My parents became Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1958, when I was just one year old. Although I went through the teenage ‘rebellious period’, I remained a member of the religion. At the age of 20, I became a Ministerial Servant.
I always hated the ministry (going door-to-door) but it was what you did. So I did it, sort of.
I married at 30, moved congregation and became an elder at 34.
Now, over the years, I have to say we were never Watchtower’s ‘perfect family’. We had ‘present days’ just before Christmas for the kids. We tried to make it as tolerable as possible for them.
My ‘career’ in the ‘truth’ went from strength to strength, mainly at the congregational level. I served for 5 years as School Overseer. When our aged Presiding Overseer died, I was appointed to take his position. I served in that role for a further 5 years, from 2001 to 2006.
Following what felt like a ‘coup’, I was removed as Presiding Overseer but was appointed as Watchtower study conductor, which I did for a further 4 years.
On occasion I gave talks at the circuit assembly. For a number of years my wife and I pioneered with our young family. We did all this because we thought it was the right thing to do.
Although we were, shall we say, more ‘liberal’ in our outlook & actions than the mainstream members, we felt that there was a place for us too. To illustrate this, my daughter at the age of 17 went to university. The view towards further education was a little less hostile then but to allow this as an elder was, to say the least, frowned upon. Obviously we kept this as quiet as possible but I still wonder how I managed to hold on to my position.
Eight years ago we moved area & congregation. After a period of a few months I was made an elder again and I continued in this role until I stepped down (citing health reasons) just over 2 years ago. I had not fully ‘woken up’ at this point but I knew something was changing in me. I researched on the internet and began to see the organisation for what it was. The child abuse scandal particularly upset me. I had sat on many judicial committees – I am grateful to say now that none resulted in disfellowshipping – and thankfully none of them involved child abuse. But if they had I would have felt compelled to report it to the authorities, which would have resulted in my removal as an elder. My feelings are: if this is Jehovah’s organisation then it would have the very best child protection policies in the world. Sadly, it has some of the worst!
In the meantime, my wife (at the age of 50) and my son also went to University while I was still an elder. I really had to keep these actions very quiet this time!. They are now both working towards their masters.
A year ago, things came to a head, sort of. I was still going to Sunday meetings. However, my new found knowledge led me to try to interact with the ex-JW community on twitter. I set up a twitter account anonymously – or so I thought – and tweeted a few comments. Clearly I was not very savvy as these tweets were spotted and linked to me by some in my local congregations.
Enter two elders!
Over the course of two meetings, I explained how I felt on many issues. I was convinced it would lead to judicial action but it didn’t. I can only assume that the organisation behind Jehovah’s Witnesses is more cautious with the way they deal with ex-elders, who are very well aware of how things work.
At this point I stopped going to meetings and haven’t been since. So presently all of us are, as quietly as possible, ‘fading’. I am not sure how long we can get away with that but while my 90 year old father is still with us I would prefer to keep it that way. The reason for this is that I am not sure he would understand. Also, I don’t want to upset him or have the danger that some in his congregation would pressure him to stop seeing us. Even by JW standards, that would be ridiculous!
So where to now? I’m not sure yet, but we are happy and determined not to go back!
Even after 60 years, it is never too late to have the courage to break free.