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Is it appropriate for minors to get baptized?

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 On the other thread on 4/28/2016 at 9:50 AM, Eoin Joyce said:

"For me, there is a wider issue here around baptism of minors."

---------

I replied with:

Absolutely. Particularly in the JW faith, a baptism is a lifelong contract - not only with God, but with a religious organization. With contract law, generally speaking, a minor can void a contract without legal repercussions.

http://contracts.uslegal.com/contract-by-a-minor/

There are also protections in law to prevent those lacking capacity to enter into long-term binding contracts, e.g. being able to marry. JWs have likened baptism to a kind of marriage and being far more important than the day of one's wedding. If dedication and baptism have this level of gravity, does a 12 year old, say, have the capacity and maturity to make so binding and irrevocable a commitment as this? The minor cannot void this contract without serious and traumatizing repercussions. Is that fair?

Another consideration is that when one is disfellowshipped, the relationship with a religious organization is broken. The relationship with extended family and friends is a separate thing, no? 

To illustrate:

Andre works at his local Walmart. His whole family shop there all the time and have done so for years. One day Sophia, his niece, is caught shoplifting. She's been going through a bad patch but this is her first offence. Nevertheless, Walmart press charges and she gets convicted of a misdemeanor. Walmart also bans her from the store for a year. For Sophia this is a wake-up call. She has grown up a lot and been acting responsibly. She shops at Target now.

Andre and his family stop all contact with Sophia. They don't respond to her emails and texts other than that one time when they reminded her she is banned from Walmart and has a misdemeanor conviction so they are not supposed to communicate with her. When Andre and his wife had their wedding anniversary, they invited the whole family round to celebrate - except Sophia. Andre even invited some of Sophia's long-time friends. When Sophia asked why she wasn't invited, they said that, until the Walmart ban is lifted and she regularly shops there again, they cannot in good conscience associate with her.

Have Sophia's family and friends acted reasonably?

Then we got sidetracked on semantics.

 

 

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On 5/2/2016 at 19:03, Ann O'Maly said:

Particularly in the JW faith, a baptism is a lifelong contract

I am having trouble understanding how baptism could be viewed as a contract in a secular legal sense in that elements could be regulated and possibly enforceable by the state.

Baptism has been around a long time in the US, (to which state your linked contract definition page refers). Although there are wide differences in the recommended appropriate age, and also in understanding of what baptism therefore represents, surely this issue should have long been settled if secular law and definition applied?

Examples of the variety of views for appropriate Baptism age.

The United Methodist Church strongly advocates the baptism of infants
Grace Community Church: our general practice is to wait until a professing child has reached the age of twelve.
Bethlehem Baptist Church: It is our practice to wait until a child is at least age eleven before considering him for baptism.
Roman Catholic Church: Parents are responsible for bringing their child to the Sacrament of Baptism as soon after birth as possible
Latter Day Saints: And their children shall be baptized for the remission of their sins when eight years old.
First Lutheran Church: When infants are baptized, parents make promises for their child until the child is old enough to affirm these promises for themselves (typically around age 14).

Of course there are others, including Jehovah's Witnesses, who view this matter as requiring a level of understanding on the part of the one getting baptized and thus do not mandate a minimum age limit.
 

As stated, the most recent article on the subject of baptism of youths is linked here:

https://www.jw.org/en/publications/magazines/watchtower-study-march-2016/young-ones-ready-baptism/

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On 5/4/2016 at 11:46 AM, Eoin Joyce said:

I am having trouble understanding how baptism could be viewed as a contract in a secular legal sense in that elements could be regulated and possibly enforceable by the state.

I am making a comparison. 

-If secular law puts restrictions in place to protect minors from making unalterable decisions, 

-If dedication to God and baptism as a JW is the most weighty decision and vow a person can make - even more serious than getting married or signing up for a mortgage, 

-If the consequences from changing one's mind, contravening a scriptural law or doing something that the org disapproves of can result in the child being an outcast and shunned by extended JW family and friends, 

-Then the ethics of baptizing JW children is highly questionable. 

I understand that other religions baptize their young but, as you noted, the meaning of baptism, allowed ages and church discipline varies widely. The main concern is what happens to a baptized child member if he sins.

E.g. the LDS church baptizes children of 8 years old and they also excommunicate minors, unfortunately. In contrast with both the JWs and the LDS church, while the Catholic church baptizes infants (and later confirmation is permitted from about age 7), there is no excommunication for minors. This is the Church's position on a minor committing one of the worst sins a Catholic can make:

Objectively, procuring an abortion remains an intrinsically evil act and a very serious sin.  Yet with regards to subjective guilt as well as canonical penalties, these are reduced if an excusing or diminishing factor presents itself.

In the case of this seventeen-year old girl, the most obvious diminishing factor is that of age. The Church doesn’t feel that a minor should be subjected to severe canonical penalties.  Thus canon 1324, §1, 4° states: “The perpetrator of a violation is not exempted from penalty, but the penalty prescribed in the law or precept must be diminished, or a penance substituted in its place, if the offense was committed by: […] a minor who has completed the sixteenth year of age.”  In other words, someone between the ages of sixteen and eighteen who procures an abortion can’t be excommunicated, either for abortion or for any other offense, but rather some lesser penalty or a penance must be substituted in its place.  For anybody under the age of eighteen is exempt from latae sententiae penalties, and in keeping with canon 1323, 1°, anybody under the age of sixteen is exempt from any canonical penalty whatsoever.

http://www.catholic-legate.com/articles/canon_law_101.html

 

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3 hours ago, Ann O'Maly said:

Then the ethics of baptizing JW children is highly questionable. 

A view of many who are not Jehovah's Witnesses presumably. 

Young people who sincerely dedicate their lives to Jehovah do not plan to fail in fulfilling their promise. For many, the home and congregational environment they enjoy is geared to support them in fulfilling their dedication. Young people who apply themselves to being spiritually focused in this way do not miss out on anything wholesome in their lives. The many photos shown on this jw-archive of young people enjoying theocratic activity seem to bear this out. Certainly in my own experience, many young people I know, baptized at an early age, are living happy, productive, well balanced, and successful lives, quite convinced that their early decision has led them to the "best life ever".

 

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15 hours ago, Eoin Joyce said:

A view of many who are not Jehovah's Witnesses presumably. 

A view of many who are JWs too. I guess that is why the GB has responded by promoting child baptisms* and addressing the misgivings parents and their children have. See http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/2011441 - box on p. 6, 'Should My Child Put Off Baptism?'

15 hours ago, Eoin Joyce said:

Young people who sincerely dedicate their lives to Jehovah do not plan to fail in fulfilling their promise.

Of course they don't. Just as a teen who gets married does not plan for their marriage to fail. But [bleep] happens.

15 hours ago, Eoin Joyce said:

The many photos shown on this jw-archive of young people enjoying theocratic activity seem to bear this out.

Do you think they would post photos on a JW board of themselves looking miserable? Lol.

15 hours ago, Eoin Joyce said:

Certainly in my own experience, many young people I know, baptized at an early age, are living happy, productive, well balanced, and successful lives, quite convinced that their early decision has led them to the "best life ever".

Maybe so. There are also lots of young people who wear a painted-on smile when at the meetings and in service but are secretly unhappy with the so-called 'best life ever.' They often end up on ex-jw forums relating how trapped and scared they feel, and asking for advice on how to leave without getting kicked out or losing their family and friends. I've seen countless examples during my online life.

--------

* Even advocating blackmailing them into baptism. See excerpt: Anthony Morris III, Sunday final talk, 2015 Convention - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MreJ8tLYIso -

 

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29 minutes ago, Ann O'Maly said:

A view of many who are JWs too

I am sure responsible Jehovah's Witness parents are concerned that their children make an acceptable dedication and any reassurance they can get on how to discern and support that would always be appreciated. However, I would not go as far as to say that many of them feel the way you stated below. 

21 hours ago, Ann O'Maly said:

the ethics of baptizing JW children is highly questionable

 

29 minutes ago, Ann O'Maly said:

a teen who gets married does not plan for their marriage to fail

Quite true, but are you referring to marriage in a general sense or amongst Jehovah's Witnesses?

I would venture that the level of support and encouragement provided to young people who are sincerely seeking to maintain their dedication to Jehovah greatly exceeds the encouragement to make a success of marriage in today's moral climate outside of Jehovah's Witnesses society.

29 minutes ago, Ann O'Maly said:

Do you think they would post photos on a JW board of themselves looking miserable?

Well, can't say. There are some fairly discontented postings appearing from time to time, but miserable pictures I haven't seen apart from the occasional mugshot of Witnesses guilty of crimes (Although they were unlikely to be selfies of course).

However, many of the usual archive pics have pretty positive comments as well, so I have no reason to suspect hypocrisy.

43 minutes ago, Ann O'Maly said:

There are also lots of young people who wear a painted-on smile when at the meetings

Not lots in my experience, but on a worldwide scale I am sure there are many. Regardless of the numbers, this is a sad experience for any one, and there are older ones who try to live a double life as well.

Hypocrisy is an extremely stressful course to pursue, worse when acted out with family and friends whom the individual still loves and wants to be with if it wasn't for the spiritual aspects of life.  It must cause a lot of mental anguish for those who follow this path, especially younger ones who may still be materially dependent  as well.

Over the years, I have known  young ones who experienced a faith crisis. However, some of them, even after leaving Jehovah's Witnesses (and their families) to pursue something they felt deprived of, come back, some years later, and embrace the way of life fully.

But then, we don't expect everyone to stay as one of Jehovah's Witnesses or all children to embrace the faith of their families. Matt.10:35 (comp.1John 2:19).

I think it is worth noting that this trauma is not just an experience that Jehovah's Witnesses go through when deciding to reject the religion of their families. It can also be experienced by those who leave a strong religious background to become Jehovah's Witnesses. I have seen some pretty difficult times experienced, for example, by Jewish, Muslim, Hindu  as well as Roman Catholic youths who have decided to become Jehovah's Witnesses independent of their families.

1 hour ago, Ann O'Maly said:

Even advocating blackmailing them into baptism

I would need to hear the whole talk to evaluate that assessment. Baubles for Baptism? I thought that strategy failed with Christendom centuries ago!! 

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3 hours ago, Eoin Joyce said:

However, I would not go as far as to say that many of them feel the way you stated below.

Well, let's say it was enough of an issue among the JW ranks to warrant it being officially addressed.

3 hours ago, Eoin Joyce said:

Quite true, but are you referring to marriage in a general sense or amongst Jehovah's Witnesses?

Both. That's why teen marriages are discouraged among JWs as well as generally in western society.

3 hours ago, Eoin Joyce said:

However, many of the usual archive pics have pretty positive comments as well, so I have no reason to suspect hypocrisy.

Do you think JWs would post negative comments about their photographed theocratic activities on a JW board? ;)

3 hours ago, Eoin Joyce said:

Hypocrisy is an extremely stressful course to pursue

Indeed it is for those with a conscience and those who are forced by circumstance to maintain the facade until they are in a position to escape. The stress can, at times, be so intense that it even leads a young one to consider (or actually commit) suicide.

3 hours ago, Eoin Joyce said:

I think it is worth noting that this trauma is not just an experience that Jehovah's Witnesses go through when deciding to reject the religion of their families. It can also be experienced by those who leave a strong religious background to become Jehovah's Witnesses. I have seen some pretty difficult times experienced, for example, by Jewish, Muslim, Hindu  as well as Roman Catholic youths who have decided to become Jehovah's Witnesses independent of their families.

Absolutely. I think other religions' negative attitudes toward JWs is partly due to the perception that JWs are a high control group that distances its members from the wider community (unless it's to evangelize). Additionally, any religious belief system that views itself as the only true path to God is going to react badly if a family member defects to another religion. But as the Awake! once said:

"No one should be forced to worship in a way that he finds unacceptable or be made to choose between his beliefs and his family." - http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/102009251

This also holds true for those wishing to leave the JW religion, and yet this is the agonizing choice many young JWs are faced with.

2 hours ago, Eoin Joyce said:

I would need to hear the whole talk to evaluate that assessment.

Be my guest. https://youtu.be/dEJ9BGDpHOw?t=3h57m28s

 

It makes no difference to his suggestion that parents blackmail their child into baptism by withholding permission for him/her to get a driving permit.

He said it before in a previous talk: https://youtu.be/AKVMFGfh0uc?t=58s. Apparently he used this tactic on one of his own sons.

 

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Just now, Ann O'Maly said:

Do you think JWs would post negative comments about their photographed theocratic activities on a JW board? ;)

Not the happy ones, but I would have thought some of the troubled ones might have had a pop? 

2 minutes ago, Ann O'Maly said:

JWs are a high control group that distances its members from the wider community (unless it's to evangelize)

Do you know, I read this stuff and I feel sad for the people that do it. I just never had that experience. I don't know why people don't associate with their families when they become witnesses. I was never encouraged to behave like that although I hear plenty of tales of those who do on these forums. I have never allowed tobacco smoking or other harmful practices under my roof so that has put a damper on some of my non witness family visiting me, but it never stopped my going to them. There are sometimes issues over political and religious festivals and other customs, but as I don't participate in those things I just get left out. That doesn't bother me at all. As for the evangelizing, I know where they stand on issues so it isn't a topic. We have plenty of other things to talk about.

Wow! I must live in a different world from these highly controlled people and their controllers (thankfully!) The strange thing for me is that I only seem to come in contact with this weirdo world on the internet.

18 minutes ago, Ann O'Maly said:

"No one should be forced to worship in a way that he finds unacceptable or be made to choose between his beliefs and his family."

Well I certainly agree with that. Certainly parents holding that view generally would make easier for many youths who become Jehovah's Witnesses as well.

Thanks for the links. I'll check that stuff out when I have time.

 

 

 

 

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      For those chosen by God (Isa.66:21; 1Pet.2:9), this race also includes accepting an assignment of work (2Tim.4:5; James2:17,20; 1Cor.3:8,13,14; Acts.10:42; Matt.16:27; 9:37,38; 25:19; 1Pet.2:5; Mark9:35; Luke12:35,43; Rom.12:6,7,8). That work must be done during the race. In addition, all runners must deal with an opposer and his cohorts, who constantly do all they can to make the road to the finish, impossible (Rev.2:10; Eph.6:12; 1Pet.5:8,9; Luke18:26,27). (4womaninthewilderness)
       
      When an individual joins the organization, the “race” one enters is not based on a dedication to Christ or the Father, but on serving an organization, which was made clear by the JW’s comment above.  However, Watchtower calls it, serving God; and they do it thusly:
      “When presenting themselves for baptism, such new disciples confirm that they have disowned themselves and are determined to serve God with all their strength, means, and abilities. (Rom. 12:1) FOR THESE REASONS, BAPTISM CANDIDATES ARE ASKED TO CONFIRM THAT THEY HAVE DEDICATED THEMSELVES TO JEHOVAH TO DO HIS WILL.”
      How is this asked of JWs?  The second question not mentioned in the article to the unknowing candidates is:
      “Do you understand that your dedication and baptism IDENTIFY you as one of Jehovah's Witnesses in association with GOD’S SPIRIT-DIRECTED ORGANIZATION? Having answered yes to these questions, candidates are in a right heart condition to undergo Christian baptism."
      Simply, this type of water baptism does not have God’s approval, but God’s condemnation.  I hope you can perceive this, JWs. Watchtower’s allegations go beyond Christ’s words, expecting your devotion to another Master.  Matt 6:24; Deut 4:2; 12:32; Rev 22:18   Please, notice how you are “marked”, not for survival but for slavery to men and their self-driven desires for unrighteous gains.  Jer 17:10-13 https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matt+6%3A24%3B+Deut+4%3A2%3B+12%3A32%3B+Rev+22%3A18%3B+Jer+17%3A10-13+++&version=NIV
      From the 1950 Watchtower publication, “This Means Everlasting Life”:  “When a justified believer is baptized into the “body of Christ” and so becomes a member of the Theocratic organization, he comes under Christ Jesus the Head and so comes under certain responsibilities and cannot act independently of the one whom God as made Head of the organization to direct it.  HE MUST SUBMIT HIMSELF TO ORGANIZATION INSTRUCTIONS…”  p. 126
      I am appalled at these words I have come across.  They admit to the early beginnings of the “trampling” of the Temple of God – the anointed priesthood and Body of Christ. Matt 24:15;Dan 9:27;11:31; 2 Thess 2:3,4; Rev 11:1-3   Watchtower’s “theocratic organization” empowers a false priesthood to demand obedience to itself, as a “god”.  It is the counterfeit to the Body of Christ – the Body of Satan. 1 Pet 2:5,9; 1 Cor 3:16,17; Eph 2:20-22  https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matt+24%3A15%3BDan+9%3A27%3B11%3A31%3B+2+Thess+2%3A3%2C4%3B+Rev+11%3A1-3%3B+1+Pet+2%3A5%2C9%3B+1+Cor+3%3A16%2C17%3B+Eph+2%3A20-22++&version=NIV
       Pearl Doxsey – “The GB has laid a new foundation for themselves...
      They have made themselves the cornerstone (Phil.2:6; 1Cor.3:11), being benefactor to a NON-anointed Organization of counterfeit priests (Rev.13:14,15; 19:20)...
      creating a foreign temple to a "foreign god" (Dan.11:37,38,39; Rev.9:11; 13:8,15; Eze.8:5,6,7,8,9,10).
      They have erected a counterfeit Mt. Zion (Rev.8:8; Zech.4:7,9), (Isa.2:2,3)
      and a decoy "Kingdom" while Satan yet rules.”
      (From “Discerning the Body-A God of Order”)  4womaninthewilderness
      Please, I ask you to consider, JWs; that you, and the authentic, anointed Body of Christ, have picked up the wrong torture stake.  Not until it is realized what “mark” you bear, does the real torture stake then present itself.  Your “opposer and cohorts” will come into focus, if you choose to enter the authentic race leading to life. Jer 17:1;  Rev 13:1,3,4,10-17; Exod 20:1-7; Luke 4:8 
      The race JWs presently run, their comparative “torture stake” in a “spiritual paradise”, is soon to come to an abrupt, and tumultuous end.   1 Thess 5:3; Rev 6:12-17; 8:8; Zech 4:7; Job 9:5,6; 14:18-22
      https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Jer+17%3A1%3B++Rev+13%3A1%2C3%2C4%2C10-17%3B+Exod+20%3A1-7%3B+Luke+4%3A8%3B+Rev+6%3A12-17%3B+8%3A8%3B+Zech+4%3A7%3B+Job+9%3A5%2C6%3B+14%3A18-22++&version=NIV
      (Mark of Slavery 4womaninthewilderness)
      I wrote down these thoughts just this morning when reading James chapter 1:  
      When we wake up to Wt.’s deceptions, mulling over in our minds how to deal with them; we have two choices; to either step onto the course leading to life by slaving only for God, or settle with our conscience and continue running Wt’s categorized routes, explicitly showing faith in the organization as salvation.   Deut 6:6,8; 11:18; Exod 13:9  When this choice is apparent, it is then that the Beast/org.’s threatening stance looming over us, is perceived.  Can we bear being called a “loser” by the Beast and everyone we love if we draw out of the race? Matt 5:11; Rev 11:7;13:15  Who really is it, that loses out on eternal life?  
      Tonight, I find this comment regarding a JW “sighing and crying over the detestable things” in the organization (Ezek 9:3,4):
      “Whoever the bozo is that wants to quit...go ahead and do it loser. You are "already gone"
      “A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives its mark on their forehead or on their hand, they, too, will drink the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. They will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb.  And the smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever. There will be no rest day or night for those WHO WORSHIP THE BEAST (organization) AND ITS IMAGE, (spirit-directed “Jehovah’s organization) OR FOR ANYONE WHO RECEIVES THE MARK OF ITS NAME.” 
      This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who KEEP HIS COMMANDS AND REMAIN FAITHFUL TO JESUS.”  Rev 14:9-12
      “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”  James 1:12
      “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.  For, ‘In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.’
      38 And, ‘But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.’  39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.” Heb 10:36-39
       
       
       
    • By Jack Ryan
      In the Gospels we find John the Baptist baptizing people in the Jordan River. But where did the concept of Baptism originate? Was this a command from God that we are not told about? Did John develop the concept of Baptism? Was baptism being done before the New Testament? Why was John baptizing people in the Jordan River? Because the Bible is silent on these issues, Churches have created their own doctrines concerning baptism.
    • By Bible Speaks
      ??Kevin Richardson-The Lion Whisperer…True trust, and deep love. This man amazes me. To be able to follow him around,for just 1 day,to be able to get close to these beautiful,and powerful animals…would definitely be a dream come true. Maybe soon in New World will be reality? 

    • By The Librarian
      Russian Orthodox ice water baptisms
       
       
      And they call JW’s “extremists”???
      Via
    • Guest Nicole
      By Guest Nicole
      Our brother is enjoying the moment with his parents after his baptism in Maui. 
       
       

    • Guest Nicole
    • By Witness
      It is all over the internet.  The changes made to the old “Song 58” and rendered into the new “Song 50” are found here.

      The words, “take my mind that I may serve, fully Lord without reserve” have been eliminated.  Does anyone see why?  What has been added into the new song is, “take my silver and my gold.  Nothing, Lord, would I withhold”. 

      This song is based on Matt 22:37 - "Jesus said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’" 

      Since serving God with our mind is now removed in the new song, what does this tell us?  Is it more important to serve God with our money, as if that is part of whole-souled worship?

      “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon [money, possessions, fame, status, or whatever is valued more than the Lord].  Matt 6:24  AMP


       

       
       
    • Guest Nicole
      By Guest Nicole
      Our dear sister  lshe is happy to see her  mom and dad getting  baptized at the  Regional Convention, this makes her faith grow. 

    • By Jack Ryan
      20160801E.pdf
      Here is the text of the new letter (hopefully available in original format soon)
      Christian Congregation
      of Jehovah’s Witnesses
      The Ridgeway, London, NW7 1RN Telephone: 020 8906 2211
      8/1/16-E
      August 1, 2016
      TO ALL BODIES OF ELDERS
      Re: Protecting Minors From Abuse
      Table of Contents
      Legal Considerations ................................................................ Pars. 5-9
      Congregation Considerations ...................................................... Par. 10
      Providing Spiritual Assistance to Victims ............................ Pars. 11-12
      Investigating Allegations ............................................................. Par. 13
      Judicial Committee ...................................................................... Par. 14
      Reinstatement Committee .................................................... Pars. 15-16
      Restrictions ........................................................................... Pars. 17-19
      Filing ............................................................................................ Par. 20
      Moving to Another Congregation ........................................ Pars. 21-22
      Notification by Secular Authorities ............................................. Par. 23
      Sexual Misconduct Involving Only Minors ......................... Pars. 24-25
      Notations in the Shepherding Textbook ...................................... Par. 26
      Dear Brothers:
      1. This letter replaces the letter dated October 1, 2012, to all bodies of elders regarding
      child abuse and has been added to the list of policy letters cited in Index to Letters for Bodies of Elders
      (S-22). Please carefully study the entire letter. While the following information refers to an accused
      in the masculine gender and to the victim in the feminine gender, it applies equally when the
      genders are different. Similarly, references to parents apply equally to legal guardians.
      2. Child abuse includes the sexual or physical abuse of a minor. It would also include the
      extreme neglect of a minor by her parent. Child sexual abuse is a perversion and generally includes
      sexual intercourse with a minor; oral or anal sex with a minor; fondling the genitals, breasts, or buttocks
      of a minor; voyeurism of a minor; indecent exposure to a minor; or soliciting a minor for sexual
      conduct. Depending on the circumstances of the case, it may include involvement with child
      pornography or “sexting” with a minor. “Sexting” describes the sending of sexually explicit messages
      or images electronically.
      3. From the Bible’s standpoint, child sexual abuse is a gross sin. (Deut. 23:17, 18; Gal.
      5:19-21; ks10 chap. 5 par. 10; w97 2/1 p. 29; g93 10/8 p. 10, ftn.) Jehovah’s Witnesses abhor child
      sexual abuse. (Rom. 12:9) Thus, the congregation will not shield any perpetrator of such repugnant
      acts from the consequences of his sin.
      4. The Scriptures place the responsibility on parents for teaching and protecting their children.
      (Eph. 6:4) As spiritual shepherds, elders can help parents to shoulder their Scriptural responsibility.
      Our publications and website contain much helpful information to assist parents.—w10
      11/1 p. 13; w08 10/1 p. 21; g 10/07 pp. 3-11; lr pp. 170-171; g99 4/8 pp. 8-11; g97 4/8 p. 14; w96
      12/1 pp. 13-14 pars. 18-19; fy pp. 61-62 pars. 24-26; g93 10/8 pp. 5-13; g85 1/22 pp. 3-10.
      Re: Protecting Minors From Abuse
      August 1, 2016
      Page 2
      5. Legal Considerations: In some jurisdictions, individuals who learn of an allegation of child abuse may be obligated by law to report the allegation to the secular authorities. In all cases, the victim and her parents have the absolute right to report an allegation to the authorities.—Gal. 6:5; ks10 chap. 12 par. 19.
      6. To ensure that elders comply with child-abuse reporting laws, two elders should immedi-ately call the Legal Department for legal advice when the elders learn of an accusation of child abuse. (Rom. 13:1-4) A call should be made even when both persons involved are minors. The elders should not ask an alleged victim, the accused person, or anyone else to call the Legal Department on the el-ders’ behalf. The elders should call the Legal Department even in the following situations:
      • The alleged abuse occurred many years ago.
      • The alleged abuse is based on the testimony of only one witness.
      • The alleged abuse is believed to be a repressed memory.
      • The alleged abuse involved perpetrators or victims who are deceased.
      • The alleged abuse is believed to have already been reported to the secular authorities.
      • The alleged perpetrator or victim is not a member of your congregation.
      • The alleged perpetrator is a non-Witness associating with the congregation.
      • The alleged abuse occurred before the alleged perpetrator or victim was baptized.
      • The alleged victim is now an adult.
      • The alleged abuse occurred in the past, and it is unclear whether your congregation elders ever called the Legal Department for direction.
      7. The Legal Department will provide legal advice based on the facts and the applicable law. If the individual who is accused of the child abuse is associated with your congregation, the two elders calling should provide the Legal Department with the individual’s date of birth and, if applicable, his date of baptism. After speaking with the Legal Department, the call will be trans-ferred to the Service Department so that the elders can receive further assistance.
      8. Two elders should immediately call the Legal Department regarding any prison inmate, baptized or unbaptized, who has been accused of child abuse and who is now associating with a congregation. This would include his attending congregation meetings held in the prison. In some cases, elders may not be permitted to inquire about the offense that an inmate may have committed. However, if the elders learn that the alleged offense has to do with child abuse, they should imme-diately call the Legal Department.
      9. If the elders become aware of an adult associated with a congregation who has been in-volved with child pornography, two elders should immediately call the Legal Department. Likewise, if the elders become aware of an adult or a minor associated with a congregation who is “sexting” with a minor, the Legal Department should be called immediately. The Legal Department does not need to be called when the elders receive reports of adults “sexting” one another.
      10. Congregation Considerations: When discussing child sexual abuse from a congrega-tion standpoint, we are not discussing a situation in which a minor who is a willing participant and who is approaching adulthood is involved in sexual activity with an adult who is a few years older than the minor. Nor, generally speaking, are we discussing situations in which only minors are in-volved. (See paragraphs 24-25.) Rather, we are referring to an adult guilty of sexually abusing a minor who is a young child, or an adult guilty of sexual involvement with a minor who is approaching adulthood but was not a willing participant.
      Re: Protecting Minors From Abuse
      August 1, 2016
      Page 3
      11. Providing Spiritual Assistance to Victims: As elders provide ongoing spiritual shep-herding, it is especially important that they demonstrate empathy and compassion to victims of child sexual abuse and their families. (Isa. 32:1, 2) Helpful suggestions and guidelines can be found in the Shepherding textbook, chapter 4, paragraphs 21-28. The elders should carefully review this material when helping victims of child sexual abuse. In the case of any discussion with a child abuse victim who is still a minor, an elder should never meet alone with the minor but should al-ways involve another elder and another adult member of the congregation, preferably the minor’s parent(s). If it is not possible to include the parent (for example, if the parent is the accused), then another adult member of the congregation who is a confidant of the victim should be included. In addition to the spiritual shepherding provided by the elders, the victim or her family may desire other assistance. For example, the victim or her family may decide to consult a mental-health pro-fessional. This would be a personal decision for them to make.
      12. When an elder is approached by an adult who is concerned or distraught about past abuse, he should “speak consolingly” to the person. (1 Thess. 5:14) Elders should manifest an em-pathetic, compassionate, patient, and supportive response to those approaching them about such matters. An elder must never meet alone with or become the sole confidant of a sister to whom he is not closely related.
      13. Investigating Allegations: The elders may learn of an allegation of child sexual abuse directly from the victim, through her parents, or through a trusted confidant of the victim. After re-ceiving assistance from the branch office, the body of elders will appoint two elders to conduct a Scriptural investigation of every allegation of child sexual abuse. These elders should carefully fol-low Scriptural procedures and the Bible-based direction outlined in this letter and in the Shepherd-ing textbook, particularly chapter 5. Elders should remember that during the investigation process and during the judicial committee process, a victim of child sexual abuse is not required to make her allegation in the presence of the alleged abuser. In the exceptional event that the two elders believe it is necessary to interview a minor who is a victim of child sexual abuse, the elders should first con-tact the Service Department.
      14. Judicial Committee: If the body of elders concludes that there is sufficient Scriptural evidence to warrant the formation of a congregation judicial committee on the grounds of child sex-ual abuse, the coordinator of the body of elders should first contact the circuit overseer. (ks10 chap. 5 par. 37; chap. 6 pars. 1-2) The circuit overseer will designate an experienced elder to serve as chairman of the judicial committee and, if needed, the appeal committee. If wrongdoing is estab-lished and the wrongdoer is not repentant, he should be disfellowshipped. (ks10 chap. 7 par. 26) On the other hand, if the wrongdoer is repentant and is reproved, the reproof should be announced to the congregation. (ks10 chap. 7 pars. 20-21) This announcement will serve as a protection for the congregation.
      15. Reinstatement Committee: If a person who has been disfellowshipped for child sexu-al abuse applies for reinstatement, the coordinator of the body of elders should contact his circuit overseer and provide the names of those who served on the original committee. The circuit overseer will designate an experienced elder to serve as chairman of the reinstatement committee. If the deci-sion is to reinstate, two elders should immediately call the Service Department. This call must be made before the reinstatement is announced to the congregation.—ks10 chap. 11 pars. 1-6, 11-15.
      16. If a person who has been disfellowshipped for child sexual abuse has moved and applies for reinstatement in a different congregation, the coordinator of the body of elders of the new con-gregation should contact his circuit overseer. The circuit overseer of the new congregation will desig-
      Re: Protecting Minors From Abuse
      August 1, 2016
      Page 4
      nate an experienced elder to serve as chairman of the reinstatement committee in the new congrega-tion. If that committee recommends that the person be reinstated, the committee should contact the coordinator of the body of elders of the original congregation, who should then contact his circuit overseer and provide the names of those who served on the original judicial committee. That circuit overseer will designate an experienced elder to serve as chairman of the reinstatement committee in the original congregation. If that committee agrees to reinstate, two elders from each congregation should immediately call the Service Department. These calls must be made before the reinstatement is announced in both congregations.—ks10 chap. 11 pars. 7-10, 13.
      17. Restrictions: The elders should carefully adhere to all direction provided by the Ser-vice Department regarding reasonable steps that should be taken to protect minors from one who has engaged in child sexual abuse. For example, the Service Department will provide direction when (1) a congregation judicial committee determines that one guilty of child sexual abuse is re-pentant and will remain in the congregation, (2) one disfellowshipped for child sexual abuse is rein-stated, (3) when an unbaptized publisher or a baptized member of the congregation who denies an accusation of child sexual abuse is convicted by the secular authorities, or (4) one viewed as a child molester by the community or the congregation becomes a publisher or becomes a baptized member of the congregation.
      18. Direction from the Service Department to the elders will include restrictions imposed on an individual’s activities within the congregation, on his participation in the field ministry, and on his interaction with minors. The elders will be directed to caution the individual never to be alone with a minor, not to cultivate friendships with minors, not to display affection for minors, and so forth. In some cases, the Service Department may specifically direct elders to inform parents of minors within the congregation of the need to monitor their children’s interaction with an individu-al. If the body of elders has questions about a past case, two elders should be assigned to call the Service Department for direction. The coordinator of the body of elders should ensure that newly appointed elders and elders who move into the congregation are made aware of the Service De-partment’s direction regarding such individuals.
      19. One who has engaged in child sexual abuse does not qualify to receive any privileges in the congregation for many years, if ever. This includes seemingly minor privileges. Elders should keep in mind what is stated in the January 1, 1997, Watchtower article “Let Us Abhor What Is Wick-ed,” page 29, paragraph 2: “Child sexual abuse reveals an unnatural fleshly weakness. Experience has shown that such an adult may well molest other children. True, not every child molester repeats the sin, but many do. And the congregation cannot read hearts to tell who is and who is not liable to mo-lest children again. (Jeremiah 17:9) Hence, Paul’s counsel to Timothy applies with special force in the case of baptized adults who have molested children: ‘Never lay your hands hastily upon any man; nei-ther be a sharer in the sins of others.’ (1 Timothy 5:22).” Therefore, if the body of elders believes that one who has engaged in child sexual abuse decades ago may now qualify for minor privileges, such as carrying or adjusting microphones, operating audio/video equipment, or assisting with accounts, liter-ature, magazines, or territories, they should assign two elders to call the Service Department. The as-signed elders should call the Service Department before any congregation privileges are extended.
      20. Filing: Information concerning individuals associated with the congregation and ac-cused of child sexual abuse (established or not), including letters of introduction, should be placed in an envelope labeled with the individual’s name and marked “Do Not Destroy.” This envelope should be kept indefinitely in the congregation’s confidential file. This would include Notification of Disfellowshipping or Disassociation (S-77) forms on individuals who have committed child sex-ual abuse, even if later reinstated.
      Re: Protecting Minors From Abuse
      August 1, 2016
      Page 5
      21. Moving to Another Congregation: When an individual who has been accused of child sexual abuse (established or not) moves to another congregation, two elders from the congregation the individual moves from should immediately call the Legal Department. The elders should be prepared to provide the name of the new congregation, if known. This should be done even if the individual is disfellowshipped or is in prison and is transferred to another facility or is released. The Congregation Service Committee should not send any information to the new congregation until after receiving le-gal advice from the Legal Department and direction from the Service Department.
      22. When the elders are informed that an individual who has been accused of child sexual abuse (established or not) has moved into the congregation, two elders should immediately call the Legal Department. This should be done even if the individual is disfellowshipped or is in prison and has transferred from another facility or is released. If the individual is disfellowshipped and living within the congregation’s territory, the elders should list that address on the appropriate congrega-tion territory card as a “Do Not Call.”
      23. Notification by Secular Authorities: From time to time, secular authorities may in-form the elders that a sex offender is living in the area. The notice may provide the address of the individual and may state the nature of his criminal activity. In such a case, the elders should list that address on the appropriate congregation territory card as a “Do Not Call.”
      24. Sexual Misconduct Involving Only Minors: What steps should elders take when mi-nors engage in sexual misconduct with one another? As stated in paragraph 6, two elders should immediately call the Legal Department even when both persons are minors. Minors who engage in sexual misconduct with one another are not generally considered by the congregation as having en-gaged in child sexual abuse. However, regardless of the ages of those involved, such misconduct is serious and may even warrant congregation judicial action. The body of elders should work with the parents to ensure that the minors receive spiritual assistance. If elders have questions regarding a specific case, they should call the Service Department.—ks10 chap. 5 par. 61; chap. 6 par. 14.
      25. The potential serious consequences associated with “sexting” highlight the importance of Christian parents supervising their children’s use of electronic devices. When baptized minors become involved in “sexting,” the elders must use good judgment in determining whether the wrongdoing has escalated to a point warranting congregation judicial action. Helpful information can be found in “Questions From Readers” in the July 15, 2006, issue of The Watchtower. Please review this material carefully before concluding that a baptized minor is guilty of gross uncleanness or brazen conduct. (ks10 chap. 5 par. 9) If the baptized minor has been previously counseled and persists in the wrong course, in most cases, congregation judicial action is taken. Each case must be evaluated on its own merit. In all cases, the body of elders should work with the parents to ensure that the minors receive spiritual assistance. (ks10 chap. 6 par. 14) If elders have questions regarding a specific case, they should call the Service Department.
      26. Notations in the Shepherding Textbook: In view of the foregoing, each elder should make the following notation next to chapter 3, paragraph 20; chapter 5, paragraph 10, second bullet; chapter 7, paragraph 20, second bullet; chapter 10, paragraph 2; and chapter 12, paragraph 18, of the Shepherding textbook: “See letter dated August 1, 2016, to all bodies of elders.” In addition, each elder should cross out chapter 12, paragraphs 20-21.
      27. It is imperative to adhere to the direction in this letter each time a matter involving child abuse comes to your attention. This will serve to uphold the sanctity of Jehovah’s name and to protect minors. (1 Pet. 2:12) Your full cooperation with this direction is appreciated. May Jehovah
      Re: Protecting Minors From Abuse
      August 1, 2016
      Page 6
      grant you knowledge, wisdom, and discernment as you care for this and other weighty matters in connection with the flock of God entrusted to your care.—Prov. 2:6; 1 Pet. 5:2, 3.
      Your brothers,
      c: Circuit overseers
    • Guest Nicole
      By Guest Nicole
    • By Bible Speaks
      The set of Likasi is regional French-speaking, Democratic Republic of the Congo in Katanga province.. We welcomed 41 new baptized to an audience of about 2,000 people.   Es el conjunto de Likasi expresión francesa regional, República Democrática del Congo, en la provincia de Katanga. Dimos la bienvenida a 41 nuevos bautizados a una audiencia de cerca de 2.000 personas. Merci beaucoup M!
    • By Bible Speaks
      The set of Likasi is regional French-speaking, Democratic Republic of the Congo in Katanga province..
      We welcomed 41 new baptized to an audience of about 2,000 people.
      Es el conjunto de Likasi expresión francesa regional, República Democrática del Congo, en la provincia
      de Katanga. Dimos la bienvenida a 41 nuevos bautizados a una audiencia de cerca de 2.000 personas.
      Merci beaucoup M!
    • By Bible Speaks
      @yngbld6 shares with us: “My son Aaron, @the.8ran.15, giving his Mom and me a big hug after his baptism at the Regional Convention in Huntsville, Alabama, USA.”
    • By Jack Ryan
      Seven and nine year olds making a life long decision which could mean their families may kick them out of the house in their late teens and shun them.
       
    • Guest Nicole
      By Guest Nicole
      Baptize Witnesses Today -- Men of Jehovah's Witnesses leaving beach to wade into water about 300 feet out for baptism by immersion. Scene was Orchard beach in Bronx. June 21, 1958. (Photo by William N. Jacobellis/New York Post Archives / (c) NYP Holdings, Inc. via Getty Images)

    • Guest Nicole
      By Guest Nicole
      Minister of the Jehovah's Witnesses aid in the baptism of some of the 524 converts to the faith in a pool set up at Belmont Park Race Track. The baptism is a high-light of the four-day Witnesses Divine Sovereignty assembly, which ends tomorrow. August 08, 1975. (Photo by Nury Hernandez/New York Post Archives / (c) NYP Holdings, Inc. via Getty Images)
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