Is Disfellowshipping a Biblical Teaching?

Is Disfellowshipping a Biblical teaching?

Jehovah’s Witnesses do not admit that they practice shunning. Yet they practice disfellowshipping which is a form of shunning. If you look on the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section of their website regarding Shunning, you will notice in the first paragraph that they immediately deflect the question. See Screenshot:

Do Jehovah's Witnesses Shun Former Members?
Screenshot from JW.org. Title & Paragraph 1

They italicize the word “not” before the word “shunned” when referring to Jehovah’s Witnesses who “no longer preach” or drift “away from association with fellow believers”. However these individuals are not “Former Members” upon which the title of their FAQ is discussing. Rather, they are inactive members. Jehovah’s Witnesses may “reach out to [inactive members] … and try to rekindle their spiritual interest” but this is a short-lived practice. If the spiritual interest cannot be rekindled within the first couple of years, Jehovah’s Witnesses usually give up calling on them and soon they become forgotten. Yet, even then, they are not former members. They are inactive members. Therefore, this paragraph is both misleading and redundant.

Simplifying Complex Factors

We do not automatically disfellowship
Screenshot from JW.org. Paragraph 2

Reading the above screenshot, JW.org state that they “do not automatically disfellowship someone who commits a serious sin”, going on to state that a baptised member who “makes a practice of breaking the bible’s moral code and does not repent, he or she will be shunned or disfellowshipped.” Though, theses statements may seem straight forward, they are very complex:

  • What constitutes a serious sin?
  • How do you determine if someone is a practiser of breaking the bible’s moral code?
  • Is one who is determined to be a practiser of breaking the bible’s moral code truly given an opportunity to show true repentance?
  • How does one know if someone is truly repentant?

Yet, despite the complexity of the factors involved in whether to disfellowship someone or not, they back up their justification for shunning with just one scripture: 1 Corinthians 5:13. Interestingly, no mention is given to Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians where “the bible clearly states” at 2 Corinthians 2:5-11 how to deal in a forgiving way with someone who has committed a sin. Indeed, in verse 11, Paul admonishes us to be forgiving “so that we may not be over-reached by Satan”. In the secretive Elder’s Manual, Shepherd the Flock of God, only once are verses 6 & 7 of 2 Corinthians 2 mentioned, and those verses are taken out of context to justify reinstating a person. Those verses are never used in relation to forgiving someone who is truly repentant, prior to being disfellowshipped or shunned.

Shunning has been glossed over in just 3 brief sentences on JW.org. How humiliating for the hundreds of thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses who continue to be shunned every day of their lives!

Normal Families for the Shunned?

What of a man who is disfellowshipped but whose wife and children are still Jehovah’s Witnesses?
Screenshot from JW.org. Paragraph 3.

From the above screenshot, the reader is led to believe that disfellowshipping has no impact on the blood relationships that a man may hold with his wife and family. This is a blatant lie! Shunning applies within families as it does to other members of the congregation:

  • Parents will shun their children
  • Children will shun their parents
  • Siblings will shun siblings

The above shunning situation applies equally to grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces and nephews. As writer of this article, I can attest to this. I am currently shunned by my family & extended family, except for an aunt and uncle whom are not Jehovah’s Witnesses. Yes, I am completely shunned by my parents, 4 siblings, 2 aunts and their husbands, along with 6 cousins, 4 nieces and 2 nephews. These numbers do not include my in-Laws who also shun me. In fact, I have received texts from my own siblings and my own mother telling me to stop calling, texting, and emailing them because I am a danger and a threat to their spirituality. Basically, they have said that I am no longer a part of their families.

The truth is, the blood ties DO NOT remain when one is shunned. The marriage relationship and normal family affections and dealings DO NOT continue after one is shunned.

Shunned at Religious Services

Disfellowshipped individuals may attend our religious services
Screenshot from JW.org. Paragraph 4.

The above screenshot is true, based on the assumption that Jehovah’s Witnesses “live by the Bible’s standards”. However, this paragraph conveniently forgets to mention how a disfellowshipped one will be treated at the kingdom hall:

  • No member will look a disfellowshipped person in the eye.
  • Members will walk away from disfellowshipped persons.
  • If a member mistakenly introduces oneself to a disfellowshipped person, and the disfellowshipped person points it out, the member will quickly hurry away without an apology or without excusing themselves.
  • A Member will not shake the hand of a disfellowshipped person.
  • The elders, who are supposed to help disfellowshipped ones, will shun such a person until he makes a formal request by means of a letter requesting reinstatement to the congregation.

The above actions are contrary to 2 Corinthians 2:5-11. None of the above are consistent with a Christ-like attitude. Nonetheless, Jehovah’s Witnesses like to pride themselves on the misguided idea that everything they do is bible based.

Is Shunning Pagan?

The greatest irony regarding Jehovah’s Witnesses’s practice of shunning is that they once preached that it was a pagan practice. In the January 8, 1947 Awake magazine, pages 27 & 28, under the title, Are You Also Excommunicated? the Watchtower Society wrote the following (Click images below to read text full size):

As you can see, the first 2 paragraphs depict exactly what the Watchtower Society currently does to former members and to those who they deem have committed serious sins: they are demonized and said to be influenced by Satan. The article says that Catholics will even excommunicate “born-in’s”. If you are one of Jehovah’s Witnesses or a former member, this will all sound very familiar.

It goes on to say that this “pretext” of excommunication is pagan. They state that there is no support for it in scripture and that it is altogether foreign to bible teachings. They call it a weapon used by the clergy to gain ecclesiastical power and secular tyranny. They say it finds no parallel in history.

  • It is Pagan?
  • It has no Support in Scripture?
  • It is Foreign to Bible Teachings?

This contradicts EVERYTHING they use to justify shunning: the scriptures they use here to refute the teaching of shunning are the very same scriptures they use to justify shunning!

Would you eat a piece of candy picked up from the gutter?

Even if Jehovah’s Witnesses were to attempt to dismiss this article based on the fact that it is an old teaching, it doesn’t change the fact that it is a pagan practice. The Watchtower publication, What Does the Bible Really Teach, pages 157-160, paragraphs 9 & 10, states clearly that it is important to know where things come from. Therefore, if the Watchtower Society discovered in 1947 that excommunication was a pagan belief with no support in scripture, then how could it now no longer be a pagan belief and have support in scripture? Consider this image on the right of a dirty lollipop. Would you eat if if you knew it came from a gutter? Would you eat it if someone washed it and put it in a wrapper? Of course not.  That’s exactly what Jehovah’s Witnesses have done with shunning: they found it in the gutter of paganism, washed it free of its origins and wrapped it up in scriptures that do not support it.

Biblical Basis for Shunning?

If anyone was deserving of being shunned, according to bible principles upon which Jehovah’s Witnesses base their beliefs on, it would have been Judas Iscariot. He betrayed Jesus Christ for the price of a slave: 30 pieces of silver. Yet, the bible says that Jesus called him a friend. Yes, Jesus referred to Judas as a friend, or comrade, even when he knew Judas gave him the kiss of death. He never shunned Judas even though he knew that Judas was going to betray him. – Matthew 26:49-50, John 13:18-30

Another person who may have been deserving of shunning, according to the edicts of Jehovah’s witnesses, was the Apostle Peter. He vehemently denied Jesus three times. Yet, what did Jesus do a few days later?  Jesus had a meal with Peter and the other disciples where Jesus urged Peter to continually follow him (John 21:12-19). Before his death and before Peter’s denial, Jesus promised Peter the keys of the kingdom of the heavens (Matthew 16:19). Clearly, Jesus did not shun Peter nor did he take away any of his privileges. Yet, these are the things that happen all too often for Jehovah’s Witnesses when they confess sins, even if they are repentant. Truly, if one of Jehovah’s Witnesses was to deny their Governing Body’s self-appointed position as God’s mouthpiece on earth, they will be stripped off their privileges, disfellowshipped and shunned. Really, if the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses imitate Jesus Christ as their mediator and Head of the Christian Congregation, surely they should be following his example. Instead, they quickly move to remove any sort of dissent amongst the ranks using scriptures that do not support such actions.

Jesus ate and drank with sinners. He was known for that. The Pharisees even pointed to this when they tried to condemn Jesus. Yet, he shunned no one. What if Jesus was confronted with someone who was caught in the act of sin, 100% guilty? And let’s just say, for instance, this sin was deserving of the death penalty in those times. What would Jesus do? No need to wonder. Just read John 8:2-11. You cannot read these verses in the 2013 edition of the New World Translation but they are available to read in the 1984 edition. Compare Luke 19:1-9, John 4:1-26.

Should Apostates be Shunned?

Of all those who are to be shunned, Jehovah’s Witnesses reserve a special place for apostates. According to Shepherd the Flock of God, pages 65-66, the Watchtower Society considers the following persons apostates, based on their interpretation of the bible and what they consider Christian:

Of all the scriptures that the Watchtower has quoted to justify their reasons for apostasy, only one of those verses supports their basis for deeming a person an apostate. That verse is Acts 21:21, where it states in the New World Translation (2013):

But they have heard it rumored about you that you have been teaching all the Jews among the nations an apostasy from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or to follow the customary practices.

It is recommended that you read this verse in context and compare this verse with Romans 2:28-29 and 1 Corinthians 7:18-20. Clearly, the apostasy was just a rumor but it shows that apostasy is the spreading of teachings contrary to bible truth. Noteworthy is the fact that the bible does not in any way support the notion of bible truth as taught by Jehovah’s Witnesses; it only supports bible truth. Period.

In Jesus Time, the Jews would have considered the Samaritans as apostates. Why? Because, according to the Watchtower publication, Insight on the Scriptures Vol II, the Samaritans, “although they learned something about Jehovah through instruction by a priest of the Jeroboam priesthood, yet, as Samaria had done with the golden calves, they continued to worship their false gods, generation after generation. (2Ki 17:24-41).” Yes, the Jews shunned the Samaritans for their apostasy in the same way Jehovah’s Witnesses do to those whom they consider apostates. In this context, the words “samaritan” and “apostate” are interchangeable. Yet Jesus, whom Jehovah’s Witnesses claim to imitate, used Samaritans (apostates) to show what it means to be Christian:

  • In the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:29-37, Jesus clearly shows that an apostate can be your neighbour.
  • In John 4:7-26, Jesus revealed himself as the Messiah to an apostate woman.

Is the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ disfellowshipping arrangement a bible truth? Or only a “bible truth as taught by Jehovah’s Witnesses”? If it’s the latter, who really are the apostates?

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