing disciplinary work (Galatians 6:1). Furthermore, you are responsible for your actions (Galatians 6:7) and Christian ministers have the God-given ecclesiastical authority to take measures that protect all members of the congregation and preserve high biblical standards (Revelation 1:20). Therefore, we must clarify that from now on we will not agree to discuss in any judicial forum matters that only concern the religious sphere and that are exempt from the authority of the magistrates, as has been repeatedly recognized by the national jurdiciary.
Finally, we sincerely and deeply express our wish that, as you carefully meditate prayerfully on your position as God’s humble servant, you may proceed according to divine will, focus on your spiritual activities, accept the help that the elders of the congregation seek to give you (Revelation 2:1) and “Throw your burden on Jehovah” (Psalm 55:22). We bid you farewell with Christian affection, sincerely hoping that you can find the peace that will allow you to act with the peaceful wisdom of God (James 3:17).
With the foregoing, we close this epistolary exchange with this letter, expressing our appreciation and wishing you the Christian love that you deserve and that we have for you, sincerely hoping that you reconsider.