Child Abuse Policy Comparison

On August 1 2016, Jehovah’s Witnesses made a worldwide release of a Child Abuse policy letter to all Bodies of Elders. This letter is to replace the October 1 2012 letter. But what are the main differences between these two letters? Here is a comparison of both letters. Text in blue are notations from avoidjw.org to assist in your comparison of the letters.


Edit (August 15, 2016): A revised Spanish letter was issued August 15th. It is still dated August 1, 2016 but there are 4 corrections made to the document:

  1. Paragraph 6, 7th bullet point, the word reúne (meets) has been replaced with the word relaciona (associated)
  2. Paragraph 7, second sentence, the words es un publicador de la (is a publisher of) have been replaced with se relaciona con su (is associated with the)
  3. Paragraph 9, second sentence, the word reúne (meets) has been replaced with the word relaciona (associated)
  4. Paragraph 20, first sentence, the words relacionados con personas que se reúnen (related to people who meets) have been replaced with sobre personas que se relacionan (about people who are associated)

October 1, 2012 Letter

Re: Child Abuse

Table of Contents

Legal Concerns regarding accusations of child abuse
Congregational concerns regarding accusations of child sexual abuse
Helping victims of child sexual abuse
Restrictions and privileges
Note: The ToC was minimal but most sections in 2016 letter are found in this 2012 letter.

1. This letter updates the letters to all bodies of elders regarding child abuse dated August 1, 1995; March 14, 1997; July 20, 1998; April 1, 2004; June 5, 2006; and May 24, 2010. Those letters should be removed from the congregation permanent file of policy letters and be destroyed. No one should keep originals or copies of any of those letters. This letter should be read in conjunction with the latest official Child Safeguarding Policy available on the jw.org Web site.
Note: This 2012 letter uses the term “destroyed”.

2. Additionally, much fine direction has been included in the Shepherding textbook. Thus, elders should first consult the Shepherding textbook and review the Scriptural principles involved. They should thereafter study the additional points outlined in this letter. As you review this letter, please note that paragraphs 3-7 set forth legal concerns regarding accusations of child abuse. Paragraphs 8-20 set forth congregational concerns. This letter should be carefully consulted anytime a matter involving child abuse arises.
Note: New direction in corresponding 2016 letter has made this paragraph redundant.

LEGAL CONCERNS REGARDING ACCUSATIONS OF CHILD ABUSE

3. What is child abuse from a legal standpoint? Child abuse includes the sexual or physical abuse of a minor (generally a person less than 18 years of age). It would also include the extreme neglect of a minor by his parent or guardian. Child sexual abuse generally includes sexual intercourse with a minor; oral or anal sex with a minor; fondling the genitals, breasts, or buttocks of a minor; voyeurism of a minor; indecent exposure to a minor; soliciting a minor for sexual conduct; or any kind of involvement with child pornography. Depending on the circumstances of the case, it may also include “sexting” with a minor. “Sexting” describes the sending of nude photos, seminude photos, or sexually explicit text messages electronically, such as by phone.
Note: See paragraph 2 in corresponding 2016 letter.

4. Legal duties, including in some instances an obligation to report an accusation to the authorities, might be engaged. Thus, when elders learn of an accusation of child abuse, two elders from their congregation should immediately call the Legal Department for legal advice. If the individuals involved are in different congregations, each body of elders should arrange for two of their elders to call the Legal Department. A call should be made even when both persons involved in sexual misconduct are minors. The elders should not ask an alleged victim, the accused person, or relatives of the victim or accused to call the Legal Department. The elders should call the Legal Department even in the following situations:

  • The alleged abuse occurred many years ago.
  • The alleged abuse is based on the testimony of only one witness.
  • The alleged abuse is believed to be a repressed memory.
  • The alleged abuse involved perpetrators or victims who are deceased.
  • The alleged abuse is believed to have already been reported to the authorities by someone.
  • The alleged perpetrator or victim is no longer a member of the congregation.
  • The alleged abuse occurred before the alleged perpetrator or victim was baptized.
  • The alleged victim is now an adult.
  • The alleged abuse occurred in the past, and you are not certain whether the elders involved at the time called the Legal Department for direction.

Note: See paragraph 6 in corresponding 2016 letter.

5. The Legal Department will provide you with legal advice based on the facts and the applicable law. If the individual who is accused of the child abuse is associated with a congregation, please provide the Legal Department with his date of birth and, if applicable, his date of baptism. After a report has been made to the Legal Department, depending on the need, the elders may be directed to contact the Service Department for assistance with questions regarding theocratic or judicial aspects of the case or regarding how to protect children.
Note: See paragraph 7 in corresponding 2016 letter.

6. Two elders should also call the Legal Department regarding any prison inmate who has been accused of child abuse in the past and who is now associating with a congregation, such as by attending congregation meetings held in the prison. This would apply whether he is baptized or not. In some cases, elders may not be authorized to inquire of the offense that an inmate may have committed. But if the elders learn that the alleged offense has to do with child abuse, they should call the Legal Department immediately.
Note: See paragraph 8 in corresponding 2016 letter.

7. If the elders become aware of minors associated with a congregation “sexting” with other minors or of adults “sexting” with minors, the Legal Department should be called immediately. The Legal Department does not need to be called when the elders receive reports of adults (that is, cases in which all parties involved are at least 18 years old) “sexting” one another.
Note: See paragraph 9 in corresponding 2016 letter.

CONGREGATIONAL CONCERNS REGARDING ACCUSATIONS OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE

8. What is child molestation from a congregational standpoint? Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary defines “pedophilia” as “sexual perversion in which children are the preferred sexual object.” (See “Questions From Readers” in The Watchtower of February 1, 1997, page 29.) None of the daughters of Israel may become a temple prostitute, neither may anyone of the sons of Israel become a temple prostitute. You must not bring the price paid to a female prostitute or the price paid to a male prostitute into the house of Jehovah your God to fulfill a vow, for both of them are something detestable to Jehovah your GodDeut. 23:17, 18 condemns such practices as “detestable.” (See the footnotes to verses 17 and 18 in the Reference Bible. Also, see the footnote on page 10 of the October 8, 1993, issue of Awake!) In harmony with these references, we are herein discussing sexual perversion in which children are the object of sexual abuse, including fondling, by an adult. We are not discussing a situation wherein a minor who is a willing participant and who is approaching adulthood has sexual relations with an adult who is a few years older than the minor nor, generally speaking, are we discussing situations in which only minors are involved. Rather, we are referring to situations in which it is established that an adult brother or sister has been guilty of sexually abusing a young child or has been sexually involved with a minor who is approaching adulthood and who was not a willing participant.
Note: See paragraph 10 in corresponding 2016 letter.

9. As spiritual shepherds, elders should continue to make every effort to protect all in the congregation, especially children, from the unwholesome practices of the world. (Look! A King will reign for righteousness, And princes will rule for justice. And each one will be like a hiding place from the wind, A place of concealment from the rainstorm, Like streams of water in a waterless land, Like the shadow of a massive crag in a parched land.Isaiah 32:1, 2) One of these is child sexual abuse. We abhor the sexual abuse of children and will not protect any perpetrator of such repugnant acts from the consequences of his gross sin. (Let your love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is wicked; cling to what is good.Rom. 12:9) Elders should take seriously their responsibility in this matter so that the congregations will be safeguarded from any valid accusation of neglect in protecting children from sexual abuse.
Note: See paragraphs 3 & 11 in corresponding 2016 letter.

10. Regardless of whether the law requires the elders to report an accusation to the authorities, steps need to be taken to protect children. Elders should help the parents of the children involved to understand that they have the primary responsibility for protecting their children. Obviously, such parents will be keenly interested in taking precautions in this regard. Our publications contain helpful information on how parents can protect their children.—w10 11/1 p. 13; w08 10/1 p. 21; g 10/07 pp. 3-11; lr pp. 170-171; g03 2/8 p. 9; g99 4/8 pp. 9, 11; g97 4/8 p. 14; w96 12/1 pp. 13-14; fy pp. 61-62; g93 10/8 pp. 5-13.
Note: See paragraph 4 in corresponding 2016 letter.

11. In addition, the elders should investigate every allegation of child sexual abuse. When elders learn of an accusation, in addition to this letter, they should carefully review the direction outlined in the Shepherding textbook, chapter 12, paragraphs 18-216. However, in evaluating the evidence for internal congregational purposes, they must bear in mind the Bible’s clear direction: “No single witness should rise up against a man respecting any error or any sin . . . At the mouth of two witnesses or at the mouth of three witnesses the matter should stand good.” (No single witness may convict another for any error or any sin that he may cmmit. On the testimony of two witnesses or on the testimony of three witnesses the matter should be established.Deut. 19:15) This requirement to consider testimony of two or three witnesses was confirmed by Jesus. (But if he does not listen, take along with you one or two more, so that on the testimony of two or three witnesses every matter may be established.Matt. 18:16)
Thus, although they investigate every allegation, the elders are not authorized by the Scriptures to take congregational action unless there is a confession or there are two credible witnesses. However, even though the elders are not authorized to take congregation action when there is only one witness, the elders should remain vigilant with regard to the conduct and activity of the accused. (See paragraph 12 of this letter.) If two persons are witnesses to separate incidents of the same kind of wrongdoing, their testimony can be deemed sufficient to take judicial action. (Do not accept an accusation against an older man except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. The sins of some men are publicly known, leading directly to judgment, but those of other men become evident later. In the same way also, the fine works are publicly known and those that are otherwise cannot be kept hidden.1 Tim. 5:19, 24, 25) If the person is not repentant over the gross sin, disfellowshipping action would be warranted. If the decision is to reprove, the reproof should be announced. (ks10 chap. 7 par. 20, second bullet4) This will serve as a protection for the congregation. Information concerning an individual accused of child molestation, proved or otherwise, should be placed in the congregation confidential file and marked “Do Not Destroy” and kept indefinitely. This includes Notification of Disfellowshipping or Disassociation (S-77) forms on individuals who have been disfellowshipped for child sexual abuse and then later reinstated. Because of the delicate nature of handling a judicial case where an adult sexually abuses a child, please contact your circuit overseer. He will designate an experienced elder from your circuit to serve as chairman of the judicial committee.
Note: See paragraphs 13, 14 and 20 in corresponding 2016 letter.

12. Loving elders should take steps to protect children, especially when a judicial committee determines that the one who has sexually abused a child is repentant and will be allowed to remain a member of the Christian congregation. The same concern would be shown when one who has sexually abused a child is disfellowshipped, later cleans up his life, and is reinstated. The elders should be especially mindful of the activity of any who are known to have sexually abused a child in the past. They should also ensure that newly-appointed elders are made aware of this caution. It would be appropriate for elders to talk kindly but very frankly to individuals who have manifested a weakness in this regard, strongly cautioning them to refrain from displaying affection for children, to avoid hugging or holding children on their lap, never to be alone with a child (other than their own), not to allow children to spend the night in their home, not to work alone in field service (hence, they should always be accompanied by another adult), and not to cultivate friendships with children. This not only serves to protect children but will help to prevent those who have sexually abused a child from putting themselves in the way of temptation, being subjected to an unfounded accusation, or doing things that may cause concern to others in the congregation. (So let the one who thinks he is standing beware that he does not fall. Keep from becoming causes for stumbling to Jews as well as Greeks and to the congregation of God1 Cor. 10:12, 32) If the individual does not follow this direction from the elders, the elders should immediately call the Service Department for assistance.
Note: See paragraphs 15 and 16 in corresponding 2016 letter.

13. If the individual does not follow the above direction from the elders, or if the elders believe he may be a “predator,” the elders should immediately call the Service Department for assistance. A “predator” is one who clearly lacks self-control and by his actions provides reason to believe he will continue to prey on children. Not every individual who has sexually abused a child in the past is considered a “predator.” The branch office, not the local body of elders, determines whether an individual who has sexually abused children in the past will be considered a “predator.” If the branch office determines that an individual will be considered a “predator,” parents with minor children will need to be warned of the danger that exists so that they can protect their children. In such a case, and only after receiving direction and instructions from the Service Department, two elders should be assigned to meet with the parents of minor children in order to provide a warning. At the same time that parents are warned about an individual, it would be appropriate for the elders to inform the individual that parents in the congregation will be discreetly informed.
Note: See paragraphs 17 to 19 in corresponding 2016 letter.

14. What step should be taken when you learn of an adult who has been viewing child pornography? As stated in paragraph 4 of this letter, two elders should call the Legal Department. After receiving legal direction, the elders will be directed to contact the Service Department for theocratic direction.
Note: See paragraphs 2 and 9 in corresponding 2016 letter.

15. Who is considered a known child molester? The January 1, 1997, Watchtower article “Let Us Abhor What Is Wicked” mentions on page 29 that a man “known to have been a child molester” does not qualify for privileges in the congregation. The expression “known to have been a child molester” has reference to how such a man is considered in the community and in the Christian congregation. In the eyes of the congregation, an adult “known” to be a former child molester is not “free from accusation” or “irreprehensible,” nor does he have “a fine testimony from people on the outside.” (This statement is trustworthy: If a man is reaching out to be an overseer, he is desirous of a fine work. The overseer should therefore be irreprehensible, a husband of one wife, moderate in habits, sound in mind, orderly, hospitable, qualified to teach, not a drunkard, not violent, but reasonable, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money, a man presiding over his own household in a fine manner, having his children in subjection with all seriousness (for if any man does not know how to preside over his own household, how will he care for the congregation of God?), not a newly converted man, for fear that he might get puffed up with pride and fall into the judgment passed on the Devil. Moreover, he should also have a fine testimony from outsiders so that he does not fall into reproach and a snare of the Devil. Also, let these be tested as to fitness first; then let them serve as ministers, as they are free from accusation.1 Tim. 3:1-7, 10; Never lay your hands hastily on any man; neither become a sharer in the sins of others; keep yourself chaste.5:22; For as God's steward, an overseer must be free from accusation, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not a drunkard, not violent, not greedy of dishonest gainTitus 1:7) In view of his past, those in the community would not respect him and congregation members might be stumbled over his appointment. Keep in mind that the branch office, not the local body of elders, determines whether one who has sexually abused a child is considered a known child molester.
Note: See paragraph 19 in corresponding 2016 letter.

16. When a known child molester moves to another congregation, the elders should follow the procedure set forth in the Shepherding textbook, chapter 12, paragraph 206. If a known child molester is in prison and is transferred to another facility or is released, it is important to inform the appropriate congregation of his situation in writing, if it is possible to do so. This direction also applies when one considered a “predator,” as outlined in paragraph 13 of this letter, moves to another congregation.
Note: See paragraphs 21 & 22 in corresponding 2016 letter.

17. From time to time, local authorities may inform you that a sex offender is living in your area. The notice usually provides the address of the individual and may state the nature of his criminal activity. In such a case, the elders should list that address on the appropriate territory card as a “Do Not Call.” Thereafter, two elders can periodically make calls on that address. Following this direction will assist you in protecting the flock.
Note: See paragraph 23 in corresponding 2016 letter.

18. Sexual misconduct involving only minors: What steps should elders take when minors (persons less than the legal ‘age of consent’) engage in sexual misconduct with one another? As stated in paragraph 4 of this letter, two elders should call the Legal Department even when both persons are minors. Minors who have sexual contact with one another are generally not considered as child molesters by the congregation. However, regardless of the ages of those involved, such misconduct is serious. Elders should be alert to render assistance and to protect children. The body of elders should also arrange for the minor(s) to receive assistance in the presence of their believing parent(s), in harmony with the principles and guidelines found in the Scriptures and in our publications.
Note: See paragraph 24 in corresponding 2016 letter.

19. When baptized minors become involved in “sexting,” the elders must use good judgment in determining whether the wrongdoing has escalated to a point warranting judicial action. Helpful information can be found in “Questions From Readers” in the July 15, 2006, issue of The Watchtower. Please review this material carefully before concluding that a baptized minor is guilty of gross uncleanness or “brazen conduct, loose conduct.” (ks10 chap. 5 par. 92) However, if the baptized minor has been previously counseled and persists in the wrong course, in most cases, judicial action is taken. Each case must be evaluated on its own merit. If elders have questions regarding a specific case they should contact the Service Department. Also, keep in mind that Christian parents should be included in any discussions the elders have with a minor who may be involved in “sexting.”
Note: See paragraph 25 in corresponding 2016 letter.

20. The potential serious consequences associated with “sexting” underscore the importance of Christian parents supervising their children’s use of cellular telephones and other means of electronic communication. Excellent suggestions can be found on pages 6-7 of the November 2009 issue of Awake! (Who is really the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time?Matt. 24:45) When a minor has been involved in “sexting,” elders can use such excellent material to offer Scriptural counsel and encouragement to both the parents and the child.—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; not lording it over those who are God's inheritance, but becoming examples to the flock.1 Pet. 5:2, 3.
Note: See paragraph 25 in corresponding 2016 letter.

22. It cannot be said in every case that one who has sexually abused a child could never qualify for privileges of service in the congregation. However, the elders will certainly want to be very cautious, especially when dealing with one who had repeatedly engaged in this kind of wrongdoing or who had been disfellowshipped for such an offense. Before privileges can be extended, such a man must meet the Scriptural qualifications of being “self-controlled” and “irreprehensible.” He must “also have a fine testimony” from individuals inside and outside the congregation. (if there is any man free from accusation, a husband of one wife, having believing children who are not accused of debauchery or rebelliousness. For as God's steward, an overseer must be free from accusation, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not a drunkard, not violent, not greedy of dishonest gain, but hospitable, a lover of goodness, sound in mind, righteous, loyal, self-controlledTitus 1:6-8; The overseer should therefore be irreprehensible, a husband of one wife, moderate in habits, sound in mind, orderly, hospitable, qualified to teach, Moreover, he should also have a fine testimony from outsiders so that he does not fall into reproach and a snare of the Devil.1 Tim. 3:2, 7) Elders should keep in mind what is stated in the January 1, 1997, Watchtower article “Let Us Abhor What Is Wicked,” page 29, paragraph 2: “Child sexual abuse reveals an unnatural fleshly weakness. Experience has shown that such an adult may well molest other children. True, not every child molester repeats the sin, but many do. And the congregation cannot read hearts to tell who is and who is not liable to molest children again. (The heart is more treacherous than anything else and is desperate. Who can know it?Jeremiah 17:9) Hence, Paul’s counsel to Timothy applies with special force in the case of baptized adults who have molested children: ‘Never lay your hands hastily upon any man; neither be a sharer in the sins of others.’ (Never lay your hands hastily on any man; neither become a sharer in the sins of others; keep yourself chaste.1 Timothy 5:22).”
Note: See paragraphs 17 to 19 in corresponding 2016 letter.

23. Hence, privileges of service should never be extended hastily. Considerable time should always pass before one who has sexually abused a child is recommended, if ever. It would be up to the local body of elders to determine whether such a recommendation should be made to the branch office, taking into account all factors in each individual case. Please note that unless specifically approved by the branch office, one who has sexually abused a child should not be used to conduct any meetings held in the congregation or in a prison, and he does not qualify to work on any Kingdom Hall project other than one involving the congregation where he serves as a publisher.
Note: See paragraphs 17 to 19 in corresponding 2016 letter.

24. If the elders as a body conclude that one who has sexually abused a child in the distant past may now qualify for privileges, they should assign two elders to call the Service Department.
Note: See paragraphs 17 to 19 in corresponding 2016 letter.

25. In view of the foregoing, each elder should make the following notation next to chapter 3, paragraph 20; chapter 5, paragraph 10, second bullet; chapter 7, paragraph 20, second bullet; and chapter 12, paragraph 18, of the Shepherding textbook: “See letter dated October 1, 2012, to all bodies of elders.”
Note: See paragraph 26 in corresponding 2016 letter.

26. It is hoped that the direction provided in this letter will help you brothers in handling matters in the congregation so as to protect children from sexual abuse and, at the same time, balance Bible-based justice and mercy. We also hope this direction will assist you to lovingly help victims of child sexual abuse. May Jehovah’s rich blessing continue to be with you in carrying out your many responsibilities as shepherds of the flock. With this letter we send our warm Christian love and best wishes.
Note: See paragraphs 17 to 19 in corresponding 2016 letter.

August 1, 2016 Letter

Re: Protecting Minors From Abuse

Table of Contents

Legal Considerations
Congregation Considerations
Providing Spiritual Assistance to Victims
Investigating Allegations
Judicial Committee
Reinstatement Committee
Restrictions
Filing
Moving to Another Congregation
Notification by Secular Authorities
Sexual Misconduct Involving Only Minors
Notations in the Shepherding Textbook
Note: The ToC have been expanded but most sections were included in corresponding 2012 letter.

1. This letter replaces the letter dated October 1, 2012, to all bodies of elders regarding child abuse and has been added to the list of policy letters cited in Index to Letters for Bodies of Elders (S-22). Please carefully study the entire letter. While the following information refers to an accused in the masculine gender and to the victim in the feminine gender, it applies equally when the genders are different. Similarly, references to parents apply equally to legal guardians.
Note: This 2016 letter uses the term “replaces”.

2. Child abuse includes the sexual or physical abuse of a minor. It would also include the extreme neglect of a minor by her parent. Child sexual abuse is a perversion and generally includes sexual intercourse with a minor; oral or anal sex with a minor; fondling the genitals, breasts, or buttocks of a minor; voyeurism of a minor; indecent exposure to a minor; or soliciting a minor for sexual conduct. Depending on the circumstances of the case, it may include involvement with child pornography or “sexting” with a minor. “Sexting” describes the sending of sexually explicit messages or images electronically.
Note: See paragraphs 3 and 14 in corresponding 2012 letter.

3. From the Bible’s standpoint, child sexual abuse is a gross sin. (None of the daughters of Israel may become a temple prostitute, neither may anyone of the sons of Israel become a temple prostitute. You must not bring the price paid to a female prostitute or the price paid to a male prostitute into the house of Jehovah your God to fulfill a vow, for both of them are something detestable to Jehovah your GodDeut. 23:17, 18; Now the works of the flesh are plainly seen, and they are sexual immorality, uncleanness, brazen conduct, idolatry, spiritism, hostility, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, dissensions, divisions, sects,envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and things like these. I am forewarning you about these things, the same way I already warned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit God’s Kingdom.Gal. 5:19-21; ks10 chap. 5 par. 102; w97 2/1 p. 29; g93 10/8 p. 10, ftn.) Jehovah’s Witnesses abhor child sexual abuse. (Let your love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is wicked; cling to what is good.Rom. 12:9) Thus, the congregation will not shield any perpetrator of such repugnant acts from the consequences of his sin.
Note: See paragraph 9 in corresponding 2012 letter.

4. The Scriptures place the responsibility on parents for teaching and protecting their children. (And fathers, do not be irritating your children, but go on bringing them up in the discipline and admonition of Jehovah.Eph. 6:4) As spiritual shepherds, elders can help parents to shoulder their Scriptural responsibility. Our publications and website contain much helpful information to assist parents.—w10 11/1 p. 13; w08 10/1 p. 21; g 10/07 pp. 3-11; lr pp. 170-171; g99 4/8 pp. 8-11; g97 4/8 p. 14; w96 12/1 pp. 13-14 pars. 18-19; fy pp. 61-62 pars. 24-26; g93 10/8 pp. 5-13; g85 1/22 pp. 3-10.
Note: See paragraph 10 in corresponding 2012 letter.

5. Legal Considerations: In some jurisdictions, individuals who learn of an allegation of child abuse may be obligated by law to report the allegation to the secular authorities. In all cases, the victim and her parents have the absolute right to report an allegation to the authorities.—For each one will carry his own load.Gal. 6:5; ks10 chap. 12 par. 196.
Note: This paragraph provides new direction.

6. To ensure that elders comply with child-abuse reporting laws, two elders should immediately call the Legal Department for legal advice when the elders learn of an accusation of child abuse. (Let every person be in subjection to the superior authorities, for there is no authority except by God; the existing authorities stand placed in their relative positions by God. Therefore, whoever opposes the authority has taken a stand against the arrangement of God; those who have taken a stand against it will bring judgment against themselves. For those rulers are an object of fear, not to the good dead, but to the bad. Do you want to be free of fear of the authority? Keep doing good, and you will have praise from it; for it is God's minister to you for your good. Bug if you are doing what is bad, be in fear, for it is not without purpose that it bears the sword. It is God's minister, an avenger to express wrath against the one practicing what is bad.Rom. 13:1-4) A call should be made even when both persons involved are minors. The elders should not ask an alleged victim, the accused person, or anyone else to call the Legal Department on the elders’ behalf. The elders should call the Legal Department even in the following situations:

  • The alleged abuse occurred many years ago.
  • The alleged abuse is based on the testimony of only one witness.
  • The alleged abuse is believed to be a repressed memory.
  • The alleged abuse involved perpetrators or victims who are deceased.
  • The alleged abuse is believed to have already been reported to the secular authorities.
  • The alleged perpetrator or victim is not a member of your congregation.
  • The alleged perpetrator is a non-Witness associating with the congregation.
  • The alleged abuse occurred before the alleged perpetrator or victim was baptized.
  • The alleged victim is now an adult.
  • The alleged abuse occurred in the past, and it is unclear whether your congregation elders ever called the Legal Department for direction.

Note: This paragraph provides new direction; see paragraph 4 in corresponding 2012 letter.

7. The Legal Department will provide legal advice based on the facts and the applicable law. If the individual who is accused of the child abuse is associated with your congregation, the two elders calling should provide the Legal Department with the individual’s date of birth and, if applicable, his date of baptism. After speaking with the Legal Department, the call will be transferred to the Service Department so that the elders can receive further assistance.
Note: See paragraph 5 in corresponding 2012 letter.

8. Two elders should immediately call the Legal Department regarding any prison inmate, baptized or unbaptized, who has been accused of child abuse and who is now associating with a congregation. This would include his attending congregation meetings held in the prison. In some cases, elders may not be permitted to inquire about the offense that an inmate may have committed. However, if the elders learn that the alleged offense has to do with child abuse, they should immediately call the Legal Department.
Note: See paragraph 6 in corresponding 2012 letter.

9. If the elders become aware of an adult associated with a congregation who has been involved with child pornography, two elders should immediately call the Legal Department. Likewise, if the elders become aware of an adult or a minor associated with a congregation who is “sexting” with a minor, the Legal Department should be called immediately. The Legal Department does not need to be called when the elders receive reports of adults “sexting” one another.
Note: This paragraph merges content in paragraphs 7 and 14 of the corresponding 2012 letter.

10. Congregation Considerations: When discussing child sexual abuse from a congregation standpoint, we are not discussing a situation in which a minor who is a willing participant and who is approaching adulthood is involved in sexual activity with an adult who is a few years older than the minor. Nor, generally speaking, are we discussing situations in which only minors are involved. (See paragraphs 24-25.) Rather, we are referring to an adult guilty of sexually abusing a minor who is a young child, or an adult guilty of sexual involvement with a minor who is approaching adulthood but was not a willing participant.
Note: See paragraph 8 in corresponding 2012 letter.

11. Providing Spiritual Assistance to Victims: As elders provide ongoing spiritual shepherding, it is especially important that they demonstrate empathy and compassion to victims of child sexual abuse and their families. (Look! A King will reign for righteousness, And princes will rule for justice. And each one will be like a hiding place from the wind, A place of concealment from the rainstorm, Like streams of water in a waterless land, Like the shadow of a massive crag in a parched land.Isaiah 32:1, 2) Helpful suggestions and guidelines can be found in the Shepherding textbook, chapter 4, paragraphs 21-281. The elders should carefully review this material when helping victims of child sexual abuse. In the case of any discussion with a child abuse victim who is still a minor, an elder should never meet alone with the minor but should always involve another elder and another adult member of the congregation, preferably the minor’s parent(s). If it is not possible to include the parent (for example, if the parent is the accused), then another adult member of the congregation who is a confidant of the victim should be included. In addition to the spiritual shepherding provided by the elders, the victim or her family may desire other assistance. For example, the victim or her family may decide to consult a mental-health professional. This would be a personal decision for them to make.
Note: This paragraph provides new direction; see paragraph 9 in corresponding 2012 letter.

12. When an elder is approached by an adult who is concerned or distraught about past abuse, he should “speak consolingly” to the person. (On the other hand, we urge you, brothers, to warn the disorderly, speak consolingly to those who are depressed, support the weak, be patient toward all.1 Thess. 5:14) Elders should manifest an empathetic, compassionate, patient, and supportive response to those approaching them about such matters. An elder must never meet alone with or become the sole confidant of a sister to whom he is not closely related.
Note: This paragraph provides new direction. No similar paragraph in corresponding 2012 letter.

13. Investigating Allegations: The elders may learn of an allegation of child sexual abuse directly from the victim, through her parents, or through a trusted confidant of the victim. After receiving assistance from the branch office, the body of elders will appoint two elders to conduct a Scriptural investigation of every allegation of child sexual abuse. These elders should carefully follow Scriptural procedures and the Bible-based direction outlined in this letter and in the Shepherding textbook, particularly chapter 5. Elders should remember that during the investigation process and during the judicial committee process, a victim of child sexual abuse is not required to make her allegation in the presence of the alleged abuser. In the exceptional event that the two elders believe it is necessary to interview a minor who is a victim of child sexual abuse, the elders should first contact the Service Department.
Note: This paragraph provides new direction; see paragraph 11 in corresponding 2012 letter.

14. Judicial Committee: If the body of elders concludes that there is sufficient Scriptural evidence to warrant the formation of a congregation judicial committee on the grounds of child sexual abuse, the coordinator of the body of elders should first contact the circuit overseer. (ks10 chap. 5 par. 372; chap. 6 pars. 1-23) The circuit overseer will designate an experienced elder to serve as chairman of the judicial committee and, if needed, the appeal committee. If wrongdoing is established and the wrongdoer is not repentant, he should be disfellowshipped. (ks10 chap. 7 par. 264) On the other hand, if the wrongdoer is repentant and is reproved, the reproof should be announced to the congregation. (ks10 chap. 7 pars. 20-214) This announcement will serve as a protection for the congregation.
Note: See paragraph 11 in corresponding 2012 letter.

15. Reinstatement Committee: If a person who has been disfellowshipped for child sexual abuse applies for reinstatement, the coordinator of the body of elders should contact his circuit overseer and provide the names of those who served on the original committee. The circuit overseer will designate an experienced elder to serve as chairman of the reinstatement committee. If the decision is to reinstate, two elders should immediately call the Service Department. This call must be made before the reinstatement is announced to the congregation.—ks10 chap. 11 pars. 1-6, 11-155.
Note: This paragraph provides new direction; see paragraph 12 in corresponding 2012 letter.

16. If a person who has been disfellowshipped for child sexual abuse has moved and applies for reinstatement in a different congregation, the coordinator of the body of elders of the new congregation should contact his circuit overseer. The circuit overseer of the new congregation will designate an experienced elder to serve as chairman of the reinstatement committee in the new congregation. If that committee recommends that the person be reinstated, the committee should contact the coordinator of the body of elders of the original congregation, who should then contact his circuit overseer and provide the names of those who served on the original judicial committee. That circuit overseer will designate an experienced elder to serve as chairman of the reinstatement committee in the original congregation. If that committee agrees to reinstate, two elders from each congregation should immediately call the Service Department. These calls must be made before the reinstatement is announced in both congregations.—ks10 chap. 11 pars. 7-10, 135.
Note: This paragraph provides new direction; see paragraph 12 in corresponding 2012 letter.

17. Restrictions: The elders should carefully adhere to all direction provided by the Service Department regarding reasonable steps that should be taken to protect minors from one who has engaged in child sexual abuse. For example, the Service Department will provide direction when (1) a congregation judicial committee determines that one guilty of child sexual abuse is repentant and will remain in the congregation, (2) one disfellowshipped for child sexual abuse is reinstated, (3) when an unbaptized publisher or a baptized member of the congregation who denies an accusation of child sexual abuse is convicted by the secular authorities, or (4) one viewed as a child molester by the community or the congregation becomes a publisher or becomes a baptized member of the congregation.
Note: This paragraph provides new direction; replaces direction in paragraphs 22-24 in corresponding 2012 letter.

18. Direction from the Service Department to the elders will include restrictions imposed on an individual’s activities within the congregation, on his participation in the field ministry, and on his interaction with minors. The elders will be directed to caution the individual never to be alone with a minor, not to cultivate friendships with minors, not to display affection for minors, and so forth. In some cases, the Service Department may specifically direct elders to inform parents of minors within the congregation of the need to monitor their children’s interaction with an individual. If the body of elders has questions about a past case, two elders should be assigned to call the Service Department for direction. The coordinator of the body of elders should ensure that newly appointed elders and elders who move into the congregation are made aware of the Service Department’s direction regarding such individuals.
Note: This paragraph provides new direction. Replaces direction in paragraphs 22-24 in corresponding 2012 letter.

19. One who has engaged in child sexual abuse does not qualify to receive any privileges in the congregation for many years, if ever. This includes seemingly minor privileges. Elders should keep in mind what is stated in the January 1, 1997, Watchtower article “Let Us Abhor What Is Wicked,” page 29, paragraph 2: “Child sexual abuse reveals an unnatural fleshly weakness. Experience has shown that such an adult may well molest other children. True, not every child molester repeats the sin, but many do. And the congregation cannot read hearts to tell who is and who is not liable to molest children again. (The heart is more treacherous than anything else and is desperate. Who can know it?Jeremiah 17:9) Hence, Paul’s counsel to Timothy applies with special force in the case of baptized adults who have molested children: ‘Never lay your hands hastily upon any man; neither be a sharer in the sins of others.’ (Never lay your hands hastily on any man; neither become a sharer in the sins of others; keep yourself chaste.1 Timothy 5:22).” Therefore, if the body of elders believes that one who has engaged in child sexual abuse decades ago may now qualify for minor privileges, such as carrying or adjusting microphones, operating audio/video equipment, or assisting with accounts, literature, magazines, or territories, they should assign two elders to call the Service Department. The assigned elders should call the Service Department before any congregation privileges are extended.
Note: This paragraph provides new direction. Replaces direction in paragraphs 22-24 in corresponding 2012 letter.

20. Filing: Information concerning individuals associated with the congregation and ac-cused of child sexual abuse (established or not), including letters of introduction, should be placed in an envelope labeled with the individual’s name and marked “Do Not Destroy.” This envelope should be kept indefinitely in the congregation’s confidential file. This would include Notification of Disfellowshipping or Disassociation (S-77) forms on individuals who have committed child sexual abuse, even if later reinstated.
Note: Extracted from paragraph 11 in corresponding 2012 letter.

21. Moving to Another Congregation: When an individual who has been accused of child sexual abuse (established or not) moves to another congregation, two elders from the congregation the individual moves from should immediately call the Legal Department. The elders should be prepared to provide the name of the new congregation, if known. This should be done even if the individual is disfellowshipped or is in prison and is transferred to another facility or is released. The Congregation Service Committee should not send any information to the new congregation until after receiving legal advice from the Legal Department and direction from the Service Department.
Note: This paragraph provides new direction; see paragraph 16 in corresponding 2012 letter.

22. When the elders are informed that an individual who has been accused of child sexual abuse (established or not) has moved into the congregation, two elders should immediately call the Legal Department. This should be done even if the individual is disfellowshipped or is in prison and has transferred from another facility or is released. If the individual is disfellowshipped and living within the congregation’s territory, the elders should list that address on the appropriate congregation territory card as a “Do Not Call.”
Note: This paragraph provides new direction; see paragraph 16 in corresponding 2012 letter.

23. Notification by Secular Authorities: From time to time, secular authorities may inform the elders that a sex offender is living in the area. The notice may provide the address of the individual and may state the nature of his criminal activity. In such a case, the elders should list that address on the appropriate congregation territory card as a “Do Not Call.”
Note: This paragraph provides new direction; see paragraph 17 in corresponding 2012 letter.

24. Sexual Misconduct Involving Only Minors: What steps should elders take when minors engage in sexual misconduct with one another? As stated in paragraph 6, two elders should immediately call the Legal Department even when both persons are minors. Minors who engage in sexual misconduct with one another are not generally considered by the congregation as having engaged in child sexual abuse. However, regardless of the ages of those involved, such misconduct is serious and may even warrant congregation judicial action. The body of elders should work with the parents to ensure that the minors receive spiritual assistance. If elders have questions regarding a specific case, they should call the Service Department.—ks10 chap. 5 par. 612; chap. 6 par. 143.
Note: This paragraph provides new direction; see paragraph 18 in corresponding 2012 letter.

25. The potential serious consequences associated with “sexting” highlight the importance of Christian parents supervising their children’s use of electronic devices. When baptized minors become involved in “sexting,” the elders must use good judgment in determining whether the wrongdoing has escalated to a point warranting congregation judicial action. Helpful information can be found in “Questions From Readers” in the July 15, 2006, issue of The Watchtower. Please review this material carefully before concluding that a baptized minor is guilty of gross uncleanness or brazen conduct. (ks10 chap. 5 par. 92) If the baptized minor has been previously counseled and persists in the wrong course, in most cases, congregation judicial action is taken. Each case must be evaluated on its own merit. In all cases, the body of elders should work with the parents to ensure that the minors receive spiritual assistance. (ks10 chap. 6 par. 143) If elders have questions regarding a specific case, they should call the Service Department.
Note: Merges content in paragraphs 19 & 20 in corresponding 2012 letter.

26. Notations in the Shepherding Textbook: In view of the foregoing, each elder should make the following notation next to chapter 3, paragraph 20; chapter 5, paragraph 10, second bullet; chapter 7, paragraph 20, second bullet; chapter 10, paragraph 2; and chapter 12, paragraph 18, of the Shepherding textbook: “See letter dated August 1, 2016, to all bodies of elders.” In addition, each elder should cross out chapter 12, paragraphs 20-21.7
Note: This paragraph provides new direction.

27. It is imperative to adhere to the direction in this letter each time a matter involving child abuse comes to your attention. This will serve to uphold the sanctity of Jehovah’s name and to protect minors. (Maintain your conduct fine among the nations, so that when they accuse you of being wrongdoers, they may be eyewitnesses of your fine works and, as a result, glorify God in the day of his inspection.1 Pet. 2:12) Your full cooperation with this direction is appreciated. May Jehovah grant you knowledge, wisdom, and discernment as you care for this and other weighty matters in connection with the flock of God entrusted to your care.—For Jehovah himself gives wisdom; From his mouth come knowledge and discernment.Prov. 2:6; 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; not lording it over those who are God's inheritance, but becoming examples to the flock.1 Pet. 5:2, 3.
Note: This paragraph provides new direction.


Shepherd the Flock of God references

Note: Content in black text means the reference was made in both letters. Content in red text means the reference was made in the 2012 letter only. Content in blue text means the references was made in the 2016 letter only.

1ks10 chap. 4, pars. 21-28:

Encouraging Those Who Were Abused in Their Childhood

21. Those who as children were abused, sexually or otherwise, many times grow up to be adults with emotional scars. They are in need of much loving attention. Thus, you will want to be conscious of treating such ones with thoughtfulness, tenderness, and kindness. Such an attitude helps to assure them that you really care for them and that you are “like a hiding place from the wind and a place of concealment from the rainstorm.” (Isa. 32:2) Like God, we should be “tenderly compassionate.” (Eph. 4:32) When offering encouragement to such ones, select from the body of elders those elders best qualified to give the needed assistance. Remember that elders have varied abilities; some may be more effective than others in handling these cases.—1 Cor.12:4.

22. It must be recognized that elders as such are not mental-health professionals or therapists but are spiritual shepherds. (1 Pet. 5:2) Consequently, you should not conduct sessions for what some may view as group therapy. It is not necessary to spend time reading secular publications dealing with worldly psychology or psychiatry. You should not take on a role similar to that of a professional therapist. Someone who has serious mental or emotional illness may need professional help.—w88 10/15 p. 27.

23. One way you can show sincere interest is by being a good listener. (Prov. 21:13; Jas. 1:19) The October 1, 1983, issue of The Watchtower, on page 28, cautions against telling a sufferer who seeks assistance just to forget what occurred. Many have found great relief simply in talking with a sympathetic, nonjudgmental elder who can provide “the good word” of encouragement. (Prov. 12:25) God’s Word has healing power. Jehovah can heal “brokenhearted ones.” (Ps. 30:2; 147:3) Though you may need to ask tactful questions to help an afflicted one express himself, avoid probing unnecessarily or repeatedly into the details of the abuse, which can have a negative effect. After patiently listening, apply the soothing oil of God’s Word. (Jas. 5:13-15) ‘The peace of God excels all thought,’ including disquieting thoughts.—Phil. 4:7; Ps. 94:19; w95 1/1 p. 9 pars. 18-20; g91 10/8 pp. 3-11.

24. Sometimes a sister who suffered abuse as a child may approach a capable older sister for help. It is understood that a sister would not get involved in matters that need the attention of the elders. She can, however, give such a sister emotional support and encouragement as her circumstances and time allow. (w90 3/15 p. 28) If the elders are aware that a sister is offering such help, they should check with her from time to time as to the progress being made.

25. There are times when an emotionally distressed Christian may seek professional help. Whether a Christian or his family pursues treatment from psychiatrists, psychologists, or therapists is a personal decision. An elder should not assume the responsibility of recommending a specific practitioner or facility. He may draw attention to or discuss material in the publications that provides cautions regarding therapies that may conflict with Bible principles. (w88 10/15 pp. 28-29; w82 6/15 pp. 25-29; w75 pp. 255-256) While participating in group therapy by a professional therapist is a matter for personal decision, there could be a revealing of confidential facts about other members of the Christian congregation during such sessions if a Christian does not exercise discretion.

26. Elders must recognize that the time they can spend in helping those who are disturbed emotionally is limited. Therefore, they must balance this shepherding responsibility with all their other responsibilities, which include caring for the spiritual, emotional, and material needs of their own family and assisting all in the congregation. In some cases an abuse victim may ask for more attention than you can give. Elders need to maintain soundness of mind. (1 Pet. 4:7) Some elders have found it beneficial to place limits on the time they spend in shepherding. It may take several visits to get the desired relief for the victim, if this is possible. If the individual approaches you looking for help at times when you cannot discuss the problem extensively, perhaps giving some brief words of encouragement, assuring that one of Jehovah’s love, reading an appropriate scripture, or offering a short prayer will affirm to the sufferer your interest and willingness to help to the extent possible. Also, discussing Biblical examples  of some who had to endure a terrible childhood and yet succeeded in becoming faithful servants of Jehovah can help sufferers see that they need not be permanent victims of a bad family life.—w01 4/15 pp. 25-28.

Cautions Regarding Assisting Sisters

27. Elders and ministerial servants must never meet alone with a sister not closely related to them and should avoid becoming the sole confidant of an individual of the opposite sex who is experiencing marital problems. This includes lengthy phone conversations. Of course, this does not mean that it would be inappropriate for an elder to talk with a sister while in the full view of others at her home, at congregation meetings, or in the field service.—w06 9/15 p. 26 par. 7.

28. It is important never to meet alone with a sister who is a victim of abuse, suffers from depression, or for any other reason is in a delicate emotional state. A woman in such an emotional state may be more vulnerable and may be prone to develop improper feelings toward an elder meeting with her. So that this does not occur, it is the course of wisdom to have different pairs of elders involved in shepherding such a sister. This would serve as a protection for the elders, as well as for the sister, because it is possible for an elder to develop improper feelings for a sister he is comforting or counseling. —Jer. 17:9.

2ks10 chap. 5 pars. 9, 10, 37, 61:

9. Brazen conduct, loose conduct: (Gal. 5:19) The Greek word translated “brazen conduct,” or “loose conduct,” is a·selgei·a. Strong’s Greek Dictionary uses very forceful terms to define it: “licentiousness; filth[iness], lasciviousness, wantonness.” The New Thayer’s Greek English Lexicon adds to the list “unbridled lust, . . . outrageousness, shamelessness, insolence.” Another lexicon defines a·selgei·a as conduct that “violates all bounds of what is socially acceptable.” Rather than relating to bad conduct of a somewhat petty or minor nature, “brazen conduct” describes acts that reflect an attitude that betrays disrespect, disregard, or even contempt for divine standards, laws, and authority. Therefore, two elements are involved in brazen conduct: (1) The conduct itself is a serious violation of Jehovah’s laws, and (2) the attitude of the wrongdoer toward God’s laws is disrespectful, insolent.—w06 7/15 p. 30; w83 3/15 p. 31; w73 pp. 574-576.

10. Though this is not an exhaustive list, brazen conduct may be involved in the following if the wrongdoer has an insolent, contemptuous attitude made evident by a practice of these things:

  • ̇ Willful, continued, unnecessary association with disfellowshipped nonrelatives despite repeated counsel.—Matt. 18:17b; 1 Cor. 5:11, 13; 2 John 10, 11; w81 9/15 pp. 25-26.
  • ̇ Child sexual abuse: This would include fondling of breasts, an explicitly immoral proposal, showing pornography to a child, voyeurism, indecent exposure, and so forth.
  • Continuing to date or pursue a romantic relationship with a person though not legally or Scripturally free to marry, despite repeated counsel and generally after a warning talk to the congregation.—Gal. 5:19; 2 Thess. 3:6, 14, 15.

Evidence Establishing Wrongdoing

37. Even though a Christian has been accused of wrongdoing serious enough to require judicial action, a judicial committee should not be formed unless the wrongdoing has been established. What kind of evidence is acceptable?

  • Confession (admission of wrongdoing), either written or oral, may be accepted as conclusive proof without other corroborating evidence. (Josh. 7:19) There must be two witnesses to a confession, and the confession must be clear and unambiguous. For example, a statement from a married Christian that his mate is “Scripturally free” would not by itself be viewed as a clear confession of adultery.
    A guilty plea entered in court by a Christian as part of a plea bargain, perhaps on the advice of an attorney so as to avoid the possibility of a harsher sentence, would generally not in itself be viewed as an admission of guilt in the congregation.
  • There must be two or three eyewitnesses, not just people repeating hearsay; no action can be taken if there is only one witness.—Deut. 19:15; John 8:17.
  • If there are two or three witnesses to the same kind of wrongdoing but each one is witness to a separate incident, the elders can consider their testimony. While such evidence is acceptable to establish guilt, it is preferable to have two witnesses to the same occurrence of wrongdoing.
  • The testimony of youths may be considered; it is up to the elders to determine whether the testimony has the ring of truth.
  • ̇ The testimony of unbelievers and disfellowshipped or disassociated ones may also be considered, but it must be weighed carefully.

61. If the unbaptized publisher is a minor by law, the two elders should first speak with the Christian parents to discern what occurred, the child’s attitude, and the corrective steps that the parents are taking. If the parents have the situation in hand, the two elders may choose not to meet with the minor but will check with the parents from time to time to offer helpful counsel, specific suggestions, and loving encouragement.

3ks10 chap. 6, pars. 1-2, 14:

Selecting the Judicial Committee and Chairman

1. If a judicial committee is needed, the elders who are present at the Kingdom Hall should determine which elders will serve on the committee and which one will be chairman. (See 2:12) The elders chosen should be men of discernment and good judgment. Extensive details of the case do not need to be conveyed to the entire body, but enough information should be presented for the elders to determine whether a disfellowshipping offense has actually been committed and, if so, who is best qualified to handle the particular type of case that has arisen. (km 9/77 pp. 5-6) It is usually best for newer elders to serve first with more experienced ones. They would never serve as observers on a judicial case. However, complex cases may warrant having four or even five experienced elders on the committee.

2. If the elders know that the accused has strong feelings against a particular elder, it would be better not to use him. An elder who is a close relative or has been in business with the accused or has had a special friendship with him would not normally serve on the committee. (km 9/77 p. 6) If there are not enough elders locally to make up the committee, the body of elders may request the assistance of an elder in a neighboring congregation by contacting the body of elders where he serves. In such situations, you may also contact the circuit overseer for recommendations.

Meeting With Baptized Minors

14. It is best to meet with the youth and his Christian parents, since they have the responsibility to raise and train him. If the accused is living in the home of his believing parents but is no longer a minor, the elders would not generally invite the parents to the hearing. However, if the accused living in his parents’ home has recently become an adult and the parents ask to be present and the accused has no objection, the judicial committee may decide to allow them to attend a portion of the hearing.

4ks10 chap. 7, pars. 20-21, 26:

20. The judicial committee should determine whether the reproof should be announced to the congregation. (w88 11/15 p. 18; w81 9/1 pp. 26-27) If the individual thereafter moves, no announcement of such previous judicial reproof is made in the new congregation.—km 3/75 p. 4.

  • ̇The reproof should be announced if the sin is widely known or will likely become known in the congregation or community. An announcement will safeguard the reputation of the congregation.
    For example, in a case of adultery, an innocent mate may lean toward forgiveness but is not ready to resume sexual relations at the time that the judicial committee concludes the case. If the possibility of a Scriptural divorce still exists, an announcement would protect the reputation of the congregation and the innocent mate.
  • The judicial committee may have specific reasons to believe that the congregation needs to be on guard concerning the repentant wrongdoer. Perhaps he ignored previous counsel several times concerning steps leading to the same wrongdoing.
    For example, in a case involving wrongdoing that could be viewed as child sexual abuse, announcing the reproof of a repentant wrongdoer will serve as a protection for the congregation.

21. The coordinator of the body of elders should approve the announcement before an elder reads it to the congregation. It should read as follows: “[Name of person] has been reproved.” Restrictions are not announced.

If the Decision Is to Disfellowship

26. If the wrongdoer lacks genuine repentance, he should be disfellowshipped. (See 7:8) The committee should inform him of its decision and endeavor to help him see how he can use the time he is disfellowshipped in a way that will repair his damaged relationship with Jehovah. The committee may share with him scriptures such as 2 Corinthians 7:10, 11 and Hebrews 12:5-7. The judicial committee should be kind and positive, assuring him that forgiveness is possible if he truly repents.

5ks10 chap. 11, pars. 1-15:

When a Plea for Reinstatement Is Received

1. The final decision to reinstate a disfellowshipped person is always made by a judicial committee of the congregation that took the disfellowshipping action. If possible, the elders in that congregation who served on the judicial committee should be used for the reinstatement committee. Even if the committee feels that it is much too soon to consider reinstatement, two members of the committee should acknowledge receipt of the request and briefly inform the disfellowshipped one that more time must pass. Written requests for reinstatement should be responded to promptly.

2. After offering prayer without the disfellowshipped person present, the committee will invite him personal statement. The committee should seek to determine his conduct since the time of disfellowshipping and ascertain his attitude. The disfellowshipped person is then excused from the room while the committee deliberates.

3. The committee should be careful to allow sufficient time, perhaps many months, a year, or even longer, for the disfellowshipped person to prove that his profession of repentance is genuine. (od p. 156; it-2 p. 771) The committee should be especially cautious in some cases. For instance, the wrongdoer may have been deceptive, may have secretly practiced wrongdoing over a long period of time, or may have been repeatedly dealt with judicially in the past for the same or other wrongdoing. Quickly reinstating such a person may embolden others to commit serious sin, as they may feel that little or no discipline will be administered. Where there is evidence of conspiracy between individuals to put away their mates and marry each other, considerable time should elapse for them to prove their repentance and gain reinstatement.—w83 3/15 p. 29.

4. The reinstatement committee needs to be balanced. Genuine repentance and a turning away from the wrong course—not the attitude of others or merely the time elapsed—are the chief determining factors in deciding when a person may be reinstated.—1 Cor. 5:1, 11-13; 2 Cor. 2:6, 7.

5. The committee should consider the overall pattern of the wrongdoer’s life. Does it now show that he is repentant? If so, elders should guard against going to extremes by exacting a point-by-point admission of sins that may not have been clearly proved.

6. If it is determined that the individual should not be reinstated, the committee should explain their reasons and what they expect the individual to do in the future to qualify for reinstatement. After he is dismissed, the committee will conclude with prayer.

7. If the disfellowshipped person has moved, a local judicial committee will hear his request for reinstatement where he is now attending meetings. If those elders believe he should be reinstated, they will give the judicial committee of the congregation that disfellowshipped the person their recommendation. They should not let the disfellowshipped one know their recommendation; if the other committee does not agree, knowing that would only cause him frustration. The committee should merely tell him that they must correspond with the elders where he was disfellowshipped and that he will be informed of the decision in due course.

8. The local judicial committee should not pressure the original committee to reinstate the person. The elders on the original committee may be aware of important factors not apparent to others, so it is usually best to respect their judgment. Likewise, the original committee should carefully consider the recommendation of the other committee. Sufficient time may have passed, and the individual may have made drastic changes that the elders on the original committee have not observed. They should keep in mind that the elders making the recommendation have met the individual and have had opportunity to observe his conduct.

9. If the two congregations are reasonably close to each other, the committee of the congregation that took the disfellowshipping action should promptly arrange to meet with the disfellowshipped individual after receiving a positive recommendation from the committee of the congregation where he made his plea for reinstatement.

10. If the elders on the committee of the congregation that took the disfellowshipping action disagree with the recommendation to reinstate, they should clearly explain their reasons to the other committee.

If the Decision Is to Reinstate

11. If he is being reinstated, the disfellowshipped person can be invited back into the room and informed. At that time Scriptural encouragement and counsel should be given to help him to continue to make spiritual progress. Until the reinstatement is announced, he should continue to conduct himself as a disfellowshipped one. The committee concludes with prayer with the individual present. The committee should make sure the branch office is properly informed of the reinstatement.

12. In all cases of reinstatement, judicial restrictions should be imposed to help the person see the need for continuing to make ‘straight paths for his feet’ and out of consideration for the congregation’s conscience. (Heb. 12:13) The privilege of sharing in the field service is restored when the individual is reinstated. Other privileges, such as commenting at meetings and giving Theocratic Ministry School talks, can be restored progressively when it is determined that the individual has progressed spiritually to the point that he is qualified and when it is judged by the committee that the extending of such privileges will not be offensive to the congregation. It may be discouraging to the repentant wrongdoer if restrictions are imposed for a prolonged period of time. Therefore, when informing a repentant wrongdoer of restrictions, it would be helpful for the elders to inform him of the date for the next meeting when his progress will be reviewed. The committee may also arrange for a Bible study to be conducted, if needed, which would be reported as field service. It would be an exceptional case when many months have passed and restrictions have not been lifted.—See 7:19.

13. Reinstatement is announced in the congregation where that person was disfellowshipped as well as in the congregation where he now attends. The coordinator of the body of elders should approve the announcement before an elder reads it to the congregation. The announcement should read as follows: “[Name of person] is reinstated as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” Judicial restrictions should not be announced. The committee where he attends will supervise the gradual removal of restrictions.

14. A committee will deal with a disassociated person similarly if he requests reinstatement.

15. When a person is reinstated, he will still need much spiritual assistance. The committee should continue to monitor the person’s spiritual progress.

6ks10 chap. 12, pars. 18-21:

Child Abuse

18. You should immediately call the branch office for direction if you learn of an accusation of child abuse, regardless of the age of the victim now or at the time of the alleged abuse, even if it occurred before the alleged perpetrator’s baptism. The branch office will then give direction based on the circumstances involved in each situation.

19. Child abuse is a crime. Never suggest to anyone that they should not report an allegation of child abuse to the police or other authorities. If you are asked, make it clear that whether to report the matter to the authorities or not is a personal decision for each individual to make and that there are no congregation sanctions for either decision. Elders will not criticize anyone who reports such an allegation to the authorities. If the victim wishes to make a report, it is his or her absolute right to do so.—Gal. 6:5.

20. When a known child molester moves to another congregation, the Congregation Service Committee should send a letter of introduction with full and complete information about his background and current situation. Any letter from the branch office concerning the child molester should not be photocopied or sent to the new congregation. However, the new congregation should be clearly informed of any restrictions imposed by the branch office. A copy of the letter of introduction should be sent to the branch office.

21. In a case in which a brother denies an allegation of child abuse and he has been accused by only one witness, the following direction is given if he moves to another congregation. The elders should consult the branch office before sending any information regarding the accusation to the elders in the new congregation. It would be helpful if your letter to the branch office provided a detailed summary of the matter and explained the spiritual condition and personal circumstances of the accused and the accuser. With regard to the accused, the following questions should be answered: (1) What is his interaction with children? (2) Does he admit to any activity with the accuser that could have been misinterpreted by the accuser as sexual abuse, or does he claim to have a poor memory of the accusation? (3) What is his response to why the accuser has made the allegation? (4) Has he had to be counseled for any other matters of a sexual nature, such as inappropriate conduct with adult sisters or pornography? (5) What is the level of his spirituality? (6) Do all the elders on the body believe that he can be trusted with children? The following questions should be answered with regard to the accuser: (1) What is the level of maturity of the child or youth? (2) Is he (or she) describing conduct that one his age would not normally know about? (3) Is the child or his parents known to be serious, mature? (4) Is his memory consistent, or is it intermittent, or does it involve repressed memories? (w95 11/1 pp. 25-26) (5) What is the reputation of the parents? (6) Are they spiritually and emotionally mature? After carefully considering the matter, the branch office will then give you direction as to what information about the allegation should be shared, if any, with the elders of the new congregation.

7ks10 chap. 12, pars 20-21:

20. When a known child molester moves to another congregation, the Congregation Service Committee should send a letter of introduction with full and complete information about his background and current situation. Any letter from the branch office concerning the child molester should not be photocopied or sent to the new congregation. However, the new congregation should be clearly informed of any restrictions imposed by the branch office. A copy of the letter of introduction should be sent to the branch office.

21. In a case in which a brother denies an allegation of child abuse and he has been accused by only one witness, the following direction is given if he moves to another congregation. The elders should consult the branch office before sending any information regarding the accusation to the elders in the new congregation. It would be helpful if your letter to the branch office provided a detailed summary of the matter and explained the spiritual condition and personal circumstances of the accused and the accuser. With regard to the accused, the following questions should be answered: (1) What is his interaction with children? (2) Does he admit to any activity with the accuser that could have been misinterpreted by the accuser as sexual abuse, or does he claim to have a poor memory of the accusation? (3) What is his response to why the accuser has made the allegation? (4) Has he had to be counseled for any other matters of a sexual nature, such as inappropriate conduct with adult sisters or pornography? (5) What is the level of his spirituality? (6) Do all the elders on the body believe that he can be trusted with children? The following questions should be answered with regard to the accuser: (1) What is the level of maturity of the child or youth? (2) Is he (or she) describing conduct that one his age would not normally know about? (3) Is the child or his parents known to be serious, mature? (4) Is his memory consistent, or is it intermittent, or does it involve repressed memories? (w95 11/1 pp. 25-26) (5) What is the reputation of the parents? (6) Are they spiritually and emotionally mature? After carefully considering the matter, the branch office will then give you direction as to what information about the allegation should be shared, if any, with the elders of the new congregation.


Additional Information

Legal Documents

  1. General Legal Advice & Direction
  2. Client Intake – CSA Questionnaire
  3. Australian Royal Commission Case Study 29
    1. Transcript of Jehovah’s Witness Governing Body member, Geoffrey Jackson’s Testimony given on August 14, 2015.
    2. Statement supplementing Geoffrey Jackson’s Testimony dated September 2, 2015.

Videos

  1. Part 1 of Geoffrey Jackson’s Testimony given on Friday, August 14, 2015
  2. Part 2 of Geoffrey Jackson’s Testimony given on Friday, August 14, 2015

Discussions

  1. Alexandra James‘ article entitled, “One Big Change in the Way Jehovah’s Witnesses Handle Child Molestation Accusations, and a Victory for Activists and Victims
  2. John Redwood‘s article entitled, “Watchtower Released Updated Child Abuse Directive to Elders; Lack of Adequate Policy Change Continues to Endanger Jehovah’s Witness Minors
  3. William H. Bowen‘s article entitled, “Comments on the new BOE regarding the Protection of pedophiles within Jehovah’s Witness congregations worldwide