Higher Education is reason to delete or remove a congregation elder in Jehovah's Witnesses
Circuit Overseer (far left) meets with body of elders to decide fate of elder (far right) whose daughters are pursuing higher education.

Higher Education is Reason to Remove an Elder

Jehovah’s Witnesses have created an instructional video on how to deal with an elder who has family member(s) who are pursuing an educational qualification in a third level institution such as a technical college or university.

Although Jehovah’s Witnesses’ leaders have sent members of their staff to university for “kingdom interests”, they react unfavourably towards congregation elders and congregants who do so.

WARNING: Although this presentation is considered important and imperative educational material provided by the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses for use by Circuit Overseers with congregation elders, viewers are cautioned that they may find some or all of the material disturbing, nonsensical, patronizing and ridiculous.

The presentation below involves five elders of Jehovah's Witnesses. The individual on the left is the Circuit Overseer (equivalent to a Bishop), who is not named. He is leading the judicial committee meeting. To his right are three congregation elders serving with the Circuit Overseer on the judicial committee. Their names from left to right are, Brother Miller, Brother Anderson, and Brother Williams. The elder on the far right, Brother Brown, is being judicially assessed as to whether he should continue to serve as an elder in a congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses because two of his daughters are pursuing higher education.

As you watch the video, note the tone of the Circuit Overseer throughout: He maintains an overly pious voice and, when dealing with Brother Brown, can slip in to tones of condescension and patronization. Brother Brown is presented as a belligerent and quarrelsome individual.  Brother Brown also reveals that one of his daughters was reproved by the congregation in the past. This is an effective propaganda technique to convince elders being trained with this video that there are underlying reasons as to why an elder or members of his family may be pursuing higher education.

However, if you pay close attention to Brother Anderson's opening remarks, it's clear that the pursuit of higher education is not in the interests of the Watch Tower corporation  ("spiritual things") but for personal reasons ("secular pursuits"). Anderson also reveals that Brown's daughters' pursuit of higher education has some in the congregation confused as to what the Watch Tower "has stated regarding pursuing higher education." Anderson continues, "Sister Singles' daughter is considering pursuing higher education because of the example of [Brown's] daughters."

This creates a set of interesting question: What has the organization ("Watch Tower") stated regarding pursuing higher education? Is it in black and white print to prevent confusion? If so, why is it difficult to provide a direct quote from Watch Tower material to ensure Sister Singles and her daughter, and Brother Brown and his two daughters do not pursue higher education? Pay close attention as you watch the video. And as you do so, ask yourself:

  • Would all elders react like Brother Brown? And if they didn't, would it change the outcome?
  • Would the outcome be different if Brother Brown's daughters were regularly attending meetings and were in good standing in the congregation?
  • Is it necessary for Brother Brown's daughters to have been auxiliary or regular pioneers to be viewed more favourably by congregation elders?
  • If the congregation elders had serious issues with Brown's attitude and behaviour as a congregation elder, shouldn't the Circuit Overseer have handled this issue much sooner than waiting until Brown's daughters pursued higher education?
  • If the organization has made statements regarding the pursuit of higher education, why create additional reasons to delete Brown?

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00:00:01 Circuit Overseer Brothers, thank you for considering this matter regarding Brother Brown and the impact that his family situation is having on the congregation. I asked you brothers to review his qualifications as an elder after we spoke. And brother Brown had an opportunity to explain to me some of the decisions that he's made for his family. I'm aware that your brothers have considered this matter before, but since then another one of Brother Brown's daughters have enrolled in a school for higher education, which raises questions as to how this affects the congregation. When we make decisions, it's important that we consider the conscience of the congregation as well as the elder body. Brother Brown, I know this can't be easy for you. And it's not easy for us either. Please be assured that we love you. And we only want what's best for you and your family. Remember, you're among friends here. So please feel free to express yourself and to answer any questions that your fellow elders may have. Brothers, we are obligated to put the interests of the congregation first.

00:01:17 Brother Brown Brothers, with all due respect, I don't agree with you that the congregation is disturbed about my or my family situation. I've been in the congregation for 20 years. I know the publishers very well and I'm sure no one is disturbed about my daughters pursuing higher education. As far as my younger daughter is concerned, she was judicially reproved, but it wasn't announced to the congregation. So she's repentant. And no one has approached me expressing that they're disturbed about me supporting my daughters, seeking higher education, trying to better themselves. It's not like they're leaving the truth.

00:01:55 Circuit Overseer Brother Brown, thank you for expressing how you feel. Let's give your fellow elders an opportunity to express their observations or concerns. Brothers, are there any comments or questions that you have for Brother Brown?

00:02:11 Circuit Overseer [Brother Anderson raises his hand] Brother Anderson, please.

00:02:14 Brother Anderson Brother Brown it is true. Some of the congregation have been negatively affected. They've been disturbed by the example of your daughters pursuing higher education. You've openly talked about wanting the best life for your daughters. And this has given some of the impression that the only way to get the best life, it's not through spiritual things, but through secular pursuits.

00:02:40 Brother Brown Mumbles.

00:02:40 Brother Anderson Some of the congregation are even confused about what the organisation has stated regarding pursuing higher education. In fact, Sister Singles' daughter is considering pursuing higher education because of the example of your daughters.

00:02:58 Circuit Overseer Thank you, Brother Anderson. [Brother Williams raises his hand, followed by Brother Miller] Brother Williams, please.

00:03:03 Brother Williams And just because the brothers and sisters have not approached you about this matter doesn't mean that they're not disturbed by what they see. They understand that it's a personal decision. And that's something that you have to decide. But it still doesn't mean that your freeness of speech is not affected. In fact, the freeness of speech of the entire body of elders, as well as how successful we are as shepherds has been affected as well. Um. As Brother Anderson mentioned, when we promote the full time ministry as the best way of life, this situation has now influenced how some in the congregation has set that as a goal or even want to set that as a goal for their life.

00:03:54 Circuit Overseer [Brother Miller raises his hand] Brother Miller.

00:03:57 Brother Miller Andy the scriptural qualifications at 1 Timothy Chapter 3 say that an overseer in verse 4 and 5 "should be a man presiding over his own household in a fine manner having his children in subjection with all seriousness." Verse 3 says, "They should be reasonable, not quarrelsome." Now, I know this is difficult for you, it is difficult for us.

00:04:22 Brother Brown [Interrupts Brother Miller] Don't tell me about being difficult. When we started this discussion, you all brothers said you you love me and my family. Right now, I'm not feeling it. You've been nothing but negative.

[Break in presentation] 00:04:36 Circuit Overseer Brother Brown, thank you for your comments. Please take a seat in the other room and we'll call you back when we make our decision. [Brother Brown aggressively gets out of his seat while the circuit overseer, Brother Miller and Brother Williams watch him leave. Brother Anderson looks down and purses his lips]

00:04:48 Circuit Overseer Now, brothers, please open your shepherd book to chapter 8. You'll notice paragraph 30 discusses when a member of an appointed man's household pursues higher education and paragraph 32, which outlines the procedure for reviewing the qualifications of such a man. Now, what are your observations?

[Shepherd the Flock of God, Chapter 8, paragraph 32: If it is necessary to review an elder’s qualifications, the body of elders should consider the matter, with the brother in question present, using the following procedure: (1) After seeking Jehovah’s guidance in prayer, make sure all the facts are presented. Maintain a respectful, orderly atmosphere that is conducive to such a discussion. (2) Allow the brother adequate time to express his feelings and to answer any questions. Ask him for his view of the matters being discussed regarding his qualifications. (3) Ask the brother to leave the room while the other elders continue their discussion and decide what they will recommend. (4) Invite the brother back into the room. If the decision is to recommend his deletion, inform him of this and the Scriptural reasons. (5) Give the brother the opportunity to comment on the decision. It may be necessary for the brother to leave the room again so that the elders can discuss the matter further before making a final decision. END]

00:05:18 Circuit Overseer [Brother Williams raises his hand] Brother Williams, please.

00:05:20 Brother Williams Brother Brown has served faithfully for many years, but the question that's within paragraph #30 is important. How is he viewed by the congregation?

[Shepherd the Flock of God, Chapter 8, paragraph 30: He or a Member of His Household Pursues Higher Education: If an appointed brother, his wife, or his children pursue higher education, does his life pattern show that he puts Kingdom interests first in his life? Does he teach his family members to put Kingdom interests first? Does he respect what has been published by the faithful slave on the dangers of higher education?. Do his speech and conduct reveal that he is a spiritual person? How is he viewed by the congregation? Why is he or his family pursuing higher learning? Do they have theocratic goals? Does the pursuit of higher education interfere with regular meeting attendance, meaningful participation in field service, or other theocratic activities? END]

00:05:32 Brother Williams Sad to say, the actions of his family have had have caused him to lose the respect of the congregation. In fact, some publishers have mentioned that if they need scriptural advice on family life, they'll just talk to another elder.

00:05:49 Circuit Overseer Thank you for those comments, brother Williams. Brother Anderson, please. 00:05:52 Brother Anderson The same paragraph says, "If an appointed brother['s] ... children pursue higher education, does his life pattern show that he puts Kingdom interests first in his life?"

00:06:04 Brother Anderson I don't think any of us can honestly say that brother Brown's family is viewed as putting Kingdom interests first in their life. The conversations aren't spiritual. And I don't think the family, the wife or the daughters have ever regular or auxiliary pioneered.

00:06:23 Circuit Overseer That is a cause for concern. [Brother Miller has his hand raised] Brother Miller, please.

00:06:27 Brother Miller I agree with those comments and in addition, the last question in paragraph 30 asks, "Does the pursuit of higher education interfere with regular meeting attendance, meaningful participation in field service, or other theocratic activities?" His girls are not visible in the ministry and because of their class schedule, they rarely are at meetings. It's obvious that spiritual things have become second place in their life.

00:06:57 Circuit Overseer So it appears that they're drifting spiritually. [Brother Anderson has his hand raised] Brother Anderson, please.

00:07:03 Brother Anderson Yeah. And 1 Peter 5:3, says an overseer should be an example to the flock. But the reality is: the family is a poor example. And they're having an influence on other young ones in the congregation who are now also considering pursuing higher education.

00:07:22 Circuit Overseer Now looking at paragraph 31.

[Shepherd the Flock of God, Chapter 8, paragraph 31: Procedure for Reviewing an Appointed Brother's Qualifications When preparing to review the qualifications of a brother, elders should first research current direction that applies to the issue at hand. Avoid dogmatic viewpoints or quick decisions based solely on personal preferences. (Phil. 4:5) Do not be quick to recommend deletion unless there is a solid basis for doing so. It may be possible to assist the brother to make the needed adjustments and continue to serve. Has the brother served faithfully for many years? What has he done or failed to do that raises questions? How did he react to counsel? Has he had such difficulties in the past, and how did he then respond to efforts to help? Was his wrongdoing really so serious that it requires restricting his privileges? Possibly he just made a mistake, using poor judgment. The congregation in general may still have respect for him and confidence in him as an elder or a ministerial servant. Perhaps the matter is not widely known, if at all. If he realizes that his action was unwise, has learned from his mistake, has a good attitude, and wants to improve, it may be that he can continue to serve. END

00:07:27 Circuit Overseer What would you rather say has been his response to the counsel that has been given? [Brother Miller Raises his hand] Brother Miller.

00:07:34 Brother Miller It hasn't been well. He's been Belligerent. He's accused us of overstepping. And he keeps insisting that this is a personal family decision. He never took into consideration the feelings of the congregation. Unfortunately, he no longer has the freeness of speech as mentioned at 1 Timothy 3:13.

00:07:58 Circuit Overseer [Brother Anderson raises his hand] Brother Anderson.

00:08:01 Brother Anderson And as it says in 1 Timothy 3:3, that an overseer needs to be uh, excuse me, "should be reasonable and not quarrelsome." And James 3:17, reminds us, "Wisdom from above is peaceable, reasonable, ready to obey." But sadly, he doesn't accept counsel from any of us. When we've counselled him on matters uh, he justifies it or minimises it. He bullies the body. It's his experience and his opinions that have dictated outcomes. And I'm sure you've seen that today.

00:08:39 Circuit Overseer I did observe that. Thank you for those thoughts. [Awkward pause then Brother Williams raises his hand] Brother Williams, do you have something more to add?

00:08:49 Brother Williams Yes, I did. Initially the first time we discussed this, we agreed that he doesn't have the respect of the body. But Brother Brown is very outspoken [chuckles] and he's very [looks for word] skilled. He's very skilled at manipulating the rest of the body to adjusting our viewpoints towards his viewpoint.

00:09:13 Circuit Overseer Thank you for sharing that. He can be rather persuasive. Is there anything else that you brothers would like to add to our consideration?

00:09:23 Brother Williams I didn't have anything more.

00:09:25 Circuit Overseer OK, so we need to come to a decision regarding his qualifications and we'll need to tell him the scriptural reasons why that decision is made when we invite them back to the room.

00:09:38 Brother Miller Do you mean you want us to tell him? I'm not sure. And he always has such a hot temper. That's why it's usually easier to go along with his demands. [Other elders nod in agreement]

00:09:52 Circuit Overseer While that may have been true in the past, I know that you brothers want to do things that are in harmony with Jehovah's Holy Spirit and the direction from his organisation. After weighing all the facts and comparing them against the scriptural qualification, and remembering to whom we're accountable, what do you brothers recommend? [Brother Anderson raises his hand] Brother Anderson.

00:10:22 Brother Anderson I'm disappointed to say it, but I feel like we should recommend this deletion. I don't think we can say that he continues to have "freeness of speech" or that he's an example in presiding over his family.

00:10:37 Brother Miller [Raises hand but doesn't wait to be called] I agree. In addition, he's neither peaceable or reasonable when things don't go his way.

00:10:46 Circuit Overseer All in favour of this recommendation. [All elders raise their hands including the Circuit Overseer] OK, it's unanimous. So we have considered the guidelines from Jehovah's Organisation. You brothers have provided me with the scriptural reasons. And I support your recommendation. Brother Anderson and Brother Williams, would you like to express to brother Brown the reasons for this decision? And Dan [Miller], could you please ask Brother Brown back to the room so that we can inform him of our unanimous decision? And we can show him from the scriptures how we reached this decision. [Screen goes blank] Brother Brown, thank you for your patience and waiting. After prayerfully weighing all of the facts and considering the scriptures, the body of elders unanimously decided to recommend your deletion as an elder. And I agree with them. The brothers will now explain to you the reasons why we reached this decision.

00:11:51 Brother Miller Brother Brown, as you know, 1 Timothy 3:4,5 says that "an overseer should be a man presiding over his household in a fine manner, having his children in subjection with all seriousness."

00:12:09 Brother Williams The elders unanimously agree that your decision to support and encourage your daughters to pursue higher education has damaged their spirituality. [Brother Brown gets emotional]

00:12:22 Brother Anderson And verse 3 says that as elders, we need to be "reasonable and not quarrelsome". But we've observed for some time now that uh, when dealing with matters, even this one, you've not responded kindly. You've been quarrelsome, and you've even shouted at us. [Brother Brown fidgets in his seat] And so when we weighed all the facts and we looked at the scriptural qualifications in 1 Timothy Chapter 3 and Titus 1, well, you no longer meet some of those qualifications. Do you understand the reasons? The scriptural reasons for our decisions?

00:13:00 Brother Brown [Brother Brown raises his voice] Are you kidding me!? I don't want to hear of any more of this nonsense. You're just being unfair and unreasonable. I've done nothing but work hard for you brothers in this congregation. It's, it's absurd. It's ridiculous!

00:13:12 Circuit Overseer Brother Brown, we understand you're upset. [Circuit Overseer patronizes Brother Brown to reduce the tension in the room] Perhaps it would be a good idea if we offered a prayer. Would you mind if I did that?

00:13:22 Brother Brown Sure, if you want to say a prayer, go ahead. [Video screen goes blank]

00:13:28 Circuit Overseer Thank you for allowing me to pray. Be assured that the brothers prayerfully considered this recommendation. They weighed all the facts. Brother Brown, the brothers here: they love you. We would like for you to consider something that David said. It's found in Psalm 141:5. [Quote is cut from video] These brothers here, they love you, your family and the congregation.

00:14:00 Brother Brown I don't know about that. It just makes me so angry. These brothers don't even want me on the body anymore. Hurtful.

00:14:11 Circuit Overseer I can understand how you might feel, but in reality the brothers do want you on the body and they hope that you can return. Let me ask you: Do you think that the elder body is accountable to Jehovah to uphold his high standards for appointed men? And isn't that what you would encourage them to do?

00:14:32 Brother Brown Yes.

00:14:35 Circuit Overseer That's why when we weighed all of the facts and the scriptural qualifications, as well as considering the direction from Jehovah's Organisation, the body of elders and I decided that you no longer meet the qualifications for an appointed man.

00:14:53 Brother Brown I understand what you're saying, but I do not agree with this decision.

00:14:59 Circuit Overseer Prayerfully think about what we talked about today. And of course, if it is your decision to appeal, please consult the information as found in the Shepherd Book, Chapter 8, paragraph 39.

[Shepherd the Flock of God, Chapter 8, paragraph 31: Appealing Deletions If an elder or a ministerial servant disagrees with his deletion by the circuit overseer and wishes to appeal, he should immediately send a brief letter to the Service Department, with a copy to the body of elders and a copy to the circuit overseer, explaining why he disagrees with the deletion. It would be inappropriate to pressure a brother who wishes to appeal not to do so by suggesting, for example, that it would take longer for him to be reappointed or that the branch office would view him negatively. The announcement of deletion should be held in abeyance, and the letter of deletion should be destroyed (if one had been generated). Thereafter, the Service Department will select an experienced circuit overseer who, along with the original circuit overseer, will rehear the entire matter. The two circuit overseers will listen carefully to the brother and the elders and will deal justly and kindly with all involved. After the circuit overseers hearing the appeal reach a joint decision, there is no further right to appeal. If it is decided that the brother should be deleted, the circuit overseer who serves the brother’s congregation will generate a letter of deletion to the body of elders. Upon receipt of the letter of deletion, the announcement of deletion should be made at the next midweek meeting. END]