One of the many things that makes it difficult to live as a Jehovah's Witness is the lack of apologies within the brotherhood as well as from brother to brother and sister to sister. For the most part there is a total absence of apologies within Jehovah Witnesses.
Corporations apologize all the time. Ten years ago the CEO of Toyota got up before hundreds of media members and apologized for several decisions the company had made. He gave statements such as : "I can’t begin to express my remorse”, “extremely regrettable” , and "very sorry". The astounding thing is that he was only CEO for a few months yet took accountability for the actions of his corporation.
Why do corporations often issue apologies yet Watchtower has never issued a single apology or admitted fault in their nearly 140 years of existence?
If Watchtower would admit fault or apologize it would most likely be in the Kingdom Ministry. In fact the word apology or apologize has only appeared a total of five times within the nearly 50 year history of the Kingdom Ministry . Not once was it in used in context for a decision that Watchtower had made.
The culture of never admitting fault trickles down to the local elder body. I'd like to share with you a couple personal experiences.
Recently our local body of elders voted on and agreed to cancel a meeting on due to Coronavirus. Our congregation consists mainly of older ones who are susceptible to the virus and we thought it would be a good idea to cancel the meeting as to not place them in a position to decide whether to attend. The older generation is very trusting of the org and if there's a meeting they will be there. Our body is educated and had the street smarts to cancel knowing it was the direction it was headed.
The next day our idiot COBE decides to let the Circuit Overseer know that we cancelled the meeting thinking he'd receive some accolades. There was no reason to do this but elders make up reasons to call up the CO regularly since they think it makes them seem important. Well the CO blew a gasket. Absolutely flipped out. Asked the COBE if this was his decision alone or the elder body. He said the next visit he will discuss with us as a body if we are still qualified to serve as elders. Under no circumstance should we cancel ANY meeting due to a virus outbreak he told us.
Now mind you there is no procedure for cancelling local meetings. We cancel meetings for weather often and its never an issue. In fact deciding to cancel for Coronavirus was as easy as a decision we ever made. For some reason the CO decided to make an issue of this.
Within a week we received a letter from the US Branch stating that going forward all meetings are cancelled in the foreseeable future. Mind you things move very slowly in Bethel (it took years for the GB to change their stance on alternative military service) and chances are this was determined days before the letter was released. When our body made the decision to cancel it was already determined in Bethel to cancel all meetings.
Did we ever hear an apology from the CO? Did the Circuit Overseer admit he was wrong for threatening to remove us? Not once or did he even mention of it. In fact he's acted like that conversation never happened. Yet initially he demanded we apologize to him for our decision to cancel the meeting. There's a certain theme here and I'll come back around to it.
Another story. I was conducting the Watchtower and would always apologize at the end for those who hands I missed. If you ever conduct you'll always hear about someone's hand who you missed during the study. I'd proactively issue an apology since I did feel bad about not getting everyone who wanted to comment. There are always a few hands that you wish you got and people do take it personally you didn't call on them. I would literally say: "I am sorry for any hands I may have missed and will do my best to get you next week".
Well one week we were hosting the District and Circuit Overseer for a special week of activity. I was conducting the Watchtower as usual. Give my usual spiel at the end about missing hands and how I'll try and get them next study. After the meeting the District Overseer approaches me and says he wants to give me something to think about. What he said to me really gave me insight into why Watchtower never apologies.
He told me that as men who are responsible for leading the flock we never should show weakness or doubt our abilities. The brothers and sisters look to us as spiritual men who they should approach under any circumstance. When we admit fault and apologize it may give reason for that trust in us for spiritual guidance to lessen. By me apologizing for missing hands it may give reason for the brothers and sisters to look at me as someone who's judgment and ability to lead is impaired. Never should we show any weakness or second guess any decision we make he said. If we do make any incorrect decisions Jehovah will correct it in due time.
All this over after apologizing for not calling on a couple people during the Watchtower.
But this really made me think. Apologies only go one way within Watchtower: bottom-up.
Do publishers apologize for not turning in the service time? Yes they do. If an elder asks for your time slip and you already turned it in, does he apologize for asking again? Most likely not. The culture within Watchtower is to only apologize to those who are in a higher appointed capacity. Never the reverse.
Ministerial Servants apologize to the elders. Elders apologize to the Circuit Overseer. The Circuit Overseer apologizes to the Branch. But who does the Governing Body apologize to? No one. They are the very top and don't feel a requirement to apologize to those that are 'under' them. This has been the culture for well over a hundred years and will never change. It's why we never see any apologies or admission of incorrect decisions. I truly believe that the Governing Body knows the fallout from the Anthony Morris zone visit from 2014 yet we'll never hear anything resembling an apology for hurting so many feelings. Even a joke making light of the situation would be a start.
However there are those who do apologize. And that's why it is so refreshing when it happens within the organization. Almost surprising. Every time I'd apologize for missing hands I would always get a comment or two thanking me for saying that. The odd thing is - it was always ones who's hands I did not miss. They just always appreciated seeing an apology even if it wasn't meant for them. It was heartbreaking seeing how happy people were to see an apology of any sort. They just weren't used to it.
Apologizing has two main aspects: expressing regret and accepting responsibility. Has the Governing Body or Watchtower ever expressed regret or accepted responsibility for a poor decision they made? Not once. The thousands that died in Malawi? The light keeps getting brighter. Blood fractions and the thousands that died since they weren't allowed to take them at the time? The light keeps getting brighter. It's always always always deflecting blame and never accepting responsibility. We're not talking about inconveniences there, we are talking about decisions that have caused the deaths of tens of thousands. That Watchtower or the Governing Body has never once expressed regret or even sadness for these thousands of deaths says all you need to know about the religion. How they've handled the child sexual abuse troubles has been even worse. Watchtower did not just ignore it, they expressed anger and attacked those that had been abused.
In 2008 the Pope made the following statement regarding the child sex abuse issues within the Catholic Church:
Here I would like to pause to acknowledge the shame which we have all felt as a result of the sexual abuse of minors by some clergy and religious in this country. I am deeply sorry for the pain and suffering the victims have endured and I assure them that, as their pastor, I too share in their suffering. ... Victims should receive compassion and care, and those responsible for these evils must be brought to justice. These misdeeds, which constitute so grave a betrayal of trust, deserve unequivocal condemnation. I ask all of you to support and assist your bishops, and to work together with them in combating this evil. It is an urgent priority to promote a safer and more wholesome environment, especially for young people.
In 2015 Governing Body member Stephen Lett commented on the child sexual abuse problem within Jehovah's Witnesses:
“Another way we can contribute to the oneness: rejecting false stories that are designed to separate us from Jehovah’s organization. As an example, think about the apostate-driven lies and dishonesties that Jehovah’s organization is permissive toward pedophiles. I mean, that is ridiculous, isn’t it! If anybody takes action against someone who would threaten our young ones, and takes action to protect our young ones, it is Jehovah’s organization. We reject outright such lies.”
Stephen Lett's response perfectly encapsulated Watchtower's culture of apology - there is no culture of apology.
There has been a problem with CSA. Even Watchtower admits this in a way obtuse way. Within the last two years every CO Visit and KM School with the elders has asked the following question: If someone approaches you with allegations of child sexual abuse, what should you tell the accuser? Answer: They have every right to approach the local authorities with such allegations. The problem exists and Watchtower knows it which is why elder's are continually being asked this question over and over the last couple years.
Yet have we ever seen any sort of public apology from the Governing Body? Have they ever expressed regret? Have they ever admitted responsibility? No. Instead they've actually attacked those who have been abused and accused them of lies. Not only does this not let them heal it makes their suffering exponentially worse.
I found this quote to be very fitting:
“Apologizing does not always mean you’re wrong and the other person is right. It just means you value your relationship more than your ego.”
That right there says how the Governing Body and Watchtower feels about the brothers and sisters within the organization.