UNIT 5 (b)

on a Judicial Committee

"When having a hearing between your brothers, you must
judge with righteousness. " ( Deut. 1:16 ) It is a serious respon-
sibility to judge matters that affect people's lives and relation-
ships with others. Elders must have a reasonably complete
picture when judging a matter so that their decisions will not
be based on partial knowledge or on personal feelings. They
also need heavenly wisdom in order to make proper applica-
tion of God's Word and to determine how far their showing
mercy should extend. (Prov. 28:13; Jas. 2:13) They must
treat every person with impartiality at all times and desire that
the spiritually ill become well again, since a failure in this
regard is unjust and violates the law of love.‹I Tim. 5:21;
Jas. 2:1-9; 5:14, 15; w77 3/1 pp. 146-52.

Elders Are Teachers and Judges

As "Judge of all the earth," Jehovah provides fatherly
correction and discipline whenever needed. (Gen. 18:
25; Heb. 12:5, 6)

He has raised up elders to serve as counselors and judges.
(Isa. 1:26)

By judging in righteousness, you may turn others back
from a sinful course. (Prov. 14:12;Jer. 10:23, 24)

God's Word is the basis for needed correction. (2 Tim.
3: 14-17)

The responsibility of elders involves more than handling
Judicial matters.

You must also teach, making clear what God requires.

Encourage the rendering of whole-souled service to
God and faithful obedience to his righteous principles.


Applying Jesus' Counsel on
Handling Certain Wrongs

Some accusations involve minor misunderstandings that
should be handled on a personal basis. (Matt. 5:23, 24;
6:12, 14; Eph. 4:25-27)

At Matthew 18:15-17 Jesus gave counsel on handling
serious wrongs that might be settled on a personal basis.
(w81 9/15 pp. 17-20; om pp. 142-5)

Jesus' counsel concerns serious sins committed against one
personally, such as fraud or slander‹sins serious enough
to lead to a person's being expelled from the congrega-

The person who believes he has been wronged takes the
first step toward resolving the matter; elders may encour-
age him to do this.(Matt. 18:15)

The second step involves taking one or two persons with
him to speak with the individual. (Matt. 18:16)

These should preferably be witnesses of the alleged
wrongdoing or respected brothers, usually elders, who
can examine the evidence and offer counsel for resolv-
ing the matter.

They also become witnesses to the evidence presen-
ted in the discussion.

The person who believes he has been wronged takes the
third step, bringing the matter to the congregation, as a
last resort. (Matt. 18:17)

If the congregation elders are unable to bring a wrongdoer
to his senses, he is to be treated "as a man of the nations
and as a tax collector."

The unrepentant wrongdoer would be expelled (disfel-
lowshipped) from the congregation.

The Judicial Committee

Other cases of serious wrongdoing require special atten-
tion by the elders in order to determine what is needed


"Pay Attention to Yourselves and to All the Flock"

to help the repentant wrongdoer and to preserve the
spiritual health of all in the congregation.

These include such sins as adultery, fornication, apostasy,
and drunkenness. (See Unit 5 (a), pages 92-6.)

Before forming a committee, elders determine if the accu-
sation has substance.

It must Scripturally be an offense serious enough to
result in disfellowshipping.

There must be either two witnesses or a confession of

If there is not enough evidence to form a committee
but serious questions have been raised, two elders may
be assigned to investigate the matter.

If a judicial committee is needed, elders who are present at
the Kingdom Hall should determine which elders will
serve on the committee and which one will be chairman.

The elders will take into consideration which elders are
best qualified to handle the particular type of case that
has arisen. (km 9/77 pp. 5-6 )

It is usually best for newer elders to serve first with
more experienced ones.

In a complex case, a judicial committee need not be
limited to three members; it may warrant having four
or even five experienced elders serve.

More than one judicial committee may be operating at
the same time in a congregation, depending on cases
that arise.

Elders called upon to care for this responsibility must
exercise heavenly wisdom, have good judgment, and be
impartial. ( Deut. 1:13, 16-18 )

A sound knowledge of Jehovah's righteous laws and prin-
ciples is necessary.(Ps. 19:7-11)

They must weigh matters carefully, realizing that certain
factors make situations differ from one another.

UNIT 5 (b)


Instead of looking for rigid rules for guidance, elders
should think in terms of principles; judge each case on its
own merits.

Before handling a judicial case, elders should carefully
review Units 5 (a), 5 (b), and 5 (c).

They may also need to do research in the Society's
publications and recent correspondence from the Soci-
ety to find information that may apply or be helpful.

Elders can be confident that with accurate knowledge,
with experience and discernment, and with the help of
God's spirit, they can judge in righteousness, wisdom, and

Handling Judicial Cases

Do not send an individual any kind of correspondence
that directly accuses him of specific wrongdoing.

It is best for two elders to speak with the indlvidual and
invite him to meet with the Judicial committee.

Suitable arrangements should be made as to the time
and place of the hearing.

State what the person's course of action is supposed to
have been.

If it is necessary to send a written invitation, you should
simply state what the individual's course is alleged to have
been, the time and place of the hearing, and how the
person can contact the chairman if the arrangements are
inconvenient for him.

If the accused wishes to bring witnesses who can speak
in his defense regarding the matter, he may do so.

However, observers are not permitted.

No tape-recording devices are allowed.

If the accused reeatedly fails to come to the hearing,
the committee will proceed with the hearing but will not


"Pay Attention to Yourselves and to All the Flock "

make a decision until evidence and any testimony by
witnesses are considered.

The committee should not take action against a person
unless the evidence clearly proves this necessary.

Failure to appear before the committee is not in itself
proof of guilt.

What kind of evidence is acceptable?

There must be two or three eyewitnesses, not just persons
repeating what they have heard; no action can be taken if
there is only one witness. (Deut. 19:15;Jol1ll 8:17)

Confession (admission of wrongdoing), either written or
oral, may be accepted as conclusive proof without other
corroborating evidence. (Josh. 7:19)

Strong circumstantial evidence, such as pregnancy or evi-
dence (testified to by at least two witnesses) that the
accused stayed all night in the same house with a person of
the opposite sex (or in the same house with a known
homosexual ) under improper circumstances, is acceptable.

The testimony of youths may be considered; it is up to
the elders to determine if the testimony has the ring of

The testimony of unbelievers may also be considered, but
it must be carefully weighed.

If there are two or three witnesses to the same kind of
wrongdoing but each one is witness to a separate incident,
their testimony can be considered.

Such evidence may be used to establish guilt, but it is
preferable to have two witnesses to the same occurrence
of wrongdoing.

Judging With
Righteousness, Wisdom, and Mercy

Elders must exercise wisdom in their questioning and
godly qualities in their judging.

In giving counsel or rendering decisions, avoid expressing

UNIT 5 (b)


opinions; be sure to judge in righteousness. (Deut. 1:
16, 17)

You must ask pertinent, discreet questions to isolate main
issues and determine how or why a problem developed.

Probing questions should not go into needless details,
especially in regard to sexual misconduct, unless this is
absolutely necessary, such as in determining whether
por-nei'a had been committed.

Elders need to treat the accused kindly and respectfully,
never harshly. (w89 9/15 p. 19)

Seek divine wisdom to help you relate Bible laws to the
issues raised or the charges being considered. (Jas. 1:5; 3:
17, 18)

You must exercise mercy in matters of judgment, not only
by showing compassion in the judgment rendered but also
by expressing kind consideration and pity in your efforts
both to bring wrongdoers to repentance and to heal and
restore those who are repentant. (Rom. 2:4; Jas. 5:14-16;
Jude 22, 23 )

In cases where it is established that a serious sin was
actually committed, the judicial committee should con-
sider such factors as these:

Is there evidence of the person's craving wrongful things
or courting trouble? Or did the person momentarily
succumb to weakness? (Jas. 4:1 )

Was he aware of the gravity of his sin? (Gal. 6:1 )

Had he been admonished that his course was leading
toward danger? (1 Thess. 5:14)

What were the circumstances leading up to the wrong-

Are there extenuating factors, such as emotional or
mental disorders or having been a victim of some type
of abuse in the past, that should be considered?

Was it a single offense, or was it committed more than


"Pay Attention to Yourselves and to All the Flock"

Was his confession voluntary, or did he have to be ac-
cused by others before confessing?

Was his reluctance to speak more a result of deep shame
than of lack of repentance?

Above all does he show true repentance and manifest a
heartfelt desire to avoid repetition of the wrong?

Even though the wrongdoer is guilty of a serious of-
fense, elders on the judicial committee realize that their
aim is to recover the one who has fallen into a wrong
course, whenever this is possible. (Jude 23 )

If he listens to them, showing true repentance, it may be
that he can be retained as a brother and thus be spared
being disfellowshipped. (Prov. 19:20; compare Matthew

Neither the gravity of the wrong nor bad publicity
finally determines whether the person should be disfel-
lowshipped; rather, the determining factor is the indi-
vidual's sincere repentance or the lack of it.

Some manifest repentance right after their sin by taking
steps immediately to confess; others manifest repentance
later, even during the meeting with the judicial commit-
tee. (w83 1/1 pp. 30-1 )

It is in the person's favor if he voluntarily confesses,
but the determining factor is: Is he repentant?

There is good reason for you to weigh carefully claims of
repentance when the individual has shown himself to be
guilty of hypocrisy, lying, or making deliberate efforts to

Also be cautious when it is apparent that the wrong act
was preceded by deliberate scheming, perhaps in a cold,
calculating way.

This is quite different from when an individual, under
the unexpected pressure ot certain tempting circum-
stances, gives in because of human weakness.

UNIT 5 (b)


Judgment Related to Repentance

Elders must be able to discern genuine repentance on the
part of the wrongdoer. (w81 9/1 pp. 24-6; it-2 pp. 770-4 )

Genuine repentance is vital for wrongdoers because it is
the first step leading back to God. (Rom. 2:4)

It is particularly important to be sure genuine repen-
tance exsts in cases of repeated sin, a practice of sin.

If gross sin extended over a long period of time, particular
care should be exercised in determining the genuineness of
the repentance. (w81 9/1 p. 26)

Is the person cooperative? When questioned, are his
answers forthright?

Was fear and weakness the reason he did not come
forward and confess, or is he wicked, trying to fool the

Has he been counseled before for this sin?

Repentance is generally manifested by works that befit
repentance either before or during the committee hear-
ing. (Compare Acts 26:20. )

How true repentance can be recognized:

Has the individual contritely prayed to Jehovah and
sought His forgiveness and mercy?

Caution: Some wrongdoers, though repentant, find
it difficult to pray. (Jas. 5:14 )

Has he admitted his wrongdoing, either voluntarily to
some of the elders before the hearing or when con-
fronted by his accusers?

Caution: Some people are so deeply ashamed that
they are reluctant to speak. Or they have difficulty
expressing themselves.

Has he made restitution, expressed willingness to do so,
or apologized to offended persons, those damaged by
his sinful course?


"Pay Attention to Yourselves and to All the Flock"

What seems to motivate the sadness, remorse, and
regret he shows? Is it worldly sadness (sorrow over
being caught) or heartfelt godly sadness? (2 Cor. 7:
8-11 )

Does he have deep regret over a damaged relation-
ship with Jehovah, remorse over the reproach he has
brought upon Jehovah's name and people, and sincere
longing to come back into God's favor?

Does his attitude include a heart-motivated rejection of
the bad course as something repugnant, hated? (Rom.

On occasion it may take more than one meeting for
reproof to reach the wrongdoer's heart and move him
to repentance.

However, the judicial committee is not obliged to
meet repeatedly with the wrongdoer or put words
in his mouth, trying to force him to repent, if it is
obvious that he lacks godly sorrow.
In all cases, the elders on the judicial committee
must weigh such factors as the following:

The seriousness of the wrong committed.

The time that has passed since it occurred.

The circumstances that led up to it.

The measure of willfulnes shown.

Whether there was deliberate failure to heed earlier
warning counsel.

If all reasonable efforts has been made to readjust the
one who has committed serious sins and yet he remains
unrepentant, he must be disfellowshipped. (1. Cor. 5:1,

You must show respect for Jehovah's standard of righ-
teousness and holiness.

You must also protect teh congregation from willful sin-

The same principles will govern the judgment on the
part of the juducial committee in cases of reinstatement.

114 Unit 5 (b) 115

The Responsibility of
Judgment Is a Weighty One

Judging matters that effect people's lives and relation-
ships is a serious responsibility; it calls for balance,
discernment, and understanding. Rely on Jehovah's
guiding spirit.

Elders on a judicial committee must weigh carefully
both the interests of the individual and those of the
congregation as a whole. (Jude 3, 4, 22, 23)

You must feel keenly your obligation before God to
prevent wrongdoing from infiltrating the congregation.

At the same time, your manner of dealing with your
brothers must always reflect Jehovah's wise and merciful

116 "Pay Attention to Yourselves and to All the Flock"