From the manual for elders of Jehovah's Witnesses
"Pay Attention To Yourselves and to All the Flock"
UNIT 5 (c) -- Part 1 of 3
Handling Cases of
Wrongdoing With Wisdom
When man rebelled in Eden, Jehovah took prompt action
(Gen. 3:8-19, 23, 24) Today, elders must handle cases of
wrongdoing and thus safeguard the spiritual environment of
the congregation. Hence, they should be well-informed with
regard to the application of Bible laws and principles.
When you as elders are assigned to care for a judicial
problem, it is beneficial to take the necessary time to do
research in the Bible, the Society's publications, and any
special letters from the Society that may contain information
applicable to the particular case. Prayerful consideration of
such information would be appropriate before the committee
initiates the hearing itself.
Before Forming a Judicial Committee
A person who becomes a witness to a serious sin should
encourage the wrongdoer to report the matter to the elders.
- He may encourage the wrongdoer to seek help from the
elders and confess; and if the wrongdoer does not do
so, the witness will then inform the elders. (w85 11/85
However, having the witness confront the accused alone
- If there is no response from the accused, two elders
should attempt to discuss the matter with him. If he
denies wrongdoing, so that it is only one brother's
word against another's, leave the matter in Jehovah's
hands. (1 Tim. 5:19, 24, 25)
may not be advisable in all cases.
- For example:
- When the witness is party to wrongdoing, such as
in cases of fornication or adultery.
If there is another witness to the same type of sin on the
In such cases, or when other extenuating circumstances
- When the witness is a victim of the wrongdoer as in
cases of incest or rape.
When the witness is extremely timid.
exist, two elders may discuss the matter with the ac-
cused, or an elder may accompany the witness to dis-
cuss the matter with the accused.
Of course, if it is determined that a judicial committee
should be formed, the witness may need to testify at
the hearing if the accused denies wrongdoing.
part of the accused, this would be basis for forming a
judicial committee. (See Unit 5 (b), page 111.)
Judicial Committee Hearing Procedure
After opening with prayer, the chairman states the rea-
son for the meeting.
- He may offer a Scriptural point at the outset, such as from
Proverbs 28:13 or James 5:14, 15.
Elders, by expressing the desire to be helpful, can do
much to put the accused at ease. (w89 9/15 pp. 19-20)
The chairman invites the accused to make a personal
Present the witnesses one at a time unless the wrongdoer
- If the accused does not admit guilt, he should be informed
as to the source of the charge(s) made against him.
Accusers should be willing to assume their responsibi-
The accused may also present witnesses whose testimony
lity, as was required in Israel. (Deut. 17:6, 7; 19:16-21)
would have a bearing on the case.
The witnesses should not be present for the entire hearing,
since they do not need to hear details and testimony that
do not affect them.
However, witnesses to the wrongdoing should be pres-
ent if it becomes necessary to continue the reproof of
the accused "before all onlookers." (1 Tim. 5:20)
The committee probes with pertinent questions in an
effort to establish facts and ascertain the attitude of the
- Is there sufficient evidence to establish by two witnesses
or otherwise that the person is clearly guilty of serious
wrongdoing? (Unit 5 (b) p. 111) Isolate specific offenses
and available evidence.
While it is not appropriate to make extraordinary efforts
or to prolong the case unnecessarily, skillful use of God's
Word may reach the person's heart and bring him to
Elders should be quick to listen but slow to indicate a
preference or a leaning one way or the other.
Wait until you have heard all the facts before reaching
conclusions and making decisions. (Prov. 18:13)
If guilt is established, use God's Word to reprove the
wrongdoer, showing the wrongness of the sin and of the
steps that may have led to it.
You may need to do so in front of the witnesses of the
sin ("onlookers") who have testified.
After Scriptural discussion and after all evidence has
been presented, dismiss the accused and any witnesses,
and carefully review evidence and the attitude of the
If the accusation, or charge, has been proved true, is the
wrongdoer repentant? If repentance is manifest, how was
it demonstrated? (Unit 5 (b) pp. 112-15)
Depending on whether guilt is established and repentance
shown, determine what action, if any, needs to he taken.
In complex cases, defer making a decision if you are not
sure of the Bible's direction and the Society's counsel.
However, do not unduly prolong making a deci-
sion, as this can have a detrimental effect on the
accused and the congregation.
Seek Jehovah's wisdom through prayer.
120 "Pay Attention to Yourselves and to All the Flock"
If the wrongdoer is guilty of gross sin but gives evidence
of godly repentance, even as recently as at the hearing, the
judicial reproof given by the committee may suffice;
disfellowshipping may not be necessary. (2 Tim. 4:1, 2;
Titus 1:9; w83 1/1 pp. 30-1)
Some wrongdoers have gone so far into a practice of sin
or have been so persistently deceptive that it may be
difficult to accept a claim of repentance. (1 Cor. 5:
If the person is guilty of a serious sin such as those
listed in Unit 5 (a), pages 92-6, and is unrepentant,
having a truly bad heart, and/or is determined to
pursue a God-dishonoring course, he must be disfellow-
When the decision is made, inform the individual of it
If disfellowshipping is necessary, proceed as outlined un-
der the next heading.
If disfellowshipping is not necessary, yet the accused is
guilty of gross sin, see "Matters Regarding Judicial Re-
proof," pages 123-4.
If the Decision Is to Disfellowship
Tell the guilty person the Scriptural reason(s) for the
Inform the wrongdoer that he may appeal in writing
within seven days if he feels a serious error in judgment
has occurred. (om p. 147; km 1/80 p. 4)
Outline steps necessary for future reinstatement.
Be positive, assuring him that forgiveness is possible if he
truly repents; the person may be in a distressed state of
If an appeal is lodged within the allotted time, no an-
nouncement is made pending the outcome of the appeal.
In the meantime the accused person will be restricted
UNIT 5 (c) - 121
from commenting and praying at meetings or enjoying
special privileges of service. (om pp. 147-8 )
If the accused lodges an appeal but then deliberately fails
to appear for the appeal hearing, the disfellowshipping
action should be announced after reasonable efforts to
contact the individual have been made either in person or
If an appeal is not made within seven days, announce
Allow the seven-day appeal period to elapse even if the
person states he does not wish to appeal.
The presiding overseer should check the announcement to
make sure that it conforms to the guidelines outlined by
An elder, perhaps the chairman of the judicial committee,
should read the announcement.
Disfellowshipping takes effect when the announcement is
made to the congregation.
Using the forms provided by the Society, the branch
office should be notified of the person's name, the Scrip-
tural reason for the disfellowshipping, and the date of
the action. ( S-77 and S-79 forms )
A brief review of the evidence that was presented should
also be given.
A similar report is made when a person disassociates
himself from the organization. ( S-77 and S-79 forms )
A written summary of the case should be prepared by the
committee and put in a sealed envelope to be placed in the
If a disfellowshipped individual moves to a different
area, no announcement of his disfellowshipped status
should be made from the platform of the new congrega-
122 - "Pay Attention to Yourselves and to All the Flock "
Publishers can be advised individually if they are inadvert-
ently having association with such a one.
Matters Regarding Judicial Reproof
Reproof involves establishing wrongdoing and convinc-
ing the wrongdoer of the error.
- Thus, administering judicial reproof includes more than
just making a decision or announcing it. (w77 11/15
The aim is to help the person stop doing what is bad and
establish himself as a practicer of what is good.
Help him to understand how there may have been
related sins, which were less serious, that led to his
serious deflection from Jehovah's law.
Some wrongdoers may need to be judicially reproved
with severity to bring them to repentance. (Titus 1:13)
At times it is appropriate to administer judicial reproof
"before all onlookers." ( 1 Tim. 5:20)
- Be sure to adhere to Scriptural and organizational guide-
lines when this is done. (w81 9/1 pp. 24, 26)
The "onlookers" may be those present as witnesses at the
committee hearing or those who know of the sin.
In some cases the elders may feel it is necessary to warn the
If there are good reasons for it, an announcement of
judicial reproof may be made to the congregation.
(w88 11/15 p. 18; w81 9/1 pp. 26-7)
The degree or seriousness of the sin is not the
determining factor for an announcement regarding
In cases where sin is widely known or will no doubt
become known, an announcement may be needed
to safeguard the reputation of the congregation.
The committee may have specific reasons why the
congregation needs to be somewhat on guard con-
cerning the repentant wrongdoer. Perhaps he had
been counseled several times concerning steps lead-
ing to the same wrongdoing.
congregation about the type of conduct practiced.
UNIT 5 (c) - 123
If so and if no announcement is made, a talk may be
given at any time outlining clearly what the Scriptures
have to say on the subject.
If an announcement regarding judicial reproof is
made, a few weeks after the announcement such a
talk may he given.
Nothing should be said that would connect anyone
with the type of sin being discussed. Rather, cover
Scriptural principles outlining the seriousness of such
sinful conduct and how to avoid it.
In all cases of judicial reproof, restrictions will be im-
If the wrongdoer is an elder, a ministerial servant, or a
pioneer, he should be removed. (w77 11/15 pp. 697-8)
It is important that the judicial committee monitor the
spiritual progress of a person who has been judicially
restricted; appropriate counsel and spiritual encourage-
ment should he given periodically. (w81 9/1 p. 27; km
3/75 p. 4)
Restrictions should he removed in due course as warranted
by the individual's observed spiritual recovery.
If a brother who has recently been judicially reproved
moves to another congregation, it is necessary to inform
the elders of that congregation about any restrictions that
may be in effect.
This will enable the elders in his new congregation to
continue supervising the restoration of his privileges
and help him toward full spiritual recovery.
No announcement of such previous judicial reproof is
made in the new congregation. (km 3/75 p. 4)
End of Part 1 (part 1 of 3) of UNIT 5 (c)
[part 2] [part 3]