Jehovah's Witnesses and congregational discipline
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Jehovah's Witnesses employ various levels of congregational discipline as formal controls administered by congregation elders. Guilt and repentance are determined by a tribunal of elders, and hearings concerning what they term "serious sin" are performed by formal judicial committees. A variety of controls can be enforced, from restriction of duties performed in the congregation to excommunication, known as disfellowshipping, and shunning by the congregation. Members who are disfellowshipped have an opportunity to regain membership. The practice of disfellowshipping has been criticized by many non-members and ex-members.
- 1 Correction
- 2 Discipline involving non-judicial situations
- 3 Discipline involving "serious sin"
- 4 Unbaptized publishers
- 5 Critical view
- 6 References
Non-judicial situations involve actions that are considered sinful or simply regrettable but are not considered to be of sufficient gravity to necessitate a judicial committee, and cannot result in disfellowshipping from the congregation; specific action by congregation elders is not administered in such situations, but counsel (or correction) may be provided by a mature Witness in addition to self-discipline and family discipline. Elders may also give recommendations or warnings to members in non-judicial situations.
If an active baptized Witness is considered to have committed a "serious sin" for which the sinner must demonstrate formal repentance, correction (or, "discipline") is administered by the congregation’s body of elders. Such situations usually involve a "judicial committee" of three or more elders.
Discipline involving non-judicial situations
At the elders' discretion, "non-judicial" situations may involve discipline of one or more of several types, presented here in escalating seriousness.
At conventions and assemblies, and about once each month at a local Service Meeting, a short talk regarding "Local needs" is presented. An elder addresses matters that are relevant to the local congregation, with instructions outlining the course of action considered appropriate. No specific individuals are identified during the talk. At times, some temporary policy may be announced that might be seen as disciplinary; for example, it may be that an additional attendant is assigned outside a Kingdom Hall to discourage children from running on the sidewalk.
Personal "shepherding visits" are intended to encourage members of the congregation, though may also include counsel and correction, then or on a subsequent visit. Two elders (or an elder and a ministerial servant) may schedule and perform a particular shepherding visit on their own or at the direction of the body of elders.
Withheld recommendations or assignments
The body of elders may withhold its recommendation for a member to serve in a new position of responsibility, though still permitting existing responsibilities.
For example, a ministerial servant who consistently seems insufficiently prepared for his meeting parts may have such assignments withheld for a time, even though he may continue serving as a ministerial servant or in some other "special privilege of service".
Loss of "special privileges"
Elders, ministerial servants, pioneers, or other appointed Witnesses can lose their "special privileges of service". For example, an elder may be removed or choose to step aside voluntarily from his position if members of his household are not in "good standing". After resignation or removal from an appointed position, an announcement is made during the congregation's Service Meeting indicating that the person is "no longer serving", without elaboration.
Limited "privileges of service"
An active Jehovah's Witness may have their congregational "privileges of service" limited even without having committed a serious sin. For example, the body of elders may feel that a member wronged others by some investment scheme which was not necessarily fraudulent. While Witnesses sometimes refer to field ministry, after-meeting cleanup, and other responsibilities as "privileges", the term "privileges of service" often implies a specific range of assignments assisting elders and ministerial servants with meeting demonstrations and other responsibilities. Such limitations are usually temporary.
Members who persist in a course considered scripturally wrong after repeated counsel by elders, but who are not guilty of something for which they could be disfellowshipped, can be "marked", based on Jehovah's Witnesses' interpretation of 2 Thessalonians 3:14. Though not shunned, "marked" individuals are looked upon as bad company and social interaction outside of formal worship settings is generally curtailed. This action is intended to "shame" the person into following a particular course of action. "Marking" is indicated by means of a talk given at the Service Meeting outlining the shameful course, but without explicitly naming any particular individual. Members who know whose actions are being discussed may then consider the individual "marked".
Discipline involving "serious sin"
List of "serious sins"
Jehovah's Witnesses consider many actions to be "serious sins", for which baptized Witnesses are subject to disfellowshipping or formal reproof. Actions for which a member can be disfellowshipped include: abortion, adultery, apostasy, bestiality, blood transfusions, "brazen conduct" or "loose conduct", drug abuse, drunkenness, extortion, fornication, fraud, gambling, greed, homosexual activity, idolatry, incest, interfaith activity, lying, manslaughter, murder, "perverted sex relations", polygamy, pornography, reviling, sexual abuse, slander, spiritism, theft, and use of tobacco.
Evidence for actions that can result in congregational discipline is obtained by voluntary confession to the elders or by witnesses of the violation. A minimum of two witnesses is required to establish guilt, based on their understanding of Deuteronomy 17:6 and Matthew 18:16, unless the person confesses voluntarily. Members are instructed to report serious sins committed by others members. Failure to report a serious sin of another member is viewed as sharing in the sins of others, a sin before God. Witnesses are instructed that pledges of confidentiality may be broken to report what they believe to be transgressions.
A congregation's body of elders considers confessions or credible allegations of serious sin, and decides whether a judicial committee will be formed to address the matter. A judicial committee, usually consisting of three elders, investigates the details of the alleged sin further. The committee arranges a formal judicial hearing to determine the circumstances of the sin, whether the accused is repentant, and whether disciplinary actions will be taken.
In certain situations, a body of elders may handle a situation involving "serious sin" by a baptized Witness without a judicial committee:
- Minor or newly baptized - A minor or newly baptized Witness might commit one or two acts of "serious sin" involving tobacco or overdrinking; repercussions as for 'non-judicial' situations may still be imposed.
- Repentance - The body of elders may believe the sinner's repentance has been established and accepted. For example, if a member committed a "serious sin" several years ago, had formally repented in prayer, and the sin did not involve scheming. Witnesses are strongly discouraged from waiting years to resolve such matters; even if years have passed since the serious sin, it is typical for a judicial committee to be formed, and there may still be repercussions as for ‘non-judicial’ situations.
- Judicial abeyance - Elders may become aware of a "serious sin" committed by a baptized Witness who has been inactive for some time and is not perceived as a Jehovah’s Witness. If the alleged sinner is not associating with active Witnesses, the elders may indefinitely postpone a judicial committee and formal hearing unless and until the individual renews their association with the congregation.
A person accused of a serious sin is informed of the allegations and invited to attend a judicial committee meeting. The individual is permitted to bring witnesses who can speak in their defense; observers are not allowed, and the hearing is held privately even if the accused individual requests that it be heard openly so all may witness the evidence. Recording devices are not permitted at the hearing. If the accused repeatedly fails to attend an arranged hearing, the committee will proceed but will not make a decision until evidence and testimony by witnesses are considered.
The committee takes the role of prosecutor, judge and jury when handling its cases. After the hearing is opened with a prayer, the accused is invited to make a personal statement. If there is no admission of guilt, the individual is informed of the source of the charges and witnesses are presented one at a time to give evidence. Witnesses do not remain present for the entire hearing. Once all the evidence is presented, the accused and all witnesses are dismissed and the committee reviews the evidence and the attitude of the accused.
The committee may determine that there was no "serious sin", or that mitigating circumstances absolve the accused individual. The committee may then proceed with discipline such as is described for 'non-judicial' situations. Alternatively, the committee may decide that a serious sin was committed, in which case, the committee gives verbal admonitions and gauges the individual's attitude and repentance. The committee then decides whether discipline will involve formal reproof or disfellowshipping.
Reproof involves actions for which a person could be disfellowshipped, and is said to be an effort to 'reach the heart' and convince a person of the need to hate the sanctioned actions and repent. Reproof is considered sufficient if the individual is deemed repentant. Reproof is given before all who are aware of the transgression. If the conduct is known only to the individual and the judicial committee, reproof is given privately. If the sin is known by a small number, they would be invited by the elders, and reproof would be given before the sinner and those with knowledge of the sin. If the action is known generally by the entire congregation or the wider community, an announcement is made that the person "has been reproved". A related talk may be given, separately to the announcement, without naming anyone.
In all cases of reproof, restrictions are imposed, typically prohibiting the individual from sharing in meeting parts, commenting during meetings, and giving group prayers. A reproved Witness cannot enroll as a pioneer or auxiliary pioneer for at least one year after reproof is given.
All members are expected to abide by the beliefs and moral standards of Jehovah's Witnesses, and serious violations of these requirements can result in disfellowshipping if not deemed repentant; the term is used in reference to both the act of congregational expulsion (similar to excommunication) and subsequent shunning. When a judicial committee decides that a baptized Witness has committed a serious sin and is unrepentant, the person is disfellowshipped. A person can appeal if they believe that a serious error in judgment has been made. Requests for appeal must be made in writing and within seven days of the decision of the judicial committee. If the decision is not appealed, an announcement is made at the Service Meeting that the named individual "is no longer one of Jehovah's Witnesses", without any further explanation. Shunning starts immediately after the announcement is made.
If a baptized Witness teaches contrary to Witness doctrines, it is considered apostasy and grounds for disfellowshipping. A 1981 letter to overseers—reproduced in a book by former Governing Body member Raymond Franz—directed that a member who "persists in believing other doctrine", even without promoting such beliefs, may also be subject to disfellowshipping. Elders usually try to reason with the individual before such action is taken. If a person believes that a teaching should be adjusted or changed, he is encouraged "to be patient and wait on Jehovah for change".
All members are encouraged to have a detailed understanding of what is expected and the consequences of wrongdoing. The stated purpose of congregation discipline is to help erring ones be restored to spiritual health, to help uphold the organization's reputation, and to keep the congregation clean from wrong conduct.
Jehovah's Witnesses shun disfellowshipped individuals, a process Watch Tower Society publications describe as "withholding fellowship". Their shunning policy is based on their interpretation of scriptures such as 1 Corinthians 5:11-13; Matthew 18:15-17; and 2 John 9-11.
Witnesses state that avoiding interaction with disfellowshipped former adherents helps to:
- avoid reproach on God's name and organization by indicating that violations of the Bible's standards in their ranks are not tolerated;
- keep the congregation free of possible corrosive influences; and
- convince the disfellowshipped individual to re-evaluate their course of action, repent and rejoin the religion.
Shunning is also practised when a member formally resigns membership or is deemed to indicate, by their actions, a statement, or their association with another religion, that they do not wish to be known as a Witness. Such individuals are said to have disassociated, and are described by the Watch Tower Society as "lawless" in a spiritual sense. In either case ("disfellowshipping" or "disassociating"), an announcement is made at the Kingdom Hall that "[full name] is no longer one of Jehovah's Witnesses." This announcement is made at the congregation the person attends. Congregation members are not informed whether a person is being shunned due to "disfellowshipping" or "disassociation", nor on what grounds. The Watchtower states that "apostates are “mentally diseased,” and they seek to infect others with their disloyal teachings. (1 Timothy 6:3, 4 [NWT])."; some have stated that this applies to all individuals who leave the organization.
Failure to adhere to the directions on shunning is itself considered a serious offense. Members who continue to speak to or associate with a disfellowshipped or disassociated person are said to be sharing in their "wicked works" and may themselves be punished by disfellowshipping. Exceptions are made in some cases such as business relations and immediate family household situations. If a disfellowshipped person is living in the same home with other baptized family members, religious matters are not discussed, with the exception of minors, for whose training parents are still responsible. Disfellowshipped family members outside the home are shunned.
Disfellowshipped individuals can continue attending meetings held at the Kingdom Hall, though they are shunned by the congregation. Attending meetings while being shunned is a requirement for eventual reinstatement.
Disfellowshipped individuals may be reinstated into the congregation if they are considered repentant of their previous actions and attitude. When a disassociated or disfellowshipped individual requests reinstatement, a judicial committee, (the committee originally involved, if available) seeks to determine whether the person has repented. Such individuals must demonstrate that they no longer practice the conduct for which they were expelled from the congregation, as well as submission to the religion's regulations. Individuals disfellowshipped for actions no longer considered serious sins, such as organ transplants, are not automatically reinstated. Meeting attendance while being shunned is considered by the organization as an important step toward eventual reinstatement. Once a decision is made to reinstate, a brief announcement is made to the congregation that the disfellowshipped member is once again one of Jehovah's Witnesses.
Elders are instructed to make an attempt each year to remind disfellowshipped ones of the steps they can take to qualify for reinstatement. No specific period of time is prescribed before this can happen, however the Watch Tower Society suggests a period of "perhaps many months, a year, or longer." In 1974, the Watch Tower Society stated that about one third of those disfellowshipped eventually return to the group, based on figures gathered from 1963 to 1973.
In June 1987, the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld the Witnesses' right to shun those who fail to live by the group's standards and doctrines, upholding the ruling of a lower court, finding that "shunning is a practice engaged in by Jehovah's Witnesses pursuant to their interpretation of canonical text, and we are not free to reinterpret that text … The defendants are entitled to the free exercise of their religious beliefs … The members of the Church [she] decided to abandon have concluded that they no longer want to associate with her. We hold that they are free to make that choice."
An unbaptized individual who has previously been approved to share in Jehovah's Witnesses' formal ministry or participate in their Theocratic Ministry School, but who subsequently behaves in a manner considered inappropriate may lose privileges, such as commenting at meetings, receiving assignments, or even accompanying the congregation in the public ministry.
If an unbaptized individual is deemed unrepentant of actions for which baptized members might be disfellowshipped, an announcement would be made that the person "is no longer a publisher of the good news." Such individuals were previously shunned, but formal restrictions are no longer imposed on unbaptized individuals, though association is generally curtailed. The elders might privately warn individuals in the congregation if the unbaptized person is considered to pose "an unusual threat".
The only way to officially leave Jehovah's Witnesses is to disassociate or be disfellowshipped, and both entail the same set of prohibitions and penalties, with no provision for continued normal association. Sociologist Andrew Holden has claimed that fear of family break-up or loss causes people who might otherwise freely leave the religion to remain members. Jehovah's Witnesses state that disfellowshipping is a scripturally documented method to protect the congregation from the influence of those who practice serious wrongdoing. Critics contend that the judicial process itself, due to its private and nearly autonomous nature, directly contradicts the precedent found in the Bible and the organization's own teachings and can be used in an arbitrary manner if there is consensus among just a few to abuse their authority.
According to Raymond Franz, a letter dated September 1, 1980, from the Watch Tower Society to all circuit and district overseers advised that a member who "merely disagrees in thought with any of the Watch Tower Society's teachings is committing apostasy and is liable for disfellowshipping." The letter states that one does not have to "promote" different doctrines to be an apostate, adding that elders need to "discern between one who is a trouble-making apostate and a Christian who becomes weak in the faith and has doubts." Watch Tower Society publications indicate that some type of action is required for a member to be disfellowshipped, rather than a 'disagreement in thought'.
- "Speak What "Is Good for Building Up"", "Keep Yourselves in God’s Love", page 142-143
- "Maintaining the Peace and Cleanness of the Congregation", Organized to Do Jehovah's Will, page 151
- Our Kingdom Ministry, Service meeting schedule, 1992-2009
- "Question Box", Our Kingdom Ministry, March 1972, page 4
- "Do You Accept Jehovah’s Help?", The Watchtower, December 15, 2004, page 21
- "Charisma—Praise to Man or Glory to God?", The Watchtower, February 15, 1998, page 27
- "How Christian Shepherds Serve You", The Watchtower, March 15, 1996, page 27
- "Announcements", Our Kingdom Ministry, June 2005, page 3
- "Guidelines for School Overseers", Benefit From Theocratic Ministry School Education, ©2001 Watch Tower, page 284, subheading "Making Assignments"
- Jehovah's Witnesses use the term "special privileges of service" for positions requiring formal appointment or approval, such as elder, ministerial servant, pioneer, Bethel (branch) service, and schools such as Gilead and Ministerial Training School; "Make Room for It", Our Kingdom Ministry, April 2003, page 1
- Draw Close To Jehovah chap. 26 pp. 268-269 par. 22
- The Watchtower 10/15/96 p. 21 par. 7 Father and Elder—Fulfilling Both Roles
- "Announcements", Our Kingdom Ministry, February 1991, page 7
- "Let Discernment Safeguard You", The Watchtower, March 15, 1997, page 19
- "Let Your Advancement Be Manifest", Theocratic Ministry School Guidebook, page 191
- "Are You Reaching Out?", The Watchtower, September 1, 1990, page 23
- The Watchtower 4/15/85 p. 31 Questions From Readers
- "Questions From Readers". The Watchtower: 12. 15 April 2009. "Understanding that timeless truth has helped millions of Christians to repudiate the practice of abortion, seeing it as a serious sin against God."
- "Apostasy" includes publicly challenging the religion's teachings
- Jehovah's Witnesses—Proclaimers of God's Kingdom. pp. 182–184. "Consistent with that understanding of matters, beginning in 1961 any who ignored the divine requirement, accepted blood transfusions, and manifested an unrepentant attitude were disfellowshipped from the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses."
- Shepherd the Flock of God, pages 60, "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."
- "Questions from Readers: What does the expression 'loose conduct' as found at Galatians 5:19 mean?". (September 15, 1973). The Watchtower, p. 574, "It is not limited to acts of sexual immorality. And, rather than relating to bad conduct of a somewhat petty or minor nature, it apparently describes acts that reflect a brazen attitude, one that betrays disrespect, disregard or even contempt for standards, laws and authority. The ‘looseness' of the conduct, therefore, is not due principally to weakness but results from an attitude of disrespect, insolence or shamelessness."
- "You Must Be Holy Because Jehovah Is Holy". The Watchtower: 123. 15 February 1976. "Jehovah has brought to the attention of his “holy” people the need to disfellowship those dedicated, baptized Christians who refuse to break and give up the drug and tobacco habits."
- Shepherd the Flock of God, page 69
- Shepherd the Flock of God, p. 67-68
- Shepherd the Flock of God, page 65
- The Watchtower, June 15, 2009, p. 18, "Speak Truth With Your Neighbor".
- "Honor Godly Marriage!", The Watchtower, March 15, 1983, p. 31
- "Adjust the Bible to Polygamy?". The Watchtower: 10. 1 July 1985. "polygamy is not to be condoned for any Christian regardless of nationality or circumstance. ... This leaves no room for polygamy among true Christians."
- Watchtower 7/15/06 p. 31 Questions From Readers; "But not all viewing of pornography calls for a hearing before a judicial committee. … However, suppose a Christian has secretly viewed abhorrent, sexually degrading pornography for years and has done everything possible to conceal this sin. Such pornography might feature gang rape, bondage, sadistic torture, the brutalizing of women, or even child pornography. When others become aware of his conduct, he is deeply ashamed. He has not been brazen, but the elders may determine that he has ‘given himself over’ to this filthy habit and has practiced ‘uncleanness with greediness,’ that is, gross uncleanness. A judicial committee would be formed because gross uncleanness is involved. The wrongdoer would be disfellowshipped if he did not display godly repentance"
- "Prevention in the Home". Awake!: 10. 8 October 1993. "Similarly the Christian congregation today enforces strong laws against all forms of sexual abuse. Anyone who sexually abuses a child risks being disfellowshipped, put out of the congregation."
- "Personally Benefiting from the Bible’s Laws and Principles". The Watchtower: 404–405. 1 July 1970. "In the Christian congregation there are definite laws against adultery, incest, homosexuality, bestiality, murder, stealing and other things, any of which, when committed by a Christian, would bring reproach from the world against the congregation. These things the Bible has put under the authority of the congregation, that is, it is required to take some action."
- Insight on the Scriptures 1. p. 788. "Some of the offenses that could merit disfellowshipping from the Christian congregation are fornication, adultery, homosexuality, greed, extortion, thievery, lying, drunkenness, reviling, spiritism, murder, idolatry, apostasy, and the causing of divisions in the congregation."
- Pay Attention to Yourselves and to All the Flock, p. 111
- August 15, 1997 Watchtower, p. 27
- Insight in the Scriptures, Volume 2, p. 969.
- "A Time to Speak--When?" Watchtower, September 1, 1987, pp. 12-15
- "New Arrangements for Congregation Organization", Our Kingdom Ministry, September 1977, pages 5-6
- ""Gifts in Men" to Care for Jehovah’s Sheep", The Watchtower, June 1, 1999, page 14
- "Elders, Judge With Righteousness", The Watchtower, July 1, 1992, page 16
- "Disfellowshipping—A Loving Provision?", The Watchtower, July 15, 1995, page 25
- "Jehovah’s Sheep Need Tender Care", The Watchtower, January 15, 1996, page 18
- "Questions From Readers", The Watchtower, July 15, 2006, pages 30-31"
- "Question Box", Our Kingdom Ministry, October 1972, page 8
- "Make Wise Use of Your Christian Freedom", June 1, 1992, page 19
- ""A Time to Speak"—When?", The Watchtower, September 1, 1987, page 14
- Pay Attention to Yourselves and All the Flock, Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society, 1991, page 110-120.
- Raymond Franz, In Search of Christian Freedom, Commentary Press, 2007, page 321.
- It is unclear whether accused individuals have always had the option to call witnesses. The judicial committee hearing accusations that resulted in the disfellowshipping of Canadian Witness James Penton in February 1981 refused Penton's request to have a lawyer present and to call witnesses. See James A. Beverley, Crisis of Allegiance (Welch Publishing, 1986, page 71).
- M. James Penton, Apocalypse Delayed, University of Toronto Press, 1997, page 89.
- "New Arrangements for Congregation Organization", Our Kingdom Ministry, September 1977, page 6
- The Watchtower 12/1/76 p. 723 par. 15 How Wise Reprovers Aid Erring Ones
- The Watchtower 9/1/81 p. 23 par. 9 Repentance Leading Back to God
- "Imitate Jehovah—Exercise Justice and Righteousness", The Watchtower, August 1, 1998, page 17
- The Watchtower 9/15/87 p. 13 par. 13
- The Watchtower 9/1/81 p. 26 par. 23 Repentance Leading Back to God
- The Watchtower 12/1/76 p. 733 par. 14 Giving Reproof "Before All Onlookers"
- '"Maintaining the Peace and Cleanness of the Congregation", Organized to Do Jehovah's Will, ©2005 Watch Tower, page 151, "Elders will use reasonableness and discernment in determining whether a particular situation is sufficiently serious and disturbing to require a warning talk. This talk will not name the disorderly one. However, those who are aware of the situation described in the talk will take heed"
- Organized to Do Jehovah's Will 2005, p. 152.
- Our Kingdom Ministry March 1983, p. 3.
- "Always Accept Jehovah’s Discipline", The Watchtower, November 15, 2006, page 30, "During the time that an individual who has been judicially reproved is healing spiritually, ...it would be beneficial for the repentant one to listen rather than comment at meetings. The elders may arrange for someone to have a Bible study with him to strengthen him where he is weak so that he may again become “healthy in faith.” (Titus 2:2) All of this is done in love and is not intended to punish the wrongdoer."
- "Disfellowshiping—How to View It", The Watchtower, September 15, 1981, page 22, "Thus "disfellowshiping" is what Jehovah’s Witnesses appropriately call the expelling and subsequent shunning of such an unrepentant wrongdoer. [emphasis added]"
- Pay Attention to Yourselves and to All the Flock. 1991. pp. 121–122.
- To All Circuit and District Overseers, September 1, 1980, "Keep in mind that to be disfellowshipped, an apostate does not have to be a promoter of apostate views. ... if a baptized Christian abandons the teachings of Jehovah, as presented by the faithful and discreet slave, and persists in believing other doctrine despite Scriptural reproof, then he is apostatizing. ... [If] he continues to believe the apostate ideas and rejects what he has been provided through the 'slave class,' then appropriate judicial action should be taken. ... [If] something reasonably substantial comes to the attention of the elders along this line, it would be appropriate to make a kindly, discreet inquiry so as to protect the flock." Letter reproduced in Crisis of Conscience, Raymond Franz, 1983, chapter 11.
- The Watchtower 6/1/98 p. 19 par. 17 "Put Up a Hard Fight for the Faith"!
- "Show a Waiting Attitude!" The Watchtower September 1, 2000 page 11. Retrieved on 2013-02-02.
- How Baptism Can Save Us The Watchtower Jan 15, 1989, p. 17.
- The Watchtower 11/15/06 p. 27 par. 6 Always Accept Jehovah’s Discipline
- "Beliefs—Frequently Asked Questions", Authorized Site of the Office of Public Information of Jehovah's Witnesses, As Retrieved 2009-08-28, "Do you shun former members? ... If, however, someone unrepentantly practices serious sins, such as drunkenness, stealing or adultery, he will be disfellowshipped and such an individual is avoided by former fellow-worshipers. ... The marriage relationship and normal family affections and dealings can continue. ... Disfellowshipped individuals may continue to attend religious services and, if they wish, they may receive spiritual counsel from the elders with a view to their being restored. They are always welcome to return to the faith [emphasis retained from source]"
- "Keep Yourselves in God's Love", page 35.
- "You May Gain Your Brother", The Watchtower, October 15, 1999, page 22.
- Jealous for the Pure Worship of Jehovah, The Watchtower September 15, 1995, p. 11.
- The Bible's Viewpoint - Why Disfellowshipping Is a Loving Arrangement Awake! September 8, 1996, p. 26-27.
- Questions from readers, The Watchtower, October 15, 1986, page 31.
- "Disfellowshiping—How to View It", The Watchtower, September 15, 1981, page 23.
- "Do You Hate Lawlessness?", The Watchtower, February 15, 2011, page 31, "Do we share Jesus’ view of those who have become set in their lawless course? We need to give thought to these questions: ‘Would I choose to associate regularly with someone who has been disfellowshipped or who has disassociated himself from the Christian congregation? What if that one is a close relative who no longer lives at home?’ Such a situation can be a real test of our loyalty to God."
- Shepherd the Flock of God, p. 104.
- "Will You Heed Jehovah's Clear Warnings?", The Watchtower, July 15, 2011, pages 15 and
- Holden, Andrew (2002). Jehovah's Witnesses: Portrait of a Contemporary Religious Movement. Routledge. p. 163. ISBN 0-415-26609-2.
- Taylor, Jerome (27 September 2011). "War of words breaks out among Jehovah's Witnesses". The Independent.
- "Jehovah's Witnesses church likens defectors to 'contagious, deadly disease'", Sunday Herald Sun, page 39, October 2, 2011.
- Pay Attention to Yourselves and all the Flock, Unit 5(a) p. 103. The section cites 2 John 11 ("For he that says a greeting to him is a sharer in his wicked works.")
- Botting, Heather; Gary Botting (1984), The Orwellian World of Jehovah's Witnesses, University of Toronto Press, p. 91, ISBN 0-8020-6545-7
- "How to Treat a Disfellowshipped Person", "Keep Yourselves in God’s Love", ©2008 Watch Tower, page 207-208, "We do not have spiritual or social fellowship with disfellowshipped ones. ...In some instances, the disfellowshipped family member may still be living in the same home as part of the immediate household. Since his being disfellowshipped does not sever the family ties, normal day-to-day family activities and dealings may continue. Yet, by his course, the individual has chosen to break the spiritual bond between him and his believing family. So loyal family members can no longer have spiritual fellowship with him. [emphasis added]"
- "How Can You Help a 'Prodigal' Child?". Watchtower: 16–17. October 1, 2001.
- "Disfellowshiping—How to View It". Watchtower: 26. September 15, 1981. "It might be possible to have almost no contact at all with the relative. Even if there were some family matters requiring contact, this certainly would be kept to a minimum"
- "Safeguard Your Heart". Awake!: 28. 8 July 1970. "And if he seeks reinstatement, he must show his sincerity by attending congregation meetings with no one speaking to him, all the while giving evidence of repentance."
- The Watchtower 4/15/91 p. 21 par. 6
- The Watchtower 8/1/98 p. 16 par. 16 Imitate Jehovah—Exercise Justice and Righteousness
- The Watchtower 5/1/98 p. 15 par. 10 " True repentance comes from the heart, from the depths of our being"
- The Watchtower 11/15/06 p. 27 par. 9 Always Accept Jehovah’s Discipline
- The Watchtower 8/15/92 p. 31 A Step on the Way Back
- The Watchtower 8/15/82 p. 31 A Step on the Way Back
- Shepherd the Flock of God. Watch Tower Society. p. 119.
- Divine Mercy Points the Way Back for Erring Ones The Watchtower Aug 1, 1974, p. 466 par. 24.
- "Discipline That Can Yield Peaceable Fruit", The Watchtower April 15, 1988, pages 26-30, Online
- "Religion: The Right To Shun", Time magazine, June 29, 1987, Online, "The Constitution's guarantee of "free exercise," said the appeals panel, applies even to unpopular groups and practices"
- The Watchtower 11/15/88 p. 18 par. 14 Helping Others to Worship God
- The Watchtower 11/15/88 p. 19 par. 17 Helping Others to Worship God
- The Watchtower 11/15/88 p. 19 par. 19 Helping Others to Worship God
- Holden, Andrew (2002). Jehovah's Witnesses: Portrait of a Contemporary Religious Movement. Routledge. pp. 150, 156–157. ISBN 0-415-26609-2.
- Jehovah’s Witnesses – Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom chap. 15 p. 232 "Development of the Organization Structure"
- Raymond Franz, In Search Of Christian Freedom, pp.374–390. Franz claims the Watch Tower organization ignores the "clear principle of openness in the conduct of judicial proceedings" and cites the Watch Tower Society publication, Insight on the Scriptures, Vol 1, p. 518, which states that "publicity that would be afforded any trial at the gate would tend to influence the judges toward care and justice in the trial proceedings and in their decisions".
- Franz, Raymond. Crisis of Conscience. 4th ed. Atlanta: Commentary Press, 2004. pp. 341-2. ISBN 0-914675-24-9.
- The Watchtower March 15, 1986 p.15 paragraph 17 "Do Not Be Quickly Shaken From Your Reason"; The Watchtower October 15, 1986 p. 31 Questions From Readers; The Watchtower October 1, 1989 p. 19 paragraph 14 Maintain Your Faith and Spiritual Health; Pay Attention to Yourselves and all the Flock p. 94-95; The Watchtower May 1, 2000 p.12 par. 19 Firmly Uphold Godly Teaching; The Watchtower September 1, 2000 p. 13 par. 10 Show a Waiting Attitude!; The Watchtower April 1, 1986 pp. 30-31 Questions From Readers.