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Jehovah's Witnesses changes doctrinal beliefs, may accepts blood transfusion

After decades of doctrinal embargo placed on blood transfusion for medical purposes for its  members, the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses- the leadership group overseeing the religion's activities wordwide has finally made a U-turn, reversing its stance on the matter.
In a letter to all its Congregations (Kingdom Halls) worldwide on Thursday, the Governing Body tacitly approved blood transfusion for medical  purposes for adherents of the religion.
It is on record that a significant number of Jehovah's Witnesses who had medical condition requiring blood transfusion for treatment died because they or their guardians refused blood transfusion  because of religious belief.

Also, the age-old dogma that Jesus Christ (second  coming) returned invisibly to earth in 1914 has been discarded, saying that it has no sound scriptural basis.

The Governing Body stated in the letter: "We now believe this to be in error... we must admit that this adventist practice entails human speculation without sound scriptural basis."
Document barring Jehovah's Witnesses from accepting blood transfusion 

While admitting that the doctrinal changes may prove disconcerting to believers whom have been hurt or lost their loved ones because of earlier stance on blood transfusion, the Governing Body admonished them to embrace the changes with the spirit of love and forgiveness.

Read the full Letter here: THE GREAT ANNOUNCEMENT

[Instructions to the Body of Elders: Please read this letter in full at the time designated in the accompanying instruction letter. Please endeavor to have all baptized active Witnesses present for the reading of this letter.] 

To the Worldwide Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses,
“There is an appointed time for everything, A time for every activity under the heavens” (Eccl. 3:1)

We are writing to you at this time to convey to you a number of fundamental changes being implemented at this time. We recognize that some of these adjustments may prove disconcerting to our brothers and sisters. We trust that a spirit of love and forgiveness will ensure all to make the transitions detailed here. (Romans 12:2)

Adjustments to Our Teachings and Beliefs:
After much heartfelt deliberation and prayer, we are no longer under the belief that the Gentile Times spoken about in Daniel Chapter 4 ran its prophetic course and concluded at the beginning of our 20th Century. Previously, we have asserted that this period of time commenced in the year 607 B.C.E. and concluded about the fall of 1914 C.E.  We now believe this to be in error. After much research and study, we have come to realize that this teaching is one which arose as a central aspect of the 19th Century Adventism which so influenced our founder, Charles Taze Russell and his early associates and continued to be promoted throughout much of our history. While at times we have endeavored to understand the prophetic teachings of Daniel and Revelation with regard to the time that God’s rulership would be “trampled upon by the nations,” and made certain calculations coinciding to this period, we must admit that this adventist practice entails human speculation without sound scriptural basis.

We continue to maintain that the advent or coming of Christ Jesus is to be expected by the faithful and possibly not too far in our future. And while we continue to believe that there are many events and conditions which seem to signify that we may indeed be in the last days spoken of by our lord, we must in humility admit that we do not know for certain either that we are yet in the time of the nations or when the end of this system of things may be expected. (See Matt. 24:3, 2 Tim. 3:1, Lev. 26:40, Matt. 25:13)

It is with this new understanding that we must embrace that the year 1914 C.E. has no scriptural prophetic significance. In the past, we have held firmly to the belief that 1914 C.E. signified Christ’s invisible return and the beginning of the last days including the restriction to the Earth’s vicinity of Satan and the demons. (Revelation 12: 7-12) Many times, we have sought a greater understanding of the meaning of Jesus words regarding the generation that “would not pass away” at Matthew 24:34. Although these attempts to understand the meaning of the scripture were undoubtedly sincere, they were predicated upon the understanding that 1914 C.E. was a significant year in fulfillment of biblical prophecy. In light of our adjusted understanding, we must further state that we do not know the modern-day identification of that generation, if there is one, or whether Jesus intended a greater meaning than what he purposed to convey to his immediate followers when he uttered those words.
Miffed by the new development, a Jehovah's Witness in Australia burns his copy of the document barring the adherents of the religion from life saving blood transfusion
Consequently, we must now acknowledge that we have been overly presumptuous in identifying the “faithful and discreet slave” spoken of by Jesus (Matthew 24:3, 45; Mark 13:3, 4) as being closely identified with the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Previously, we have stated that the Governing Body is neither inspired nor infallible, however, now we must further clarify that the Governing Body has no claim to the fulfillment of Jesus’s illustration and no special role in providing divine truths or teachings to the household, which is Jehovah God’s people. In the future, the Governing Body will continue to focus on providing spiritual food to the best of our ability, but with no claims of special authority or divine directive.

Turning now to another important matter, we wish to discuss an adjustment in the way that members of the congregation are treated in circumstances involving commission of serious sin and other transgressions against others or against Jehovah’s laws and principles. Previously, these matters have been handled with some confidentiality by the local body of elders. At times, it was deemed necessary that a brother or sister, who was understood to be unrepentant or otherwise potentially a hazard to the welfare of the congregation, would be disassociated or disfellowshipped from the association of Jehovah’s Witnesses. (1 Cor. 5:13)

However, a consideration of the theocratic procedure outlined at Matthew 18:15-17, reveals the proper steps that members of the congregation should undertake when faced with a fellow member who has committed a serious sin. As clearly outlined, the first step should be to confront privately and directly the person who has committed such a serious sin. This need not be done in any formal way, nor by the Elders of the congregation solely, nor does there need to be more than one person confronting the errant member, as Matthew 18:15 clearly shows this to be a personal endeavor to correct the sinning member of the congregation. As stated in the continuing verse, only after the unrepentant member persists in wrongful conduct or belief should it further be endeavored with the help of one or two others to correct the matter. Only after these attempts have been made to correct the sinning member of the congregation, should the matter be set before the whole congregation. As Matthew 18:17 clearly states, the whole matter should be spoken about before the whole congregation in an open and frank discussion. This is because each member of the congregation will bear the personal responsibility of whether they wish to continue in brotherly fellowship with the person or whether they wish to treat the person as someone who stands outside of the congregation. In ancient Israel, it was similar that each member of the congregation would have a hand in rendering the judgment and carrying out any discipline that might result. (Deut. 17:7)

Therefore, after the matter has been spoken about to the whole congregation, each person as an individual, must decide for him or herself whether to continue in association with the wrongdoer. It may be that some will choose not to continue any association with such a person and it may be that others may decide that they may continue associating with the person. In either case, it is not for anyone to judge the conscience of another. (1 Cor. 10:29, Rom. 2:1-16) Special care should be taken not criticize the decisions of others in these matters with the solemn recognition that every person shall ultimately be accountable to Jehovah God for his or her own life decisions and course of conduct. (Romans 14: 1-23)

At this time, we must discuss the treatment of a very serious issue within our worldwide association, namely, the matter of child sexual abuse. While we have at times acknowledged that Jehovah’s people have not escaped the scourge of child sexual abuse and that there have been some instances of this occurring even among Jehovah’s Witnesses, it must now be confessed that in some serious ways we have failed to protect the flock at times. In no small part, this was due to insistence that there be at least “two witnesses” of serious wrongdoing within the congregation. (Deut. 17:6; 19:15, John 8:17, 2 Cor. 13:1, 1 Tim 5:19) And at other times, over-concern for the reputation of the congregation, discouraged our brothers from appealing to outside authorities or even reporting these matters to the lawful authorities. (2 Pet. 2:2)

While this scriptural principle is generally sound in many cases, it must be admitted that in typical circumstances involving child sexual abuse, it is unlikely that a second witness will arise or that the one committing such abuse will confess to his or her actions. We therefore, deem it only reasonable that the procedures as outlined above in Matthew 18 in dealing with persons who are or who have committed serious sins, be followed in situations involving allegations of child sexual abuse but with the sensible modification that the sinner need not first be confronted by the victim and that in any open discussions of such matters the sensitivity of the victims and young members of the congregation be considered. Additionally, and more importantly, while it is up to the congregation to deal with sin of the matter, it is not up to the congregation to deal with the crime, if any, of the matter. Congregation Elders and members of the congregation are neither trained nor equipped to deal with allegations or instances of child sex abuse as a matter for the congregation only. IN ALL INSTANCES OF CHILD SEX ABUSE, APPROPRIATE LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT ARE TO BE CONTACTED IMMEDIATELY. It is these superior authorities that must investigate and ultimately render civil and criminal justice in these situations and only they who can make any determinations about the criminality of the situation.

We realize that there are many within our worldwide brotherhood and many who are now outside of it, who have been terribly hurt by this issue and by our general failings in this area. We can only offer our utmost and heartfelt apology at this time and resolve that going forward these matters will be treated in the appropriate way.

Regarding the issue of accepting blood transfusions and blood components. We hereby announce that henceforth these matters will be one of personal conscience.

Regarding the issues of military service, alternative military service, political or civic affairs, law enforcement careers and other similar matters, these also we believe to be a matter of individual conscience.

Brothers and Sisters, these matters discussed above are only a few of the most important changes which we felt crucial to convey to you at this time. We intend to address each of these matters and many other adjustments to our beliefs and organization more fully and in depth in future issues of the Watchtower over the coming year as well as on our website JW.ORG.

We thank you in advance for your patience and hope that you welcome these changes with a loving and generous spirit.

Reorganization of the Local Congregation

As expediently as possible, all local Kingdom Halls will be deeded over to the individual congregations. The local congregation should immediately begin to take steps to form itself into an individual legal entity in order to take ownership of the property. Where there are more than one congregation currently sharing the Kingdom Hall, only one legal entity need be created in order to take legal ownership of the property. Help from the Legal Desk is available and a separate letter to the Body of Elders is following containing more information about this adjustment.

Within thirty days of this letter, each congregation should meet together as a group and elect among itself a “Body of Elders” to serve in a leadership capacity of the local congregation. It is advised that the local body be comprised of no less than five members, if possible and no more than twelve, however this is only a suggestion to the congregation. The exact composition of each Elder Body, the selection of Ministerial Servants, or other helpers is to be decided upon by the entire congregation in democratic order. It should be noted that these leadership positions are to be deemed open to all whom the local congregation consider are suitable and not to be restricted on the basis of gender, age, nationality, sexuality or other such factors.

The Body of Elders are hereby directed to immediately permanently dispose of all publisher record cards and are further directed to keep no official rolls of the membership of the local congregation. For use at the local level in matters of practicality, the Body of Elders may keep unofficial lists including contact information of the friends. More information regarding this adjustment will follow in a separate Body of Elders letter.

With regard to the hallmark facet of our Worldwide Brotherhood, namely that of public and house-to-house ministry, we are in preparation of a series of study articles of the Watchtower for your consideration. While it cannot be denied that over the history of Jehovah’s modern day organization, the techniques of spreading the Good News about God’s Kingdom through our public ministry and individual proselytizing has resulted in the gathering of many persons to the faith, it must also be acknowledged that these methods are no longer the most effective. Indeed, there are many brothers who have spent a life-time in full-time pioneer work or otherwise devoted countless hours to their ministry with not more than a few non-family members every accepting the Good News and choosing to dedicated their lives to Jehovah God.

Rather than continuing to burden our brothers and sisters with onerous requirements to engage in the public ministry and continuing to create an atmosphere and culture of perfection and service which can never be met and which seems more often to result in feelings of self-doubt, guilt and even depression, that the focus on becoming a person of high moral character and joyful in life will draw others who may be interested to inquire of us the reasons for our joy and exceptional attitude and character. (Matt. 5:16, Psalm 4:6)

As will be discussed in future study editions of the Watchtower and as information in future letters to the congregations that follow will discuss, we are entering into a great revolution of our Worldwide Association of Christian Jehovah’s Witnesses. We purpose to return our brotherhood to a time which more closely resembles the early beginnings of our organization as Bible Students, with a return to local control many of the ordinary facets of our worship, including determining the time, place and manner of the gatherings of the congregation. A future study article of the Watchtower which may be considered only as a suggested model of the organization of local meetings of the congregation is in preparation for your consideration.

Reorganization of the Worldwide Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses

Dear Brothers, it is with great joy and anticipation that we announce to you now a grand restructuring of the various branch offices of the Worldwide Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses including the Worldwide Headquarters at Warwick, New York (“Watchtower”).

Henceforth, Watchtower will continue to serve the Worldwide Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the following ways:
• Continuing to create and publish various publications, including the Watchtower* and Awake! magazines, the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, various other Bible based literature including several planned commentaries on the scriptures and other publications. Hardcopies of these publications will be available for purchase from Watchtower by the individual and many will be freely available on JW.ORG
• Continuing to produce and publish various written and video content for our internet broadcast and website JW.ORG
 • The training of missionaries to serve in foreign lands to spread the Good News of God’s Kingdom. • The training of traveling speakers which may be requested by local congregations to visit and deliver talks on prepared bible subjects.
 • The organization and coordination of annual assemblies which individuals or congregations as a whole may choose to attend.

*Please note that the Watchtower will no longer be considered mandatory study material as a congregation after the last planned study-version of the Watchtower containing discussion of the changes and adjustments mentioned in this letter. [Time to be determined.] While we believe that the articles will continue to prove to be fortifying and educational, the individual congregations will organize how to structure their weekly gatherings and the materials to be considered as a congregation.

We thank you in advance for your attention to the contents of this letter and we hope that you embrace these adjustments to our Worldwide Brotherhood in the same generous spirit as you have always expressed in the past. We believe that the future of our worldwide association is strong provided that we continue to grow and mature and progress in our greater understanding of Jehovah’s God’s purposes and activity.

Please accept our love and tender greetings.
Your brothers,
The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses

C: enclosures

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