- Note: The documents and images linked below are already a matter of public record online. I felt this outright lying accusation was serious enough to warrant providing the specific documents here for a defense.
Update [9/24/15]: Besides the May edition of JW Broadcasting, I also learned of a third and forth letter that former members are making out to be a whole lot more than they are, so I have added them here.
First of all, "tithing" means "taking tenth". Jehovah's Witnesses do not practice tithing at all. All contributions are 100% voluntary and unsolicited, unlike Christendom's churches who pass the plate 3 times an hour and/or require tithing, as well as use guilting and sell prayer requests and every idolatrous trinket they can get you to believe you need. But our membership just drops some money in a box when they feel like it, or because they have resolved within their own heart and within their own mind to drop in a certain amount they decide for their self every month, without ever being told to do so. Nor is it "stealth", as everything is happening above board and in plain sight, with the congregation voting on every penny that goes out of the congregation.
Secondly, "smash-and-grab" is the term for when criminals smash a car window or storefront window and grab whatever is immediately available, then run. In this context, such would imply a sudden break from protocol to demand all available money at the detriment of everyone and then disappearing with the money. But here, no break from protocol, but simply a procedural change, and no demand of any sort taking place, only asking for money going to waste, money that already belongs to the organization because it has already been contributed, and only if it would not hurt the congregation, even in the long run. (Read below for details.) Neither is anyone folding and running. Everyone knows where to find the governing body.
Financially Crumbling or Financially Stable?Some try to claim that the organization's actions lately have been signs of financial crisis and that this so-called "smash-and-grab" is another symptom. But the reality is quite different. The organization is operating more smoothly than ever, more in line with Scripture than ever, and its holdings are growing faster than ever in the form of kingdom halls. (Which do we need more of, kingdom halls or branches? By consolidating branches, we can afford more kingdom halls. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure that out.)
As old property wears out or our needs outstrip old properties, we acquire new property, or they figure out how to run more with less, then recently bought properties will need to be sold because the new arrangement is more efficient, but our opposers paint the selling of every little property as some type of financial trouble. Yes, everyone is having to tighten their belts in this economy. When money becomes next to worthless, everyone is going to be affected. But we are seeing here an organization that is not afraid to face such challenges. They make adjustments where needed rather than smashing and grabbing or riding the economic depression into the dirt.
But what are the signs of an actual organization in financial crisis? Stagnation. Yes, the business or religion slowly deteriorates while cutting payroll, firing paid workers, repairs do not get made, properties languish, toilets stop working, drains stay backed up, and the leadership embezzles every penny they can before abandoning ship and selling everything off piecemeal without ever building a new property.
But here Jehovah's Witnesses have bought new properties, even whole new branch facilities that are more efficient, higher tech and better suited than ever. What did they trade out? A bunch of outdated buildings, most built in the 30's to 50's, that were not suited for their production needs, or in other places, the properties simply became redundant. In the March 2017 broadcast, it was revealed by governing body member Stephen Lett that the new world headquarters was entirely paid for by the sale of the New York properties. Not even a dime came from contributions to the worldwide work.
Really, if the organization were fairing badly financially, would they be producing a brand new revision equal to our former Reference Bible with state-of-the-art soft, highly durable leather-bound spines, rounded corners and silver-edged pages individually plastic-wrapped for freshness for everyone now (as of October 2013), JW or not, instead of the former less expensive cardboard and paperback editions with uncut corners, no edging and limited tools?
Though it is true that the organization does not make all their finances and holdings publicly available. But why do you suppose that is? Governments have a history of smashing and grabbing religious properties, especially those that are on everyone's hit list, like Jehovah's Witnesses. Just look at what is happening in Russia. Jehovah's Witnesses have had their accounts raided so many times in various countries that you would think they are an international bank. But our opposers despise such financial opacity, because it limits their power over us.
But as will be demonstrated here, our opposers are quite happy to lie and exaggerate or base claims on little to no information, so their supposed estimations of these matters are far from anything resembling truth.
The First LetterHere is the letter dated March 29, 2014 (Don't ask me why it has a Spanish header. But it is legitimate,) that the individual claims begins the process of the smash-and-grab. However, since some seem so blind that they see only what the opposers want them to see, I will break this letter down, beginning with page 1:
What Is the Purpose of the Kingdom Hall and Assembly Hall Construction Program?The letter starts by reminding the publishers that the purpose of the Kingdom Hall Construction contribution box, established in 1983 was to provide help "for lands with limited resources," and makes a clear statement that an adjustment is being made. In other words, those who are rich are providing help to less affluent regions. Remember those words as we address this deplorable accusation.
The next paragraph says, "In harmony with the principle at 2 Corinthians 8:12-14." What does that scripture say? Let's break it down:
- "For if the readiness is there first," - Willingness
- "it is especially acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what a person does not have." - Availability
- "For I do not want to make it easy for others, but difficult for you;" - Fairness
- but that by means of an equalizing,...that there may be an equalizing." - Standardization
- "your surplus at the present time might offset their need," - Spreading the wealth
- "so that their surplus might also offset your deficiency," - Reciprocity
No More DebtContinuing, it says, "congregations will now be asked to pool their resources worldwide to support the construction of theocratic facilities wherever they are needed." So before they provide any other information, they make it clear that the congregations are being asked to make a concerted effort. In making this statement, they fulfill the fifth and sixth points in the above list.
Then it goes on to state that congregations will no longer be required to pay back their loans and the separate contribution box would be discontinued. Okay, so what this means is that the congregation is no longer under obligation to pay back any loans. (All such congregations have therefore benefited by point 6 above.) This actually helps all congregations to meet the Scripture that says, "Do not owe anything to anyone except to love one another." (Romans 13:8) So right off the bat, we see that whoever speaks against the organization's letting go of debt is speaking against the Scriptures. In the next letter, they will further this aim even more.
What does this mean for poor congregations? They no longer have a debt to pay off. They can now use their money to support other kingdom interests if they choose. They can support the Worldwide Work with their small contribution or continue to help the Kingdom Hall and Assembly Hall Construction program. But most importantly, they are no longer burdened by the arrangement.
However, this also means that the organization is losing that funding from loan repayments. Thus, the congregation is being asked to make a concerted effort, but is now being released from their debt payments. So the losses have to be recouped somehow. (Or would you want them just to eat the results?) How, then, is the organization going to be able to fund this push it is asking for?
New Funding Arrangement"Instead, all congregations will have the opportunity to support Kingdom Hall and Assembly Hall construction worldwide by resolving to make a monthly donation from congregation funds." So the second paragraph is saying that it is up to the congregation to make a resolution about how much money they want to send, (out of the congregation's already donated funds,) every month to support the Kingdom Hall Construction donation arrangement. The choice is the congregation's. (See point 1 above.) So instead of paying money we owe for money received in the past, we are now investing in the future for congregations worldwide. The debt is past, we're now talking about the future. The local branch therefore cease to be a charitable loan organization and becomes simply a charitable organization handling the dispensing of funds as a free gift to those in need. (Point 5 above.)
Then it says that individual publishers can still provide donations specially earmarked to the fund if they choose. Later it indicates that the Kingdom Hall and Assembly Hall Construction box is to be removed from congregations. So this will require that congregations be reminded of this fund's existence from time to time so that they may be given an opportunity to contribute individually if they so choose. Such reminders are not solicitation or "guilt tripping", (which implies suggesting a consequence to strong-arm the congregation,) but are simply that: reminders.
It goes on to say, "From now on, all funding for approved projects will be provided by the branch office from the funds that have been donated by you dear brothers and sisters." So the branch office, not local congregations, become responsible for construction projects, which is explained in more detail in the follow-up letter below. This should be expected; since the congregation no longer has loans outstanding, someone external to the congregation is required to decide if a congregation should be given money that is being stored for kingdom hall construction and renovation. Individual congregations would, of course, not have unlimited access to that fund. It has, by necessity of charitable outflow, become centralized, resulting in fulfilling points 3 and 4 above. This has the additional benefit of the organization applying standardized rules (See point 4 above,) for construction that allows them to save money and assure safety and compliance.
Why the Change?Now they explain why the change is being made, saying, "The need for Kingdom Halls and Assembly Halls is greater than ever before. At this time, over 13,000 Kingdom Hall projects and 35 Assembly Hall projects are needed worldwide." Mind you, this is not how many Kingdom Halls there are, or even the number of Kingdom Hall projects currently under construction. No, but this is how many are still needed. How do you think they are going to pay for that? Do they have back money saved up in a rainy day account for this purpose? No. Every penny is used. They therefore want to raise money to fulfill this need.
If you were one of the thousands of congregations that does not have a sufficient place to meet because you're too poor, would you want the worldwide brotherhood to just forget about you? Let you fend for yourself? Go to the woods and chop down some spindly bamboo and make a lean-to? True Christian love would be for us to make special effort to make sure such congregations have a sturdy Kingdom Hall from which to worship and bring glory to Jehovah.
Procedure for Resolving DonationsThat first page was read to the congregation according to the direction on the second page. On that page it goes on to say, "This postscript [The text that follows,] should not be read to the congregation, and this letter should not be posted on the information board." (Bracket mine.) Why would they do that? Am I exposing confidential text? No. It is not confidential text. It does not need to be read or posted because it is merely giving direction about what is to take place after the letter is read, just as it says, "After the reading of the letter, either a resolution should be presented to the congregation or the survey described below should be taken." (See point 1 above.) So really, the text was enacted in the congregations. After all, actions speak louder than words, as they say.
Under "Resolved Donations", it says, "All congregations are asked to establish a monthly resolved donation to support Kingdom Hall and Assembly Hall construction worldwide by no later than May 31, 2014." Then it asks, "What amount should be used for this new resolved monthly donation?" That is a very good question. The congregation has just been released from its requirement to pay back its debt. Suddenly it has money freed up. What to do with that money? Do they horde it for themselves? Do they put it into the publication fund? Does it just evaporate because it isn't required anymore? Clearly the congregation was paying a loan payment it could afford to pay. It is not like most of the congregations owing money were scraping pennies to make their adjustable loan payments.
So the letter states, "The elders in congregations currently making loan repayments would likely propose a resolution that is at least the same amount as the current monthly loan repayment." (Italics theirs.) Does it say that the elders "must" offer that much? No, such a claim would be a lie. It says the elders would "likely" propose that amount to the congregation. Then the congregation would decide in a resolution (voting) of whether to continue paying that amount or some other amount. (See point 1 above.) Their statement of "likely" is actually true. Most people are inclined to maintain a status quo, especially when it is no skin off their backs and are in fact benefiting from the new arrangement. It's human nature.
Clearly, the organization is suggesting more. But let's say the elders get together and decide that they were barely able to pay back the loan and did not have enough earmarked for the congregation. Would it be inappropriate for the elders to actually propose less? No. The elders would be perfectly justified in suggesting a downward adjustment to the congregation if such was the case. This letter does not prohibit such and, in fact, makes it clear, further down, that such is allowable. Likely the congregation would send a letter explaining the downward adjustment in the face of this letter's request with apologies and sincere love, hope and appreciation.
What about congregations that did not have loans to pay off? The letter says, "The elders in congregations without loans or those having standing resolutions to support Kingdom Hall construction worldwide should take a confidential survey of all publishers to determine the amount of the new resolution." Then it goes about outlining a procedure for that and suggesting getting a report on local expenses, obviously for making sure the local congregation is taken care of before deciding on any funds to send for Kingdom Hall and Assembly Hall Construction.
The next paragraph then says that the elders should review the resolution annually in May to be sure the amount is realistic for that congregation. So clearly the organization is not asking for more than the congregation can afford. (See points 1 and 2 above.) It then goes on to give a few examples of reasons why a downward adjustment might be needed or an upward adjustment might be desirable. It would be a lie to say that this adjustment is "at the elders’ discretion". The elders can only make recommendations. The congregation may question their offer and make alternative suggestions, and then the congregation will vote on the resolution. The congregation has veto power. It would also be a lie to claim that congregations are being "ordered" to give any particular amount, as the amount is decided upon by the congregation.
The next bullet point asks, "What should be done with other existing resolutions?" Then it answers, "Any previous resolution to support Kingdom Hall construction should be discontinued." It then clarifies that it does not affect other donation arrangements, and gives instructions to coordinate with other congregations sharing the Kingdom Hall.
The next bullet point is just procedures on sending the funds to the branch office.
Then the last bullet under the heading asks, "What should be done if congregation funds are not sufficient to cover resolved donations?" It answers the question, saying, "If sufficient funds are not available for all resolved donations in a particular month, additional funds should not be solicited." (Emphasis mine. See point 2 above.) Huh? Wait, what? I thought this was a smash-and-grab! Apparently not. But of course, if there are no mitigating circumstances and publishers are simply getting selfish, it is important to remind them of things they have committed to, so that their "yes" means "yes". (2 Corinthians 1:17-19) So the letter also states, "However, it would be appropriate for the elders to remind the congregation of the resolved monthly commitments." It then concludes the paragraph saying, that if needed, to make an adjustment during the next May review of the resolution described above. Once again, a reminder, not coercion, not an "order".
The heading labeled "Contribution Boxes" is unimportant to this discussion, so I will ignore it here. They are simply done away with.
Handling the Congregation's SurplusThe next heading, "Surplus Funds" asks, "Is it necessary to save congregation funds for future construction or major renovation projects?" This is another new arrangement in the matter, clarified in the next letter, below. The answer to the question is No, the congregation does not need to save for construction projects. Such will be handled by the branch office. So more money, and even responsibility, has been freed up from the congregation in the case of congregations with construction or remodeling needs.
Then it asks, "What should be done with excess congregation funds that are currently being held or that may accumulate in the future?" It answers this way, saying, "The elders of congregations having funds on deposit with the branch office should review the balance of such funds and decide if these can be donated in full or in part to the worldwide work and/or Kingdom Hall and Assembly Hall construction worldwide, particularly if these funds were being saved for a future construction project." Note that it says, "decide if these can be donated". This is not an "order".
In other words, if the congregation is hording more money than it needs, especially that was earmarked for construction or renovation, they should feel free to review whether they can donate any of the money to the worldwide work or Kingdom Hall and Assembly Hall Construction. (This falls under points 1 and 2 above.) So they are not being asked to pitch all the money into the Kingdom Hall and Assembly Hall Construction program, as a liar might claim, but may choose to use it for the worldwide work, or even just keep it if they think they need it more. They are simply being asked to consider donating it to one of the above charities. (Matters regarding recommended amounts of reserve money in a congregation's funds are provided in the letter below.) It then goes on to state that if the elders determine they do not need the surplus, they should put it to a one-time vote before the congregation. (Point 1.)
Let's Review the First LetterSo let's sum up this first letter, just to be clear:
- The congregation is freed up from the obligation to repay their loans.
- They are also freed up from having to save for their own construction or renovation projects.
- Congregations vote on how their own money is allocated to the Worldwide Work and the Kingdom Hall and Assembly Hall Construction funds.
- Congregations may review their contributions every year and make adjustments of their own accord as they see fit.
- The Kingdom Hall and Assembly Hall Construction donation box is done away with.
So what is needed is a means for the Kingdom Hall and Assembly Hall Construction program to continue to receive money. Now the congregation may decide that they did not intend for the $6,000 a month to be paid in perpetuity, but being loving Christians, they wish to be helpful. So they decide, instead, to continue to pay the $6,000 for as long as they would have had to with repaying the loan, and then after that time, they will vote again on how much they will continue to give.
Now the letter suggests that congregations might choose to continue to pay "at least" the amount previously owed if it would not cause hardship. Wait, so instead of paying $8,500, they are asking only to continue paying "at least" the $6,000, not $8,500? Now let's analyze this. $6,000 is almost 30% less than $8,500. If every congregation voted only to send what they previously owed to the branch office, then the organization would be taking a massive hit in the short term from that congregation and every congregation that does the same. So this is why "at least" is italicized.
But is this payment indefinite? No. The elders are allowed to review the proposed sum yearly in May and make adjustments up or down as the congregation sees fit. So let's say the circumstances for the above hypothetical congregation change. Perhaps they have a few less publishers and the financial circumstances in the area have taken a nose dive. The elders can then review their finances and put a resolution to the congregation to reduce the amount sent to the organization for the Kingdom Hall and Assembly Hall Construction program the next May.
So the congregation votes to reduce the fund to $3,000 a month. Are they suddenly going to be ignored by the branch office when they need a construction project done because they reduced their donations? Remember the purpose of the Kingdom Hall and Assembly Hall Construction program, mentioned at the outset? It is for the purpose of helping congregations "with limited resources". Their referencing 2 Corinthians 8:12-14 shows that they intend to use the money sent to them to provide an "equalizing".
Clearly there is no smash-and-grab taking place here. Instead, the organization is hoping that this will inspire more affluent congregations to earmark a little extra for the Kingdom Hall and Assembly Hall Construction program to assist our brothers around the world "with limited resources". If a congregation proposes to continue paying the same amount indefinitely because it can afford it, and send a little extra, then this can raise the waters in the long term, even if the Kingdom Hall and Assembly Hall Construction fund takes a hit in the short term. But this is not mandatory or insisted upon, but plenty of leeway is provided for congregations to take the low road if it needs to.
The Second LetterHere is the letter dated May 12, 2014 to the congregations that some claim completes the smash-and-grab. I will now break this letter down as well:
People seem to be keying in on the words "the adjustments that will accelerate construction of Kingdom Halls and Assembly Halls worldwide and how the program will be funded," and then completely disregarding the meaning of the text in the paragraph that follows.
Take Care of Your Own Congregation FirstIn that next paragraph, it states, "congregations will continue to pay for monthly operating expenses, minor maintenance, and minor repairs from the local congregation account or the Kingdom Hall Operating Committee account in cases where multiple congregations share a building." To rephrase, it is saying that when two or more congregations share a single building, the operating expenses (utilities, supplies and services), minor maintenance and minor repairs for that building will continue to come out of the Kingdom Hall Operating Committee account from each congregation sharing that building. What this means is "maintain the status quo for looking after your own kingdom hall; all congregations sharing the building share the expense for that building. Make sure your own congregation is taken care of first, before sending any money to our charities."
Then it goes on to say, "If the body(ies) of elders believes there is a need, an additional reserve of funds, up to $5,000 per auditorium, may also be held in this account." By "auditorium", they mean meeting rooms for the kingdom hall. (Some have multiple auditoriums for allowing two congregations to meet simultaneously. So a kingdom hall with two (2) auditoriums would save a one time cost of $10,000 total for a reserve (read "emergency") fund for that kingdom hall. This money is not sent to the Kingdom Hall and Assembly Hall Construction fund.
Now for non-Witnesses who do not know, Jehovah's Witnesses, as a congregation, vote on everything affecting their local congregation only after everyone has been given an opportunity to ask questions and provide comments. So the above matters are required to be voted on locally by the entire congregation of baptized publishers. So the next paragraph says, "Each body of elders will also need to ensure that sufficient funds are retained in their individual congregation account to cover all resolutions." (See point 2 under "The First Letter" heading above.) In other words, be sensible: keep enough money in the congregation's funds to cover everything the congregation votes on. Or you can say it this way: "do not overextend yourselves when determining the donation amount."
Pay Your Debts, Stop Owing Money and Don't Be a HeelThis next paragraph floors me why anyone would have a problem with it, but they do, and some because they do not even know what a promissory note is: "If a congregation has promissory notes payable to individuals, the Congregation Service Committee should contact these individuals to arrange to have the funds returned to them." The World English Dictionary describes a promissory note as "chiefly ( US ) commerce note, Also called: note of hand - a document, usually negotiable, containing a signed promise to pay a stated sum of money to a specified person at a designated date or on demand." What this means is "do not be in anyone's debt. Pay it back now." Again, this is in line with Romans 13:8.
That paragraph goes on to state, "If the individual offers to donate the funds outright, that would be their decision and it must be made without any prompting." In other words, "do not prompt individuals to donate those funds." Why? Such prompting could be damaging to that person's faith or their opinion of the organization of Jehovah's Witnesses, because it might be construed as strong-arming and immoral.
The final sentence in that paragraph reinforces these matters. It says, "The repayment of any outstanding promissory notes should be factored in when determining a one-time donation of surplus funds to the branch office." In other words, take care of the promissory notes first, before sending any surplus (What the congregation does not keep,) to the branch office. Let's rephrase that again. The organization does not want any money sent to them when there are debts in the local congregation to be paid. (See point 2 under "The First Letter" heading.) If the organization were truly pulling a "smash-and-grab", then paying debts would be the furthest thing from their minds.
Getting Congregation Maintenance and Repairs DoneThe next paragraph covers kingdom hall repairs. It says, "If minor maintenance or a minor repair is needed and the cost is more than can be paid for with funds on hand, the body(ies) of elders will be able to contact their Local Design/Construction Department (LDC) representatives...In the meantime, please seek assistance from your Regional Building Committee (RBC)." In other words, "we have means in place for assisting local congregations in performing maintenance and repairs. All you have to do is ask for it." Or put another way, "Ask us for help if you need it."
Under "Decisions and Approvals", it goes on to state (I'll sum this one up,) that local construction or renovation projects will no longer be handled by the local body of elders, but by the branch office in order that they may "prioritize the need for Kingdom Halls." What does this mean? That they do not want congregations remodeling because the color of the walls has gotten stale to them. A branch office is able to view the request objectively. There are kingdom halls to be built around the world and we do not have money to waste on frivolous building projects. This is simply good sense to keep money from being wasted that could go to building a kingdom hall in poverty-stricken regions. As the next paragraph says, this provides standardization, (Remember point 4,) which makes sure everyone gets treated fairly. (Point 3.) Whose money are they talking about? The local congregations? No. They are talking about the money that the organization spends on the projects.
Let's Review the Second LetterWhen you read the second letter, it in fact says that:
- Congregations are to continue to pay their operating expenses, that is all. (Not payments to the organization.)
- To accumulate a reserve to cover two or three months of regular operating expenses within the congregation.
- Decide as an elder body whether their congregation needs an additional one-time reserve of $5,000 per additional auditorium and put it to vote.
- The congregation should pay all its other outstanding debts before sending any money to the charities.
- The congregation is to rely upon the Local Design/Construction Department (LDC) for its minor maintenance and repair needs.
In fact, after hearing the expense report, and seeing the second letter, I am convinced that we do not need all the extra money in our congregation account. (It's a lot.) What are we supposed to do with it? Keep it rolled up under a mattress for a rainy day that's never going to come because the branch office will be taking care of us? It is true that we are not likely to get any benefit out of our donating it to the Kingdom Hall and Assembly Hall Construction program, but some less fortunate congregations in other parts of the world will.
As if this were not enough, even long after I posted the above revealing the outright lies of opposers, they continue to lie about the issue as more information comes out. A further example that they need to continue lying to hide behind their wall of lies. As each new piece of information that comes out is even more damning against those liars because it becomes increasingly difficult for them as people come to a more accurate understanding of the situation.
The May Edition of JW BroadcastingWatch the May 5th, 2015 episode of JW Broadcasting. (Read the transcript.) Instead of quoting brother Stephen Lett directly, some former members, who seek to justify their decision to leave with lies, attempt to quote only specific words out of context and then forcefully interpret the meaning of what brother Lett said in the May edition of JW Broadcasting. But now let us analyze what he really said.
Anonymous and UnsolicitedIt was implied that brother Lett was somehow doing exactly what he was trying to distance himself from in "coercing" the viewer. However, he did not once perform any coercion tactics. The dictionary definition of "coercing" is: "to compel or restrain by force or authority without regard to individual wishes or desires" (British Dictionary). Now that is as loose a definition as I could find. But not once does brother Lett ever reference threats of force or issue a command or threat of God's retribution or displeasure, nor imply any of such in his talk. What he said was: "Because all of us have the privilege to donate funds, we would like to let you know something about our current situation, then you can respond as your heart impels you." So he is providing information, and the audience can 'respond as their heart impels them."
Later, he stated, "The governing body wanted to make you aware of the financial needs in the world field. And we are confident that with this knowledge, your appreciative hearts will move you to do what you can to support the work at hand." No threats, no compelling authority applied or implied. No bribery tactics, soliciting, trade or suggested donation amounts. He simply stated the governing body's confidence in the membership. Still later, he said, "We want to give our firstfruits to Jehovah. May all of us take the time to prayerfully consider what we can do to continue to live up to our dedication to Jehovah in all of the areas we have discussed." Again, not threatening force or asserting their authority, but simply asking members to consider what they feel their duty to be in the matter. In other words, members are allowed to choose for themselves how much they are going to give or if they are going to give.
Brother Lett highlighted that the donations are anonymous, saying "We don't know who gives what." Why did he point this out? Because if we knew who was giving what, we could be said to coerce individuals, watching their donations for a lack of donations, but we do not. This is important because as long as the donations are anonymous, we cannot be said to coerce anyone personally based upon their lack of recorded donations. But since they drop their money into the donation box, there is no way for anyone to say "you don't give enough". Yes, some people provide checks, but not everyone, and hardly even most. The fact that cash is acceptable is where the anonymity lies. A person does not have to drop a check, but may choose to drop in money, and no one is going to ask them if they donated or in what amount.
Where the televangelists we speak against so often go wrong, and for which we have always highlighted about them, is that they will try to guilt people by saying they can only have God's blessings if they donate, as if they can buy their way into heaven. But what did brother Lett say? "Does this represent a lack of appreciation for spiritual things? No! Absolutely not!" In fact, he mentions unprecedented giving by the brothers and sisters.
TransparencyThis video was not soliciting funds, but was simply informing the audience that there are plans ahead and that those plans will require money. If we did not inform the membership of plans for expansion, then, and only then, would the organization be guilty of corruption. But Lett talked about where the money was to come from and what is needed to fulfill that goal. Since this was what the talk was about, and the show runs on themes from month to month, then it made sense that the whole program should be about various ways we can provide for the kingdom, not just monetarily, but through a whole slew of other activities.
Our opposers so often make the claim that our finances are opaque, lacking transparency, and that we don't want our members to know what is happening with their money, but this is an outright lie. The fact is, we provide monthly and yearly accounts reports for each congregation, put out videos about how the organization is run, showing where all the money goes, and inform the members of planned expenditures. However, it is true that we do not inform governments of our financial holdings worldwide and with good reason. Governments have often attempted to bankrupt us by trying to seize our funds or freeze our accounts in their country. As a result, we have been forced to keep governments in the dark about exactly how much money we have and where we keep it.
But one thing is certain: no one in the organization, not one person, just as Stephen Lett said, is "lining their pockets" with donated funds. Can you point to a mansion belonging to any member of the organization? The governing body lives at Bethel. Yes, many at Bethel are living by means of those funds, even able to drive new, maintained cars as a result, but no one is living "high on the hog", so-to-speak, but all at Bethel live in meager circumstances and only receive what is absolutely necessary for them to live and to perform the witnessing work from day to day. The rest is spent on maintaining the organization and helping it grow. It is the planned growth that was focused on regarding the finances.
But what our opposers don't want you to understand is that when you inform the congregations of the organization's operating expenses, how it operates, its needs and wants, even providing exact or approximate costs, and giving everyone an opportunity to ask questions and vote on how their donations are spent, you are making the organization extremely transparent. If we did not vote on things within the congregation, there would be no transparency. If we did not show people how the organization was run, there would be no transparency. If we did not discuss our needs for future expansion, there would be no transparency and no expansion. From what I can see, there is oodles more transparency in our organization than in any other organization in the world.
Scripturally Raising Funds for ExpansionAnother thing our opposers remain conveniently silent on is the part where brother Lett provided a scriptural precedent at Exodus 35:4, 5 of Jehovah himself asking the Israelites to donate their valuable things so that a future work could be accomplished, namely the construction of the tabernacle, their place of worship. So what has been going on is exactly like that. In fact, there are many Scriptural examples of such notifying of needs. There are plans ahead and they need finances for that work.
Later on, brother Lett stated candidly, "No, the financial circumstance has nothing to do with a lack of spirituality or appreciation." (Emphasis mine.) What is the "financial circumstance"? He goes on, "However, there are some facts that we want to make you aware of. For one thing, the financial needs in the field have accelerated at a pace unlike any time in the recent past." That is, the organization is not only the fastest growing religious organization in the world, but is now growing even faster. As such, we need to facilitate that growth. However, with cutbacks, we could easily facilitate it. We are not going broke, but what is really needed?
It was claimed that brother Lett admitted to a "shortfall in funds", but what did he really say? He said: "We have looked forward to this next fiscal year and projected the expenditures for all of the theocratic initiatives we are scheduling. In doing the math, we found that the amount of money flowing out will be much greater than the amount of money we have coming in at this time." In other words, in order to fulfill the needs for more kingdom halls, they need to insure they have the money to cover the expenses. He did not mention anything about not being able to run the organization on the funds at hand. Note that he said "theocratic initiatives", but what he meant are the needs for theocratic expansion, not the needs for continued operation.
So what did brother Lett actually say? "We are planning on accelerating the building of kingdom halls and remote translation offices in coming years. It is our desire, Jehovah willing, to hold to the accelerated schedule for these projects if at all possible rather than having to scale back such progress because of a lack of available funds." (Emphasis mine.)
In the last 15 years, they built 30,000 kingdom halls. What brother Lett did not clarify is that they want to build the planned 14,000 kingdom halls in under 5 years, but this was implied simply by the math he gave. (That's how you read between the lines.) Thus, at the end of that five years, they will no longer need the increased donations. In fact, at that time, we will have around 1.5 million more members, but their money will only accomplish maintaining the organization, not facilitate its expansion. If the brothers do not increase their donations over the next 5 years, we will not be able to fulfill this goal.
There is no "shortfall", but simply a need for accelerated expansion. The organization is not in retreat, but is growing faster than ever. Costs are being reduced to facilitate the planned increased expansion, making the donation dollars stretch farther. One of the ways this is being done is by means of the new design of kingdom halls brother Lett mentioned and that is explained in the third letter, below. However, what he ended up talking about was something quite different than a "shortfall" of funds.
Growing Organization and Growing AppreciationIn fact, brother Lett said, "We are witnessing unprecedented enthusiasm among the brotherhood for all the spiritual bounty that is coming our way." Then he goes on to enumerate those blessings, just as I have, showing that we are in no way lacking in anything:
"We have up-to-date Bibles and an abundance of printed literature, and there is so much appreciation for the new and continually improving JW.org website. From around the world, we receive letters from around the world thanking the governing body for JW Broadcasting. . . . available in multiple languages! . . . There is also excitement about public witnessing using literature carts and with such great success."
". . . Today, how many publishing companies print publications in the many languages that Jehovah's organization does? The answer: none! And why is that? It's because they cannot make a financial profit. We, however, are accelerating our method of translating publications into indigenous languages."
Besides this, he said, "All congregations that had a kingdom hall or assembly hall loan to pay off were informed that their mortgages were canceled. Now when you think about that, it's amazing, isn't it? All their loans were canceled." But some have had misconceptions about what that meant.
Misconceptions of SomeWhat was the reason he gives for the new initiative to cancel mortgage repayments? Just as explained in the letters above, brother Lett explained, "In actuality, the mortgages were canceled so as not to be a hardship on some congregations and circuits." Does that sound like they don't want any congregations to give less? Obviously, that is not the intent. They actually want the congregations that need the relief to receive it and for more affluent congregations to pick up the slack. (Compare Matthew 19:21-24)
Lett said, "We also have heard from circuit overseers and others, that some of the brothers and sisters may have a misconception about some of the recent policy changes that have been instituted. . . . According to some of our circuit overseers, some of us took this to mean that the organization had a surplus of funds, and thus took this action as if the loans did not need to be reimbursed. Could this misconception have affected the amount that some have chosen to donate each month?" (Emphasis mine.) Now, mind you, this isn't saying that whole congregations, or even a significant number among congregations, reduced their amounts because of this misconception. No, but individual publishers had this misconception. What would be the result of individual publishers having such a misconception? They would be causing their congregation not to be able to live up to the pledge made by the congregation as a whole. Thus, the congregation would be the ones feeling the hit, not the organization. Because, really, not that many people have such a misconception.
Circuit overseers were the ones, not accountants, who brought it to the governing body's attention that some, not any significant number, not apostates, but some thought that the new arrangement meant there was a surplus. And again, it was circuit overseers and others, not accountants, who brought it to the governing body's attention that some, not a significant number, not apostates, but some thought that the sale of properties in New York meant that there was a surplus. In fact, as Lett brought out, the sale of those properties does not significantly affect the bottom line. He said, "the sale of property in New York City is basically only financing the construction of world headquarters in Warwick and the purchase of other properties that are needed to facilitate the move from Brooklyn in the future."
The fact that this had to be broached by circuit overseers and a few others shows that it is not hitting the organization hard enough for their accountants to highlight the problem.
VideosWhat is of particular interest is that the second video highlighted a brother who gave us his secular employment to maintain spiritual focus. If the organization were all out money grubbers, then certainly even the idea of one giving up their job would be repulsive. They would instead counsel people on how to succumb to pressures of their jobs while still maintaining their faith. Clearly, the organization is more concerned with spirituality than with money.
Another video highlighted the printing of braille books, which is prohibitively expensive for most organizations, religious and otherwise, but not only are we doing it, but constantly expanding in it. Does that sound like we are retreating financially or have a "shortfall"?
Then there was the video talking about the expanding translation work. Really, if they were short of funds and they wanted to save money, they could easily stop expanding translations, even close translation offices and consolidate translation offices, but they are doing exactly the opposite.
Then there was the video demonstrating that we gave away some 30,000 publications in Guadalajara, Mexico. If the organization were desperate and performing a "smash and grab", then why don't they charge for publications? But our opposers don't want you to think that far. They want to limit your thinking and get you fired up over worthless inflammatory claims so that you will make a knee-jerk reaction instead of taking the time to think about the meaninglessness of their claims. And likewise, why would the organization provide videos if it costs them money with little dividends? The videos don't get shown on public television, so they clearly don't earn a dime from them and they don't attract enough followers on their own to pay for the expense. If they are in so bad a shape as to need to "beg" for money as our opposers claim, then why are they approving mere local initiatives like this one?
The last video demonstrated the organization's recording of music. Now, ask yourself this: In what way could music that is only available from our website ever produce any financial dividends for the organization? Clearly it does not. But the purpose it serves is strictly spiritual. There is no other possible benefit at all. Simple piano renditions should be enough, but they provide orchestral and various vocal editions, even in many different languages. There could never, ever be financial return on this investment. Boy, those Jehovah's Witnesses sure are hemorrhaging money!
Let's ReviewTo be clear, let us sum up brother Lett's talk where it discusses finances. After discussing Proverbs 3:9, brother Lett goes on to discuss the following:
- All funds are anonymous and unsolicited.
- Most funds come from the donation box.
- Informing the congregation of the financial needs has scriptural precedent in many places such as Exodus 35:4, 5.
- There is no "shortfall", but simply a need for accelerated expansion.
- The organization is not in retreat, but is growing faster than ever.
- Costs are being reduced to facilitate the planned expansion.
- Circuit overseers, not accountants, brought to the governing body's attention about the perception of a surplus, not a shortfall. But just because there is no significant surplus does not mean there is a shortfall for maintaining the organization. They do not keep a surplus, but every penny is used.
The Third LetterThe third letter, dated February 23, 2015, does not appear to be posted online and merely covers information from a video to the elders posted on January 31, 2015 about the new style of kingdom halls that will now be being built in some countries.
In the letter and video, the new kingdom hall construction style was highlighted featuring lower cost construction, lower maintenance and an increased chance of resale for commercial use if ever the kingdom halls are sold. But the question is, why the new style? Some are trying to claim that the organization is "downsizing" and getting ready to fold. Is this true?
Clearly, the organization is not hurting for money. Instead, the finances are growing and the work is advancing. It is for the purpose of maximizing their returns of increased spiritual interest of people on the street that the organization wants to maximize its cost benefits so that the money donated to Jehovah is not wasted frivolously and brings glory to Jehovah and spreads the word of salvation.
It is understood that some may not appreciate the new arrangement, and that is why they counseled the brothers not to complain and to avoid the spirit of the Israelites in the wilderness who made boasts about what they had in Egypt.
The Fourth LetterHere is the fourth letter dated July 8, 2015 that some claim modifies the so-called "smash and grab" to be even worse, but in reality is just an instruction to the elders that does not affect the donation of money at all.
The fourth letter states, "...we are pleased to share with you the following comments." So it is not direction to do anything, but is simply "comments".
The second paragraph simply states what has already been the practice for a long time: if a congregation gets too large, they may be split into two congregations. If they are too small, they may be merged with another small congregation. This is nothing new. They may also consider other options on a case-by-case basis, such as moving the congregation to a new hall. Whatever is "the most practical solution." For what purpose? "Conserving donated funds."
The third paragraph simply states that if the congregation specifically requests to be moved to another auditorium, it will be considered on a case-by-case basis at the branch office. And the fourth paragraph assures the elders that their request will be considered along with recommendations by the circuit overseer.
The ONLY change that has been made here is about where to send their request to be moved. Does that sound like a smash-and-grab to you? Does that sound like it affects finances at all? Of course not.
In ConclusionThe purpose of this entire effort is to centralize the construction effort with the branch office so that they can make decisions about how and to whom the contributions are distributed for construction and remodeling projects. It removes responsibility from the local congregations for their own construction projects. And most importantly, it provides greater ability to produce kingdom halls abroad and reducing frivolous expenditures in more affluent congregations. This has the benefit of making the organization more responsible as a whole, thereby bringing greater glory to Jehovah. If there happens to be rich brothers among us who wish to complain, let them. They should be happy that there will be an equalizing among the congregations. (2 Corinthians 8:14)
Let us further remember that money donated to the organization belongs to the organization. It no longer belongs to us as individuals who donated the money. Donated money has never belonged to the individuals who donated it. So it is not ours to fret over. Yet the organization is giving us ample control over how the donated money is being divided within our congregations. Not only this, but there is full transparency about where the money goes, how it is spent, and who controls what it is spent on. We can be sure that every penny is being used properly because the organization is taking a risk that could very well end up backfiring if it does not have Jehovah's backing. The congregation is not "permanently indebted to the organization" as has been lyingly accused, and there are no "compulsory" amounts even implied. We shall see how it turns out. I am confident that it will be blessed.
Our Opposers Hate Our Reduced FootprintJehovah's Witnesses have reduced their publishing of the magazines by 57%, but our opposers seem to be complaining over our reduced footprint on the earth's ecosystem. (Actually, we've reduced our footprint by considerably more than that since the advent of the website updates, in addition to reducing construction waste and publishing waste footprints as well.) No, but they have to find fault with it instead and are trying to paint it as if the organization is crumbling. They seem to be saying that if we were God's organization, we would be printing more, not less, further impacting the ecosystem. But who cares, right? As long as we conform to their ideas, not God's.
This in the face of the fact that there is ample evidence that the organization is actually expanding, with more and more translation offices being completed every week, kingdom halls being constructed every day, new assembly halls going up every month, a new leather-bound Bible being provided to all members and Bible students, conventions reduced in size despite growing membership, (Meaning more convention venues must be paid for,) new world headquarters, forgiving debts of all congregations, paying off all debts, updated and continually updating websites, new JW Broadcasting website, providing more publications and videos than ever online, (Can you imagine how much the bandwidth must cost?) recently purchased literature carts for public witnessing, we are printing braille books, providing our publications for free has recently been implemented in every country around the world, and to top it all off, we are more in line with Scripture in these matters than ever. Along with this, our membership is ballooning at more than a quarter million every year. We are the fastest growing religious organization in the world and have consistently been among the top 2 throughout our history.
My faith has been strengthened by this arrangement. Those whose faith may be weakened by these letters and videos do not understand this arrangement and should give it more careful thought. We are now more in line with 2 Corinthians 8:12-14 and Romans 13:8. That is something to be celebrated.
The obsessive attacks of our opposers are truly vile. (John 8:42-47; Revelation 21:8) Why should anyone continue to trust any individual that fabricates such venomous filth?
For further proof, through this very arrangement, that the organization is not in decline, observe the video, LDC: Designing Future Kingdom Halls. Then you might like to compare it to the decline of false Christendom that was found over a century ago to be foretold in the Bible in the book The Two Babylons by Alexander Hislop and has been repeatedly stated in our publications ever since. The one we call "The Greater Cyrus", Jesus Christ, is on his way and the fall of Babylon the Great, the Harlot, false religion, will be sudden and great.
Question and AnswerAsking questions in a spirit of mildness, honesty and sincerity has been encouraged in all 6 congregations I have attended over the years. Following is the above information broke down into clear, sincere questions:
Q: What does the new arrangement accomplish?
Answer: It gives more authority to the organization to determine whether any given congregation needs a kingdom hall or improvements, allowing them to treat all congregations more fairly.
Some congregations have done more construction and improvements under the former arrangement than is necessary. That money could be better spent providing kingdom halls to congregations that do not have one, or providing repairs and improvements to congregations in economically challenged areas. This also means that the congregations no longer have debts to pay off. This money is also used to rebuild kingdom halls after fires and governmental actions and in war-torn and disaster regions.
Q: Are the contributions being used for more than kingdom hall and assembly hall construction, repairs and improvements?
Answer: No. Every penny is applied for the purpose described. None of the money is diverted for any reason.
Q: Are individual congregation members being asked to donate more money?
Answer: To some extent. Only those who can afford it are being informed that increased donations over the next 5 years are necessary to meet the need for increased expansion.
Q: Why is the congregation being asked to send more of its money to the organization?
Answer: Money that has technically already been contributed to the organization by members and that the congregation does not need and will likely never use is being requested to help other congregations of our brothers and sisters to have a kingdom hall in which to worship Jehovah, just as those of us who have the fortune of already having a kingdom hall do in relative comfort and appreciation. Could you imagine being a worshiper of Jehovah without a place to worship? Many congregations in third world countries and various islands meet outside or under thatched roofs. Many congregations in the united states have not been able to afford updates to their kingdom halls or new kingdom halls as the old ones become outdated and frankly an eyesore.
Q: Why must the congregation fulfill a monthly pledge?
Answer: The total of contributions do not tend to vary greatly from month to month. Thus it should not be difficult for most congregations to meet a standing pledge.
The question that was likely asked to get to this point is "how can we bring all the contributions in through a single box?" There are multiple ways to handle that:
1) Pool it all together and send it all to the organization to let the branch accountants divvy it up, then they handle sending money back to the congregation to take care of its needs. This is not very effective because it makes the congregation more dependent upon the organization for simple matters of upkeep, such as toiletries and cleaning supplies, and increases the communication needs between the congregations and the local branch.
2) Let the elders take care of it. This would be fine, except that this would cause finances to become opaque and would allow for mismanagement of congregation contributions, as happens to so many churches of the world.
3) Simply hold on to the contributions and have the organization solicit funds from a congregation's contribution pool. This would require the congregation to vote on each and every request made by the organization. This is obviously highly impractical and insulting to the organization that makes true worship and the preaching work possible.
4) Earmark a certain amount for maintaining the kingdom hall's basic operations and send the rest to the organization for publishing and construction projects. The way I see it, this keeps the bookkeeping down for the organization, the elders and for individual congregation members.
Obviously, the fourth is the most reasonable while keeping the finances transparent. Though, if you have another solution for having a single box for all contributions, I would be happy to post it here.
Q: If the elders have already made the decision about how the money should be divided, why pass it to the congregation for voting?
Answer: The elders have made no such decision. They simply review the available funds, identify an amount that appears to be reasonable to forward, then put a proposal (not a decision) before the congregation. The congregation has the power to veto the amount proposed. Since the elders know what they are doing in taking care of the kingdom hall, there should generally be no reason to vote the proposal down.
Q: Is the amount sent a perpetual, unchanging arrangement?
Answer: No. The congregation can vote to change the amount each year in May. Or, if there is an immediate change needed, the elders may present a proposal to the congregation to change the amount for any given month. This has more to do with the chartered Rules of Order than anything else.
Q: Must a congregation send the amount of its loan payments?
Answer: No. The amount can be any amount that the congregation deems appropriate. Many congregations did not even have loan payments to pay off. That is why the letter provides survey procedures to find out how much the congregation thinks it should forward, since congregations with outstanding loans were obviously not sending more than they could reasonably manage.
Q: Why does the letter say "at least the amount of the loan"? What would be the effect if congregations only sent exactly the amount of the loans they paid previously, or even less?
Answer: If the congregation paid only the amount of the loan or less, the organization would then be receiving less money for the Kingdom Hall and Assembly Hall Construction than they were previously receiving from that congregation. Why? Because, before, they were receiving both the loan and the contributions from the contribution box as well as many congregations were often saving for their own construction and remodeling plans. To send just the loan amount would be like keeping those former contributions (that were helping our brothers in other lands,) for the congregation instead. The congregation's available funds would then blossom, while the organization's share would diminish.
Thus, I personally would recommend the congregation send the loan amount, plus the monthly contributions they were already receiving, along with any contribution amounts they had previously earmarked for saving for their own construction needs. Since congregations will no longer be deciding their own construction needs, saving that money would do no good and be withholding that money from congregations who need it.
Q: Won't congregations that were previously saving for construction projects now be unable to fulfill those projects because they are not approved by the local branch?
Answer: In some cases yes. More affluent congregations would be less likely granted the funds to perform unnecessary construction and renovations. Those affluent congregations would, however, still receive funds to perform essential construction and renovations. On the other hand, less affluent congregations who do not even have a kingdom hall will be able to receive a kingdom hall because more affluent congregations are not being permitted to waste the organization's money on frivolous building projects.
Q: What if the congregation decides to continue saving for construction projects?
Answer: All construction projects for a congregation must be decided and paid for by the local branch; therefore, the money the congregation saves would go to waste, never being spent because a congregation must apply to the local branch for construction, renovations and major repairs, (Just as it has been,) and then the local branch will send the money necessary to resolve those needs if it approves the project.
Q: Must all congregations stop paying all their debts?
Answer: No. Only the debt to the organization has been forgiven. Each congregation is being asked to pay off all its other outstanding debts as quickly as possible, before sending any amount to the organization. In other words, until the congregation finishes paying off its debts, it is not permitted to forward any money for Kingdom Hall and Assembly Hall Construction.
Q: What is the scriptural support for the new arrangement?
Answer: The letter uses 2 Corinthians 8:12-14 in support for the arrangement. For a breakdown of this scripture in relation to the letters, see the heading, "The First Letter", above, as well as the parenthetical text throughout the article referencing the points of the scripture breakdown.
The new arrangement also calls for congregations to bring an end to all their debts. Though not mentioned in either letter, this is supported by Romans 13:8.