The organization is changing rapidly and while some people, even with the org itself, like to claim it has always been evolving, this is different. New light is coming at an incredible pace. Technology, once the boogyman, is now an pushed down everyones throats. The Watchtower has been completely rebranded into JW.ORG. Gone of the days of attempting to get into deep scholarly debates withe bible students. Simplicity is now the goal. Nearly every trace of the old faith has been reworked or retooled.
And, I think its incredibly important to remind ourselves that the current Governing Body is unlike anything we have ever seen. GB 2.0, as some have called it. But that change is incredibly pronounced when you look at something like this.
1974 is one of the most transformative organizational shifts in the history of the Watchtower. The governing body was expanded heavily and given more control. For the next 35 years, WT was shaped and molded by those men. The policies and decisions by these men had a tremendous impact on all of our lives and, in many ways, are responsible for some of the most impressive growth numbers the organization had ever seen. This is the GB that liked the shadows and many of us can remember a time when we boasted that JWs didn’t even know who the GB members where. It was a source of pride.
But in the past ten years, everything changed. Jaracz, described by WT insider Barbara Anderson as a tyrant and as a hard-liner, was the last surviving gb member from the ’74 appointments. Between 2006 and 2010, five governing body members passed away who had been appointed in the 70s. When Barr died in December of 2010, the longest tenured GB member became Garret Losch, a 1994 appointment. Barr had been appointed in 77, so this was a 17 year jump over night!
In light of this, some of the changes begin to make sense. The newer governing body are almost all former COs and have, unlike their predecessors, spent considerably less time within the Bethel environment. They understood that some of the WT policies were getting antiquated. Being a publishing company was not sustainable and a cheaper alternative had to be found. It is my honest opinion that the previous generations of GB members never felt this “system” would last this long and therefore did no long term planning. This younger generation of GB members appears to think they have a better understanding of the congregations.
They saw the members falling asleep at the meetings when discussing “deep” bible topics like Revelation (twice!), Isaiah, and Jeremiah. So things need to get simpler. Since 2010, nearly all the literature has been incredibly simple. We now a have a simplified watchtower, tracts with only a handful of words, a score of children’s books, videos at every turn, less meetings, shorter conventions, two brochures (listen to God) designed for people who can’t read, a simplified study book, shorter public talks, a reduced aux hours requirement. And that isn’t even an exhaustive list!
These are unprecedented times and for those of us who remember the organization in the eighties and nineties, a shell of its former self. Older brothers and sisters are left in the dust, left to feel inferior with their “paper” copies of the WT and inability to show videos in the ministry. Few brothers are stepping up into positions of responsibility because the allure of being an elder as diminished or because they are working two jobs due to no education to put food on their families table.
Of course, nothing I’ve said here is new information for any of you. But the end of the year is always a time for reflection. And while 2015 was a huge year with the ARC and all the leaks, 2016 is shaping up to be even bigger. The current GB recognizes the problems, but their solution is to either ignore it or clumsily address it. (i.e., the Return to Jehovah brochure, Morris child abuse broadcast, the WT on guilting brothers into service, and Splane’s brilliant defense of the generations teaching). The current GB doesn’t seem capable of addressing some of the real issues and the numbers in every subsequent yearbook will show that.