All About the Governing Body

by Jim Whitney

Who are the Governing Body members?  Can the average JW name even one or more members of that body?  And for those JWs who do know one or more members, what do they really know about them?  (Not all of this series will be in essay form ... but this one is as a kick off to the series.)

If you want to see the current list of Governing Body members and other Corporate officers of some of the Watchtower corporations, see this:  

MORE about the Governing Body with pictures   (updated 8/25/05)  

More on the new Governing Body members discussion (8/25/05) 

More importantly, HOW did these men get to be the absolute rulers over six million Jehovah's Witnesses? The average JW has a very vague idea of how these men are in a position over them.  New JWs seem to know even less, or many could care less ... and this lack of interest is often typical in our society in general.  For example:  If you start a checking account at a bank, you trust them with your hard earned money, yet the average person makes no real effort to know who the branch manager is, much less care about the board of directors or executive officers.  Few depositors in a bank know the background, education, or experience of the persons who take and use their money.  The difference is that banks are at least regulated and monitored by state and federal agencies ... whereas the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses have no such level of accountability.

It is not surprising, however, that this lack of investigation into the background of leaders would be the case in a religious environment ... because people join for reasons not related to the leadership ... yet, in the case of groups like Jehovah's Witnesses, it is these very leaders who have a great impact and ultimate control over the lives of so many millions.

What does the Watchtower tell the average member or a person from the general public?  Note what they say on their website:

6. The world headquarters of Jehovah's Witnesses is in New York. Located there is the Governing Body, a central group of experienced elders who oversee the worldwide congregation. There are also over 100 branch offices around the world. At these locations, volunteers help to print and ship Bible literature. Direction is also given to the organizing of the preaching work. Why not plan a visit to the branch office nearest you?



This little paragraph certainly implies a modest arrangement ... experienced Elders may easily imply to the average JW that these men are taken from local congregations because of their talent and experience and as such they are simply overseeing the worldwide work of Jehovah's Witnesses.  But, how are they really chosen?

When professing to be of the Anointed:  I was approached one Sunday after the meeting by a sister who is the mother of the man who brought me into the JW religion.  She had already been a JW from the mid-1950s, when I was about 4 years old.  Now, in the mid-1980s, I was just over 30 years old, and she was approaching 35 years in the organization at that time ... and here is what she asked me:
"I am curious, do you ever get any insight from Jehovah that you write down and send off to the Governing Body?"

This simple yet understandable question utterly stunned me.  I had never before considered such a thing.  I did not get any special insight beyond my claim to be Anointed.  And in retrospect, even that so-called 'insight' or 'claim' was a religious fantasy as most religious experiences likely may be.  But what her question told me was that average JWs really believe that the remaining Anointed are the Faithful & Discreet Slave who have charge over the Master's belongings, and as such they really do direct and use the Governing Body to oversee the worldwide work of preaching the Good News.

Years later in 1989 I finally read the book Crisis of Conscience, and discovered that the world headquarters of Jehovah's Witnesses has no interest in the Anointed class worldwide.  The Society does not consult with the so-called Faithful & Discreet Slave, and in fact, they do not even track who these Anointed are beyond taking a census once a year resulting from the memorial celebration!  This did not disturb me personally as though I felt left out of the "loop" ... rather, I was concerned because I could see that the most fundamental cornerstone of Watchtower doctrine, their special understanding of a so-called Faithful & Discreet Slave class as having a God-given Commission as Prophets in these last days is not true ... it is a pure fiction. [Ref. the book, The Nations Shall Know that I am Jehovah, Copyright 1971, Watchtower, Chapter 4, "Commissioned to Speak in the Divine Name"]

So, what we were being taught was not honestly taking place ... for all practical purposes, the term Faithful and Discreet Slave class, as used and applied by Jehovah's Witnesses, is nothing more than a fairytale akin to Santa Clause for children.  There is no Santa Clause and there is no Faithful & Discreet Slave class.  Yet, being CHOSEN in 1918 at the time of Jesus Christ Second Presence (Coming) and enthronement in heaven as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords must be a major fulfillment of prophecy ... or so it is claimed over many decades in many and various Watchtower publications.  So, such a commission and divine choice must mean something!  The reality in practice is that the root doctrine of Jehovah's Witnesses is an empty shell.

So, how are the members of the Governing Body really chosen?  What is the criteria?  I don't really know, but over the last ten to twelve years since I left the JW religion, I have a better idea - I think.  I believe that these men largely started out working at the Bethel level, or perhaps in Missionary work, as did Raymond Franz.  After working many years at Bethel, likely decades, and in some cases, if you are better connected as was Ray Franz to his uncle Fred Franz, Vice President of the Watchtower Society, and you simply profess to be Anointed, you stand a chance of being chosen to serve in that capacity ... likely your Bethel experience overseeing magazine production, or assisting in the writing department may be of help ... but, judging from what various Bethelites and ex-Bethelites have stated to me, your talents and experiences are not always important ... you could be a computer genius, yet be asked to clean toilets, just to make sure you are in submission and kept humble.

Education, corporate experience, career development in secular life virtually mean nothing ... the men who are appointed, are chosen for reasons that are not necessarily consistent with what a major corporation or religion really need.  Not that idiots in the secular world cannot rise to the top, for they do ... but usually there are adequate checks and balances, and enough good, experienced, and educated people to offset the potential damage done ... but in the case of a rigid religion like Jehovah's Witnesses, the perpetuation of harm continues at a steady pace precisely because it lacks checks and balances, and because more often than not, untrained and unqualified people are at the helm, driving the religion like a runaway train into the ditch of destruction ... perhaps Ray Franz, Ed Dunlap and a few others were the exception to the rule.

Who does the Appointing?  When do they feel the need to add members to the Governing Body?  The first part is fairly easy.  The Governing Body makes any appointments of new members.  They are not directed by any policy, nor are they directed and instructed by the larger Faithful & Discreet Slave to add members ... nor do the Faithful & Discreet Slave review and approve any such appointments ... rather it is a closed and very small club of a few men.  Beyond that, all else is a mystery.  At times in my JW life, there were as many as eighteen (18) members of the Governing Body, and currently there are ten (10) members.  At least the Mormons follow the concept of having twelve (12) Apostles ... it makes a little more sense.  I guess when the majority of the Governing Body, or maybe a single powerful member, like that rumored about Ted Jaracz, decides that some of the members are getting too old and feeble, then it may be time to bring in a few new members ... the latest being Sam Herd, the first and only African-American member.

History of the Governing Body:  Oddly enough, the Board of Directors of the Watchtower as a publishing corporation was the forerunner of today's Governing Body ... largely, the organization was run by Russell and then Rutherford as sole and exclusive all-powerful leaders, who did not recognize any Governing Body.  The term seems to have begun to be used by the 1940s or 1950s, but it was not made reality until the 1970s.  It was then that power was really transferred from the sole ruler, Nathan Knorr, to the Governing Body.

The Bible does not support any such concept as a Governing Body.  Outside the temporary existence of the 12 Apostles, there is no evidence of any kind of a core of leaders.  Even here, such people like the Apostle Paul acted quite independently of any central direction, and in fact, discarded any direction except by Holy Spirit.  If one reads the New Testament, the clear impression is that the Christian faith is governed by the Holy Spirit and not by men ... even the Apostle Paul challenged the Galatians to not become salves of men again, for they were to treasure their freedom from men ruling their religious lives ...

Ultimate serious concern:  Regardless of what concept a person accepts as to how a religion is operated and led, whether it claims God a sole leader, or claims that God rules with the assistance of human leaders ... what I have come to realize is that it is extremely unwise to turn our most important asset, our conscience, our very lives over to men who we cannot name, who we know nothing about, and who are not qualified to lead us.  In my opinion, the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses is a dangerous and insidious arrangement that should raise red flags for those who are considering joining the religion.  The recent expose' of the child molestation policies of the Watchtower religion is an example of how harmful and misguided these men are.


PART II: Do all the Governing Body believe the JW religion?

One would think that in a religion claiming to be God's modern day Commissioned Prophet that the men at the top, all current ten members would indeed BELIEVE!!! Does this mean that they would always agree every time on every issue? No, because it only makes sense that being human there would be some different understandings among them, and at times serious disagreement. The Governing Body themselves have pointed to the meeting of the Apostles and older men in Jerusalem as being a heated debate ... and yes ... in the end they all came out with one accord. So, certainly, it never surprised me to learn that the Governing Body might have some strong debates and disagreement.

BUT ... One very important thing: While the Apostles and various older and experienced Christians may have debated and strongly disagreed, they ALL accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. They may have debated the details, but the Christian faith was otherwise one and the same faith ... they may have been in different congregations (different organizations) with different cultures and races ... but they had a certain unity of faith that was genuinely solid.

What if one or more of the 12 Apostles completely disagreed with the ENTIRE faith? How could this person have remained an Apostle? It is hard to fathom. To date, there is no challenge to the historical record about the unity of the Apostles ... there is no evidence that any of them disputed the entire Christian faith.

What about the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses - Do they ALL believe? The first clue I received was from the book, "Crisis of Conscience" by Ray Franz. He noted that some of the Governing Body did not accept 1914, and talked openly in their meetings about shifting the 1914 Last Generation date to 1957, when the Soviet Sputnik first flew a mission into space. Some Governing Body members even stated that you could just shift a date from one shoulder and put it on the other, thus implying that it took little to reinvent some doctrine that was otherwise fixed as critical. While a significant revelation to me that these men questioned some very core doctrines, they still held to the JW religion as the TRUTH!

Then, in 2001, when I attended BRCI in Waterloo, Canada - SOMETHING NEW was revealed: One evening, several of us decided to sit in the hotel lounge and have a few drinks. Four of the eight of us were former Bethelites (I have never been a Bethelite). One of the former Bethelite who held a significant position in New York was talking about a close relationship he had with a Governing Body member. (I happen to have a couple of tapes of this GB member the former Bethelite mentioned. They were talks he gave on prayer.) If only these GB men could publish what they really know and believe. If only they could follow through with the material they used to relate in the 'special' talks they would give before the big 'apostate' crunch of the 1980s to present - maybe the JWs might have a nifty cool little religion. Anyway ...

On one of many occasions, this former Bethelite was having a private discussion with this GB member. They discussed the Bible at times as part of their normal dialogue. The GB member then made the comment that utterly floored the Bethelite; and my hearing it in 2001, though I had been an ex-JW for 8 years at the time - IT FLOORED me. What did this GB member say that was so shocking? This is how it was related to me:

"The Society has 'IT' all wrong, and everything we teach needs to be junked into the trash." The GB member went on to say, "The Society needs to start all over from the beginning, at Genesis 1:1 and completely reinvent the religion."

I find it outrageous that a member of the Governing Body could make such sweeping statements, such total and wholesale abandonment of their religion in private, and seek to start over, when at the very same time, what they do publish is harming the flock, such as, but not limited to: Shunning, no blood, door-to-door religious selling, children not being properly educated through college, etc., and above all else, their foolish molestation policies. All along, these men, or at least in this case one man, publish what they are willing to call "The Truth" yet, do not believe what he is helping to publish ... and given what Ray Franz stated, it is reasonable to believe that more than one member of the Governing Body do not entirely believe and accept several serious doctrines of the JW religion. And maybe two or three or more might feel that the entire religion is wrong.

This particular Governing Body member has at least gone to the point that he is willing to 'toss it all' into the waste bin. What a sad and cruel joke the leaders of the Watch Tower are perpetrating on the ignorant and unsuspecting JWs. I don't see how they can sleep at night ... I don't understand how they can continue on to lead 6 million people with such a voracious dialogue that they have the "Truth" and allow these people to suffer the consequences for their teachings, when in fact that at least some among them feel that they have it ALL WRONG!

The Governing Body member whom I speak of is still one of the current ten members. The other GB member is one of the three that proposed shifting the last generation to 1957 from 1914 that Ray Franz mentions, and is also still on the Governing Body. [See, Crisis of Conscience, p. 261-263] ... So, we currently have at least two members of the Governing Body who were willing to make very serious changes to a core doctrine, one in the case of Albert Schroeder the only remaining member of the committee of three that proposed the serious date change ... and the other member I speak of who feels that the "Society has is all wrong" and wants to start over at Genesis 1:1.

How can these Governing Body members treat former Jehovah's Witnesses as evil apostates, when they themselves do not necessarily accept their own religion? How can they expect lock-step unity when they themselves are divided? Truly, they are nothing but Buzzards, preying on innocent people for their own glory. Let's hope some of them will do as did Ray Franz, and have a "crisis of conscience."

PS: Who are the Bethelite and the Governing Body member I speak of? I will verify with the former Bethelite that I have his permission to post that information ...

Next part - Did J. F. Rutherford lie about being Exonerated?