The history of confession, along with the penance and absolution it achieves in the mind of the believer, is rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Exodus chapter 21, which immediately follows the Ten Commandments, gives priests authority to adjudicate cases of wrongful death, with the power to set a compensation price on the value of a life. In this tribal desert setting, the priesthood held the rights and duties of the State’s interest in administration of law over life and death matters, inheritance, crimes and punishments.
By the Christian era, the Roman authority and law code had become the State’s interest, with permission given to local religious bodies for adjudication of cases, but not capital punishment or judgments against Roman citizens. However, the path to absolution from sin, redemption and salvation in the Christian faith was through open confession and penance as evidence for repentance. The early congregations had religious authority to expel members from the congregation for gross sins (1 Cor 5) or to re-instate them on the basis of being “grieved into repentance.”1
By the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, Canon 13 gave priests of the church the power to absolve sins at a death-bed confession and change the penitent’s outcome from damnation to salvation. In 459 AD Pope Leo’s “Magna indignatione” gave priests sufficient power. . . .
After Joe Anderson resigned as an elder in the Manchester, Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW’s), he wrote a resignation letter, dated June 5, 2002, and sent it to officials at the World Headquarters of JW’s in Brooklyn, NY. A copy of that letter is found below.
In addition, close friends, Daniel Sydlik and Jack Barr, both members of JW’s Governing Body, received a copy as well as each elder in Joe’s home congregation in Manchester, Tennessee.
Approximately, eight weeks later, Joe Anderson was disfellowshipped by JW’s leaders who used Joe’s letter as a basis to do so. From then on, this exemplary Christian man, who ministered to the flock for 42-years, has been shunned by his son, Lance, and daughter-in-law, Wendy, their two children, and all other JW’s that were part of his life.
What did Joe say in his resignation letter that was so injurious and evil that would cause such extreme action taken by his religion? Read on and decide for yourself whether shunning Joe Anderson is justified.
In November 2016, I made a life-altering decision. After 47 years of association with Jehovah’s Witnesses, many of those spent as an elder in the congregation, I chose to leave. Although there were many reasons for this decision, it was the issue of how child sexual abuse has been mishandled that pushed me to this choice.
Since I had served as an elder, I knew the organization’s policies well. But, I had never had to handle a case of child sexual abuse directly. Once I saw how these practices were applied and how damaging they are, I could no longer support them. When I saw the extent that the organization would go to in order to defend their position and the abusers themselves, I knew I couldn’t stay.
As more people become aware of the problem with child sexual abuse within the Jehovah’s Witness organization, it might be helpful to understand the full scope of the issue. Having been trained in these policies, I would like to make things clearer by presenting a typical scenario of child sexual abuse and how the organization directs it to be handled.
Sad to say that for centuries in the U.S.A. animals were better protected from abuse than children. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) began in 1866, but there was no organization in existence to protect children from abuse. It was in the early 1870’s, when a particularly horrific case of a child in a foster home being whipped daily came to the public’s attention. Things began to change when attorneys for the ASPA argued that laws protecting animals from abuse should not be greater than laws protecting children. Soon, the world’s first child protection organization, the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, was established in 1875 as a nongovernmental organization.
It wasn’t until the early 20th century that a public call was made for both state and federal governments to focus on child protection services as an arm of social services. In 1935, Douglas Falconer wrote the following on the best proactive approach. . . .