Major practices of the Watchtower Society (WTS)
|During the year 2000, 6 million Jehovah's Witnesses spent 1.1
billion hours in various evangelistic activities in 235 countries,
including the distribution of over 700 million pieces of printed
material, and thousands of audio and video cassettes. 1|
According to the Winnipeg Free Press in 2003-AUG:
"One of the magazines they give away is The Watchtower, the church's official publication. With a print run of 43 million copies of every issue, it is the most widely-circulated magazine in the world. What also makes The Watchtower unique is that it is published in 190 languages and distributed in 237 countries -- something no other publication can likely match." 4
||They recognize only one day of celebration: the Memorial of Christ's Death at the
time of Passover. Although they estimate that Jesus was born sometime during October, his birthday is
not celebrated. Members who are found celebrating "worldly" or "Pagan"
holidays, like Christmas, Thanksgiving, Independence Day, Canada Day, Halloween, etc.) may
||Jehovah's Witnesses do not celebrate their own birthdays, because it
is considered a glorification of the individual rather than of the Creator.|
||Certain practices are forbidden. Examples are: the use of images during worship,
cooperating with non-Witnesses in interfaith movements, involvement
with spiritism, and all sexual activities other than those between a wife and husband.|
||They do not have a Sabbath; they regard all days as holy. Their congregations hold five meetings each week:|
|Public Talk usually each Sunday, when an Elder (or rarely a Ministerial Servant)
will deliver a talk about a specific topic.|
|Watchtower Study usually follows the public talk; it is a lesson based on a study
article in the current Watchtower magazine.|
|Theocratic Ministry School usually occurs on a weekday evening. Speakers practice
giving talks and witnessing.|
|Service Meeting usually follows the Theocratic Ministry School. This includes
training for various ministry activities. At times, elders will address specific items and
concerns for the congregation.|
||Congregation Bible Study (formerly called the Book Study) is held
together with the theocratic ministry school and service meeting. A portion of a Watchtower publication is studied in depth.|
||There is a great deal of misinformation about limitations on
members' access to the Bible.
In reality, they are free to use any Bible translations, commentaries, dictionaries etc.
that are produced by non-Watchtower publishers. They are encouraged to read the Bible.
Each Witness is given a goal of reading of the entire Bible in one year. They encourage
Bible study, particularly the WTS' own English version, the New World Translation. They encourage the use of WTS publications as study guides.
||They refer to the first part of the Bible as the "Hebrew Scriptures" rather than the "Old Testament" as is common among other Christians. They refer to the second part -- Matthew to Revelation -- as the "Greek
Scriptures", rather than the "New Testament" or "Christian Scriptures." Like most Protestants,
they regard the books of the Apocrypha to be interesting historical documents,
but not inspired scriptures. 3
||They only observe two sacraments:
||Baptism: this is done by full immersion of an believer who has
reached the age of responsibility, has accepted the faith, has
repented of their sins, and has dedicated their life to God.
||Lord's Supper: this is done once a year at the Memorial of Christ's death.
This is held on a date close to the Jewish Passover celebration. Only the
approximately 8,600 Jehovah's Witnesses who are part of the 144,000 Anointed Class actually
partake in the meal; the general membership (formerly called the Jonadab Class and
now called the Great Crowd) are present and observe.
||They regard the world and its governments as currently being under the control of Satan. For this reason they do not
run for public office, salute the flag, join the Armed Forces, or vote in elections.
However, they do obey all government laws, unless those laws conflict
with their interpretation of God's laws.
||They are taught to be absolutely free of racism and xenophobia. The
WTS has consistently and strongly promoted a lack of bigotry based on
race and national origin. However, this Kingdom Halls in some localities appear to have
deviated from this policy in the past, particularly decades ago in the Southern U.S.
where bias towards African-Americans was common. 2
||Like many conservative faith groups, the Jehovah's Witnesses is a heavily sexist
organization. Women are excluded from all positions
of authority, except the teaching of other women who are recent converts. The
leaders of each local congregation, the elders, are all men. 3
||Also in common with other conservative faith groups, members are taught
that men and women are to hold different roles within the family. They teach a complete
separation of responsibilities and duties by gender. The husband is
expected to play the leadership role; wives are expected
to be submissive to their husband. They regard these policies as
biblical, and thus positive and necessary.
||They are dedicated to the principle of
religious freedom and have pursued dozens of cases of religious discrimination and
persecution in the United States Supreme Court and through the court systems of other
countries. In doing so, they have made it easier for their own group to
proselytize, and have contributed greatly to religious freedom for
persons of all faiths, and of none.
A variety of methods of enforcing membership discipline are used:
- Members may be reproved in private during a meeting with the elders. A
public announcement may be later made to the congregation that they had been
reproved and found to be repentant.
- Members who are
found guilty of serious violations of teachings and practices, and who refuse to
repent can be disfellowshipped. Fellow members are then required to shun him/her
completely, having no contact. If the disfellowshipped person is a family member,
the group's official position is that they are to be treated normally within the
family. However, they are made to understand that
their actions are disapproved of. There is no discussion about WTS matters in
their presence. However, there are many reports stating that many families do not follow the official policy and totally
shun the disfellowshipped member.
Disfellowshipping does not affect the relationship between the
individual and God. Witnesses understand that sometimes humans make
errors and disfellowship a member in error. However, sinful behavior can adversely affect members' relationship with God.
According to The Center for Investigative Reporting, among activities that are not allowed and which could result in disfellowshipping are:
"... smoking, stealing, gambling, violence, gluttony, greed, idolatry, slander, drunkenness, drug use, voting [at government elections], military service, acceptance of blood transfusions, birthday or holiday celebrations, speech against the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization, and all sex except that between married heterosexual couples. 5
Disfellowshipped members are forbidden to attend Bible study meetings of the congregation or to preach door-to-door for the congregation. They may attend other meetings, but are required to sit at the back of the room.
Disfellowshipping can have a devastating effect on a person whose entire religious,
family and social support systems are grounded in the Society. In rare instances, it has
led to profound depression and even
suicide. However, the goals of disfellowshipping are often reached when the errant member repents and is
reinstated back into the congregation.
How you got here:
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- The Watchtower, 2001-APR-1, Page 3.
- "African American Issues" describes, from a black perspective, the
Jehovah's Witnesses' attitude towards race. See: http://www.freeminds.org/
- Kelly Saivo, "The Truth of Jehovah's Witnesses," Gilroy Dispatch,
- John Longhurst, "Witnesses explore new way of witnessing," Winnipeg Free Press, 2013-AUG-24, at: http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/
- Trey Bundy, "Jehovah’s Witnesses cover up child sex abuse and oust a victim," The Center for Investigative Reporting, 2015-JUL-30, at: https://www.revealnews.org/
Copyright © 1996 to 2015 by Ontario Consultants on
Originally written on: 1996-SEP-29
Last updated on: 2015-JUL-31
Author: B.A. Robinson