On August 14 at 11:00 AM AEST Brother Geoffrey Jackson of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses provided testimony under examination before the Australia Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. At the time of this writing, the transcript of his testimony was not yet available to the public, but it should appear here when ready. However, the video record of his testimony is available on YouTube: View Part 1 and Part 2.
“Really, then, by their fruits you will recognize those men.” (Mt 7:20)
Some were looking forward to the testimony of Governing Member Geoffrey Jackson as an occasion when finally the “man behind the curtain” would be revealed. Others were hoping that his testimony would provide the Royal Commission with a clearer explanation of the Organization’s policies and the biblical basis for same.
The Bible instructs us that love “does not rejoice over unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth.” We therefore take no pleasure in any organizational failings revealed via this testimony, but we must rejoice that the truth is finally made manifest. (1Co 13:6 NWT)
Geoffrey Jackson Takes the Stand
Brother Jackson referred to the Governing Body as “custodians of our doctrine.” When asked about the role of the Governing Body by Mr. Stewart, he read Acts 6:3, 4:
“So, brothers, select for yourselves seven reputable men from among you, full of spirit and wisdom, that we may appoint them over this necessary matter; 4 but we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” (Ac 6:3, 4)
Mr. Stewart astutely pointed out to Brother Jackson that these verses suggest “that a broader congregation of believers would make the selection rather than the seven themselves.”
Mr. Stewart’s analysis is accurate. Indeed, verse 5 continues by saying that what the apostles said “was pleasing to the whole multitude, and they selected” the seven men who would become the first ministerial servants.
This will not be the first time that Mr. Stewart, a worldly lawyer,[i] corrects Brother Jackson’s scriptural reasoning. Rather than acknowledge the truth of his statement, Brother Jackson responds somewhat condescendingly:
“Well, this is one of the difficulties we have when a secular commission is trying to analyze a religious subject…that…I humbly would like to mention that point. My understanding of the Scriptures is that these ones were appointed by the apostles. Your point is well taken, and let’s assume hypothetically that others selected the seven men but it was at the direction of the apostles.” [Italics added]
As you will see, this will not be the only time Brother Jackson’s hides behind a misapplication of the word “hypothetical”. There is nothing hypothetical about what Mr. Stewart concludes from a straightforward reading of this verse. Without ambiguity, the Bible states that the seven men were selected by the congregation, not the apostles. The apostles approved the congregation’s choices.
(This would suggest that the whole congregation should have a say on who gets put forward for the office of overseer, and that this should be done in an open forum. How different our congregations might be if this Bible practice were being followed worldwide.)
When asked pointedly by Mr. Stewart if the Governing Body is appointed by Jehovah God, Brother Jackson did not respond directly, but instead made reference to the way the elders are appointed by Holy Spirit in that they meet the spiritual requirements for the office to which they are called. Then he explained that this is the way of the Governing Body as well. Earlier, when asked directly, he explained that new members are added when the Governing Body, following consultation with their helpers, decides that they are required. Thus, we can see by his own admission that the Governing Body is appointed in exactly the same way that the elders are appointed – by men.
Governing Body Unwittingly Condemned
Mr. Stewart then asked pointedly if the Governing Body views itself as Jehovah’s spokespeople on earth.
Brother Jackson does not vacillate this time, but states, “That, I think, would seem to be quite presumptuous, to say that we are the only spokesperson that God is using.”
With those words, Brother Jackson is unwittingly labeling the Governing Body as presumptuous. Here is the official position of the Governing Body with regards to its role before God. [Italics added]
“By word or action, may we never challenge the channel of communication that Jehovah is using today.” (w09 11/15 p. 14 par. 5 Treasure Your Place in the Congregation)
“Today, we may not clearly see why some organizational matters are handled in a certain way, but we have every reason to trust in Jehovah’s guidance through his faithful channel of communication.” (w07 12/15 p. 20 par. 16 “Stand Firm and See the Salvation of Jehovah”)
“Jehovah gives us sound counsel through his Word and through his organization, using the publications provided by “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matthew 24:45; 2 Timothy 3:16) How foolish to reject good advice and insist on our own way! We “must be swift about hearing” when Jehovah, “the One teaching men knowledge,” counsels us through his channel of communication.” (w03 3/15 p. 27 ‘The Lips of Truth Will Endure Forever’)
“That faithful slave is the channel through which Jesus is feeding his true followers in this time of the end.” (w13 7/15 p. 20 par. 2 “Who Really Is the Faithful and Discreet Slave?”)
Theocratic appointments come from Jehovah through his Son and God’s visible earthly channel, “the faithful and discreet slave” and its Governing Body.” (w01 1/15 p. 16 par. 19 Overseers and Ministerial Servants Theocratically Appointed)
We could quibble that the word “spokesperson” is not used in any of these references, but what is a spokesperson if not a channel of communication? It is therefore presumptuous, to use Brother Jackson’s own words, for the Governing Body to set itself up as God’s appointed channel of communication – i.e. his spokesman – in our day.
A Disingenuous Statement
Quoting from the branch manual, Mr. Stewart showed that branch members are expected to follow the procedures and guidelines that originate from the Governing Body. If Brother Jackson were to accept this as policy prima facie, he would be making the Governing Body responsible for all branch decisions, policies, and procedures. Therefore, he does not answer the question directly, and it is a challenge for the listener to understand what he is actually getting at in this part of his testimony. Nevertheless, Mr. Stewart seeking to nail down the position of the Governing Body, again quotes from the branch manual showing that the branch committee members are expected to set the example by obeying the direction from the Governing Body. Mr. Jackson counters this by stating that the direction is Bible based, and were the Governing Body to deviate from what the Bible says, it would be expected that the branch committee members would not obey.
Though they may sound noble, these are just words. They do not describe the reality of the current situation in the Organization. There have been many examples of men who in good conscience have resisted direction from the Governing Body because they could not see a scriptural basis for it, and in fact felt it went against Scripture. These men were labelled as apostates and were thrown out of Bethel and the congregation. So while Brother Jackson’s words are high sounding, the fruits which the men of the Governing Body and those who adhere to their direction have produced tell a different story.
The Question of Women as Judges
The Chair next addresses Brother Jackson to ask him if there is any biblical impediment to a judicial determination being made by a body which includes women. What his Honor is asking is whether sisters can be used to determine the validity of an accusation made by a female against a male in the congregation, leaving the male elders to decide whether to disfellowship or not.
After a long winded response, Brother Jackson stated that “biblically speaking the role of judges in the congregation lays with men. That’s what the Bible says and that’s what we endeavor to follow.”
His Honor then asked for the biblical reference to support the doctrine. Brother Jackson seems flummoxed by this initially, then he stated that he believed Deuteronomy to be one of the biblical references that prove this; after which he said that, “definitely when it is speaking about judges at the Gates in Israel, that is older men.”
Brother Jackson seems to be forgetting the words of our own publications as well as that of the inspired word of God which clearly state that a woman, Deborah, served as a judge in Israel. This makes it clear that not only older men, but women have also served in that capacity.
“Debʹo·rah is a prophetess. Jehovah gives her information about the future, and then she tells the people what Jehovah says. Debʹo·rah is also a judge. She sits under a certain palm tree in the hill country, and people come to her to get help with their problems.” (my story 50 Two Brave Women – My Book of Bible Stories) [Italics added.]
“Now Debʹo·rah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapʹpi·doth, was judging Israel at that time. 5 She used to sit under Debʹo·rah’s palm tree between Raʹmah and Bethʹel in the mountainous region of Eʹphra·im; the Israelites would go up to her for judgment.” (Judges 4:4, 5 NWT) [Italics added.]
Regrettably, the Chair chose not to point this oversight out to him.
An Entrenched Position Made Manifest
Brother Jackson’s position is based on the belief that only men can serve as judges. It is true that in the male dominated society of ancient Israel, this was a role traditionally held by men. However, the fact that Jehovah chose a woman for this role in the case of Deborah should indicate to us that it is not how men see that should guide us, but how Jehovah sees. In the Christian congregation, counsel is given under inspiration to show that older women have a teaching role in the congregation as well, particularly as it relates to younger women.
“Likewise, let the older women be reverent in behavior, not slanderous, not enslaved to a lot of wine, teachers of what is good, 4 so that they may advise the younger women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be sound in mind, chaste, working at home, good, subjecting themselves to their own husbands, so that the word of God may not be spoken of abusively.” (Tit 2:3-5 NWT)
This counsel is strikingly similar to the counsel given to the older men in the congregation. However, all of this is ignored because the position of the organization has become entrenched. This was evident throughout the hearing with the repeated statement by Jackson that if the Australian government were to enforce a law requiring mandatory reporting, Jehovah’s Witnesses would comply. He states more than once that they await the court’s ruling on this matter. At one point, he even says that the government would help out the witnesses were it to make reporting mandatory. One can’t help but wonder if he is speaking for himself at this point. Perhaps he personally feels frustrated by the intransigence of our official position and sees no way out through internal means.
This admission is stunning in light of the role the Governing Body assumes for itself. It implies that we really won’t comply on this unless forced to. If changes are indeed beneficial, as Brother Jackson points out repeatedly, then why would the Governing Body wait on a worldly authority before complying itself? Why are Jehovah’s Witnesses who see themselves as the one true religion on the face of the earth not taking the lead in this so as to give the world a good witness? If Jehovah were truly using the Governing Body as his channel of communication, would he wait on a secular authority to change his Organization’s policy?
A Disconnect with Reality
What is evident from the following exchanges is that any changes are unlikely to be made unless the Governing Body feels forced to do so. The Governing Body’s view is based on the premise of a reality which simply does not exist.
JACKSON: “The main thing for us is helping, supporting…and women will be involved with it. You see the judicial committee is not judging the victim. The elders in the congregation and the women in the congregation have the obligation to give full support to the victim.”
[This implies that the women in the congregation would actually know a case is being handled, when in reality, the secrecy surrounding all judicial matters makes that highly unlikely.]
CHAIR: “That may be so, but the point I was seeking to have you address was: Can you understand how a woman might feel when allegations which she brings forward against a man in the congregation are considered and judged entirely by men?”
JACKSON: “Obviously I’m not a woman, so I would not like to speak on their behalf but the two of us, I’m sure, could understand from what has been expressed and believed that perhaps there would be a hesitancy there.”
CHAIR: “And can I add this to the question for a woman who brings an allegation against an elder who is a friend of the others who must judge the truth or otherwise of the allegation: Can you understand how that person must feel?”
JACKSON: “I can try to understand it, your honor, yes, but again could I ask, and again this is not my field of activity, but as far as I understand, we have a process in place whereby a neutral member, like a circuit overseer, will be involved with such a sensitive case.”
CHAIR: “It would be the case, would it not, that even a circuit overseer is going to know an elder well?”
JACKSON: “They should be familiar, but they also know the victim well. You see it’s not taking into consideration the spiritual responsibility. See these elders are not paid to do their job. They do it because of love and concern and wanting to shepherd the flock. And so I think what we’re missing is the spiritual element to this whole thing, where people are comfortable talking to one another.”
[This is simply not true. Throughout his three-year assignment, the circuit overseer spends all of five days twice a year in the congregation. He spends a significant amount of that time working with the elders and the pioneers. The chances that he would know a child abuse victim well are very slim. Brother Jackson seems to believe in a congregation Nirvana that simply does not exist. There are elders who truly love the brothers and have genuine concern for the flock. These ones want to imitate the Christ in shepherding the flock with humility, but they are in a distinct minority. The evidence before the commission – over 1000 cases – shows that the system does not make it comfortable for people to talk with one another.]
CHAIR: “Well, I don’t know if you heard the evidence of the survivors here. Did you hear that evidence?”
JACKSON: “No, unfortunately that was a bad time for me in caring for my father, but it will look forward to a summary of it.”
[Brother Jackson joins the club of Australian elders who have not even taken the time to read the publicly available transcripts detailing the evidence that the survivors have put before the court. Given his office of oversight, the importance of these hearings, and his repeated assurances that the most important thing for elders is the care and welfare of the victim, it seems like a hollow excuse to suggest he couldn’t have found twenty minutes over the past few weeks to read the account of even one abuse survivor.]
Evidence that years of indoctrination training to get Jehovah’s Witnesses to believe they are better than everyone else affects the indoctrinators as well, as this next exchange demonstrates.
STEWART: “But you will accept, I’m sure, that in many instances where a woman, or young woman, makes such an allegation she would feel a lot more comfortable having to make the allegation and explain the circumstances to another woman?”
JACKSON: “I can’t say that I would give a comment on that Mr. Stewart, because, you see, it takes away the consideration of the relationships in our congregations. It’s not like your churches where people just go to church and don’t talk to one another. Their congregations do become familiar and there can be a friendship, so I agree that the point you’re trying to get at, we need to know what the victim is comfortable in doing with regard to whom to speak to.” [Boldface added.]
There is ample evidence that Brother Jackson’s blanket condemnation of all other churches is just plain wrong. But even were it right, it hardly does the JW cause any service to state it in a public forum.
Brother Jackson Explains Why We Do Not Report Crimes
Brother Jackson frequently qualifies his answers relating to judicial policies by stating that it is not his field, yet when asked why we appear to have a practice of not reporting incidents of child abuse, he seems remarkably well versed. He explains the reason as the result of a “dilemma” that the elders face. According to Brother Jackson, this dilemma has to do with how to apply the Bible counsel found at Proverbs 25:8-10 and 1 Peter 5:2,3.
“Do not rush into a legal dispute, For what will you do later if your neighbor humiliates you? 9 Plead your case with your neighbor, But do not reveal what you were told confidentially, 10 So that the one listening will not put you to shame And you spread a bad report that cannot be recalled.” (Pr 25:8-10 NWT)
“Shepherd the flock of God under your care, serving as overseers, not under compulsion, but willingly before God; not for love of dishonest gain, but eagerly; 3 not lording it over those who are God’s inheritance, but becoming examples to the flock.” (1Pe 5:2, 3 NWT)
In summing this up, he states: “So this is the spiritual dilemma that we have, because at the same time we want to make sure that the children are cared for. So if the government does happen to make mandatory reporting that will make this dilemma so much easier for us because we all want the same goal, the children will be cared for properly.”
This was an astute tactic, one I’m sure that JW lawyers concocted in preparation for this question. The Governing Body knows they are not going to win over worldly people (their term for non-JWs) but they are concerned about not alienating the flock. If viewed both credulously and superficially, Jackson’s words seems logical. They are however false and intended to mislead the court away from the real reason for not reporting, which is a fundamental mistrust of the authorities in Satan’s world and the desire not to bring reproach on “Jehovah’s” organization by airing our dirty laundry. The popular refrain is that reporting would be a bad witness to the world.
If Brother Jackson’s words are true, if indeed elders consider these verses when deciding whether they are to report a crime or not, then where would you think that direction would be found? Whenever there is a judicial case of any kind, the elders are instructed to take out the Shepherd the Flock of God book (also known as the elder’s manual) and review all relevant portions prior to the meeting. No reference is made anywhere in the book to Proverbs 25:8-10. First Peter 5:3 is referenced only once, but in relation to getting along together during elders meetings. Neither is applied to any judicial matter of any kind, let alone matters involving child sexual abuse.
There is a good reason for this. Neither text has anything to do with reporting crimes to the “superior authorities.” (Romans 13:1-7)
Proverbs is talking about legal disputes between brothers, not the reporting of a crime. An Israelite who knew of a crime of murder, sexual misconduct, or any other breach of the law of Moses and who helped the perpetrator by hiding the fact of the crime from the authorities was held accountable. The account at Joshua chapter 7 concerning the sin of Achan demonstrates this. He committed the crime, yet his entire household including his children were put to death because they knew of it and did not report it. In short, in the Israelite Law there is strong precedent for the reporting of crime to the authorities.
As for 1 Peter 5:3 it does not apply to judicial matters at all. It concerns the abuse of power by an elder as an authority figure. What truly governs whether or not an elder will report a crime is love. Love always looks for the best interests of its object. Brother Jackson does not mention love at all, yet it would resolve this ethical dilemma he speaks of. The elders would simply look at what would benefit the child in question, all the children in the congregation, children outside the congregation, and even the alleged perpetrator.
To demonstrate that Brother Jackson has thrown a red Herring to the court, let us – just for argument’s sake – assume that what he says is true. Let us assume that the elders weigh these two scriptures based on the circumstances of the case to determine whether or not it is in the best interests of the victim to report the crime. They’re taking two principles and weighing the circumstances to see how best to apply them in any and every given case. Does it therefore follow that in over 1000 cases there would not be a single one in which the circumstances dictated that the principles required the crime to be reported? Would this not be tantamount to tossing a coin in the air one thousand times and having it come up heads every time? The fact is that there is not a single case in Australia over the past 60 years in which the elders have taken the initiative to report a crime of child sexual abuse to the authorities.
It is hard to see Brother Jackson’s testimony as anything other than an attempt to mislead the court and mitigate the seriousness of the actions of the Organization over more than half a century. Brother Jackson swore an oath to tell the “whole truth” and “nothing but the truth”. He has failed to do that here.
Mr. Stewart Defeats the Two-Witness Rule
In support of the two-Witness rule, Brother Jackson refers to the well-known quote from Matthew 18:15-17. He completely ignores the fact that even in our publications, we recognize that Matthew 18 does not apply to all forms of sin. It applies to sins such as fraud and slander which result in disputes between brothers. Sins of a sexual nature are explicitly not covered by Matthew 18. Misleading the court into believing that Matthew 18 applies to all sins and judicial matters, Brother Jackson next links these words of Jesus back to the Mosaic Law, but then – showing that he has been well prepped by legal counsel – states that the stoning that is associated with the two-witness rule under Jewish law does not apply to Christianity. He shows how Jesus took only that part of the Mosaic Law that could still apply in the Christian system of things when giving us the two-witness rule.
However, Mr. Stewart refers him to Deut. 22:23-27.
STEWART: “…and then the next example is the one I’m particularly interested in, ‘If, however, the man happened to meet the engaged girl in the field and the man overpowered her and lay down with her, the man who lay down with her is to die by himself, 26 and you must do nothing to the girl. The girl has not committed a sin deserving of death. This case is the same as when a man attacks his fellow man and murders him. 27 For he happened to meet her in the field, and the engaged girl screamed, but there was no one to rescue her.’ So the point of this last example is that there is no second witness, is there? Because the woman’s in the field, she screamed, and there was no one to rescue her. Do you accept that?
JACKSON: “Ah, could I explain Mr. Stewart that I think you see already under testimony some of Jehovah’s Witnesses have explained that the two witnesses needed can be in some cases the circumstances, I think was the example given.”
STEWART: “I’ll come to that Mr. Jackson. We’ll get through this a lot quicker and easier if we just address it one step at a time.”
STEWART: “The present step is this. So in that step you’ll agree there was no other witness beyond the woman herself.”
JACKSON: “There was no other witness except the woman herself, but added to that were the circumstances.”
STEWARD: “Yes, well the circumstances were that she was raped in the field.”
JACKSON: “Yes but they were circumstances.”
STEWART: “And it was sufficient, there being only one witness, it was nevertheless sufficient for the conclusion that the man should be stoned to death.”
STEWART: “Now, is it…”
JACKSON: “But I think we agree on the point.”
STEWART: “Now, is it not the case that had Jesus been asked about a case of sexual abuse he may have referred back to this part of Deuteronomy, and said that it is not required to have two witnesses?”
JACKSON: “Um, I certainly would like to ask Jesus that, and I can’t at the moment. I hope to in the future. Ah, but that’s a hypothetical question which, if we had an answer, then we could support what you said.”
STEWART: “Well it’s hypothetical in a sense, but what I’m driving at is, is the scriptural basis – and you’re the scholar, I’m not – is the scriptural basis for the two-witness rule really solid, or is there not space for your Governing Body to recognize that in cases of sexual abuse it can’t apply?”
JACKSON: “Again, if I could just mention the fact that we’ve already acknowledged that circumstances can also be one of the witnesses.”
STEWART: “Well, I’ll come to that but my question is a different one. It’s whether the scriptural basis to the two-witness rule in relation to cases of sexual abuse has a proper foundation?”
JACKSON: “We believe that it does because of the number of times that that principle is emphasized in the Scriptures.”
It would seem that Brother Jackson feels that the number of times the two-witnesses principle is emphasized in the Scriptures means that there is no possibility of an exception to it. The fact is that it is found 5 times in all of Scripture: Regarding false worship (De 17:6); interpersonal disputes (De 19:15-20; Mt 18:15-17); accusations against one in authority (2Co 13:1; 1Ti 5:19). It is never applied to sins of sexual abuse or rape.
Mr. Stewart has provided Brother Jackson with a valid scriptural basis for disregarding the two-witness rule in cases of sexual abuse and rape, but Brother Jackson feels that the question is hypothetical and cannot be determined until such time as he meets Jesus to ask him.
Is the Governing Body God’s channel of communication or not? Earlier in his testimony Brother Jackson says that they arrive at their decisions based on an examination of all Scripture, not just selected verses. Here is an excellent example of just that methodology and yet he seems unwilling to apply it. Instead he doggedly sticks to established JW tradition.
Shunning Those Who Shun the Organization
When asked about the policy of disassociation, Brother Jackson makes a false statement.
STEWART: “If someone no longer wants to be known as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses then he’s then disassociated, is that right?”
JACKSON: “Well, again please if they want to take the action of doing that but of course they have total freedom if they don’t want to apply to be officially removed as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses they can tell anyone they want that they are no longer a Jehovah’s Witness.”
This is simply not true. If they tell two witnesses either together or separately at different times that they no longer want to be a Jehovah’s Witness, an official announcement can be made from the platform which amounts to a disfellowshipping. The “Notification of Disfellowshipping or Disassociation” form (S-77-E) under the subtitle disassociation has a checkbox captioned “Oral resignation before two witnesses”.
In explaining disassociation as laid out in Organized to Do Jehovah’s Will, Brother Jackson states: “No, it doesn’t say they must do anything. If you read on you’ll see there is a process. This gives the person the right to officially have an announcement made that they are no longer one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” [Italics added.]
Calling this “a right” is an outrageous misstatement. Since the announcement in question is identical in its wording and in its consequence to that made when a person is disfellowshipped for committing a gross sin, what Brother Jackson is actually saying is that a person has the right to be considered a gross sinner by all members of the congregation and she has the right to be shunned by both family and friends.
There are actual cases in Australia where the misapplication of the JW two-witness rule allowed the abuser to remain as an approved member of the congregation and continue abusing. Traumatized by this, some have seriously contemplated or actually attempted suicide. Others, rather than kill themselves, chose to resign from the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The result was to be totally cut off from the support system they so desperately needed.
This is the JW equivalent of Sophie’s Choice.
Brother Jackson defends the disassociation policy as scriptural. That is a lie which dishonors the God he claims to worship. The word does not appear in the Bible nor is the policy anywhere to be found. Shunning for gross sin is one thing, but shunning because someone walks away is quite another.
A person who officially resigns from the Organization is in fact, shunning it. We cannot have that. We cannot be shunned. We do the shunning. Nobody shuns us. We’ll show them!
So, if a person dares to shun the organization, we make sure she is punished by getting everyone she holds dear to shun her; and if they don’t, they are threatened with shunning themselves.
To show how ridiculous the disassociation policy is, let us illustrate it with the case of fraternal twins, Mary and Jane. At age ten, Mary, seeking to please her parents, gets baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, but Jane does not. When they are fifteen, Mary accuses one of the elders in the congregation of sexually abusing her. Jane, also suffered but is afraid to come forward. There is only one witness. The elders decide not to do anything to the brother in question who continues to serve in good standing. At age 18, Mary cannot stand being in the same kingdom Hall with her abuser and formerly requests to resign as a Jehovah’s Witness. An announcement is made. Now all of Mary’s friends and family can have nothing more to do with her. However Jane, who was never baptized, continues to enjoy the association of both family and friends even though she no longer attends meetings either.
Let us look at how Paul, writing under inspiration, dealt with people who disassociated themselves from him.
“For Deʹmas has forsaken me because he loved the present system of things, and he has gone to Thes·sa·lo·niʹca. . .” (2Ti 4:10)
“In my first defense no one came to my side, but they all forsook me—may they not be held accountable.” (2Ti 4:16)
Interesting, is it not? Not a word to Timothy about treating such ones as disfellowshipped. No counsel to Timothy or the flock at large to shun anyone who dares to walk away from us. Those who abandoned Paul in his hour of need were even forgiven by him in their absence. He prayed that God would not hold them accountable. Our Lord Jesus when he was in agony and close to death prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing”. We have just had a convention telling us to imitate Jesus. Can we not find it in our hearts to recognize that these victims are wounded souls doubly abused by a rigid and uncaring system based on the misguided application of Scripture and a wrong desire to hide our sins from the world?
If the Governing Body as the “guardians of doctrine” for Jehovah’s Witnesses will not openly confess their sins before God’s duly constituted minister, the superior secular authority (See Romans 13:4), how can they and the Organization as a whole expect to get Jehovah’s forgiveness?
A Wake-Up Call Missed
Many years back, I remember learning of lawyers at the branch prepping Jehovah’s Witnesses for cases involving child custody as well as our stand on blood transfusions. I remember being disturbed by this revelation, because I had always believed that we were not to prepare when going before the civil authorities based on Jesus’ command at Matthew 10:18-20.
“Why, YOU will be haled before governors and kings for my sake, for a witness to them and the nations. 19 However, when they deliver YOU up, do not become anxious about how or what YOU are to speak; for what YOU are to speak will be given YOU in that hour; 20 for the ones speaking are not just YOU, but it is the spirit of YOUR Father that speaks by YOU.” (Mt 10:18-20 NWT)
I have learned that one cannot escape the consequences of ignoring any Bible command. Such is the case here, for I excused this rejection of divine direction, reasoning that there were extenuating circumstances the brothers were aware of that justified the extensive prep work and coaching from JW legal counsel. I now understand why it was necessary. Matthew 10:18-20 only applies when one’s position is firmly based on the truth of God’s word. Only then can the spirit of our Father speak through us.
The extensive prep work that Brother Jackson obviously underwent prior to this hearing has not saved Jehovah’s Witnesses from the public revealing of the immense failure of the Organization to uphold its prime directive: to distinguish itself by the love it shows to its own members. (John 13:35)
Here we have a man at the pinnacle of our organizational structure, a man looked up to as one of the foremost spiritual men and scholars within the Jehovah’s Witness community. Facing him is a mere worldly[i] lawyer, a secular authority not versed in Scripture. And yet, on the issue of disassociation, the two-witness rule, and women as judges in the congregation, this worldly man was able to defeat the reasoning of a member of the Governing Body and he did that using the Bible! I am sure he was prepped by those with a solid understanding of Scripture, but it was the Bible, the word of God, that defeated the reasoning of men and showed up the Organization’s procedures for what they truly are, the teachings and doctrines of men. (2 Cor. 10:4-6)
Even a few years ago, such an outcome would have been inconceivable to me. But now I can see that the reason for the Organization’s failure is that it has failed to remain faithful to God’s word and failed to submit to the rule of the Christ; preferring instead, like its many counterparts in Christendom, the rule of man. We have allowed men to become – to quote Brother Jackson – “custodians and guardians of Bible doctrine.” Truly, we have put our trust in men and as a consequence are reaping what we have sown.
A Warning from Jesus Christ
Immediately after speaking the words at Matthew 7:20, Jesus went on to describe men who would speak and act as if they were Christ’s own ministers.
“Many will say to me in that day: ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works in your name?’” (Mt 7:22)
Jesus does not deny that these ones did indeed “prophesy in his name” and “expel demons in his name” and even that they “performed many powerful works in his name”. Nevertheless in the very next verse he says: “I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness!” (Matthew 7:21-23)
The “lawlessness” of these men pertains to their disobedience to the highest law, the law of the Christ. Whether or not they may be viewed as criminals to the secular courts is immaterial at this point. They are condemned by the highest court and will suffer the judicial punishment meted out by God.
However, Jesus does not impart to us the wisdom nor the right to judge the soul of any man. Such judgment is reserved for him by God. (2 Timothy 4:1) Nevertheless, he does impose on us the responsibility to judge the character of the men who would presume to lead us, so that we can determine whether to listen to them or reject their counsel. It is for this reason that Jesus gives us this warning as well as this simple method for ferreting out false prophets, wolves in sheep’s clothing: We must look to their fruits; the results of their words, their actions. (Matthew 7:15, 16, 22)
So let us not look to the words, for words can be used to cover over bad deeds. Nor let us be convinced by the apparent sincerity of the speaker, for the best deceivers are those who begin by deceiving themselves.
“The one first in his legal case is righteous. . .” (Pr 18:17)
“All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but Jehovah is making an estimate of spirits.” (Pr 16:2)
If you are a Jehovah’s Witness and have not yet had occasion to view all the testimony of your brotherse before the Royal Commission, I would strongly recommend you do so in light of Jesus’ words to us all. Consider what is written here and what you see for yourself when viewing and meditating on the testimony of the appointed elders. We should never be the type that bury their head in the sand, that accept blindness as an acceptable condition of faith. If we do, then we will have no excuse when Jesus calls each of us to an accounting.
[i] Jehovah’s Witnesses view non-witnesses as worldly or “of the world”, a mildly pejorative term to distinguish all from true Christians. It is from the JW viewpoint that the term is used here.
The Organization’s Stand on Lying
Readers of this forum will know that I refrain from referring to a false statement as a lie. The reason for this is that a lie carries with it a moral element. Sometimes stating the truth can bring harm, while stating a falsehood can save a life. If you saw a group of thugs chasing after a young girl to do her harm, would it be a lie to point them in the wrong direction? It would be a falsehood, but not a lie. A lie is a sin.
The definition given by the Insight book states:
“The opposite of truth. Lying generally involves saying something false to a person who is entitled to know the truth and doing so with the intent to deceive or to injure him or another person.” (it-2 p. 244 Lie)
For purposes of the discussion at hand, the key phrase is “a person entitled to know the truth”. The Insight book continues on the next page by saying:
“While malicious lying is definitely condemned in the Bible, this does not mean that a person is under obligation to divulge truthful information to people who are not entitled to it.
I would submit that “malicious lying” is a tautology since all lying is by definition malicious. Nevertheless, the crux of the matter lies in determining whether the person asking the questions deserves to know the truth.
Here is the official position of the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses regarding perjury:
“The faithful witness does not commit perjury when testifying. His testimony is not tainted with lies. However, this does not mean that he is under obligation to give full information to those who may want to bring harm to Jehovah’s people in some way.” (w04 11/15 p. 28 “The Tent of the Upright Ones Will Flourish”)
This may be the view of the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses and this thinking may have guided Brother Jackson in how he chose to give his testimony. However, it should be remembered that he swore an oath before Jehovah God “to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”. This he did not do.
When asked directly whether he believed that the commission was only seeking what was good for child abuse victims, a way of better addressing this serious problem in Australian society, he responded in the affirmative. Therefore, he admitted that he did not feel these officials were seeking “to bring harm to Jehovah’s people in some way.”
Given this, it is hard not to qualify some of his false statements as anything other than lies intended to deceive the officials. Were these officials to be taken in by these lies, it could likely taint their decisions resulting in curtailing the safeguards that would otherwise protect current and future victims of child sexual abuse. (Fortunately, I’m sure the officials saw right through all the deception and prevarication of the JW testimony presented in this hearing.)
It is for the above reason that I have departed from my usual reticence of calling a falsehood a lie.