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The Current Power Structure of the Organization

How is it all set up?

The organization of Jehovah's Witnesses is structured hierarchically. At the highest level is the Governing Body, which is made up of about a dozen men (the number fluctuates). These men have deliberative and legislative authority in questions of theology, morals, and congregational discipline. They answer to no other humans apart from themselves, and they appoint whomever they desire to be members of this group. Below them are the Branch Committees, each of which is in charge of a certain region or zone of the world. The zones are divided into districts, and each district is headed by a traveling overseer, who makes sure that all that occurs in the district is in keeping with the guidelines created by the Governing Body and Branch Committees. The districts are, in turn, divided into circuits, and each circuit is headed by a traveling overseer, who answers to the district overseer. The circuit overseer visits all of the congregations in his circuit and makes certain that the elders in each congregation are doing their jobs as outlined by the Governing Body and Branch Committees. Each local congregation has a body of elders, and all elders are appointed by the Branch. The local elders and circuit overseer may make recommendations, but no congregation is autonomous. All congregation members, including ministerial servants, pioneers, and congregation publishers are expected to be obedient and submissive to the elders. The authority structure may be summed up as follows:

Governing Body


Branch Committees


District Overseers


Circuit Overseers




Ministerial Servants, Pioneers, Congregation Publishers

Although the literature of the organization frequently refers to a "faithful and discreet slave class," which is said to be made up of all those who are anointed (i.e., those with a heavenly hope), and claims that this class passes on spiritual information to the other members, the anointed ones as a group never confer together to make any sort of decisions about theology, morals, or discipline. The Governing Body claims to represent the slave class, but acts independently of it. There is no consultation with the rest of the anointed about any matters whatsoever. It is true that the Governing Body are all anointed, and some of the members of the other levels in the authority structure are too (though not all), but the vast majority of anointed ones fall into the bottom-most category and are just as much under the authority of the elders and higher levels as anyone else is. The "faithful and discreet slave," therefore, is not at all a part of the authority structure. 

The current system resembles more the authority structure of the Catholic Church then it does the first century Christian congregation. There is no evidence in Scripture of a standing Governing Body, which made decisions on matters of theology, morals, and congregational discipline. Acts 15 mentions only a special council that was called in Jerusalem, which all elders in the vicinity attended. There is no evidence of any other council until the post-apostolic period. 

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Can You Be True to God Yet Hide the Facts?
"When persons are in great danger from a source that they do not suspect or are being misled by those they consider their friends, is it an unkindness to warn them? They may prefer not to believe the warning. They may even resent it. But does that free one from the moral responsibility to give that warning? If you are among those seeking to be faithful to God, the issues these questions raise are vital for you today. Why? Because God's servants in every period of history have had to face up to the challenge these issues present. They have had to expose falsehood and wrongdoing and warn people of dangers and deception—not just in a general way, but in a specific way, in the interest of pure worship. It would have been far easier to keep silent or say only what people wanted to hear. But faithfulness to God and love of neighbor moved them to speak. They realized that 'better is a revealed reproof than a concealed love.'" (Watchtower, January 15, 1974)
Should Falsehood and Corruption Be Exposed?
"How will you respond when pointed statements are made about false religious teachings and corrupt practices? Will you immediately condemn the person or organization making the exposé? Do you feel it is all right to teach lies and misrepresent God's Word, but wrong to expose the error? Contrary to what some may think, it is not unkind and unloving to lay bare falsehood and corruption." (Watchtower, March 1, 1966)
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Sites of Interest
Note: The following sites are supportive of the faith of Jehovah's Witnesses. At the same time, they promote, in one way or another, freeness of speech about the workings and teachings of the JW organization and show where improvement is needed..
Make Sure of All Things
New Light on Blood
Silent Lambs
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