Talk:Organizational structure of Jehovah's Witnesses

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Traveling overseers[edit]

The article Organizational structure of Jehovah's Witnesses should probably have two new subheadings under Governing Body, for:

That would make the place of those persons (role descriptions) more clear in the organizational flowchart. As is described elsewhere regarding JWs...

  • Whereas a branch office may be under a corporation, branch committees answer directly to the GBJW.
  • Whereas districts and circuits are under branches, district and circuit (and zone) overseers in significant respects are answerable primarily to the GBJW (the various branch office staff handles secondary workaday matters).

I'll try to get around to it, but am pretty busy IRL. --AuthorityTam (talk) 22:11, 2 August 2010 (UTC)

I'm not sure it is necessary to have branch committees in a separate section to branch offices. It should be adequate to indicate the line of authority in the relevant sections while maintaining separate sections. Having them as subsections of 'Governing Body' could imply they are part of the GB, unless the entire structure (including 'Congregations' etc) were adapted to a hierarchical heading structure, but that may result in an ungainly number of heading levels. On a related issue, I think that the Corporations section shouldn't be between Governing Body and other divisions subsidiary to the GB.--Jeffro77 (talk) 09:21, 3 August 2010 (UTC)

Next step in the hierarchy[edit]

Let's see, Unbaptized publishers, Minors, Students, Associates ... I think we should be seeing a new section soon on "Unborn children of baptized Witnesses". From there it will be "Householders", followed by "Not at homes" "Do not calls", "Passers-by" and "Billions not yet contacted and who will die at Armageddon as a result". Where will this tedious and absurd detail end? BlackCab (talk) 23:00, 12 August 2010 (UTC)

The Congregation subsections aren't really hierarchical, although each is listed in descending order of "privilege" and "responsibility".
The idea behind the new sections didn't originate with me.
See Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Jehovah's Witnesses#Jehovah's Witnesses and Family Members.
Editors may recall that a difference between an A and a B quality article is that the latter "may not be complete enough to satisfy a serious student or researcher." See Wikipedia:WikiProject Christianity/Assessment#Quality scale.
--AuthorityTam (talk) 05:19, 13 August 2010 (UTC)
There's detail and there's detail. I think it's getting a bit too damned detailed. The proposal for Jehovah's Witnesses and Family Members seemed to be aimed at creating an article critical of the disfellowshipping policy, so I'm not sure how the two ideas are connected. BlackCab (talk) 06:54, 13 August 2010 (UTC)
The purpose of the article is not to provide all the jargon terms that JWs use for various levels of people, especially if those people are not even members. Nor is it necessary to elaborate on every context in which a particular JW term is used. It is also unnecessary to provide bleedingly obvious detail, such as the fact that 'violent people may be told they're not welcome'. I have trimmed and arranged the new sections accordingly.--Jeffro77 (talk) 09:01, 13 August 2010 (UTC)
Regarding "associates" some extent, that's the issue: most denominations calculate "membership" from simple attendance rather than participation. It seems likely that JWs publish certain attendance statistics specifically so that academics and others can make more meaningful comparisons. What may be obvious to those familiar with the religion may be a point of confusion for a person beginning to study it. Regarding "children", I'm unconvinced that term is preferable to "minors"... The matter of children was just intended to be thorough, as is an explicit distinction between lower- and higher-graded articles.--AuthorityTam (talk) 21:48, 10 January 2011 (UTC)
I agree with your assessment of 'associates' for the same reason.
I don't have a strong preference for using either the word 'minors' or 'children'. But not, 'minor children' as it would be redundant.--Jeffro77 (talk) 08:44, 12 January 2011 (UTC)
In the United States, it is common for a parent and others to refer to her offspring as "my/her children" during their entire lives (that is, through the offsprings' adulthoods). The term "minor children" is not redundant in the context of this article section; aside from "publishers", participants in JWs' formal ministry must be BOTH 1) minor (younger than an accepted age of majority) AND 2) children/dependents of a "publisher". Because a "publisher" may have "adult children" or "minor children", the latter term is not redundant, and so I have reinstated the term "minor children" (rather than merely "children") in its initial instance in the relevant section. --AuthorityTamtalk…contrib 17:56, 6 September 2012 (UTC)
The context and general understanding of the term children is readily apparent, irrespective of broader colloquial use of the term.--Jeffro77 (talk) 07:02, 7 September 2012 (UTC)

City overseer[edit]

An editor alleged that Jehovah's Witnesses have discontinued the position and term "city overseer", but no source was cited to contradict the 2005 reference. Please do not remove the article's discussion of "city overseer" without sourcing the supposed change or building consensus here for that removal. --AuthorityTamtalk…contrib 17:56, 6 September 2012 (UTC)


I have removed the theological claim that the JW organisational structure is a 'theocracy', as it is a theological belief out of this article's scope. Analogous articles such as hierarchy of the Catholic Church do not make similar claims, even in the context of belief. The belief is suitably mentioned at beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses and in the main article, Jehovah's Witnesses.--Jeffro77 (talk) 15:38, 21 December 2014 (UTC)

You have explained the reason why you did this, but I think it is important to retain mention of the JW view that it is a theocratic organisation.
James Beckford devotes several pages of "The Trumpet of Prophecy" to a discussion of the significance of Rutherford's creation of the "Theocracy" in the overall function of the organisational hierarchy. He notes that in two 1938 Watchtower articles Rutherford declared "that Jehovah had assumed direct control of the Watch Tower Society ... the detailed reorganization of the Theocracy provided for unmitigated central control over all Watch Tower activity, for the appointment of personnel to all posts of responsibility to be the prerogative of the Society's top leaders and for the requirement that all company members (including Jonadabs) should submit to headquarters regular accounts of their evangelical work ... The ideological justification for theocratic reorganization was constructed on the major premise that since Jesus Christ was actually working at the head of the Society through the medium of its earthly leaders, it would henceforth be blasphemous to disagree with their directives."
The concept of the theocracy is very much alive today and continues to underpin the system of hierarchical control the WTS imposes on members. While in no way suggesting this could or should be cited at the Wikipedia article, I refer you to a post at the JWNet forum in which a former JW elder related his experience at a school for congregational elders. On a white board, the speaker listed the JW hierarchy thus: JEHOVAH > JESUS > F & DS > LEGAL ENTITIES > BRANCH > DISTRICT > CIRCUIT > ELDERS > PUBLISHERS. He says the instructor in one session told his audience: "Brothers , if the slave asks you to do something that seems wrong in Jehovah's eyes, and you obey, how does that leave you with Jehovah? That’s right, your good with Jehovah. The slave will account to Jehovah for their decisions. You see, Jehovah can bless any decision made by the slave, even if it is a bad one, but he will never bless your disobedience to his organization.”[1]
It also informs the statement in the 15 November 2013 Watchtower that told JWs: "The life-saving direction that we receive from Jehovah's organization may not appear practical from a human standpoint. All of us must be ready to obey any instructions we receive, whether these appear sound from a strategic or human standpoint or not."
Jehovah's Witnesses believe their organisation to be unique in that it is directly controlled by God and Jesus. Those two quotes clearly demonstrate how that belief, in turn, strengthens the religion's control over members. Possibly more than any other JW belief, it could well bind millions of members to the religion, serving as a very powerful deterrent and obstacle to anyone contemplating leaving. (It was the chief reason I remained so long in it). Removing mention of the theocracy concept robs the article of that critical fact. BlackCab (TALK) 23:04, 22 December 2014 (UTC)
Beckford's analysis of Rutherford's quest to control the organisation belongs in relevant articles about the historical development of the group, and the theological view of their organisational structure belongs in relevant sections about their beliefs. This article is about the actual structure of the organisation. The removed statement that 'they call it a theocracy' says nothing about why they call it that, and nor should it. It is not the purpose of this article to explain why individuals might be compelled to remain members.--Jeffro77 (talk) 01:14, 23 December 2014 (UTC)
Given that Beckford, Whalen, Rogerson, Hoekema and Penton all focus heavily on the concept of the "theocracy" when outlining the religion's hierarchical system, it is a notable part of the organisational structure. The central idea within the "theocracy" is that the religion is ruled from the top down (appointments made from above), rather than democratically (appointments chosen from below by voting). The previous wording did not introduce that phrase "to explain why individuals might be compelled to remain members" and you seem to have misinterpreted my comments to suggest that was my intention. Your original comment about the distinction between organizational structure and theological belief is hair-splitting. In this case the organizational structure is dictated by the theological belief and therefore deserves a brief mention. BlackCab (TALK) 05:34, 23 December 2014 (UTC)
The article can (and I think, does) adequately state that appointments are made from the top down without referring to a 'theocracy'. It's not my position that it 'absolutely must not be included', but it doesn't seem necessary in the context of secular article about the practical aspects of their organisational structure. But how about mentioning it in the section about the Governing Body rather than in the lead?
My statement about 'compelling members' was in relation to the last paragraph of your previous response, which sounded a bit soapy. My statement wasn't intended as an overarching reason for leaving out 'theocracy'.--Jeffro77 (talk) 05:54, 23 December 2014 (UTC)