Almost a decade ago I presented a paper at the national meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in Orlando, Florida, on the topic of Greg Stafford and the relationship that exists between the Society and those who seek, outside of her official publications, to give a defense of her beliefs. Back in the 1970s the Watchtower Society disfellowshipped an early “Jehovah’s Witness apologist” for “running ahead of the brethren.” I said then that how the Society dealt with Stafford, who was not only publishing materials on his own, but likewise citing from the very publications the Society forbids its followers from reading, would give us insight into how they were going to deal with the broader issues presented by the growing impact of the Internet, cable television, and the greater availability of information. The Society has had to attempt to keep control over what information individual Witnesses are exposed to for the simple reason that cults have to do that. They have so often changed their teachings, altered their views, and then tried to cover these changes up, all while claiming to be “Jehovah’s only organization on earth,” that having an open policy on access to information would be self-detrimental. So having folks like Stafford out there doing their own thing would only serve to incite other Witnesses to start looking into “things” that they would rather just keep out of the sphere of notice of their followers.
Since that time there have been conflicting signals coming out of Brooklyn. A few times they have “snapped the whip,” so to speak, holding a hard line on the whole idea of doing “apologetics” and putting up websites, etc., in defense of the Society. I noted earlier this year that Stafford had gone on an anti-Calvinism crusade, and had ended a period of relative inactivity with a bang. At the time I wondered if he had been given the “green light” so to speak by a contact in Brooklyn.
Well, the September, 2007 Kingdom Ministry publication (known as the “KM” in Witness terminology) has tightened the leash yet once again. Here is the text that has just been distributed to all congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world:
* Does “the faithful and discreet slave” endorse independent groups of Witnesses who meet together to engage in Scriptural research or debate?–Matt. 24:45, 47.
No, it does not. And yet, in various parts of the world, a few associates of our organization have formed groups to do independent research on Bible-related subjects. Some have pursued an independent group study of Biblical Hebrew and Greek so as to analyze the accuracy of the New World Translation. Others explore scientific subjects related to the Bible. They have created Web sites and chat rooms for the purpose of exchanging and debating their views. They have also held conferences and produced publications to present their findings and to supplement what is provided at our Christian meetings and through our literature.
Throughout the earth, Jehovah’s people are receiving ample spiritual instruction and encouragement at congregation meetings, assemblies, and conventions, as well as through the publications of Jehovah’s organization. Under the guidance of his holy spirit and on the basis of his Word of truth, Jehovah provides what is needed so that all of God’s people may be “fitly united in the same mind and in the same line of thought” and remain “stabilized in the faith.” (1 Cor. 1:10; Col. 2:6, 7) Surely we are grateful for Jehovah’s spiritual provisions in these last days. Thus, “the faithful and discreet slave” does not endorse any literature, meetings, or Web sites that are not produced or organized under its oversight.–Matt. 24:45-47.
It is commendable for individuals to want to use their thinking ability in support of the good news. However, no personal pursuit should detract from what Jesus Christ is accomplishing through his congregation on earth today. In the first century, the apostle Paul warned about getting involved in exhausting, time-consuming subjects, such as “genealogies, which end up in nothing, but which furnish questions for research rather than a dispensing of anything by God in connection with faith.” (1 Tim. 1:3-7) All Christians should strive to “shun foolish questionings and genealogies and strife and fights over the Law, for they are unprofitable and futile.”–Titus 3:9.
For those who wish to do extra Bible study and research, we recommend that they explore Insight on the Scriptures, “All Scripture Is Inspired of God and Beneficial,” and our other publications, such as those that discuss the prophecies found in the Bible books of Daniel, Isaiah, and Revelation. These provide abundant material for Bible study and meditation, whereby we can be “filled with the accurate knowledge of [God’s] will in all wisdom and spiritual comprehension, in order to walk worthily of Jehovah to the end of fully pleasing him as [we] go on bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the accurate knowledge of God.”–Col. 1:9, 10.
It did not take long for Greg Stafford to comment on it. He analyzes the commentary (as he well knows, there is something called “Society speak,” and it has to be interpreted to be understood), and concludes,
Of course, I believe the Society is completely wrong in their views and in their application of texts to almost everything that they say in this Question Box, and I believe they are stifling growth and the defense of Jehovah’s name and other Bible teachings, or possibly attempting to insulate their followers from facts that they believe will create disloyalty to their organization. But Witnesses loyal to the Society cannot say that, and so those who go against their recommendations are running ahead or running along a different path than that recommended and walked by those whom they consider to be the anointed body of Christ, representing Jehovah’s will on earth today. Thus, such ones are not listening to those whom they consider Jehovah’s “faithful and discreet slave.”
Stafford does not use a “normal” blog format, so you have to go here and scroll down to entry #925 for the source of this citation.
In any case, we will have to keep our eyes on developments in this area. The Society is really between the proverbial rock and the hard-place on this topic. They really cannot insulate their people as they once did, but at the same time, they struggle to explain their history and the objections to their beliefs. We will see what develops.