Watchtower’s First Step Toward “Tithing”?

Jehovah's Witnesses Headquarters

Nice work for easy money? “Rip ’em off, keep ’em ignorant and poor” – could be the subtext of a new letter to the body of elders.

A letter dated 29th March 2014 is heading its way to all boards of elders at Congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses to be read to local Jehovah’s Witnesses during the last week of April. Operational changes described in the letter will become effective in May 2014.

The one page letter addressed to “Brothers,” written by the Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses (not the Watchtower Society), is titled “Adjustment to financing Kingdom Hall and Assembly Hall construction worldwide.”

A three page postscript accompanies the letter. Elders are instructed to not read that out to the Congregation or put it on the bulletin board.

Not surprisingly, the postscript is actually the most fascinating part of the communication. Some readers would say it gives instructions on how to lead the Congregation to believe that they are part of the decision-making process that has already taken place.

Elders are instructed that the “…previous policy letter of 7th December 2009 should be removed from the policy file and destroyed. Updated accounting instructions and forms will be provided in May 2014.”

That instruction seems to presuppose that there will be no objections or any non-compliance. A nodding resolution will be presented to each congregation even though members will not be given all the details.

The overall sense of the letter is one of moving toward more centralization. As many governments give powers back to communities to allow for more local decision-making, the Watchtower Society is moving in the other direction. They are taking away local control while asking for more money and providing less information at the congregation level.

The postscript also states congregations and circuits “will no longer be asked to repay an [existing] loan.”

Wouldn’t this would be good news for local congregations? Perhaps. But what about earlier loans? What about future building projects? What happens when congregations have already provided money for the building of their local Kingdom Hall? It looks like the Watchtower Society is not actually “forgiving” those loans, but just wants and expects more from each congregation.

Analysis of this letter suggests that none of the content is actually good news for local congregations. The letter is asking for “resolved monthly donations.” A “confidential survey” will be undertaken locally so that each “publisher” can indicate how much money they can give every month.

Once the money starts coming in and has been counted it “should not be submitted through Kingdom Hall operating accounts.”

Congregations will relabel contribution boxes and local Kingdom Hall bank accounts emptied. How will this be handled?

The postscript continues, “congregations will be asked to pool their resources worldwide.” The money should be sent to branch offices. There should be only two contribution boxes within each Kingdom Hall – one labeled “Worldwide Work” and the other “Local Congregation Expenses.”

Congregations are permitted to keep some money to pay for the local overhead costs. But a review should also take place as to whether any existing funds for future building work can be “donated…in full or in part” to the branch office. Similarly, any surplus cash in bank accounts “could be sent to the branch office as a donation.” The Congregation members will be asked to “nod” through a “one-time resolution” to make this an ongoing process, with any surplus money added to the “monthly resolved amounts sent to the branch office.”

Observers and critics hope that at least a few “publishers” (and even some elders) will start asking questions about why a multi-billion dollar corporation wants to make major changes to the way local contributions are managed? And why now?

It is also hoped that these changes will force local governments and national tax and revenue authorities to take a closer look at the “tax free status” of the Watchtower Society to decipher the implications of these changes at regional, national and global levels.

You can read a more detailed and comprehensive article about the letter at Link


About Susannah

"Susannah," JWReport's News and Opinion Editor, is very familiar with the Watchtower Society and its leaders past and present. An experienced editor and writer, she was born and raised in the UK where she was an active Jehovah's Witness until she was 28. She now lives and works in southern Europe.


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