What is the Governing Body?

In this episode of the JW Review, i’ll be sharing a recent lecture I did on the topic of the Governing Body.  To be honest, I had prepared a much more in depth presentation but it turns out the audience had a lot of questions on the basics prior to delving into the primary topic.  With that said, I hope this is useful!

If you’re interested in viewing my slides, you can download them HERE

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33 thoughts on “What is the Governing Body?

  1. rotherham2 says:

    Hello Mike,
    You said:
    Meets regularly and
    decrees what all JW’s
    must believe in
    virtually every area of
    life.

    Response:
    Of course, this is an exaggeration to serve an agenda to say “virtually every area of life”. However, when it comes to Biblical teachings and Christian morality, they rightfully have the ecclesial authority to make decisions and guidelines, as it should be. Autonomy in such areas leads to religious anarchy and confusion and moral breakdown. Just look around in the churches today and one should be able to see that in evidence in differing degrees.

    To claim the Bible makes only one mention of a meeting is of no consequence as to how many times they actually met. There is simply no way to know. The fact is though, when they did meet with this meeting, they made decisions, called decrees, that became binding upon all the congregations, not just a local one.
    Acts 16:4 tells us that Paul and others in a ‘town to town’ fashion, delivered the DECREES reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to OBEY.”
    There is no conclusive evidence that when the governing body convened, that it included the entire Jerusalem congregation.
    The Pharisees who spoke up in favor of circumcision were evidently allowed to join the Apostles and older men in order to settle the dispute. Since those Pharisees would represent the views of those promoting circumcision, it is logical that they would be joining the meeting with those who were being called upon to decide. Nothing indicates that the entire congregation was present. As verse 6 clearly states, it was just the Apostles and older men of Jerusalem who were going to decide. Otherwise, why not mention everyone who was present?

    As far as “multitude” goes, it does not in every context mean a great number of people, but as is revealed by Thayer’s lexicon, it can simply mean “the whole number, the whole multitude, the assemblage”. At Acts 28:6 it is used in reference to a mere bundle of sticks gathered by Paul. So, yes, there was an assemblage of men; Apostles, older men, Paul, Barnabas and some former Pharisees, and they all became silent when Paul and Barnabas began to speak.

    Even though the congregation was apparently in on the decision as to who to send to Antioch, there’s no reason to believe that they were also at the meeting where the decision was made. We should note that in chapter 16:4,5 it was the DECREES decided upon by “who?” By the Apostles and older men of Jerusalem. The final authority is spelled out to be the Apostles and older men. And if this account was nothing more than a local issue, involving a mere single autonomous congregation, why then were the DECREES sent out to ALL the congregations for them to OBSERVE. That shows CENTRAL authority.

  2. Juan Rivera says:

    Mike,

    Forgive my grammar, English is not my mother tongue; so please excuse any errors on my part.

    First, I want thank you for drawing more awareness of the importance of ecclesiology. Many witnesses and non-witness don’t realize how our respective ecclessiologies have methodological implications in our approach to scripture (I’m amazed how many misunderstandings there are between us and protestants.) This is the most fundamental issue to discuss with us (Jehovah’s Witnesses) and needs a greater deal of attention.

    I know you do this with love and deep commitment to truth and I’m not insulted you believe our point of view is heresy and will like to “refute our claim of the GB.” Working out our disagreements is not easy, but is the first and most important task. So let’s clear up our misunderstandings. I am not an apologist, as I mentioned in the past my goal when I engage in dialogue with other Christians is to pursue complete agreement on what we each consider essential doctrines. Perhaps you can say its apologetics (since I don’t believe my beliefs as a JW are false) but it goes beyond that, since at the same time I’m pursuing truth and trying to reach complete agreement with other Christians in the truth.

    With that said, my time is limited at the moment (we are about to start our pioneer school) but I wanted at least to offer some thoughts about your presentations and will try to contribute if possible as you raised a number of important questions/objections that need a reply.

    Best Regards,
    Juan Rivera

  3. Juan Rivera says:

    Mike,

    I plan to go through your whole presentation , but there was a point you went into frequently during your presentation about “inspiration” and I wanted to comment briefly on it.

    I wonder if your conflating the inspiration of the letters of the new testament with the authoritative judgements of the first century congregation. One example: The Apostles in the first ten to fifteen years of the Congregation (before any Scripture was written), when exercising their authority over the Christian congregation as His appointed representatives, and yet not speaking inspired Scripture. “Inspiration” its a technical term that refers to the inspiration of scripture and that term is used in 2 Timothy 3:16 and that’s the only place the bible uses that word “inspiration”. In Acts 15 Peter and the apostles are speaking on their authority given by Christ and assisted by the holy spirit, but not because of inspiration. Claiming they were inspired in Acts 15 when the passage nowhere mentions they were inspired its an unfounded deduction. Then how can they give a doctrine? The apostles and elders are deemed with this teaching/interpretative authority because they are the ones appointed to take the lead and govern the church and guided by the holy spirit, it does not say they did this by inspiration…and there is nothing here in the text or elsewhere, where that has been rescinded.

    1. michaeljfelker says:

      Juan-

      Thanks for your comments and taking the time to examine the presentation. Glad we at least agree that ecclesial authority is quite foundational to our differences.

      Is it your claim that the letter the Jerusalem council wrote in Acts 15 is NOT inspired (let’s add infallible and inerrant as well)? I do agree that their letters carried apostolic authority and assistance from the holy spirit, but I don’t think that’s all.

      If it’s your position that there is to be a governing body today who is to take the lead and govern all Christians worldwide today, then I would ask that you present your case.

  4. Juan Rivera (@_JuanJRivera) says:

    Mike,

    Yes, my claim is that the letter the Jerusalem council wrote in Acts 15 was NOT inspired. I believe with others that to argue the council “claimed direct and divine inspiration is the one conclusion a reading of the Acts text will not tolerate.” The conclusions the Apostles and elders together with the holy spirit had favored and arrived were through debate and discussion not inspiration. The only one that was inspired was Luke who wrote the book of Acts.

    We can’t confuse inspiration with the spirit’s guidance. Inspiration as I understand it refers to the error free transmission of God’s revelation in the bible(the actual transcribing of words on a page).

    But inspiration doesn’t mean that everything that’s inspired is error free. For example, The gospel writers would inspire what the Devil said, but what the Devil said is not true, but its inspired in the scriptures.

    There’s a difference here between what we call inerrancy ( I think that’s what you want to talk about), infallibility and inspiration. Now, the three are related but I think we ought not to confuse the terms.

    The word “inerrant” is applied to the Bible because it’s a non-personal entity that we know contains no error but is static in its contents.

    The word “infallible” is the word we normally apply to a thinking personality who, on certain occasions or indefinitely, makes decisions concerning issues in the world that require an error-free judgment to be made.

    Let me offer some examples from my friend Robert Sungenis and you tell me if they are related to our discussion:

    “God gives each man a measure of wisdom. Moses, for example, was given a great amount of wisdom from God. With that wisdom, Moses made many great decisions for the people of Israel. He commissioned 70 elders with a proportionate amount of wisdom to help in making these judgments.

    One might argue that the allowance of divorce given by Moses in Deut 24 was, though legitimate and served its purpose, was not an infallible decision for the state of marriage, but merely a man-made concession to the stubborn mentality of the Jews of that day. This is confirmed when Jesus set aside the Mosaic divorce law and went back to the original law given infallibly by God himself – what God has joined together let not man put asunder. In the end, Moses’ judgments were not technically infallible.

    Solomon too had great wisdom. He saved a baby’s life from the treacherous hands of a barren woman by using his wisdom. Yet no one would say that Solomon or his decisions were infallible.

    Mike, can we first comment and talk about the actual evidence in question you presented in your presentation? whether or not it demonstrates the conclusion you are drawing from it? Let me know if the best way to do this would be to present your objections one or two at a time, which we then discuss, and then you present your next one or two objections.

    Best Regards,

    Juan Rivera

    1. michaeljfelker says:

      Juan-

      My point is that the Jerusalem council letter would hold an equal amount of weight as, let’s say, Paul’s letter to the Galatians. So whether or not the letter was inspired isn’t necessarily essential to my primary argument (though I think a good case can be made), which is that I don’t think the Jerusalem Council is an established governing body.

      So while you’re welcome to go after my points and try to disprove them, it wouldn’t necessarily prove your case. After all, the burden of proof is really on the JW to prove a GB as an established ecclesial office. I only bring in Acts 15 as that’s usually the primary example. Perhaps you have another approach. So my recommendation would be to build your case for a Governing Body.

      You’re welcome to respond here, or elsewhere if you like. My approach these days is podcasting, so that’s likely how i’ll respond, assuming it’ll give me the opportunity to say something new.

      1. Juan Rivera (@_JuanJRivera) says:

        Mike,

        I find it very hard that a case can be made that the Apostles and elders decisions in Acts 15 together with the letter they send to the congregations where due to inspiration. I think it will be a theological reach and unfounded deduction to make that claim.

        The reason I pointed this out from your presentation was not to nitpick but because you brought it up, I think on three occasion when arguing (building your case?) if the “JW Governing Body closely parallel the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15”.

        You also said in your power point slides that:

        “the Jerusalem Council had apostles who wrote inspired and infallible letters” as opposed to the JW Governing Body in which “there are no Apostles, nor are their writings inspired and infallible”.

        I was concerned your paradigm and critique of the GB might have been partly based on a misunderstanding of what inspiration entailed.

        From my understanding your claim (the “closely parallels”) is stronger than what we argue. The pattern the governing body has claimed the scriptures provide is one in broad outline, not detail (in a schematic way). Like Robert Raymond (who is a Presbyterian) we agree “some principals and essentials are clearly taught and others are left to the judgment of Christians”. We also believe “the New Testament does not provide a fully spelled-out, systematic model of church polity. Rather, it provides us with…a pattern sufficiently clear in outline that by good and necessary inference one may deduce its details.” The point where we disagree is that he thinks that outline clearly points to Presbyterianism, just like other Christians like yourself believe it points to Congregationalism.

        Regards,

        Juan Rivera

      2. Juan Rivera (@_JuanJRivera) says:

        Mike,

        In regards to the GB having the burden of proof, your approach is not ecclesiologically neutral. When comparing two paradigms, it is question-begging to use an authority unique to one paradigm to judge the other paradigm The governing body claims they are the highest interpretative/ ecclesiastical authority, you claim the same for yourself (individualism directly or indirectly).

        In the beginning of your presentation you stated that Witnesses hold an absolute unquestionable obedience to their leaders. Now, if you like we can discuss the relationship between submission, dissent, accountability and if as Witnesses we can investigate the evidence for or against authority of the GB in a separate thread, but let me just say that:

        It would be an oversimplification to think that either we must submit to all the teaching/statements of the governing body or that we are entitled to disagree from anything not formally (authoritative) taught, but it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to state that as Witnesses we are expected to give our private and public assent to the Governing body’s teachings.

        Sometimes we are giving prudential admonitions or judgments by the GB and congregation elders, other times we receive concrete applications of biblical principles. We should give serious consideration and attention to these but we can legitimately differ or disagree. Some of our teachings have different status of obligatory force, not all of them are in the same category or levels of authority.

        Also, I wonder if you are conflating the period of inquiry with the Christian’s life of faith. Like Rotherham has pointed out in other occasions, the person in the stage of inquiry is not in the same epistemic situation as the Christian who believes they have found the Christian congregation that Christ founded (divinely authorized). It’s like trying to use Acts 17 passage [the Bereans, which were Jewish non-Christians] model of verifying Paul as to how Christians should relate to the apostles or Jerusalem Council. Once the person knows that the person speaking is divinely authorized they come under their authority.

        Later you said something along the lines: “They don’t claim to be leaders and then they say something else”

        and

        “They are selling their campus I guess to make a lot of money”

        Mike, the most charitable interpretation is the one that doesn’t not make them to be contradicting themselves and thereby make them out to be not trustworthy. Rather than assuming their intention is to deceive, the principle of charity requires we take the more charitable interpretation.

        As far as why they claim they are not our leaders, I understood this in the context that our Christian Congregation is theocratically ruled not democratically. “Jehovah God is the ruler, with Jesus Christ as the head of the Christian Congregation”

        Even though they do take the lead (Hebrews 13:7) The governing body prefers to refer itself as the servant of the congregation. Now that doesn’t mean that if you are a servant you can’t have authority. You can have authority and be a servant at the same time because in order to be the true servant you want to tell people the right thing to do, that’s what a true servant does, they are not speaking of their own. That is the purpose of the hierarchy, that those have God-given authority, might serve those entrusted to them. The worldly fallen notion of authority is one of domination and tyranny. That’s not the way God has created hierarchy in the family, and in the Christian Congregation.

        After this you went ahead and presented several quotes about the GB’s authority claims and how this is hammered into us to the point where we will die for our beliefs. How also if a witness finds something in their literature, that they don’t think is quite right or lines up to the scriptures that he will believe he’s resisting God himself when you do that. Even if the GB is wrong they are right and if they publish something Witnesses have to believe it. In other words, witnesses won’t question, won’t think independently.

        Assertions are a dime dozen and unhelpful I could say the same about your own position, if I wished. (Though I don’t and won’t.) In my opinion, your commentary, about those quotes actually hinders our dialogue when helping other Christians who agree with you to understand the JW paradigm. Like I said we can discuss this in a separate thread (submission, dissent, independent thinking, assistance of the holy spirit).

        Sorry for the gang pile, I know your also discussing your presentation with several guest here. I know this is just the first 9 min of your presentation, but I will go through the rest when I find some time.

        May God help us overcome that which divides us,

        Juan Rivera

  5. rotherham2 says:

    Hello Mike,

    You said:
    Meets privately and
    behind closed doors
    with no public access.

    Response
    There is simply nothing in the book of Acts, chapter 15 that demonstrates that the governing body had an open door discussion.

    Once again, this is based erroneously upon the word “multitude” and what it means.

    The Greek word simply means that there were numerous individuals present but does not necessitate the understanding that the entire congregation was also there.

    The only thing that necessitates that understanding is when it came to the election of who to send with the decrees that had been decided upon.

    Once again, the scriptures are quite clear who formulated the decrees. If the congregation was in on the decision they would have been credited as well with the decrees? but the decrees were specifically a result of the discussion of the governing body, the Apostles and older men.

    Question: If local autonomy was the rule of the day, then why were the decrees of the Jerusalem congregation made binding upon all other congregations?

    There are numerus indications that there was an overall governing element and there were letters with instructions being sent to numerous congregations from someone other than a local autonomous body of elders. Notice:

    Eph 4:11 And he gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelizers, some as shepherds and teachers,12with a view to the readjustment of the holy ones, for ministerial work, for the building up of the body of the Christ,13until we all attain to the oneness in the faith and in the accurate knowledge of the Son of God, to a full‐grown man, to the measure of stature that belongs to the fullness of the Christ;

    What did Paul say was the responsibility of these “gifts in men”? He clearly stated that it was to readjust the holy ones, to keep them united, until they all attained to the oneness of the faith, into the full grown man. The point being that these gifts in men had the authority and the responsibility to do these things in the first century.

    Hebrews 13:17 told the first century Christians to be obedient to those who were taking the lead among them. Hebrews tells us that those ones ‘will render an account for our souls’. Who would that have been in the 1st century? Would it not be those gifts in men, the Apostles, who were clealy acting as a governing element among the congregations of Christianity? Would it also not be true that these “gifts in men” would strive to be of the ‘same mind and the same line of thought with no divisions’ according 1 Cor. 1:10 and context?

    Paul said that there were those who gave ORDERS in connection with ‘how to walk and be pleasing to God’;
    1 Thessalonians 4:1,2-
    Finally, brothers, we request YOU and exhort YOU by the Lord Jesus, just as YOU received [the instruction] from us on how YOU ought to walk and please God, just as YOU are in fact walking, that YOU would keep on doing it more fully.2For YOU know the orders we gave YOU through the Lord Jesus.

    The first century Christians were said to adhere to the ‘teachings of the APOSTLES’. (Acts 2:42)
    Acts 2:42
    And they continued devoting themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to sharing [with one another], to taking of meals and to prayers.

    Was this different then the teachings of the SCRIPTURES? No, because the Apostles adhered TO the scriptures. It is abundantly clear that the Apostles had a special authority in the 1st century congregation.

    In reality, the idea of a governing element, made up of men, is everywhere apparent in the Christian Greek Scriptures. Consider the following points and questions:

    Romans 16:17 17 Now I exhort YOU, brothers, to keep your eye on those who cause divisions and occasions for stumbling contrary to the teaching that YOU have learned, and avoid them.
    Divisions in ‘what? What teachings are they in reference to? Would it not be the teachings of the Apostles? (Acts 2:42)

    2 Thessalonians 3:6 6 Now we are giving YOU orders, brothers, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to withdraw from every brother walking disorderly and not according to the tradition YOU received from us.

    Who is the WE giving the orders if there is no such thing as a Christian governing element?

    What is it they received from the US that they needed to adhere to?

    2 Thessalonians 3:13-15 13 For YOUR part, brothers, do not give up in doing right. 14 But if anyone is not obedient to our word through this letter, keep this one marked, stop associating with him, that he may become ashamed. 15 And yet do not be considering him as an enemy, but continue admonishing him as a brother.

    Where did this letter come from that they had to be obedient to? Why was it spoken of as OUR WORD, and not God’s word?

    Who was the OUR? Where was this obvious authority coming from?

    Titus 3:10-11 10 As for a man that promotes a sect, reject him after a first and a second admonition;
    11 knowing that such a man has been turned out of the way and is sinning, he being self-condemned.

    How would you know if someone was promoting a sect if there was no governing element in regard to doctrine? Who determined what the ‘promotion of a sect’ entailed?

    Titus 2:15 15 Keep on speaking these things and exhorting and reproving with full authority to command. Let no man ever despise you.

    Who had “full authority to command” and what did that mean for those under their authority?

    Notice 1 Thessalonians 4:1,2-
    Finally, brothers, we request YOU and exhort YOU by the Lord Jesus, just as YOU received [the instruction] from us on how YOU ought to walk and please God, just as YOU are in fact walking, that YOU would keep on doing it more fully.2For YOU know the orders WE gave YOU through the Lord Jesus.

    Throughout his letters to the different congregations we here Paul speaking of the ‘orders’ or ‘instructions’ that the congregations had been given by the WE. Who was the WE? Did you notice Paul didn’t say to them “God instructed you”, but he said “WE” instructed you? Why did he not say ‘God instructed them’? Why does it say that THEY INSTRUCTED them on HOW TO WALK AND BE PLEASING TO GOD?

    It should be readily apparent that the Apostles were speaking with authority to the congregations scattered about.

    Titus 1:5 For this reason I left you in Crete, that you might correct the things that were defective and might make appointments of older men in city after city, as I gave you orders.

    Correction. Appointment. Again, clealry indicative of an element of authority.

    And again, Hebrews 13:17 “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

    If there was no governing element within the 1st century congregation, who were the leaders that they were to submit to and obey? How were these ones responsible for the souls of the congregation to the extent that they would have to make an accounting for them?

    As well, Acts 16:4 tells us that Paul and others in a ‘town to town’ fashion, delivered the DECREES reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to OBEY.”

    Why were they called DECREES?

    Why were the other congregations expected to OBEY those DECREES? Why did they have to obey the decisions reached by the Apostles and older men?

    Is it not clear that the Apostles and older men in Jerusalem represented an authority in the 1st century church?

    This idea of a governing element within Christianity is embedded within many passages of the Bible.
    Consider: Paul said at 1Cor. 13:11: “Finally, brothers, continue to rejoice, to be readjusted, to be comforted, to think in agreement, to live peacably, and the God of love and of peace will be with you.”
    “The apostles and older men… to those brothers in Antioch… Since we have heard that some from among us have caused you trouble with speeches, trying to subvert your souls, although we did not give them ANY INSTRUCTIONS” – Acts 15:23-24

    Titus 1:5 For this reason I left you in Crete, that you might correct the things that were defective and might make appointments of older men in city after city, as I GAVE YOU ORDERS.

    2 Thes. 2:1,2 However, brothers, respecting the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we request of YOU 2 not to be quickly shaken from YOUR reason nor to be excited either through an inspired expression or through a verbal message or through a letter as though from us, to the effect that the day of Jehovah is here.

    Many more examples can be offered if necessary. But a careful reading of the Christian Greek Scriptures will reveal in undeniable fashion that the first century congregation continuously functioned with the backdrop of a governing element within it, primarily recognized through the Apostles. After the Apostles would pass from the earthly scene, those “gifts in men” and the function they performed would be bestowed upon evangelizers and teachers. These ones would continue in that readjustment process until the entire Christian congregation would come to the oneness of faith, which I think we all know, has not yet been achieved. So it is imperative that Christians identify who represents those “gifts in men” today.

    Regards
    Rotherham

  6. rotherham2 says:

    They had CENTRAL authority, right? They were a governing body in the first century, right? Sending out letters and instructions for other congregation to abide by? If so, Eph. 4:11-17 demonstrates the continuation of that office until the full grown stature arrives. It’s not a hard concept.

    1. michaeljfelker says:

      No, they were neither centralized nor a body. There was one instance where some apostles and elders met in Jerusalem to resolve a controversy, but that’s hardly warranty for claiming they were a centralized governing body.

      And no, Ephesians 4 does not demonstrate that because you are first assuming a governing body office when that is the very issue under question.

    1. michaeljfelker says:

      The problem, as I see it, is that your long post assumed that I didn’t think there was authority in the first century. But I thought I made it clear that I believe that there was *Apostolic* authority in the first century. With that said, i’m not sure what to respond to since you are assuming a position that I don’t take.

  7. Adrian says:

    I’m not a JW , however my understanding is that the GB are are basically senior elders or overseers , andvthat as a collective they take on a modern day “apostolic ” role . Mike how would you explain Hebrews 13 :7 as JWs often refer to that scripture in relation to their GB also ?

    1. michaeljfelker says:

      Hi Adrian-

      Thanks for your question. Are you referring to Hebrews 13:7 or 13:17? The latter is usually the text used to support the Governing Body but I want to make sure i’m understanding you correctly first.

    1. michaeljfelker says:

      Hi Adrian-

      I thought so, but wanted to make sure 🙂

      The question under consideration for me is who are the leaders whom Christians are to obey and submit to? If it’s a Governing Body, then that’s who you are to submit to. If it’s your local elders, then submit to them. But the Governing Body is the very leaders who are under question. If the Governing Body doesn’t actually exist biblically, then there’s no basis for submitting.

      We could delve more deeply into what obedience and submission means if you like. But for me, it would only be submittal to my local elders since I don’t believe in a Governing Body or any higher ecclesial office. Obviously, I submit to the Scriptures unquestionably, but that’s obvious.

      If you’d like an in depth discussion of this text, i’d highly recommend:

      http://meletivivlon.com/2013/01/09/to-obey-or-not-to-obey-that-is-the-question/

  8. Adrian says:

    Thanks Mike , so do you not believe in a global church or brotherhood? I realise the word Governing Body doesn’t appear in the Bible, but neither do many other words used in Christianity – example the Trinity , however we have invented words to label concepts as a natural evolution of language – that doesn’t mean the concept didn’t exist in 1st century Chrisrianity or is unbiblical ? Did the Apostles not have authority or “govern” over the church globally ? How else is the church to be organised for world mission if all congregations act independently? Surely all denominations have some sort of centralised “governing” structures or councils – perhapsychology just less authoritarian or autocratic as the WT ?

    1. michaeljfelker says:

      Hi Adrian-

      Indeed, there are Christians all over the world, but this doesn’t prove that there are to be a small group of men to govern them all today with absolute unquestionable obedience as the JW Governing Body does. I agree with you about the terminology. I don’t require the exact to be used, but I find that the concept itself is completely foreign to the Christian Scriptures.

      Yes, the Apostles did have authority in the first century and could write letters to which Christians were obligated to obey. But this doesn’t mean they were a governing body. Governing Body assumes a centralized ecclesial office. But you won’t find any indication of such in the Bible as I showed in my presentation.

      For churches to organize missions, why is global authority required? Please search the Christian Scriptures and look for every mention of a missionary being sent out. Did the sendings always come from a governing body? If not, could the sending have been done with or without one? My point is that if a local church wants to send out a missionary, then they can do so. If they want to coordinate that with other churches, then that’s fine too. In fact, this is exactly what happens today in many Christian denominations.

    1. rotherham2 says:

      Mike, I actually think that you have a very narrow view of the balance between governing body authority and local authority. As I have stated from the start, the only real difference between your view and ours is that you support a local central authority and we support a universal central authority.

      I also think that the world CENTRAL is throwing. When I say central, I am not speaking demographically, but only in central in the sense that the authority funnels back to them, just like the universal authority of the Apostles in the first century funneled back to them. Just as the Apostles no doubt belonged to different congregations in the first century, yet convened for necessary matters as Acts 15 shows, such is the case with the governing body today. They all belong to different congregations in and around where they convene for meetings. There is no special congregation that they and only they belong to. And they are subject to the same standards as any other publisher within a congregation anywhere else in the world.

      For instance, since we know that the Apostles had earthwide authority in the first century, and there is indication everywhere within the NT that they received letters and instructions from what Paul called the “WE” or “US”, just the opposite of what you say is what we find. You say that a earthwide authority is not demonstrated yet you admit that the Apostles had it and even sent letters to other congregations for observance. What you are claiming as authority for a local body of elders is the exact same thing we are claiming as authority for an earthwide central authority.

      You claim we can’t organize local ministry efforts per congregation or even individually but that is simply not true. Those kinds of efforts, without any specific authority from the governing body take place all the time. For instance if there is a nearby congregation that needs some help with their territory, an individual or any congregation can choose to go help them. They need no special permission from the governing body to do so.

      1. michaeljfelker says:

        Rotherham-

        Let me make a few points of clarification here:

        1. It’s not true that the “only real difference” is local vs universal. It’s much, much more than that. For example, I don’t think a case can be made for absolute obedience to elders. Elders are fallible and subject to correction/rebuke just as anyone else. If you try to correct a Governing Body member, I think we all know what would happen.

        2. I’m not referring to “central” in terms of location either as the GB could meet anywhere to make a decision.

        3. An Apostle (or Apostles) could send letters to an individual congregation or several. And they could even send a letter (as Paul did) whereby he claimed to represent the teachings of the Apostles (i.e. “we, us,” etc.). No problem there. It still doesn’t prove a Governing Body as an established ecclesial office. Plus, the Governing Body does not have ANY Apostles, nor are they even capable of writing inspired/infallible letters. Instead, they write uninspired and sometimes horribly fallible letters, yet demand that all Christians everywhere believe everything they put in print.

        4. Of course local JW congregations can make decisions, but they still have to follow the Governing Body regulations.

  9. Adrian says:

    Thanks for your reply Mike .
    I agree with much of what you say , actually CT Russell the founder of the Bible Student movement also endorsed the independence of each ecclesia or congregation from the WT society . It was Rutherford the second president of WT that centralised authority in order to suppress dissent and dissatisfaction amongst members with his take over .
    The problem with the GB is that they have created an ecclesiastical hierarchy and in many respects become similar to the Catholic Church – as a collective the GB now mirror the Pope when he speaks ex cathedra.
    What the JWS fail to realize is that it is possible for Christians in the 21st century to be organised and United through the power of the Holy Spirit without a centralised hierarchy.

    1. rotherham2 says:

      Hello Mike,

      You said:
      1. It’s not true that the “only real difference” is local vs universal. It’s much, much more than that. For example, I don’t think a case can be made for absolute obedience to elders. Elders are fallible and subject to correction/rebuke just as anyone else. If you try to correct a Governing Body member, I think we all know what would happen.

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      Simply not true. Governing body members are subject to the same quidelines as anyone else and can be corrected when in the wrong. As I said, they are all members of different congregation and are viewed as brothers like all other brothers. They have a special assignment from God, that’s the only difference we see.
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      2. I’m not referring to “central” in terms of location either as the GB could meet anywhere to make a decision.

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      Well, just as in a local congregation where the authority in the congregation funnels to the elder body, likewise with the Apostles and the governing body. That’s what I mean by central.
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      3. An Apostle (or Apostles) could send letters to an individual congregation or several. And they could even send a letter (as Paul did) whereby he claimed to represent the teachings of the Apostles (i.e. “we, us,” etc.). No problem there. It still doesn’t prove a Governing Body as an established ecclesial office.

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      It certainly goes to proof because it shows they had authority over all the congregations, the authority funneled back to them. Eph. 4:11-17 then speaks to a modern day counterpart.
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      Plus, the Governing Body does not have ANY Apostles, nor are they even capable of writing inspired/infallible letters. Instead, they write uninspired and sometimes horribly fallible letters, yet demand that all Christians everywhere believe everything they put in print.

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      Not true. If there are doubts about the things taught, there are avenues to deal with that available. In the end, the final word would lie with the governing body, just as it would with a body of elders locally. (And they are not infallible either) The point is not that they are inspired, the point is to keep the UNITY. That is what Eph 4 stresses, UNITY! A person can entertain different ideas than the governing body as long as they do not create disunity. God tells us those who create disunity are sinning and will not inherit the kingdom.
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      4. Of course local JW congregations can make decisions, but they still have to follow the Governing Body regulations.

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      Such as what?

      Rotherham

  10. BobR. says:

    According to the Bible, the election of elders by Holy Spirit anointed congregational members was practiced in the Early Church. The eventual elimination of this practice gradually led to Elders becoming the Lord’s of the Church, rather than its servants, and it opened the way for the development of the Papal system which suppressed Christian liberty. JWs today have a similar command structure to promote uniformity rather than truth and love, in every element of a Christians life. Instituted by JF Rutherford.

    The selection of elders in the 1st century Church was accomplished by voting or literally through the raising of hands, as the real meaning of “ordained” from Acts 14:23 and 2 Corinth.8:19. This indicates the autonomy of each congregation. No centralised, false GB control over the consciences of Christians.

    Mr. F. Franz in his talk given to the graduates of Gilead in the 1970s, made the same point. No centralised governance of Christians in the 1st century. Christians can be commissioned individually and directly by Christ as was the apostle Paul. In fact it was the ones from the Jerusalem congregation that were causing problems for those brothers in Antioch, regarding the circumcision issue.

  11. rotherham2 says:

    Hello BobR,
    As I mentioned in the other thread, if you can assure me that I am will not be conversing with a former or current JW, I will be willing to engage you on the topic of your choice.

    Regards,
    Rotherham

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