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ONLY THE CONGREGATION HAS AUTHORITY TO DISFELLOWSHIP

The whole purpose of addressing sin in our brother is to win or gain him back! Jesus himself gives directions for handling sin in our midst. In Matthew 18, Jesus said to his disciples that they must be humbled “like children” before being “greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (vss1-6). Jesus then further explained that as a shepherd would go to great lengths to recover a straying sheep, so would be the rejoicing over recovering one of his sheep who had strayed (vss.10-14).

Then, specifically, Jesus carefully outlined a protocol for his disciples how to humbly proceed in recovering a brother (or sister) who might be in sin. (1) First, go to him or her privately to enquire about the sin; (2) Second, take or three other mutually respected individuals who might further enquire about the sin and encourage repentance; (3) Finally, if he refuses to listen take the issue to the congregation— not to the elders or some “governing body”—to weigh the problem and act accordingly.

Matthew 18 15 “[1] And if your brother sins, go and reprove him in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 “[2] But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. 17 “[3] And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax-gatherer. 18 “Truly I say to you, whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. 20 “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, there I am in their midst.” NAS

After the “church” (congregation) makes a decision—a unanimous one or nearly so preferably—the Church is to withdraw from him their fellowship. Thenceforth the offender is to be treated “as a heathen man and a publican.” Although we could no longer have Christian fellowship with such, we would treat him as a “heathen” (Gentile) with justice and kindness and the love of pity—but not with the love of affection due to a brother in Christ. The disfellowshipped would be outside our religious and social company—as invited to the home—but not outside of our love, care and desire to help.  Although not appointed to any office in the congregation, he would not be forbidden attendance at meetings. Repentance even up to the moment of the Church’s judgment is possible. To secure repentance and reform is the very object of every step of these proceedings—not his punishment. . The penalty of withdrawal of fellowship is designed to serve as a protection to the congregation to separate those who walk disorderly. But the separation is not to be esteemed a perpetual separation—but merely until the reproved one shall recognize and acknowledge his wrong and to the extent of his ability make amends.

What Does the Bible Say About Disfellowship?

10 comments to ONLY THE CONGREGATION HAS AUTHORITY TO DISFELLOWSHIP

  • Gart Bishop

    The Watchtower of March 15, 1977, discussed a problem existing in some lands. Though God permits divorce on Scriptural grounds, some governments have no divorce provision. (Matthew 19:9) Or the law may make it very hard to get a divorce, perhaps requiring many years. Hence, that magazine issue explained that Jehovah’s Witnesses have a concession applying only in such lands; it involves a Declaration Pledging Faithfulness. Consider an example of the arrangement:
    A woman comes to a knowledge of Christian truth while living with (and perhaps having children by) a man who has long been separated from his legal wife. The newly interested woman is faithful to him and wants to marry him, but that is impossible because the law does not permit him to divorce his legal wife. Hence, if the congregation elders are convinced that her relationship with this man would otherwise be accepted by God, they will allow her to sign a Declaration Pledging Faithfulness. She therein states that she has done all she can to legalize this relationship; that she acknowledges before God the binding nature of the Declaration; and that she promises to get legally married as soon as that is possible, thus terminating the Declaration that had enabled her to become part of the Christian congregation.

    • Jacqueline

      Gart thank you for finding the article, I gave a talk on ministry school about this. So if you want to remain a JW, I would suggest you go to the CO or DO even writing your branch office or the society. She can also just apply for reinstatement to keep it simple. If she has been out a few months they wil let her back in. Going thru an appeal is like fighting with them and she may say something that will get her DF on apostasy. So since DF really means nothing I wouls suggest she apply for reinstatement and the elders will tell her how to do that. We are not Jehovah Witnesses here so I personally don’t know anymore but you might get another response. Also, there are some very smart people including Barbara Anderson and elders on http://www.jehovah-witness.net. They might can give you an answer. They have many still JW elders on their panel. Take Care. Jacqueline
      PS. Gart because you are not dealing with religious law but a company law of DF instead of Love, kindness and forgiveness it is difficult to cut thru the red tape. It is a civil thing and a religious one colliding. Often persons go to other countries to get divorced and remarried under your circumstances but the children might not have status also. But talk to God about it with Jesus also and let your conscience be your guide. And actually Gart they DF”d her because she married a non witness, they have to scare all the other sisters. Just a thought of comfort.

    • Jacqueline

      Gart I saw your question on JWN. I am so glad they were able to help you. They also gave you some other great sityes that included Barbara Anderson. I advise like them to just go easy and let her ask for reinstatement as you guys are scripturally free per your info on JWN. Take Care Jacqueline

  • Gart Bishop

    I meet a 6 years baptised JW girl. We planned to marry here in PHILIPPINES ( No Divorce Here }. Judge told me he can do the marriage so we livived together to be married. This German JW reported us to the Elders. My Fiance is DISFELLOWSHIPPED. After research we should have been told about the “DECLARATION PLEDGING FAITHFULNESS “that allows us to live together as HUSBAND AND WIFE with Jehovah God’s blessing until my Foriegn Divorce from previous Philippine Marriage can be recognised in Philippine Trial Court.(1 YEAR TO COMPLETE )….. JW Elder when shown answered me” I AM VERRY SORRY, THIS IS THE FIRST TIME I EVER KNOW ABOUT THIS PLEDGE OF FAITHFULNESS “.

  • Gart Bishop

    Can anyone tell me if they had a SUCCESSFUL APPEAL against their DISFELLOWSHIP ?.. Adice on HOW TO WIN AN APPESL..

    • Jacqueline

      Gart hello, perhaps with more info someone can help you. Appeal is just a formality. After 1985 persons baptized agreed to be under the organization. So legally those baptized before then can probably win an appeal if they threatened to go to court. But they win if you are baptized after 1985. Will you lose family by being DF? If not just walk away they don’t have any power and only JW care about DF nobody else pays it any attention. You are welcome to heal here. Tell us your story if you want to. Appeals are won generally if you are a threat and then they just harass you until you leave. Hope this helps. Watch what you say if you appeal and Judicial meeting is a legal term and you have the right to have your lawyer present. hope this helps. Maybe someone else has some info for you, this is just general stuff. Sincerely Jacqueline
      PS: I didn’t get DF and have a restraining order against the org that expires at my death.

  • Bob

    Here is an article from the web site 2001Translation.com, which I think is very informative.
    Accepting a Repentant Sinner
    Here in Second Corinthians, we read how the first recorded case of official congregational discipline of a member who was guilty of serious wrongdoing, worked out. This had to do with a man in the congregation at Corinth, Greece who had taken his father’s wife as his own. As the result, Paul (at 1 Corinthians 5:11) told them to judge the matter and to remove the sinner from the congregation.

    Now, in Second Corinthians, we read a follow-up letter that was likely written just a few months later, which indicates there were some positive results. So, Paul gave these recommendations (Second Corinthians 2:6, 7): ‘For, the discipline that the majority of you gave this man was sufficient. So now, kindly forgive and comfort him, that he won’t somehow be swallowed by his deep sadness.’

    Notice that:

    · The punishment (gr. epitimia – on/value) that was given (and which was approved by Paul) only lasted a few months

    · This action apparently wasn’t supported by the whole congregation – ‘the majority (gr. pleionon – more ones) of you reached’ – but no action was recommended against those who didn’t agree with the measures

    · Paul was especially concerned about the individual and wanted him to be forgiven, comforted, and shown love.

    The fact is, imperfect men tend to be harsh and unloving when dealing with others who they consider to have ‘broken the rules.’ However, Paul really believed in the type of love that he wrote about at 1 Corinthians 13:1-8 (in his previous letter). So, he recommended no further restrictions and he didn’t warn against any expressions of joy when the man was welcomed back into the congregation. Yet, the offense was particularly grievous and notorious.

    Notice that Paul makes no further mention of this matter thereafter. He simply concludes by saying (at 2 Corinthians 2:10, 11), ‘And when I forgive someone through you in front of the Anointed One (if I ever have anything to forgive), it is so that none are lost to the Opposer, because we know how he operates.’

    So, Paul’s primary concern in this second letter was not about how to continue with correction and discipline, but with consoling the person, so he would remain steadfast in the congregation and he wouldn’t be lost to the Opposer

    • Peter K. (admin)

      Thanks Bob for a wonderful contribution. The Apostle Paul could see that the sinner had fully repented. The loving discipline accomplished its purpose and the recovered one could be accepted back into fellowship and be comforted. The key here is that there was a genuine repentance of a sin of a horrendous nature. Thanks again.

  • JAman

    It is interesting that the one “removed” is to be removed by the “congregation”, not specific elders having “authority. The Christian congregation is therefore a strong group of fellow believers with the ability to make decisions of some gravity amongst themselves, not like the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

    As a young man in the Jehovah’s Witnesses, I made a very unwise decision, and left the congregation for a number of years. I underwent many troubles for my direction in life, and returned being fully repentant, and humbled. The greeting I received from the “elders” was a 5 year disfellowshipping, by which I was not allowed to speak to any fellow believer, (only elders) and I did so for 5 full years. After my reinstatment, I was so happy…then the same body of elders told me I could not have my congregation priveledges back for another 5 years. I was devastated, but stayed. It had been 20 years since my gaining of congregation priveledges, and I became so unhappy with these men, and their man-made rules that far over-reached the intent of any of the scriptures, that I just wrote a short letter of disassociation, and explained that I believed in Jesus as my savior and mediator, not some old men in New York. I have never been happier in my life. My true brothers have welcomed me into the real spiritual house of God, where forgivness and understanding, and LOVE reside. I forgive all of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, even our son, who refuses to ever speak to me, or his mother again…yes, Mary left with me. Thank you for this opportunity to share my heart with all of you, Joseph Zarola.

  • JAman

    It is interesting that the one “removed” is to be removed by the “congregation”, not specific elders having “authority. The Christian congregation is therefore a strong group of fellow believers with the ability to make decisions of some gravity amongst themselves, not like the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

    As a young man in the Jehovah’s Witnesses, I made a very unwise decision, and left the congregation for a number of years. I underwent many troubles for my direction in life, and returned being fully repentant, and humbled. The greeting I received from the “elders” was a 5 year disfellowshipping, by which I was not allowed to speak to any fellow believer, (only elders) and I did so for 5 full years. After my reinstatment, I was so happy…then the same body of elders told me I could not have my congregation priveledges back for another 5 years. I was devastated, but stayed. I had been 20 years since my gaining of congregation priveledges, and I became so unhappy with these men, and their man-made rules that far over-reached the intent of any of the scriptures, that I just wrote a short letter of disassociation, and explained that I believed in Jesus as my savior and mediator, not some old men in Ney York. I have never been happier in my life. My true brothers have welcomed me into the real spiritual house of God, where forgivness and understanding, and LOVE reside. I forgive all of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, even our son, who refuses to ever speak to me, or his mother again…yes, Mary left with me. Thank you for this opprotunity to share my heart with all of you, Joseph Zarola.

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