A 2013 District Convention talk ordering Witnesses to shun disfellowshipped relatives has been uploaded to YouTube

A talk by a Watchtower representative urging the shunning of relatives is sending shockwaves through the online JW community.

Recorded at one of the 2013 “God’s Word Is Truth” District Conventions in California, the speaker instructs Witnesses to shun family members, even children, as an act of loyalty.

In his Saturday-afternoon talk entitled “The Truth Brings ‘Not Peace, But a Sword’,” Wallkill Bethel representative Steven Bell laid the blame for the heartache of shunning squarely at the feet of those who are disfellowshipped.

“Resist self-blame,” Bell told an audience of thousands of Witnesses. “We may think that we’re at fault somehow. Remember that Jehovah holds sinners responsible for their actions. Each person has to have a personal relationship with Jehovah. Even young ones that are disfellowshipped, it’s because their relationship with Jehovah was weak.”

Since being uploaded less than 24 hours ago, the video has already received thousands of views and has provoked an angry backlash on JW forums and Facebook groups – especially among those who are currently being shunned.

Video transcript available on this link.

Ironically, even though the above talk openly encourages divisions between families on religious grounds, the official handbill circulated by Jehovah’s Witnesses to promote the convention posed the following question on its front cover…

Steven Bell

Bell’s talk, which was based on an outline provided for him by the Teaching Committee of the Governing Body, draws on Christ’s words in Matthew 10:34,35 to suggest that Witnesses should expect their beliefs to cause family divisions.

In using this scripture, the Governing Body are implying that all who are disfellowshipped from Jehovah’s Witnesses oppose God and Jesus and should therefore be shunned. Failure to shun family members who are former Witnesses is to be considered an act of disloyalty against God.

“What does Jehovah expect out of us, even if the situation is so painful that we have a family member who is disfellowshipped? What does he want?” asks Bell. “Loyalty, that’s what Jehovah wants. Jehovah knows that this is a difficult time in our life, but he wants loyalty.”

Loyalty to the Watch Tower Society is thus to be considered equal to loyalty to God.

Emotional blackmail admitted

Those who oppose Watchtower’s practice of shunning former members point to the fact that it essentially constitutes emotional blackmail. The purpose of disfellowshipping is, they say, not to restore the person’s relationship with God, but to blackmail the person into returning to the organization by holding his family hostage. Interestingly, this is precisely how disfellowshipping is presented in Bell’s talk.

Rather than being aimed at helping the individual, shunning holds a person’s family hostage until they comply with the Society’s wishes

“When someone is disfellowshipped,” explains Bell, “one of the reasons they want to come back into Jehovah’s organization is to associate with the brothers and sisters in the congregation and likely to associate with their family. So if we associate with them when they’re disfellowshipped, we could actually be taking away from them a motivating factor for wanting to be reinstated.”

Bell then attempts to drive his point home with a bizarre hypothetical scenario in which a disfellowshipped person is finally reinstated and promptly criticizes his family for not shunning him fully. Many have already commented on how unlikely this scenario would be.

“Just imagine now if we didn’t remain loyal and we talk to them [the disfellowshipped person] and associate with them,” suggests Bell. “Could you imagine the feeling we would have the night they were reinstated, and they walked up to us and said: ‘Why weren’t you loyal to Jehovah when I was disfellowshipped?’ That would cut us at our heart! But what joy you would have if they walked up and said, ‘Thank you for being loyal to Jehovah! Your example motivated me to return to serve Jehovah!’ Remember, in all cases, being loyal to Jehovah is the most important thing.”

Misrepresentation to the outside world

The recording of the shunning talk was just one of a series of audio files that were made available to JWsurvey.org. Interestingly, an announcement was read out at the start of the convention, which stated: “Any recordings of this program should be for your personal use or for the benefit of those unable to be present. Recordings should not be made available for general circulation, or distribution.”

Anyone who listens to the shunning talk will understand the Society’s concern in wanting to keep a lid on what instructions are given to Witnesses behind closed doors. Like many religious organizations, Watchtower is acutely image conscious, and wants to make sure it can control the facade it presents to the outside world – even if this involves using deception.

A 2011 clipping from the Independent

For example, in 2011 a journalist for the Independent quizzed Watchtower representative Rick Fenton on whether the Society ostracizes (or shuns) so-called apostates. Fenton replied by describing ostracization as a “personal matter for each individual to decide for himself.” Then, in early 2013, another Watchtower representative by the name of Vincent Toole described shunning as a “myth” when questioned by an Australian reporter. (click here for article)

Even the Society’s official website, JW.org, goes to considerable lengths to conceal the extent of its shunning practices. In its FAQ section under the question “Do You Shun Former Members of Your Religion?” an evasive answer is given that leaves the reader bewildered and none the wiser. The four-paragraph ‘answer’ can be summarized as follows:

  • Paragraph 1: talks about how inactive Witnesses are not shunned, even though the question specifically refers to “former members.”
  • Paragraph 2: ignores the fact that the question is about shunning entirely and discusses the judicial process, mentioning that not everyone who sins is disfellowshipped.
  • Paragraph 3: mentions that family heads are not subject to shunning – one of only two loopholes that is provided (the other being children that are too young to leave home).
  • Paragraph 4: sums up by explaining that disfellowshipped persons are invited to meetings, ignoring the fact that nobody will be allowed to speak to them, including their family members, which is shunning.

But the Society hasn’t just lied about its practice of shunning and shied away from discussing it on its official website. This new YouTube video highlights a quote from a 2009 Awake! magazine that lambasted other religions for causing family divisions, thus implying that those who choose to become Witnesses will never face this predicament.

“No one should be forced to worship in a way that he finds unacceptable or be made to choose between his beliefs and his family.” – g7/09 p.29

If only Watchtower could itself live up to the standards it expects from other faiths.

The backlash begins

Predictably, many current and former Witnesses who have seen the video have been saddened and outraged by it. Those who are themselves on the receiving end of shunning have especially expressed their dismay that this is the sort of propaganda their Witness family members are being pummelled with.

Of course, there is nothing unusual in the actual instructions conveyed in the talk. Those who are familiar with the Witness faith know about the extent to which shunning is enforced, and that it is principally intended as emotional blackmail. What makes the talk unusual is the manner in which the speaker brazenly and forcefully spells out that shunning is something Witnesses are compelled to do, even to children, in total contradiction of the image Watchtower seeks to portray to outsiders.

Now the talk is being circulated on YouTube, it is hoped that more non-JWs will be made aware of the enormous pressure Witnesses are under to inflict misery and heartache on their disfellowshipped loved ones – all in the name of “loyalty.”

It is also hoped that Steven Bell, who so passionately and enthusiastically defended the harmful policies of his Governing Body masters, does not rise any higher up the Watchtower leadership chain. If he were to ever become a Governing Body member himself, based on this talk, I shudder to think how further radicalized the organization might become in the future.






Further reading…

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126 thoughts on ““Shun your disfellowshipped loved ones!”: Shocking District Convention talk hits YouTube

  • February 12, 2015 at 3:01 pm

    Thank you for your kind words.I think I’m just feeing frustrated as my son’s behaviour has took a downturn recently and I feel like my mother should be helping but I realise that is just a fantasy. I don’t even associate myself as being an exjw my life has moved on and grown so much beyond that. Most of my friends don’t even know I was raised in it.
    It rears it’s ugly head at times though like when my dad got married I got seated next to my jdub brother and his wife (my dad’s not a Jovi) and they pretended that they were really friendly with me whilst keeping my three young nieces from talking to me it was like a sick game my dad’s family kept saying how great me and my brother were getting on ugh if only they knew.
    Noone understands unless they’ve been there.
    I’m completely emotionally detached from it all I think you have to be for your own sanity and take life on life’s terms., Initially it’s hard that your own flesh and blood would reject you and treat you badly but you have to realise that it’s not you its them.
    Make them have ownership of their feelings and flaws and don’t let them project them onto you they are the ones with the faulty thinking and behaviour. You can be and are an amazing person without approval from people who are brainwashed and mind disordered.
    Like I said you take life on,life’s terms and and make your own path.I saw the jws round my street the other day and I thanked god literally I’m away from that what a shitty weird life I’m the one who is lucky in a funny way.

  • April 15, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    JESUS forgive Jehovah witnesses. They do not know what they are doing. Yes witnesses, scripture says that Jesus forgives sins. Thank you Jehovah for calling me out from among them, and not being like them, but being like You.
    Filled with love and forgiveness. I bind the demon over the watchtower society. Any human in gods image can see better than the sickness among jws. Please speak the truth, if you know truth.

  • September 1, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    Why do Jehovah’s witnesses shunned the disfellowshiped members? of which i it’s not Wright, & Jehovah God is not support it. Jude 22,23 says that we should hate what is bad, but not a person who has done it. Also Mathew 5:44 recommends Christians to love their enemies & do good to them.
    Now you Jehovah’s witnesses as the imitators of Jehovah & Jesus, why do you not imitate Jehovah by loving those people, and hates the wrongs they did?
    How can you help those brothers & sisters to come back to Jehovah if you shunned talking to them?
    I think on that part, please try to understand the bible well, not to miss interpret the scriptures.

    • January 30, 2016 at 6:54 am

      Really good piont I’m in the situation by jws shunning me and my own daughter

    • September 15, 2016 at 4:01 am

      1Cor 5: 9-13. At verse 11, the bible warns to stop keeping company with those who practice vile things not even having a meal with those kind of people most importantly because they are not repentant. If those kind of people shows repentant spirit and come back to Jehovah, then they’ll be welcomed back into the Christian Cong.

      • September 15, 2016 at 4:23 am

        “Vile things…”
        Such as questioning the men who yield power and judgment over millions?

        Most who leave the organization, are not practicing vile things. There is greater happiness outside the confines of a legalistic society that micromanages your every thought and move.

        You are being deceived. These men have not been appointed by God, and can not speak for Him. Read your bible without their commentary, and maybe you will see the truth.

      • September 15, 2016 at 9:00 am

        Frankie, if you are to take the Bible literally and shun those who are doing vile things, wouldn’t you consider lying to be a vile thing?

        I have a copy of the 1885 Imperial Bible Dictionary and under cross, it says that by the time that the Romans were killing people that they were adding a cross piece on the stake. The Society cuts off the sentence and puts a period where the sentence went on to say something entirely different that what the Society said it said so they out and lie to you and all the other Witnesses and those Witnesses believe the Society and don’t realize that they are spreading lies to the householders and to their children.

        The lie about the cross is just one of the many lies that the Society tells to it’s people and those people are all being used by a publishing company so they can build up their real estate empire on free labor.

        The Society uses lies and the fear of Armageddon and the use of many words to guilt and beguile people into thinking that God is backing the Organization

        If anybody should be shunned, it should be those who are spreading lies, according to the Bible’s counsel.

        Don’t believe everything you read in the Society’s publications. Look up the scriptures and their references to make sure that what you are being told is actually true or not. Read their books to see what they were printing in 1919 when Jesus supposedly chose the Watchtower Organization as his one and only spokesman to mankind. If you find something that doesn’t make any sense to you and you question the elders, you will be accused of listening to “apostates”.

        Is a person an “apostate” because they read the Bible and see that the Society is lying about it? Does that make you an apostate simply by expecting to be told the real truth about what the Bible says?

        The Society doesn’t want you to think. If you think, you will question and want your questions answered. If you are not allowed to think and question, then you are in a cult.

        It could be that you are a pawn and spreading lies that could cost somebody their life. I think if anybody deserves to be shunned it’s the Society.

      • September 15, 2016 at 12:13 pm

        1 Cor 5:9-13 helped me realize that I could no longer attend JW meetings: I didn’t want to be partaking of a spiritual meal with those who practice vile things, such as all the pedophiles are neatly hidden in the JW organization.


      • September 15, 2016 at 12:20 pm

        Sarcasm aside, if someone wants to make a personal choice not to associate with someone because they disapprove of their behavior, then that is well within their right to do so.

        It becomes a problem when people are blindly shunned based on a bunch of manmade, organizational rules. It’s akin to the Pharisees casting people out of the synagogue for confessing faith in Jesus.

        This course of action belies the very fundamentals of Christianity: each individual has a personal relationship with God through Christ without any intermediaries. As such the individual can decide who is worthy association. The idea that an organization intercedes and makes these decisions for you is anti-Christian.


  • November 24, 2015 at 7:49 pm

    I have a story of my own experience being did fellowshipped. I grew up in a disfunctional family. My mother suffered with loneliness and depression after my dad left her, who was a presiding overseer elder at the time and was disfellowshipped. Raised by my mother she was desperate to make ends meet to raise us kids and needed loving support so bad that she would fall for any man that would help her. She to was disfellowshipped when she needed support the most. She was in and out as a member as Jehovah’s witnesses being disfellowshipped twice as I was growing up. The shunning was so bad that the parents would not allow their kids to associate with us kids. When I turned 13 I started my own bible study with an elder, he taught me all about Armageddon. I was so afraid that that my parents would die forever if they don’t return. When I turned 16 I got baptized my mom got reinstated, even my father after many years got reinstated. I was so happy for them. The only things is I was so young trying save my parents life, I was a kid running terrified. I was so hard on my self to be the example of a good Christian son. I wasn’t doing it for my relationship with Jehovah, but for the love a child has for his parents. I got baptized to young and no nothing about life at 16. At about 20 yrs old I got a taste of life and decided I needed more life experience to comeup with right spiritual path for me. I was ddisfellowshipped and shunned. My father and I haven’t seen each other for over 15 years. If I could go back in time I would not get baptized, knowing that my father would disown me. Though my spiritual path I have a beautiful family that runs on love, I also have father figures in my life that care for me and guide me. Im 38 now and haven’t looked back. Im free today and feels much better then living in a box. I don’t look for a relationship with God, because God lives in me today through my heart. My life is abudent with love through the family and friends I’m blessed and grateful to have. God is love. I give it and accept it into life.

  • January 30, 2016 at 3:56 am

    Is there any legal way to address this shunning by J W?

  • April 22, 2016 at 11:27 am

    I have 3 kids they are jehovah’s witness. And I was but because family reunion they spell me out of jehovah’s witness. After that mi kids talk to me go out on vacation coming to my house spend time together. But after 25 year my situation economic when bad and they decided not talk , call me on the phone or visiting or spend time with me any more because they said that I been spell and they can’t get related with me untill I get back to jehovah’s witness. I been a great father always been there for them even when they were married. I never been a bad father why jehovah’s witness they don’t let my kids talk to me I love them and I miss then .

  • October 20, 2016 at 12:40 pm

    Not called shunning. Called disfellowshiping. Can attend meetings, encouraged to strive to return. Welcomed back warmly. No point in disfellowshiping if one still received fellowship. Also, jehovah disciplines those he loves. Disfellowshiping is not taken lightly.

    • October 21, 2016 at 5:50 am

      What does this mean? “No point in disfellowshiping if one still received fellowship”.

      I have learned for certain that most of the “fellowship” among the Jehovah’s Witnesses is not real. In fact, the governing body have people so wound up tight trying to make more Jehovah’s Witnesses that making real friends in that society is near impossible.

  • November 5, 2016 at 8:18 am

    disfellowshiping and shunning its not a bible based principle I totally disagree with this and our loving father Jehovah never said if you do not repeant from a sin you must be chased away .i was a jw before i eaven severd in bethel southafrica and what i have realised is that man made principles we must not say they are bible principles. or Jehovas principles i think this is one issue that jw must look at depply.

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