Jehovah’s Witnesses leaders have eased their policy of “shunning” erring followers, limiting the silent treatment only to baptized members.
An article in the authoritative Watchtower magazine dated Nov. 15 informs its members that unbaptized people who become “publishers"--that is, witness door-to-door or on street corners-- and then drop out or violate church rules should no longer be shunned.
“The Bible does not require that Witnesses avoid speaking with (them),” the magazine said. “Previously, unbaptized ones who unrepentantly sinned were completely avoided.” Nevertheless, the magazine cautioned that 1 Corinthians 15:33 (“Bad company ruins good morals”) should be observed.
At the Witnesses’ Brooklyn headquarters, a spokesman said there are nearly 3.4 million publishers worldwide and about 797,000 in the United States. While confirming that the Nov. 15 issue notes the new policy, the spokesman did not comment on what effect the change might have.
But ex-member David T. Brown of Phoenix, an active critic of the organization, said the greatest impact should be on the children of active Witnesses who had joined their parents in neighborhood canvassing but were shunned after breaking church rules. “Tens of thousands once viewed as dead have suddenly been restored to their families,” Brown said.