JW Survey has obtained documents affirming that the Jehovah’s Witness headquarters in the United Kingdom has orchestrated a systematic takeover bid of all Kingdom Hall properties located in England, Scotland and Wales.
In a letter dated November 8th, 2019, the London-based Kingdom Hall Trust announced that all UK congregations will dissolve their status as individual charities and become branches of the KHT.
The Kingdom Hall Trust (KHT) is a Jehovah’s Witness legal corporation established in 1939 as the London Company of Kingdom Witnesses. On June 30, 1978, it was officially registered as a charity in the UK.
In 1994, the name was changed to the Kingdom Hall Trust.
While the KHT was already engaged in the acquisition of property used by Jehovah’s Witness church members, the latest directive “proposes” that all UK Branch Congregations relinquish their individual charity status and operate under the blanket control of the Kingdom Hall Trust charity.
Five documents were leaked, including a private letter to all elders, a separate letter to be read to congregations, and an FAQ document explaining the dissolution of congregation charities. Also included are the pre-formatted meeting minutes and congregation resolutions to be filled out, resolved, and returned to the KHT.
According to the letter presented to individual congregations, the UK Charity Commission approved the merging of all UK congregations into the Kingdom Hall Trust, with the premise that all congregations in the United Kingdom agree to these changes.
The language used cleverly suggests that the merger is optional:
“Your charity is now being invited to take part in this process and merge with The Kingdom Hall Trust. Next week a resolution will be put to all baptized members of your congregation so that you can decide whether or not to go along with this proposal.” [bold ours]
It may be of interest to the Charity Commission that congregational compliance to central directives is not optional. All resolutions placed before congregation members from the Jehovah’s Witness governing entities are passed without contest.
While the Kingdom Hall Trust directors state that these changes are for purposes of simplification, the leaked documents suggest that permanent control of property and finances may be the true motivation.
The November 2019 letter to congregation members says:
“However, because elders would no longer serve as trustees, your local donations would be administered by KHT as part of its general funds. This could mean that the Trustees decide to use your donations to support the Kingdom work elsewhere in our branch territory and throughout the world to meet the needs of our brothers and sisters. This is in harmony with the equalizing explained at 2 Corinthians 8:14 “… that by means of an equalizing, your surplus at the present time might offset their need, so that their surplus might also offset your deficiency, that there may be an equalizing”.” [bold ours]
While Witnesses have always been able to donate funds to the “Worldwide” work, the latest directive appears to give the Kingdom Hall Trust the ability to extract funds normally marked for local use only, and allocate them for use by Jehovah’s Witness leadership anywhere in the world.
A Mirror of Watchtower’s US Takeover?
Nearly six years ago, JW Survey reported on the shocking 2014 news in which all U.S. congregations were put on notice that they would henceforth remit fixed, permanent donations to Watchtower headquarters, even if their Kingdom Hall property was already paid off.
It was further revealed that all funds in excess of $5,000 were to be forwarded to the organization for use elsewhere. In some cases, congregations transferred hundreds of thousands of dollars to Watchtower, losing all command of locally donated funds.
At the same time, Kingdom Hall ownership was locked down by Watchtower’s corporate headquarters in New York, ensuring complete hierarchical control of all financial and property assets.
The 2019 documents issued from London reveal much more than the mere transfer of Charity Commission responsibilities. They clearly state that individual congregations no longer own or control their own properties, many of which have been in operation for more than 100 years.
The London Branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses opened in 1900, overseeing less than a dozen congregations. According to the Witnesses’ latest metrics, the number has risen to 1,618.
Following the Money
There are rising concerns among critics of Jehovah’s Witnesses that surplus funds are being siphoned from various sources and sent to the German branch of the religion, headquartered in Selters.
The British-based International Bible Students Association (IBSA) is one of the sources. The IBSA is a longstanding legal corporation formed by the Witnesses in 1914 and continues to operate under the direction of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
According to the public financial statement released in 2018, one of the stated objectives of IBSA is to “financially [assist] legal entities of Jehovah’s Witnesses with similar aims and objectives, both foreign and domestic.”
The documents establish links between a number of Jehovah’s Witness-owned corporations while revealing how cash “grants” were provided to Witness institutions in 5 different continents. The largest 2018 financial transfer reported by IBSA was an £8,000,000 deposit to the German branch of the organization.
Meanwhile, the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Britain, another Witness-owned corporation, forwarded £8,500,000 in cash to the German headquarters
In a private interview with JW Survey, one source provided documentation in which the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania requested that an American Witness transfer their $50,000 conditional donation directly to the German Central European Branch.
Aside from the necessary public filings, the Witnesses’ handling of private donations is cloaked in secrecy, a fact which should not sit well with the Charity Commission of the UK, or the US-based Internal Revenue Service.
The new policies may also not sit well with lifelong members of the Jehovah’s Witness faith who spent decades backing their local congregations in a responsible manner. While many will no doubt support the transfer of property and finances to the JW headquarters, others may privately express misgivings.
For this reason, it appears that the Kingdom Hall Trust corporation has instructed congregation elders to spin the merger edict in a positive light.
The letter to elders states:
“We encourage the elders to speak positively of the proposal and help publishers understand the changes being proposed.”
These notable changes come amidst increasing scrutiny of Jehovah’s Witnesses stemming from their controversial child abuse reporting policies. Significant financial judgments against the religion have fueled concerns worldwide.
In the United Kingdom, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse was launched in 2019 because of the failure of religious organizations to protect children from abuse. Jehovah’s Witnesses maintain the practice of handling sexual abuse cases internally, and retain a secret database of child molesters.
Whether the movement of large sums of money by Jehovah’s Witnesses is a measure to minimize legal accountability remains to be seen.