In January of 2019, Jehovah’s Witness elders were issued a new instructional handbook, “Shepherd the Flock of God.” As with the 2010 edition (this post), this book tells elders to treat details of a husband’s infidelity as “confidential” from his wife; note chapter 15, “Preparing for Judicial Hearings”:
The husband, however, is outright invited to sit in on any meetings an accused wife has with elders:
I’ve commented on this gross double standard before; the husband is seen as a mature adult, able to instruct and counsel his wife, but she’s not considered as having the same ability to direct and “restore” her husband.
Keeping information from an innocent spouse is also disrespectful to marriage itself; the bible refers to husbands and wives as “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24; Ephesians 5:31), so nothing should be considered “confidential” from the other and especially if it pertains to a spouse’s fidelity. If elders willfully withhold information from an innocent wife, acting as if they have more rights to that information than the wife, the husband is then “one flesh” with the elders more so than his wife.
Not only is this arrangement insulting to the intellect and abilities of a woman but, in addition, the judicial committee is told to weigh if a sinner has considered the impact of their behavior on others. Note chapter 16, “Procedure for Judicial Hearings,” under the subheading “Determining Genuine Repentance”:
What has he done to repair his relationship with Jehovah and with others he has hurt by his actions? Has he made amends, expressed willingness to do so, or apologized to those damaged by his sinful course? Has he asked for the forgiveness of those he has wronged?
If he has committed adultery, has he confessed to the innocent mate and asked for forgiveness?
How can the committee ensure the unfaithful spouse has made amends or even apologized sufficiently, according to the extent of damage he’s caused, if they don’t meet with both together and guarantee the wife knows all relevant details? Those details are sure to contribute to that damage done and will also affect what the wife feels are proper amends; as every instance of unfaithfulness is different, those needed amends will also be different.
As an example, if the husband was away on a business trip and had a drunken one-night stand with a stranger he met in a hotel bar, whom he’s never seen after that night, he might make amends by allowing the wife to go with him on future trips or no longer traveling for business altogether. However, if the husband had an affair with a coworker, those amends might include quitting that job and even moving to a new city, to avoid any chance encounters with the other woman.
Yet, elders cannot determine if an unfaithful husband has made proper amends and, in turn, evaluate his supposed “genuine repentance” unless they’re sure the innocent mate knows all pertinent information.
Added Duplicity With Confidentiality
There is another twist in the 2019 edition of the “Shepherd” book when it comes to so-called “confidential” information; also from chapter 15:
So, information regarding a husband’s infidelity is considered “confidential” from his own wife, but anything that anyone else says during the judicial committee process is fair game, to be shared with other elders, a circuit overseer, and men at the branch office, without that person’s knowledge much less their permission!
These instructions negate any argument or scriptures elders might offer as to why they consider certain information “confidential” from an innocent wife, as they set aside those defenses when the wife is accused of adultery and when they feel a need to consult with men outside their congregation.
Note, too, that this lack of confidentiality potentially affects those who are innocent of a certain sin! The information above doesn’t say to consult with other elders if a committee cannot determine repentance after a confession or proof of sinful conduct, and the instructions regarding a wife’s judicial committee refer to her being “accused” of adultery.
However, confidentiality is given to an unfaithful husband and from the person he sinned against in this situation! No one else in the congregation is afforded this privacy and respect.
These instructions are nothing less than duplicitous, deceitful, misogynistic, and obscenely shameful, and should make anyone think twice about this entire arrangement and the supposed honesty of the religion overall as well as elders themselves.
For more information regarding the 2019 “Shepherd the Flock of God” book, please visit this post.
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