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Jehovah's Witnesses

Major practices of the Watchtower Society (WTS)

Worship at a  Kingdom Hall

Worship at a Kingdom Hall

worship at a Kingdom Hall

Group Practices:

bullet During the year 2000, 6 million Jehovah's Witnesses spent 1.1 billion hours in various evangelistic activities in a total of 235 countries, including the distribution of over 700 million pieces of printed material, and thousands of audio and video recordings. 1
bullet During the year 2013, an average of 7.7 million publishers actively preached. This is a 2.1% increase over the previous year, They spent 1.8 billion hours in the field and 9.3 million home Bible studies each month in 239 countries.
bullet The average number of publishers has increased each year from before 1982 until 2014. However, the % yearly increase in this number has generally decreased over the same interval. The highest increase was about 7% from 1983 to 1876. The smallest increase was about 1.2% in 2015.

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

bullet 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 be disfellowshipped.
bullet Jehovah's Witnesses do not celebrate their own birthdays, because it is considered a glorification of the individual rather than of the Creator.
bullet 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. Premarital sex, adultery, and same-sex marriage are forbidden.
bullet They do not have a Sabbath; they regard all days as holy. Their congregations hold five meetings each week:

bullet Public Talk usually each Sunday, when an Elder (or rarely a Ministerial Servant) will deliver a talk about a specific topic.
bullet Watchtower Study usually follows the public talk; it is a lesson based on a study article in the current Watchtower magazine.
bullet Theocratic Ministry School usually occurs on a weekday evening. Speakers practice giving talks and witnessing.
bullet 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.
bullet 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.

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bullet There is a great deal of misinformation circulating 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 Watchtower and 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.
bullet 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
bullet They only observe two sacraments:

bullet 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.
bullet Lord's Supper: this is observed once a year at the Memorial of Christ's death (a.k.a. Lord's Evening Meal. This is held on a date close to the Jewish Passover celebration. All are welcome to attend. Only about 14,000 Jehovah's Witnesses who profess to be part of the 144,000 Anointed Class members actually partake in the meal of unleavened bread and wine. The general membership (formerly called the Jonadab Class and now called the Great Crowd) and visitors observe. 20.0 million people worldwide attended the Memorial in 2014; about 2.5 million were from the U.S. 7
bullet 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 nearly universal. 2 Their freedom from discrimination does not extend to women, gays, lesbians, transgender persons and transsexuals.

bullet 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
bullet 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.
bullet 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.

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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. On the order of 1% of publishers are disfellowshipped yearly of whom about a third are eventually reinstated. 6

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More details on disfellowshipped members within the
Watchtower Society are in a separate essay. (Being written)

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How you got here:

Home page > Christianity > Denominations >  Witnesses > here

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. The Watchtower, 2001-APR-1, Page 3.
  2. "African American Issues" describes, from a black perspective, the Jehovah's Witnesses' attitude towards race. See:
  3. Kelly Saivo, "The Truth of Jehovah's Witnesses," Gilroy Dispatch, 2006-SEP-23, at:
  4. John Longhurst, "Witnesses explore new way of witnessing," Winnipeg Free Press, 2013-AUG-24, at:
  5. Trey Bundy, "Jehovah’s Witnesses cover up child sex abuse and oust a victim," The Center for Investigative Reporting, 2015-JUL-30, at:
  6. Paul Grundy, "Jehovah's Witness Statistics: 2013 Grand Totals," Facts About Jehovah's Witnesses, 2015-APR, at:
  7. "Demographics of Jehovah's Witnesses," Wikipedia, as of 2015-AUG-15, at:
  8. "How to treat a disfellowshipped person," Jehovah's Witnesses, 2015, at:

Copyright 1996 to 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Quotations taken from the web site are used under a creative commons license.
Originally written on: 1996-SEP-29

Last updated on: 2015-NOV-06
Author: B.A. Robinson
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