| May 5, 2012 | Discussion | jwnews.org |
by Steven Unthank |
Since the 1890’s, the Watch Tower Society has recommended that, a person who leaves or changes their religion, send a Letter of Withdrawal to all members of the local church group in which they belonged to, or were associated with. Their reasoning behind this was published in The Watchtower magazine (October 15, 1895, page 234) as follows:
“LETTERS OF WITHDRAWAL FROM [RELIGION]”
“Frequently those who leave [their religion] get no opportunity to communicate to their Church brethren the cause of their withdrawal; because the officers of many churches in their zeal for the prosperity of their denomination (we regret to say it) seem to forget that honesty is an important element of Christian character, and either smother the matter of the withdrawal and permit the impression that the brother or sister who has withdrawn is still a member, but no longer faithful to his church engagements, or else hasten to spread a false report of his belief (as much by insinuation, tone of voice and manner, as by words) in order to forever break his or her influence. To thus bear false witness against God’s faithful children is mistakenly considered a service to God,–it is really against the Lord’s cause and for the upholding of sectarianism, lest the influence should open the eyes of others of the Lord’s sheep and they too escape from the bondage of human traditions, into the light of liberty of the truth.
“To meet such emergencies we have prepared, for those who may desire them, Letters of Withdrawal, which express about what would be your sentiments and merely require the signature of the user and the date. These might be sent by mail, to each member of the church from which you withdraw, as well as to the minister; for you joined the church membership and not merely the minister.”
Several years later The Watchtower magazine (February 15, 1900, page 50) added that an additional benefit of sending such a Letter of Withdrawal is so that it will…
“…insure that you will not be misunderstood and misrepresented unintentionally. Otherwise your withdrawal is almost certain to be misrepresented as [“Apostasy”]–as leaving the true Church and not merely leaving a human organization never recognized by the Lord nor instituted by him, but by fallible men.”
Is it really necessary to belong to a formal religious organization, such as the Watch Tower Society or even the church of Jehovah’s Witnesses, as a means to gain salvation or God’s approval?
On the need to join a religious organization or even a church, the 1939 Jehovah’s Witnesses study book Salvation, published by the Watch Tower Society, states on pages 33 to 36 that:
“Religious organizations, and particularly the leaders therein, induce persons to believe that they must join some religious system or organization, which men call “a church”; and the leaders or clergymen claim that joining such religious organization is the means to salvation. Such claim or representation by the clergy is entirely wrong, because such organizations do not have God’s approval. On the contrary, such religious organizations teach chiefly the doctrines of men, which doctrines blind the people to the truth of God’s purpose as set forth in His Word, and such teachings of men make the commandments of God of none effect and hence are exceedingly harmful to men.
“…To follow the teachings or traditions of men, therefore, leads unto destruction. The man who ignores God’s Word and follows the way of man is designated as a fool by the Word of God.
“…“Religion” is therefore properly defined as a belief in and indulging in a form of worship of some higher power, and which belief is based on the teachings of men handed down by tradition from one generation to another, and which system of belief or teaching is induced and put forward by God’s adversary the Devil in order to turn men away from God. For this reason religion is the snare of the Devil … To follow the lead of religion means everlasting death. To follow Christ Jesus means everlasting life. (John 17:3) … To live, one must avoid religion and truly follow the lead of Christ Jesus.”
My personal Letter of Withdrawal
On December 12, 2009, I acted in harmony with my personal beliefs and my conscience,and wrote a hand written Letter of Withdrawal, posting it to the religious organization known as the Watch Tower Society. This I did for the purpose of having my name struck of any “books on earth” administered by the Watch Tower Society.
My personal reason for my withdrawal was twofold:
1. I found myself forced to worship, or practice my faith or belief, in a way that they I found unacceptable, morally, spiritually and emotionally. I also found that, the teachings, practices, dispute resolution processes, and the conduct of the leaders of the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses was in stark contrast to the information that I was provided as a child, when I made my decision to baptised; and
2. in relation to the active covering up of child abuse within the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the wide spread criminal activities being perpetrated against members of the Victorian community, by the Body of Elders in the Traralgon Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and by the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and by the Faithful and Discreet Slave, and by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Australia, and by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania.
In relation to reason number 2, I had expressed a view that mandatory child protection laws (Working with Children laws) – as they apply within the State of Victoria for “religious organisations” and “ministers of religion” – must be complied with, and that non-compliance is, not only a criminal offence against the community and the children, but also an act of lawlessness against the teachings and commands of the Bible. (Romans 13:1-5) The Watch Tower Society and the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses maintained a different view. They instructed the members of the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses, including elders, that these child protection laws do not have to be complied with. For over three years they refused to comply until I personally had them criminally charged and prosecuted in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria. Then, and only then, did they start complying with the law. But that’s another story.
With my life experience and these two reasons in mind, in good conscience I could not be associated with any organisation, religious or otherwise, that particularly engaged in criminal activities, especially when the victims were innocent children. Therefore, I lawfully resigned. Prior to taking this action I did indeed beg for help and advice, from the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and from the Watch Tower Society, over my concerns, but I was completely ignored and received absolutely no reply to my letters requesting personal and spiritual guidance.
I painfully learnt from my personal life experience that “the members of such organization commit many deeds of cruelty and wickedness”, and that these elders have no regret or remorse over doing such. For example, one act of vicious cruelty and outright wickedness committed against me by a group of elders – including the elder that many years ago sexually assaulted me and raped my younger brother – resulted in my attempt at suicide a few years back. If I could change one thing about the direct events surrounding my suicide attempt, that would be the getting back of my suicide note which I wrote to be found with my body. My understanding is that the Watch Tower Society is in possession of it, after a circuit overseer ‘forced’ my father to hand the letter over. As part of my healing, in February last year, I wrote about my life experience (“Walk of Life”) and then published it on my personal web site stevenunthank.com.
Immediately after my suicide attempt, my father, who is currently serving the needs of the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Papua New Guinea, wrote to the Watch Tower Society and to Bethel (Australian headquarters for the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses) begging them for help. A number of years have passed since his original plea for help. He is still yet to receive a reply.
By comparison, when I wrote my Letter of Withdrawal in December 2009, and posted it the following week to the Watch Tower Society, the public announcement that I was no longer one of Jehovah’s Witnesses was made within a few days.
Click on the below Letter of Withdrawal to enlarge.
For myself, in breaking free from the control of the Watch Tower Society, I did not ‘lose’ my religion, per se, I found my spiritual freedom and true salvation. I also got my life back. Now I stand up for those who do not have a voice within the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses…the children.
JW NEWS | copyright 2012