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Changing Elder Arrangement
The Christian Scriptures do not provide any specific process or hierarchal structure for the congregation. A person is spiritually mature enough to be considered one of the older men if meeting a simple list of criteria. The Watchtower Society has made several major changes to the elder arrangement, showing how easily Scriptural principles can be melded to fit desired outcomes.
This section is of interest in that it highlights a technique the Watchtower uses to gain acceptance of changing doctrine. Assertions of unknown early Christian's behaviour are made, followed by dogmatic claims that Jehovah is behind the changes.
Russell held to the orthodox view that elders be selected by the congregation.
"Among God's people from the 1870's down into 1932, men who had been voted into the office of elder congregationally supervised congregational Bible studies and lectures The elders and deacons were elected congregationally each year by a showing of hands on the part of persons associated with each congregation. Yearbook 1975 p.164
In the 1930's a major change came, with elders to be appointed by "the Society". By preventing congregations selecting their own elders Rutherford created a hierarchal structure with control transferring to head office.
"This altered arrangement for the congregations of Jehovah's witnesses continued on from October of 1932 down to 1938. In this latter year the June 1 and 15 issues of The Watchtower published the two parts of the article "Organization" on what was set out as theocratic organization of the congregations. After that all the officers of the congregation were appointed by the governing body at headquarters." Watchtower 1971 November 15 p.693
The justification for this move was that to be "ordained" in Apostolic times meant to be selected by the "Governing Body".
""As to voting," explains Herbert H. Abbott, "then it was thought that at Acts 14:23 the Greek word rendered 'ordained' [King James Version; "appointed," New World Translation] related to stretching forth the hand and meant to be a voter at those elections of class leaders. [See Acts 14:23, Rotherham.] We did not then know that it came to be used in the sense of appoint or designate by the apostles or governing body." Yearbook 1975 p.164
This reasoning contains hypothetical assertions. The word Governing Body does not appear in the Bible and there is no evidence of a "Governing Body". The Watchtower takes the concept of a Governing Body from Acts 15. Yet this sole mention of a gathering to decide doctrine included all the elders, not just a small group of leaders.
In 1971 another significant change came with the introduction of a body of elders. The Watchtower 1971 November 15 p.685 and p.691 said that the Early Christian elder bodies "likely rotated" and so enforced rotation, such that each elder would hold a responsibility such as Presiding Overseer for just one year. Four years later the 1975 Yearbook p.250 praised the success of this new arrangement as "God's doing."
"Reflecting on the new congregational arrangement providing for elders and ministerial servants, Roger Morgan was moved to say: "This is God's doing." "Truly, Jehovah is bringing his congregated people into an organizational condition in which they will be able to ride out Armageddon into God's new order under divine rulership."" Yearbook 1975 p.250
However rotation did not work effectively and it was done away with in the 1983 Organised to Accomplish You Ministry p.41. How can a procedure be God's doing with Biblical backing if within a few years it required changing?
A further concept with no Biblical basis was the hierarchal 'Bethel Elder' arrangement.
"6. BETHEL ELDERS: Bethel elders are those who qualify to serve in a special capacity in Bethel in addition to their assignment as elders in a congregation. They are appointed by the Governing Body from recommendations made by the Branch Committee .A Bethel elder not only meets the Scriptural qualifications for elders in a congregation, but does so in a fuller and more complete way, so that he is equipped to handle more exacting responsibilities in the realm of Bethel service.-Luke 12:48" Branch Organization Manual pp.2-1, 2-2
On the 1st of March 2006 a letter was read at each branch that as of August 31st 2006 the Bethel Elder Arrangement will be dissolved after 36 years. Another arrangement discarded due to its introduction having no Scriptural basis in the first place.
To change arrangements is perfectly acceptable. However, it is the way the Watchtower Society does this that raises concern. It is false manipulation of followers to promote restructures as Jehovah's direction, 'God's doing' and Jehovah moving his Organization closer to that of the early Christians. These types of statements are common in cults and referred to as Mystical Manipulation. Ongoing changes show men and not Jehovah have directed the Watchtower elder arrangement, regardless of how the Society likes to introduce them.
Paul Grundy 2005 - 2013
1800s - Changed Date Doctrine