[Original publication date: September 5, 2003]
by Kent Steinhaug
When browsing the Watchtower Library 2001 I found some references to a new religious order inside the Watchtower, an order I have never heard of before. This is the stuff that made me stop and wonder:
- ***yb02 p.30: Highlights of the Past Year***
On Saturday, June 2, 2001, 676 invited guests from the islands of the Barbados branch and 15 other countries enjoyed the dedication program, which included a history of the work in Barbados. The highlight of the program was the talk “Making Jehovah’s Heart Rejoice,” delivered with infectious warmth by John E. Barr of the Governing Body. For the benefit of those who could not be accommodated at the dedication program itself, a special meeting was held on the following day. It was attended by 3,332.
Staffing such branch facilities worldwide are a total of 20,133 ordained ministers. All are members of the Order of Special Full-Time Servants.
I found many other references to this mysterious new order, like these:
- ***dx86-01 Jehovah’s Witnesses***
“Order of Special Full-Time Servants”: yb98 29; yb95 5-6
- ***dx86-01 Full-Time Ministry***
Order of Special Full-Time Servants: yb98 29; yb95 5-6
- ***dx86-01 Bethel Families***
Order of Special Full-Time Servants: yb98 29
- ***yb01 p.26 Highlights of the Past Year***
New and Expanded Branch FacilitiesTo care for the growing number of Jehovah’s Witnesses and to equip them for their ministry, it has also been necessary to provide suitable branch facilities. A number of these were dedicated within the past year. Such facilities worldwide are staffed by a total of 19,587 ordained ministers, all of whom are members of the Order of Special Full-Time Servants.
- ***yb00 p.47 Building to Accommodate a Great Crowd***
Needed Branch FacilitiesThe increase in the number of praisers of Jehovah in many lands has also made the building of new branch offices necessary. Such branch offices, as well as the world headquarters, are staffed by Bethel family members, who are included in the Order of Special Full-Time Servants.
- ***yb99 p. 27 Highlights of the Past Year***
As the number of publishers increases—and 316,092 more were baptized this past year—additional branch facilities are also required. At present, 17,781 in Bethel families around the earth render service as members of the Order of Special Full-Time Servants.
- ***yb98 p.29 Jehovah’s Witnesses—1998 Yearbook Report***
Altogether, there are 16,982 volunteers who regularly work at the Society’s headquarters and branch facilities worldwide. Because of the circumstances under which they serve, these Bethel family members are all included in the Order of Special Full-Time Servants.
- ***yb97 p.28 Jehovah’s Witnesses—1997 Yearbook Report***
There are 5,581 volunteers who serve at the world headquarters on a regular basis; all of these are members of the
Order of Special Full-Time Servants.
All together, there are 16,966 Bethel family members around the globe. Housing is provided for them in the Society’s facilities.
- ***yb96 pp.8-9 Jehovah’s Witnesses—1996 Yearbook Report***
Among those in full-time service are 16,468 Bethel family members around the globe. Of this number, 5,709 serve at the world headquarters; all of these are members of the Order of Special Full-Time Servants. Additionally, 4,374 care for assignments that require them to travel from one assembly to another in an assigned district or
from one congregation to another in a circuit. One of the principal activities of all such traveling overseers is taking the lead in the field ministry.
- ***yb95 pp.5-6 Jehovah’s Witnesses—1995 Yearbook Report***
Among the full-time workers were 15,145 members of the global Bethel family. They help to provide literature, supervision, and other beneficial services in support of the worldwide work of Bible education. Of these, 5,082 serve at the world headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, and at nearby facilities. All of them are members of the Order of Special Full-Time Servants, a religious order that is devoted
exclusively to the ministry.
“The Order of Special Full-Time Servants:”
According to the Yearbook, this is a “religious order.” There is no reference to this mysterious order in any other publication – at least not on the Watchtower Library 2001 edition. The big question is, naturally – Why are they making such a secret order? I would be rather surprised if it had nothing to do with money.
On this page [Geocities’ link no longer exists] the author writes:
When I asked a variety of Elders about this, none seemed to know anything about this “order.” Even Circuit Overseers and District Overseers didn’t seem to know anything about it. Then, after extensive investigation, I found someone who was able to offer an explanation. Apparently, when brothers or sisters are accepted for Bethel service, they are asked to take a “vow of poverty.” So by doing [that], they become members of this “religious order.”
Question? Why should they be asked to take such a vow? Why should there be a separate “order” if we are all God’s servants? Does all this not have undertones of “sects” and “divisions” amongst the congregation?
It seems the short answer to all this is that it is just another “tax dodge.” By taking this “vow” and entering this “order” the members avail themselves of various tax concessions. In Norway, Jehovah’s Witness spokesman Niels Petersen was referring to this “vow” when answering a letter of mine to the authorities. This letter was about the Watchtower’s “traveling overseers” who got lots of money from the publishers; Petersen was furious “on this attack on honest servants who had made a vow of poverty.” That way, he claimed, they had only about $2000 USD a year – and as such they didn’t have to pay tax.
He did not, however, explain how these poor people could afford holidays around the world several times a year, since the tickets alone were more than the $2000! He claimed he had heard of some such gifts, “But it was not common,” he said.
In my opinion this “new order” is obviously just another tax dodge!