Jehovah's Witnesses

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Jehovah's Witnesses
About Jehovah's Witnesses
Demographics
History
Organizational Structure
Governing Body
Faithful and Discreet Slave
Legal Instruments
Government Interactions
Beliefs
Doctrines · Practices
Eschatology</br> Blood · Disfellowshipping
Persecution
Controversy
Related People
Formative Influences
William Miller · N.H. Barbour
Jonas Wendell
Presidents & Members
List of Jehovah's Witnesses
C.T. Russell · M.G. Henschel
J.F. Rutherford · F.W. Franz
D.A. Adams · N.H. Knorr
Ex-Members & Critics
R. Franz · E.C. Gruss }"> |
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Image:Kingdomhall.jpg
Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses
Jehovah's Witnesses are members of an international religious group of the same name. They believe that they are the restoration of first-century Christianity. The preaching, evangelistic and publishing activities of Jehovah's Witnesses are extensive, and congregations have been established in most parts of the world. Their most widely-known publications are the religious magazines, The Watchtower and Awake!. The international headquarters, located in Brooklyn, New York, is directed by a Governing Body. Each congregation is overseen by a group of elders, which is appointed by representatives of the Governing Body. Official membership of the organization is over 6.6 million.<ref name="population">2006 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, pg. 31: "Peak of Publishers in Kingdom Service — 6,613,829. Average Publishers Preaching Each Month — 6,390,016. Worldwide Memorial Attendance — 16,383,333." A Publisher is defined as an active member who submits a monthly report of time spent preaching.</ref>

The teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses are largely focused on the Kingdom of God and what they call the "presence" of Christ, analogous to the Second Coming. Early in their history, this second coming of Christ was believed to have occurred invisibly in 1874, but this was later revised to 1914. Jehovah's Witnesses initially held many views similar to other 19th century Adventist groups, such as the Millerites; they have since developed a unique eschatology. The Bible is considered by Jehovah's Witnesses to be the inspired word of God. They produced an independent translation, completed by 1961: the New World Translation. They believe that the recognition and use of God's personal name, יהוה‎ (or YHWH, translated as Jehovah in English - an anglicized rendering of the original Hebrew tetragrammaton), is vital for acceptable worship. They also believe that Jesus' death was necessary to atone for the sin of the first man, Adam, opening the way for the hope of everlasting life to all of Adam's descendants. They believe that the wicked will be destroyed at Armageddon, and those who survive will form a new society and live forever in an earthly paradise. Some ways that Jehovah's Witnesses differ from mainstream Christianity are that they reject doctrines such as the Trinity, eternal torment in hell, the immortality of the soul, and the reward of heavenly life for all who remain faithful to God.

Jehovah's Witnesses refuse to become involved in social, religious, or political conflicts. They are well known for their refusal of blood transfusions. This refusal has attracted criticism from some medical and legal sources, but has also helped to strengthen the legal basis for patients' rights of informed consent and self-determination of medical treatment. Their search for bloodless treatment options has also encouraged research and development of bloodless surgery techniques.<ref>Awake! Magazine (22 August 1998). Bloodless Surgery - Its Benefits Gain Recognition. Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, 10,11.</ref>

Members who are judged to be unrepentant sinners, for such actions as committing adultery, stealing or continued drunkenness, are "disfellowshipped", i.e., excommunicated. The Witnesses view the procedure as a Biblical practice of keeping a congregation in clean moral standing before God. Members are encouraged to discontinue contact with disfellowshipped ones (except when it comes to unavoidable business or family matters). Any disfellowshipped person can apply for readmission ("reinstatement") after demonstrating that they no longer behave in a way contrary to behaviour deemed appropriate for Jehovah's Witnesses.

Contents

[edit] History

Jehovah's Witnesses trace their origin to the religious movement known as Bible Students, which was founded in the late 1870s by Charles Taze Russell. After a schism in 1917, those who remained supportive of the Watch Tower Society adopted the name Jehovah's Witnesses in 1931 under the leadership of Joseph Franklin Rutherford.

In the early 1870s, Russell organized a Bible study group in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where they would study the bible topic by topic. Russell came to disavow the mainstream Christian concepts of the Trinity and hell. An interest in Bible prophecy was sparked, in part, by Jonas Wendell. Russell became convinced of the need to actively spread the gospel. In 1876, Russell met Nelson H. Barbour and subsequently adopted Barbour's eschatology. Barbour had predicted a visible return of Christ for 1873,<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> and when that failed to occur, he revised the prediction to 1874.<ref>Template:Cite web See Section under "Our Faith."</ref> Soon after the second disappointment, Barbour's group decided Christ had returned invisibly to Earth in 1874.<ref>Russell explains how he accepted the idea of an invisible return of Christ in 1874 from N.H. Barbour in Template:Cite journal</ref> They differed from most Second Adventists by teaching that all humankind descended from Adam would be given a chance to live in a paradise on Earth.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> The year 1914 was seen as the final end, marking a forty-year period from 1874.<ref>The Three Worlds, p. 189.</ref>

In July 1879, Russell broke with Barbour over the concept of substitutionary atonement and he soon began publishing his own magazine, Zion's Watch Tower and Herald of Christ's Presence (now known as The Watchtower).<ref>Online copies of the The Watch Tower from 1879–1916 can be viewed by issue at: http://www.mostholyfaith.com/bible/Reprints/index.asp or by article at: http://www.agsconsulting.com/htdbv5/links.htm. These are taken from the 7 volume Watch Tower Reprints published by the Watch Tower Society in 1920 which reprinted all the issues from 1879–1919.</ref> After the break, Russell retained the bulk of Barbour's eschatological views. He was known as "Pastor Russell", and in 1881 formed the legal entity which developed into the non-profit organization: The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania (currently headquartered in New York City). In 1884, it was incorporated, with Russell as president. He authored the six-volume series, Studies in the Scriptures.<ref>The titles of the six volumes are: 1) The Divine Plan of the Ages, 2)The Time is At Hand, 3)Thy Kingdom Come, 4)The Battle of Armageddon, 5)The At-one-ment Between God and Man, 6)The New Creation</ref> Notably, in 1907 Russell predicted that Armageddon would culminate in the year 1914.<ref>Russell, C.T, The Time is At Hand, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Inc., 1907 p. 101</ref> In 1914, Russell founded the International Bible Students Association in the United Kingdom.


History of Eschatological Doctrine
Last Days Begin Christ's Return Christ as King Resurrection of Anointed Judgment of Religion Great Tribulation
1879–1920 1799 1874 1878 1914, 1915, 1918, 1920
1920–1925 1925
1925–1927 1914 1878 1878 within generation of 1914
1927–1930 1918
1930–1933 1919
1933–1966 1914
1966–1975 1975?
1975–1995 within generation of 1914
1995-2017 imminent

Following Russell's death on October 31, 1916, an editorial committee of five was set up to supervise the writing of the Watch Tower magazine, as set forth in Russell's Last Will and Testament.<ref> Jehovah's Witnesses—Proclaimers of God's Kingdom. Watchtower, 64–65.;Template:Cite web from the December 1, 1916 Watch Tower. This editorial committee was requested to not write, or be connected with, any other publications.</ref> On January 6, 1917, Joseph Franklin Rutherford (also known as "Judge Rutherford") was elected second President of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. New by-laws were passed at the same business meeting that strengthened the President's authority.<ref>M.J. Penton. Apocalypse Delayed, M.J. Penton, p. 51.. Rutherford, as chief legal counsel for the Watch Tower Society, had written the new by-laws. (See Harvest Siftings II, written by J.F. Rutherford.)</ref> Initially, the board of directors for the Watch Tower Society accepted this change, but four of the board members withdrew their support.<ref>Rutherford published his account of the dispute in Template:Cite web and Template:Cite web. The four directors replied to Rutherford's first booklet in Template:Cite web.</ref> The June 20, 1917 meeting of the full board of directors tabled, for one month, a proposal to return control of the Society to the board,<ref>See Rutherford's Harvest Siftings under subheading "Seeds Begin to Bring Forth."</ref> but Rutherford prevented their attempt. Matters reached a climax on July 17, 1917 when the book The Finished Mystery was published.<ref> The Finished Mystery. Watchtower., published 1917, was called the seventh volume of Studies in the Scriptures.</ref> Rutherford announced that he was dismissing the four directors and replacing them with new members.<ref>A.H. MacMillan. Faith on the March, 80.. The ousted directors disagreed: "...if the directors were not legally elected, neither were the Society's three officers: Rutherford, Pierson, and Van Amburgh. In order to have been chosen officers in January 1917, they would have had to have been legally elected directors. Yet, they had not been, and hence, by Rutherford's own logic, did not hold office legally."—Apocalypse Delayed, M. James Penton, p. 52</ref> Dissention and schisms ensued in congregations worldwide as a result of these events, and of the consequences of new predictions made for the years 1918,<ref>"Also, in the year 1918, when God destroys the churches wholesale and the church members by millions, it shall be that any that escape shall come to the works of Pastor Russell to learn the meaning of the downfall of 'Christianity.'"— (1917) The Finished Mystery. Watchtower, 485. (later editions read differently)</ref> 1920<ref>"And the mountains were not found. Even the republics will disappear in the fall of 1920. And the mountains were not found. Every kingdom of earth will pass away, be swallowed up in anarchy." (1917) The Finished Mystery. Watchtower, 258.. (This date was changed in later editions.)</ref> and 1925.<ref> (1920) Millions Now Living Will Never Die. Watchtower, 88.</ref><ref> (1924) The Way to Paradise. Watchtower, 220–235.</ref>

The Watchtower Society's opposition to the draft during World War I resulted in legal action by the United States federal government. Rutherford and the new board of directors were sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for violating the Espionage Act. They were released on bail, and in March 1919, the judgment against them was reversed, and the charges dropped.<ref>M.J. Penton. Apocalypse Delayed, 55–56.</ref>

Despite an emphasis on house-to-house preaching beginning in 1922<ref> (1993) Jehovah's Witnesses—Proclaimers of God's Kingdom. Watchtower, 259–260.</ref>, attendance at their yearly Memorial dropped nearly 75% by 1928, due to the previous power struggle, the failed predictions for the year 1925,<ref>M. James Penton. Apocalypse Delayed—The Story of Jehovah's Witnesses, 61.</ref> and the evolving doctrinal changes which alienated those who sided with Russell's views.

From 1925 to 1933, their eschatological beliefs underwent significant changes.<ref>Documentations of these changes can be found at Thomas Daniels. Historical Idealism and Jehovah's Witnesses, 3–37. Retrieved on February 1, 2006.</ref> In 1931, the name "Jehovah's Witnesses" was adopted. By 1933, 1914 was seen as the beginning of Christ's presence, his enthronement as king, and the start of the "last days" instead of being considered the terminal date in their chronology.<ref> (1921) The Harp of God, 231–236. affirms that “the Lord’s second presence dates from 1874.” Template:Cite journal and (1930) Prophecy, 65–66. reiterated this position. These are the current teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses regarding 1914, 1918 and 1919. They no longer consider the dates 1799, 1874 and 1878 to have any eschatological significance.</ref>

Jehovah's Witnesses were persecuted by the Nazi government of Germany before and during World War II.<ref>See article on the persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses from the Template:Cite web</ref> They "had the option to avoid persecution and personal harm by submitting to state authority and serving in the armed forces. Since such submission would violate their religious beliefs, the vast majority of Jehovah's Witnesses refused to abandon their faith even in the face of persecution, torture in concentration camps, or death."<ref>Holocaust Encyclopedia </ref>

Under Rutherford, membership grew from about 44,000 in 1928 to about 115,000 at the time of his death in 1942.

Nathan Homer Knorr succeeded Rutherford as president of the Watch Tower Society. Known as an efficient administrator, Knorr founded the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead to train missionaries, as well as the Theocratic Ministry School to train preaching and teaching at the congregational level.

Knorr's vice-president Frederick William Franz became the leading theologian, and is believed to have been the principal translator of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures.<ref>Since 1942, Witness publications are produced under a policy of anonymity. Former Governing Body member Raymond Franz claims the translators of the New World Translation were Fred Franz, Nathan Knorr, Albert Schroeder and George Gangas. (2004) Crisis of Conscience, 4th, Commentary Press, 56. 0-914675-23-0.</ref> Also produced were a Greek-English New Testament interlinear (The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures) and a Bible dictionary (Aid to Bible Understanding).<ref> In 1988, this was replaced by the 2-volume set Insight on the Scriptures.</ref> The offices of elder and ministerial servant (deacon) were restored to Witness congregations in 1972, with appointments being made from headquarters.<ref> (1993) Jehovah's Witnesses—Proclaimers of God's Kingdom. Watchtower, 106.</ref> Membership rose from 115,000 to over 2 million under Knorr's leadership.

Image:Watchtower headquarters.jpg
New York headquarters of Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society
During the 1960s<ref>The year 1975 was first mentioned in 1966. See Template:Cite journal</ref> and early 1970s, various references were made in Witnesses' literature and at assemblies, implying that Christ's thousand-year millennial reign might begin by 1975.<ref>A comprehensive list of quotes from Watch Tower 1975 articles, unaltered with date references, publication, and page numbers etc.
  1. REDIRECT Template:Cite web See also 1975: 'THE APPROPRIATE TIME FOR GOD TO ACT'. Page 14 of the October 8, 1968 Awake! demonstrates the disclaimer that was made at the time: "Does this mean that the above evidence positively points to 1975 as the complete end of this system of things? Since the Bible does not specifically state this, no man can say...If the 1970's should see intervention by Jehovah God to bring an end to a corrupt world drifting toward ultimate disintegration, that should surely not surprise us.".</ref> The chronology pointing to 1975 was noted in the secular media at the time.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref> From 1975 to 1980, there was a drop in membership following the failure of this prediction.<ref>Raymond Franz. “1975—The Appropriate Time for God to Act”, Crisis of Conscience, 237–253. Retrieved on July 27, 2006.This drop in membership has been variously analyzed. Richard Singelenberg (“The ‘1975′-prophecy and its impact among Dutch Jehovah’s Witnesses”) in Sociological Analysis 50(1)1989, pp 23–40 notes a 9 per cent drop in total publishers (door-to-door preachers) and a 38 per cent drop in pioneers (full-time preachers) in the Netherlands. The January 30, 1982 Los Angeles Times ("Defectors Feel 'Witness' Wrath: Critics say Baptism Rise Gives False Picture of Growth" by John Dart, p. B4) cited statistics showing a net increase of publishers worldwide from 1971–1981 of 737,241, while baptisms totalled 1.71 million for the same period.</ref> In 1980, the Watchtower Society admitted its responsibility in building up hope regarding the year 1975.<ref>The Watchtower, 15 March, 1980, p.17 "With the appearance of the book Life Everlasting—in Freedom of the Sons of God, ... considerable expectation was aroused regarding the year 1975. ... there were other statements published that implied that such realization of hopes by that year was more of a probability than a mere possibility. It is to be regretted that these latter statements apparently overshadowed the cautionary ones and contributed to a buildup of the expectation already initiated. ... persons having to do with the publication of the information ... contributed to the buildup of hopes centered on that date."</ref>

In 1976, the leadership of Jehovah's Witnesses was reorganized, and the power of the presidency passed on to the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses. Subsequent presidents of the Watch Tower Society after Knorr's death in 1977 have been Frederick William Franz, Milton George Henschel and Don A. Adams. However, since 1976, doctrinal and organizational decisions have been made by the Governing Body.<ref>1977 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, p. 258</ref> Witnesses no longer teach that the generation of people alive in 1914 will survive until Armageddon<ref>"A Time To Keep Awake", The Watchtower (November 1, 1995), p. 19 par. 12, and p. 20 par. 15.</ref>, but they continue to emphasize its nearness<ref>"'The Great Day of Jehovah is near,' said God's prophet. (Zephaniah 1:14) That day is fast approaching, so we need to live with it in mind." — (2006) Live With Jehovah's Day in Mind. Watchtower, 4.</ref>.

[edit] Demographics

Image:JWStats.png
Average Publishers, 1945–2005

As of August 2005, Jehovah's Witnesses have a reported membership of more than 6.6 million actively involved in preaching.<ref name="population"> To be counted, an individual must be approved as a minister and report some activity in the ministry. Those with chronic and debilitating illness may report activity in 15-minute increments. In 2005, these reports indicated a total of nearly 1.3 billion hours.<ref>Template:Cite journal Scans available at 27, 28, 29, 30 accessed January 27, 2006.</ref> Jehovah's Witnesses' preaching activity is self-reported, each member submitting a 'Field Service Report' monthly.

Jehovah's Witnesses have an active presence in most countries, though they do not form a large part of the population of any country. Brazil, Mexico, and the United States are the only countries where the number of active Witness publishers exceeds half a million. Since the mid-1990s, there has been a marked decrease in publisher growth rates.<ref>http://jwfacts.com/index_files/statistics.htm</ref>

[edit] Organizational structure

See also: Legal instruments of Jehovah's Witnesses
Image:Org chart.jpg
Chart Template:Cite journal  It should be possible to replace this fair use image with a freely licensed one. If you can, please do so as soon as is practical.

Jehovah's Witnesses are currently led by a small, ecclesiastical Governing Body. The number of men who make up the Governing Body has ranged from ten to seventeen and currently stands at ten. The Governing Body, through the departments of its various legal organizations, directs the operation of the 112 branches throughout the world.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> Members volunteer to operate these facilities. Each branch assigns circuit overseers who travel among various congregations, spending a week with each. Within each local congregation, elders assigned by the branch organize the congregation's public ministry, and schedule various speakers for congregational teaching. They also decide on qualified members of the congregation for the positions of elder or ministerial servant, requiring the approval of higher leadership.

Elders are prominent in congregational matters, particularly in religious instruction and spiritual counseling; ministerial servants generally assist elders in a limited administrative capacity. Elders are unpaid, but Circuit and District overseers receive a small financial living allowance. All baptized Witnesses are considered to be ordained ministers, and are expected to be able to provide religious instruction to others. Males are encouraged to qualify to become elders. Within local congregations, the role of women is minimal in terms of responsibility, but they carry out a large proportion of the preaching work.

Doctrine is disseminated primarily by means of the bi-monthly journal The Watchtower. A variety of other publications are also released on a regular basis, including books, brochures and video productions. The New World Translation is the principal Bible translation quoted by these publications.

In 2000, the religion restructured its administrative divisions into three non-profit corporations:

  1. The Christian Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses - coordinates all service (i.e., proselytic) activities, including door-to-door proselytism, circuit and district conventions, etc.
  2. The Religious Order of Jehovah's Witnesses - coordinates the activities of those involved in full-time service, including pioneers, missionaries, and circuit and district overseers.
  3. Kingdom Support Services, Inc. - controls construction of new Kingdom Halls and other facilities, and holds the titles to Society-owned vehicles. [1]

[edit] Beliefs and practices

The following highlights some of the current beliefs and practices of Jehovah's Witnesses. As such, it reflects the point of view of Jehovah's Witnesses.

[edit] Overview

The entire Biblical canon, excluding the Apocrypha, is considered the inspired word of God. A literal interpretation of the Bible is followed, though it is acknowledged that biblical writers and characters also employed symbolism, parable, figures of speech, and poeticism.<ref> (2005) A Book for All People. Watchtower.</ref> The doctrine of sola scriptura is principal, that is, only the Bible should be used for determining issues of doctrine. Interpretation of scripture and codification of doctrines is the responsibility of the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref>

God is the creator and supreme being, sovereign of the universe. Using God's name, Jehovah (a derivative of the Tetragrammaton<ref>The rendering of the Tetragrammaton is different for different languages: "Geova" in Italian, for example.</ref>), is a requirement for true worship.<ref>Template:Cite journal.</ref> Jesus is God's first creation, used by God to create everything else.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref> Jesus is literally the only begotten Son of God, and received his life from God. He is the means through whom to approach God in prayer, and is the "Chief Agent of life" and salvation for all worthy mankind.<ref> “"His Vital Place in God's Purpose" and "Chief Agent of life"”, Insight on the Scriptures Vol. e2. Watchtower, 60–61.</ref> His role as mediator of the "new covenant" is limited to those going to heaven,<ref>"Consequently, 1 Timothy 2:5, 6 is not using 'mediator' in the broad sense common in many languages. It is not saying that Jesus is a mediator between God and all mankind. Rather, it refers to Christ as legal Mediator (or, "attorney") of the new covenant, this being the restricted way in which the Bible uses the term.</ref> whose number totals 144,000. The vast majority of God's faithful servants will live on a renewed paradise on Earth.<ref> (2005) What Does the Bible Really Teach?. Watchtower, 33–36..</ref> They believe that Jesus did not die on a cross but on a "torture stake" without a cross-bar.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref> Mary was not perpetually a virgin, but bore more children after Jesus.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref> The soul is the human body and consciousness, not an immaterial entity that dwells in a physical human. Death is a state of non-existence.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref> Hades or Sheol is the designated common grave of all mankind. They do not believe in any Hell of fiery torment.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref>

The period known as the "last days" began in 1914.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref> Religion will shortly come under attack by governments worldwide.<ref> (1988) Revelation—Its Grand Climax at Hand!. Watchtower, 257–259.</ref> After false religion is destroyed, governments also face destruction.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref> Any who are not deemed faithful by God will be destroyed.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref> The fate of some, such as small children or the mentally ill, remains indeterminate.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref> After Armageddon, an unknown number of people who had died (prior to Armageddon) will be resurrected, with the prospect of living forever in paradise.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref>

Their view of sexual behavior reflects conservative Christian views. Homosexuality and premarital sex are considered sins.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref> Abortion is considered murder.<ref> (1995) “Why Living a Godly Life Brings Happiness”, Knowledge that Leads to Everlasting Life. Watchtower, 118.</ref> Modesty is heavily encouraged in dress and grooming. Gambling is strictly forbidden.<ref> (1995) Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life. Watchtower, 120.</ref> Practices that connote nationalism or false religion are avoided. Weddings, anniversaries, and funerals are typically observed; however, common celebrations and religious or national holidays such as Birthdays, Thanksgiving, and Christmas are regarded as unchristian and are not celebrated.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref> The family structure is patriarchal. The husband is considered the final authority on family decisions, but is strongly encouraged to solicit his wife's thoughts and feelings. Marriages are required to be monogamous.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref> Vigorous efforts are made to spread their beliefs by all members throughout the world in a variety of ways, with particular emphasis on the written word. Literature is published in many languages through a wide variety of books, magazines and other publications, with a small number being available in as many as 410 languages. The preaching work is regarded as a form of humanitarian effort by giving people a hope for the future.

Aid work after large natural disasters is considered an important part of their work. Large sums of donated money are used in the affected areas to rebuild communities and provide aid. The focus of relief efforts is primarily on helping fellow members, while providing assistance to others in need near the area in which they are working. Examples of relief work include that provided to Hutu and Tutsi victims during the Rwandan genocide, as well as to Congo refugees.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref> Witnesses have also had an active share in the relief work of hurricane Katrina in the United States of America.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref> However, on-going aid work as provided by some other religious groups, such as soup kitchens, clothing donations, or building homes for the homeless is not practiced.

The most important annual event is the commemoration of the death of Jesus (Memorial, Jesus' sacrifice for all mankind) held after sundown on the date corresponding to Nisan 14 on the Hebrew calendar. Weekly meetings are also held, featuring a variety of discourses. Elders and ministerial servants deliver the majority of these, with some student discourses being given by women and men. Certain segments also feature audience participation.

Jehovah's Witnesses are politically neutral.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref> They feel that their allegiance belongs to God's Kingdom (government). Thus they refrain from saluting the flag of any country or singing nationalistic songs.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref> They believe that such an act would be tantamount to worshipping an idol. Members are expected to obey all laws, including the paying of taxes, of the country in which they reside, so long as these do not violate what they view as God's law.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref> The political neutrality of Jehovah's Witnesses is also expressed by their refusal to participate in military service, even when such is of a compulsory nature, and by their detachment from secular politics. Before 1996, Jehovah's Witnesses also refused alternatives to military service.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref><ref>Template:Cite journal</ref><ref>Template:Cite web </ref> Jehovah's Witnesses are discouraged, but not prohibited under all circumstances, from voting in elections.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref> They do not stand for any political office.<ref> (2002) “18 "They Are No Part of the World"”, Worship the Only True God. Watchtower, 159.</ref>

[edit] Blood

Whole blood transfusions are rejected.<ref>Template:Cite web How Can Blood Save Your Life?. Accessed 4 December 2005.</ref> This is based on their understanding of the biblical admonition to "keep abstaining from blood" based on Acts 15:28, 29 (NWT). According to the conscience of the particular individual, they may accept derivatives of blood.<ref>Permitted fractions from plasma: Albumin, Immunoglobin, Clotting Factors. Permitted fractions from red blood cells: Hemoglobin, Hemin. Permitted fraction from white blood cells: Interferon. Permitted procedures involving the medical use of one's own blood include: Cell Salvage, Hemodilution, Heart-Lung Machine, Dialysis, Epidural Blood Patch, Plasmapheresis, Labeling or Tagging of Blood and Platelet Gel (Autologous). See November 2006 Our Kingdom Ministry, pp. 5–6</ref> In current medical practice, whole blood transfusions are very rare, and individual blood components are used instead. Witnesses may accept a process called normovolemic hemodilution, a treatment that processes the individual's own blood in a closed loop that does not interrupt the circulation of blood, and delivers it immediately back into the body. Also left to conscience are procedures where a "quantity of blood is withdrawn in order to tag it or to mix it with medicine, whereupon it is put back into the patient."<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref>

Jehovah’s Witnesses have been known to highlight the potential dangers of blood transfusions. Witness representatives have stated that plasma volume expanders are often sufficient to take care of various medical emergency situations.<ref>"Student: 'Well, suppose somebody was just coming to the hospital. They’ve got a few seconds to live. The only possible way out is a blood transfusion. Well, what’s your answer to that?' Witness: 'That situation doesn’t exist. Wherever there are cases where a person . . . let’s say comes in off the highway here . . . and there is extreme loss of blood. Every emergency room, in every hospital, has a plasma volume expander which can . . .keep the volume up in the system...'Witness: “The need there is to keep the volume up in the system. It’s not the blood so much that’s needed then, but the volume that must be replaced. These expanders will do it. They are used in emergency situations; they are recommended by Civil Defense organizations when blood is not available. Obviously it works—it has worked on thousands of Jehovah’s witnesses.”Template:Cite journal</ref> However, Witnesses explain that their objections to blood transfusions are for religious rather than medical reasons.<ref>Jehovah's Witnesses and Medical Care:"Jehovah's Witnesses refuse blood for religious rather than medical reasons"; accessed July 19, 2006</ref>

A growing number of hospitals are offering bloodless techniques in medicine and surgery.<ref>University of Pennsylvania article</ref> A number of medical professionals have credited Jehovah's Witnesses and their related organizations for their contribution to the dissemination of information regarding bloodless surgery techniques.<ref></ref><ref> [http://www.jw-media.org/region/global/english/releases/health/021118.htm Article from Jehovah's Witnesses official website]</ref><ref>MSNBC article on Jehovah's Witnesses and bloodless surgery</ref> Experts in the fields of orthopedic and cardiac surgery have collaborated with Jehovah's Witnesses to produce information regarding the benefits of bloodless techniques and therapies. It should be noted however that Witnesses do not enjoy free will in the practice of abstaining blood from transfusions and are often victims of undue pressure from church leaders including threats of excommunication if they accept a transfusion. In several documented cases Witnesses have removed dying children from hospitals in breach of court orders to prevent transfusions. Though being virtually commanded to do so by their leaders, they are then left alone to deal with the emotional and legal consequences of their actions.<ref>Informational video</ref><ref>Jehovah's Witnesses present several leading surgeons and their opinions about nonblood surgery</ref>

[edit] Congregational discipline

Congregational discipline is administered by congregation elders through a 'judicial committee'. When an accusation is made concerning a baptized member, and there is sufficient evidence, a tribunal or judicial committee (usually of three elders) is formed to administer counsel and discipline. Marking is employed when a member persists in conduct that is ill-considered from a doctrinal standpoint, but not in a manner for which disfellowshipping would apply. If a member does not accept counsel from the elders, a talk is given regarding the conduct (without naming the individual), 'marking' the member in the minds of those who know of the conduct. Though such a person would not be shunned, social interaction outside of formal worship settings would generally be discouraged.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref> Reproof involves sins which are more serious than those for which one would be "marked". Reproof is given before all who have knowledge of the transgression.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref>

The most severe discipline administered is disfellowshipping. The standard for determining whether one should be disfellowshipped is the judicial committee's estimation of the accused's repentance. Members of the judicial committee ask detailed questions and review actions of the member being considered, in consultation with the Bible and guidelines as set forth by the Governing Body.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref> Baptized members who reject essential doctrine can be disfellowshipped for apostasy.<ref>Letter to Circuit and District Overseers, From the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society 1980. (Apocalypse Delayed: The Story of Jehovah's Witnesses, M. J. Penton, p. 349) Scan available at page 1 page 2 accessed March 18, 2006.</ref> Once the decision to disfellowship has been made, a person has seven days to appeal. If no legitimate appeal is made, the disfellowshipping will be announced to the congregation by letting them know that the person "is no longer one of Jehovah's Witnesses". After one is disfellowshipped, all baptized members cut off all association with that person.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref> Exceptions are made in business and family household situations. If the disfellowshipped person is living in the same home with other baptized family members, religious matters are not discussed. Disfellowshipped family members outside the home are shunned.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref> Disfellowshipped members are still permitted to attend Kingdom Hall meetings, but are not allowed to take an active part in meetings or the ministry.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

Members can officially leave the religion by writing a letter requesting to be "disassociated". Alternately, elders may also determine a member has disassociated themself by their actions. Both result in shunning.<ref>"Those who formally say they do not want to be part of the organization any more are also avoided." — "Beliefs—Frequently Asked Questions" from Official Website: http://www.jw-media.org/beliefs/beliefsfaq.htm accessed August 2, 2006</ref>

A disfellowshipped individual may return to the congregation if they demonstrate sincere repentance of past sins. The congregation elders that made up the original judicial committee will allow a sufficient amount of time for the individual to prove their repentance. Once a decision is made to reinstate, a brief announcement is made to the congregation that the disfellowshipped member is once again an approved associate of the congregation and one of Jehovah's Witnesses. For a further study of this practice see Crisis Of Conscience by Raymond Franz.

[edit] Critical views

One of the most outspoken critics of Jehovah's Witnesses is Raymond Franz, a former third-generation Jehovah's Witness. Franz, who served nine years on the Governing Body, uses Galatians 1:16–20 to support his claim that Paul of Tarsus did not view the apostles in Jerusalem as a governing body. He further contends that the council of Jerusalem was an isolated event, and that the creation of a central authority in Christianity was a 4th century development.<ref>Raymond Franz. In Search Of Christian Freedom, 44–68.</ref> As well, he argues a sense of guilt is imposed on those not complying with organization arrangements for field service. Further, he contends that engaging in this formal activity became an extra-scriptural requirement placed upon those wanting to qualify for eldership. Time spent helping fellow members cannot be counted toward time spent in the ministry. He claims in addition that an individual's spirituality is judged by the elders on this basis. Further, he is critical of the application of the phrase "house to house" (gr. "kat' oikon") found at Acts 5:42, stating it does not require the idea of consecutive door-to-door visitation. He compares 27 Bible translations, for Acts 2:46, Acts 5:42 and Acts 20:20 showing phrases such as "at home", "at your houses" and "in your homes" are used more often than "house to house".<ref>Raymond Franz. In Search Of Christian Freedom, 202–218.</ref> He also maintains that fear of being shunned and/or family break-up/loss causes people to nominally remain members rather than formally disassociate themselves. Also, Franz asserts that the judicial process itself, due to its private and nearly autonomous nature, directly contradicts the precedent found in the Bible and the organization's own teachings, and can be used in an arbitrary manner.<ref>Raymond Franz (2002). In Search Of Christian Freedom, 374–390.</ref>

According to a peer-reviewed article published in 2005 in Journal of Church and State, Jehovah's Witnesses are allowed to accept blood provided it is in the form of blood fractions. Kerry Louderback-Wood, the author, alleges that labeling the currently acceptable blood fractions as "minute" in relation to whole blood causes followers to misunderstand the scope and extent of allowed fractions. She also claims that Witness publications misrepresent the medical risks of taking blood and the efficacy of non-blood medical therapies in critical situations.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref>

Criticism regarding the procedures on reporting child abuse has also occurred. The current procedure that is followed when allegations of abuse are reported is based on a strict application of the principle at Deuteronomy 19:15: "No single witness should rise up against a man respecting any error or any sin, in the case of any sin that he may commit. At the mouth of two witnesses or at the mouth of three witnesses the matter should stand good" (New World Translation). If an allegation of child abuse is made, and the alleged perpetrator denies it, the local congregational elders will investigate to see if there can be any others who can substantiate the claim. If there are none, the elders do not disfellowship the accused individual. However, according to the Jehovah's Witness office of Public information: "Even if the elders cannot take congregational action, they are expected to report the allegation to the branch office of Jehovah's Witnesses in their country, if local privacy laws permit. In addition to making a report to the branch office, the elders may be required by law to report even uncorroborated or unsubstantiated allegations to the authorities. If so, we expect the elders to comply. Additionally, the victim may wish to report the matter to the authorities, and it is his or her absolute right to do so."<ref> http://www.jw-media.org/region/global/english/backgrounders/e_molestation.htm</ref> However, the Watchtower organization's policy does not always actively encourage victims of child molestation to report alleged perpetrators to authorities. Accordingly, critics claim a number of charges have gone unreported. For over a decade now, Watchtower has had in place a general policy of making known child molesters ineligible for special congregational responsibilities (e.g. serving as elders or ministerial servants (deacons)), even if the crime was committed years before, or even prior to the person's becoming a Witness. Internal Watchtower documents do show there are exceptions to this policy, however.<ref>United Kingdom Watchtower Branch policy letter dated June 1, 2001</ref> The general policy is not premised as punishment to the offender, but rather as a means of protecting the congregation's members. Critics would have the Watchtower organization embrace a policy whereby its appointed representatives would always encourage victims of child molestation to report the crime to authorities.

[edit] Controversy

A number of doctrines of Jehovah's Witnesses differ from that of mainstream Christianity. The most controversial doctrinal differences relate to the nature of God and of Jesus, particularly their rejection of the Trinity doctrine. Other differences involve their beliefs concerning death and judgment. Many of these doctrines are considered heresy by mainstream Christian denominations, and as a result many label Jehovah's Witnesses as a cult.

Critics have also attacked the New World Translation, the translation of the Bible published by Jehovah's Witnesses. They state that the group has changed the Bible to suit their doctrine, and that the translation contains a number of errors and inaccuracies.<ref>Robert M. Bowman Jr, Understanding Jehovah's Witnesses, (Grand Rapids MI: Baker Book House, 1992); Samuel Hass: "While this work indicates a great deal of effort and thought as well as considerable scholarship, it is to be regretted that religious bias was allowed to colour many passages." (Journal of Biblical Literature, December 1955, p. 283).</ref> Scholarly opinion on the quality of the New World Translation is divided, however.

A large number of books have been published that are critical of the Watchtower Tract & Bible Society.<ref>e.g., Watters, Randall (2004) Thus Saith Jehovah's Witnesses, Common Sense Publications; Gruss, Edmond (2001) Jehovah's Witnesses: Their Claims, Doctrinal Changes, and Prophetic Speculation. What Does the Record Show?, Xulon Press; Reed, David A. (1990) Index of Watchtower Errors, 1879 to 1989, Baker Books</ref> Critics state that the Watchtower Society has made a number of unfulfilled predictions and doctrinal changes over the years, while claiming that it is the "one and only channel"<ref>Watchtower, Apr. 1, 1919; see also Watchtower, May 15, 1933, pp. 154–155; Jul. 15, 1960, pp. 438–439; Our Kingdom Ministry, Sep. 2002, p. 8</ref> used by God to continually dispense truth, and that "it alone, in all the earth, is directed by God's holy spirit or force".<ref>Watchtower, Jul. 1, 1973, p. 402</ref> Critics have attacked the Witnesses' policies on blood transfusions, stating that their requirements are inconsistent and contradictory.<ref> Franz, Raymond. "In Search of Christian Freedom" - Chapter Nine. Atlanta: Commentary Press, 1991. ISBN 0-914675-16-8. p.732.</ref>

Critics have also argued that various Witness policies and practices, including the treatment of members who dissociate or are disfellowshipped, freedom to access external information about the group from former members, and the regulation of members' lives, impact negatively on the ability of members to exercise freedom of mind.

Jehovah's Witnesses' attitudes towards the United Nations and towards members of other religions, particularly the Roman Catholic Church, have also been controversial.

[edit] Persecution

Animosity against Jehovah's Witnesses has at times led to mob action and government oppression, particularly under the Nazi regime and during the 1940s war frenzy in the United States.<ref>http://www.cesnur.org/testi/geova_USAtoday.htm</ref>

Some communities have also opposed the building of facilities (such as Kingdom Halls) and the holding of large conventions in their areas. Though such opposition is at times specifically directed at the religious group, at other times more mundane concerns are involved, such as traffic congestion and noise. In some legal cases, (such as Congrégation des témoins de Jéhovah de St-Jérôme-Lafontaine v. Lafontaine (Village)), disputes that have been about appropriate land use have been claimed by the Witnesses to have come out against them due to religious bias.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

<references/>

[edit] Further reading

[edit] Watch Tower resources

[edit] Other sources

  • Apocalypse Delayed: The Story of Jehovah's Witnesses by M. James Penton. Penton, who is a professor emeritus of history at University of Lethbridge, examines the history of Jehovah's Witnesses, and their doctrines. Read selections from: Apocalypse Delayed: the story of Jehovah's Witnesses University of Toronto Press. ISBN 0-8020-7973-3 (Canada, 1998) (google book search)
  • BBC Religion: Jehovah's Witnesses
  • CESNUR, the Center for Studies on New Religions — CESNUR is an international network of associations of scholars working in the field of new religious movements. Its director is the Italian scholar Massimo Introvigne.
  • Crisis of Conscience by Raymond Franz, a former Jehovah's Witness who was a member of the Governing Body of the Watch Tower Society for nine years. This book gives a detailed account of the authority structure, practices, doctrines and decision-making practices Franz experienced while serving on the Governing Body. Sample chapters online (require Adobe Acrobat Reader): 1, 9, 10, 11, 12. Publisher: Commentary Press. 420 pages. Hardback ISBN 0-914675-24-9. Paperback ISBN 0-914675-23-0. 4th edition (June 2002)
  • e-watchman — Detailed analyses about The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society
  • Free minds — Detailed discussions about Jehovah's Witnesses' doctrines, history, and claims from a critical perspective.
  • The Gentile Times Reconsidered: Chronology & Christ's Return by Carl O. Jonsson. Jonsson considers the origin of the belief that the Gentile Times began in 607 B.C. and examines several lines of evidence and the methodology for deriving it. ISBN 0-914675-06-0 Publisher: Commentary Press (July, 1998, Fourth edition 2004)
  • Jehovah's Witnesses Defended by Greg Stafford. Mr. Stafford reviews and thoroughly explores the most common, and/or prevalent, criticisms made about Jehovah's Witnesses and the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society. http://elihubooks.com/books/
  • Jehovah's Witnesses United — The site was created so that scholarly information supporting the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society's teachings and the New World Translation could be collected in one location on the web.
  • A People for His Name: A History of Jehovah's Witnesses and an Evaluation by Timothy White (pseudonym for Anthony Wills). White explores the Witnesses' doctrinal growth and shifts and notes schisms from the main body. 418 pages. Publisher: The Vantage Press, 1967.
  • Reasoning From the Scriptures with the Jehovah's Witnesses by Ron Rhodes. 444 pages. Harvest House Publishers, 1993. Written from an Evangelical Christian perspective, this book is designed to aid them in dialogues with Witnesses. ISBN 1-56507-106-9
  • Strictly Genteel Theocratic Resources — Scans of complete books and booklets from Russell's era to Knorr's. The "site is maintained by one of Jehovah's Witnesses who fully supports the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society." Emphasis is on literature not found in the Watchtower Library CD-ROM.
  • Watchtower Information Service — The latest news and over 250 articles (often critical) on Jehovah's Witnesses including a collection of Watchtower Quotes.
  • Watchtower Bible And Tract Society Publications — A diverse collection of publications produced by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society throughout their history in an online and searchable format. It can also be found here.
  • About Jehovah's Witnesses — Information about the history, beliefs and practices of the Jehovah's Witnesses from "Evangelical Christians."
  • Witnesses of Jehovah is a critical film detailing the history, structure and beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses.

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