Tag Archives: contributions

The “Kingdom Haul” of Jehovah’s Witnesses (Part 1 of 2)

Yes. That spelling of haul is intentional, as in: “The fisherman brought in a large haul of fish.” Or, “The kids always collect a substantial haul of candy on Halloween.”

 haul: a usually large amount of something that has been stolen, collected, or won” Merriam-Webster

 Of course, the subject we are concerned about here is not candy or fish. It’s the fact that the Watch Tower Society, especially in 2014, has used the theme of the “Kingdom” and the “1914 – 2014 Centennial” as part of a marketing effort  to bring in a “haul” of donations. It’s not difficult to prove that the “Centennial” was part of a marketing effort. Most Jehovah’s Witnesses would admit that such “marketing campaigns” are in the same “proud” historical tradition of the often-repeated 1922 slogan: “Advertise, Advertise, Advertise the King and His Kingdom.”

WHEN WATCH TOWER FINANCES & MARKETING CAMPAIGNS COINCIDE

Most JWs easily recognize that there was nearly a year-long marketing campaign based on the 1914 to 2014 Centennial. And it’s also fairly easy to make the case that 2014 saw some of the most extensive changes to the Watch Tower Society’s financial arrangements since 1990*.  Many JWs would likely agree to this point, too.

*1990 was when a new literature donation arrangement  went into effect. (See http://marvinshilmer.blogspot.com/2013/07/complete-donation-what-happened.html )

What many JWs may have missed, however, is the close relationship between the 2014 marketing campaigns and those 2014 financial changes. It was no coincidence that financial changes were timed to dovetail with “centennial” campaigns. There is nothing illegal in this kind of collusion, and most JWs would react that it should be expected that the Governing Body should make sure that everything is coordinated: including accounting policies, collection of contributions, doctrines and field ministry campaigns.

The problem, however, is that after reviewing both the 2014 financial policies and the 2014 centennial campaign, we’ll easily see why both of those projects were based on falsehoods. Individually, each project reflected unsound doctrine and a lack of Scriptural support. Therefore, purposely combining both projects reaches a cynical level of hypocrisy.

In fact, there is good evidence that the expected build-up of excitement surrounding the “Centennial” was first intended to peak around October 2014 after which a “heightened” donation arrangement would obtain its best opportunity for introduction in November at the Zone Meeting. More than one Bethelite shared with us that just such an announcement was originally planned for that meeting, but that something changed in the weeks leading up to it and this announcement was postponed.

But if there was no such November announcement, then why are we bringing this up now? It was surely just a rumor that proved to be false, right?  Perhaps. [On a personal note, I can only say that I heard this from a trusted Bethel contact, and I know another person who heard it from at least one additional Bethel contact, but I have no documented evidence about this rumor.]

We bring it up for this reason. After hearing the rumor, we were more alert to reading and re-reading those financial announcements that were made in 2014. As it turns out, the discovered pattern leads to the same conclusion, even without a specific announcement. We also discovered some additional issues which may reflect something  much more important for Witnesses to know about.

SEEKING MONEY MATTERS AND/OR KINGDOM INTERESTS FIRST

In the last few weeks, we’ve already heard of many congregations in the United States, at least, where recent announcements by elders have attempted to bolster up contributions which have had shortfalls for up to 6 months. Many JWs will have already heard such announcements first hand. Most of these recent announcements are related to a March 2014 letter to all congregations, first announced in April and first implemented by the end of May.

That March 2014 letter changed an arrangement that had been in effect for 30 years. The letter makes it appear that the previous arrangement had worked very well due to the tremendous need for building and financing Kingdom Halls around the world, but that it would change due to the tremendous need for building and financing Kingdom Halls around the world. Something about that explanation was missing.

The loan payback arrangement also changed with this letter. This loan arrangement had many times been exposed as a means for the Watch Tower to effectively double the amount of money they collected for a Kingdom Hall property. But by paying back a loan, it could also give a local congregation the idea that they “owned” the property in a legal sense. When Kingdom Halls had to move for expansion or other reasons, there could be questions as to what to do in case of profit, or loss. There are also multiple international issues for the Watch Tower Society to be concerned about when donated money crosses national borders.

A book or two could be written about the pros and cons of the Society’s financing practices, but for now, we’ll just quote and highlight some excerpts from that letter:

March 29, 2014

TO ALL CONGREGATIONS

Re: Adjustment to Financing Kingdom Hall and Assembly Hall Construction Worldwide

Dear Brothers:

On September 1, 1983, the Kingdom Hall Fund was created to help finance the increasing need for Kingdom Halls. For more than 30 years, this arrangement has served to expand the construction of Kingdom Halls worldwide in a tremendous way by means of Regional Building Committees and the program for lands with limited resources. …

In order to meet these ever-increasing needs, the Governing Body has directed that an adjustment be made in the way Kingdom Hall and Assembly Hall construction projects are financed. …congregations will now be asked to pool their resources worldwide to support the construction of theocratic facilities wherever they are needed. Congregations and Assembly Halls will no longer be asked to repay a loan, and use of the separate contribution box labeled “Kingdom Hall Construction Worldwide” has been discontinued. Instead, all congregations will ...resolv[e] to make a monthly donation from congregation funds. … From now on, all funding for approved projects will be provided by the branch office from the funds that have been donated by you dear brothers and sisters.

 An addendum letter was added to the above and sent out in time to  complete the idea of the first letter and help explain to the elders how it should be implemented by the end of May. The UK version of the letter’s contents and its addendum can be found at  the link shown here: http://www.jehovahs-witness.com/topic/280713/serving-elders-why-new-donation-arrangement

One of the ideas behind that addendum was to show how the first letter actually meant that “funds received for this new program will form part of our general funds, rather than a restricted fund, however your preference for the donations to be used for construction will be noted.” (Notice that even if you intended for funds to go to construction it will only be noted, but no one is promising that’s what it will be used for.)

The second idea was a clarification of how to determine the monthly pledge, which is called a “resolved donation.” The addendum included: “All congregations are asked to establish a monthly resolved donation to support Kingdom Hall and Assembly Hall construction worldwide by no later than May 31, 2014.”

It is widely believed that this new method is intended to do several things:

  • It can set monthly funding at the maximum level that a congregation can sustain based on how much they have been able to contribute during a loan payback arrangement.  The addendum states: “What amount should be used for this new resolved monthly donation? The elders in congregations currently making loan repayments would likely propose a resolution that is at least the same amount as the current monthly loan repayment….” Note that ending the loan arrangement effectively means that the congregation continues to pay back the amount of that loan payment in perpetuity. There is no more payoff date.
  • It also creates a “resolved monthly donation” (a “pledge,” “promise,” “vow,” “commitment”) based on, as the addendum says: “a confidential survey of all publishers to determine the amount of the new resolution. This can be done by passing out slips of paper to be filled out anonymously by the publishers indicating how much they are able to contribute ….Elders should review this resolution annually in May.” A monthly pledge is intended to create a financial “inertia” to overcome changing circumstances. It produces a goal that is typically optimistic when slips of paper are being filled out in a Kingdom Hall setting, but which tend to fall short after going home and creating a realistic budget. Note that it can only be changed once a year.
  • In the event of a shortfall of funds the elders now have a “fundraising goal” to remind the congregation about, even to the point of “guilting” them into meeting their “vows,” their “commitments.” The power of this method should not be underestimated, especially when tv.jw.org and other articles are simultaneously reminding JWs that each new and expensive project is obviously approved by Jehovah, and your contributions are appreciated. Therefore, giving to these projects is the same as giving to Jehovah. Not giving is the same as stealing from Jehovah (at least until the following May, when the resolution can be updated). The addendum states: “The elders should determine what amounts from the congregation funds that are available at the end of the month will be applied toward the resolved monthly donation(s) and whether the shortfall should be made up in future months. However, it would be appropriate for the elders to remind the congregation of the resolved monthly commitments.”
  • The elders have new “bill collection” tools available through this method, but the Watch Tower Society also gets a predetermined monthly amount that is not restricted to the whims of the local congregation members as they decide which box to put contributions in. (related to next bullet points)
  • The final, and possibly the most important change is the flexibility given to the Watch Tower Society in the use of funds:
    • Even if the funds are earmarked to Kingdom Hall construction the Society is no longer legally obligated to use them for that purpose. And there is no longer a labeled box that would require funds to be used for that purpose.
    • Funds that are put in the “Worldwide Work” box are already flexible for the Society, and still can’t be used for the local congregation, and can’t even be used to make up any part of the resolved donations. (Addendum letter: “Funds received in the “Worldwide Work” box will continue to be forwarded to the branch office each month. No congregation expenses or monthly resolutions should be paid from these funds.”
    • Funds that are put in the box labeled “Local Congregation Expenses” are no longer just for local congregation expenses because anything major is now being approved through the branch office, and oddly, this is the only box from which the  “monthly resolved donation” is created to pay non-local, non-congregational expenses.
    • Bank accounts where local congregation funds had been collected into larger amounts in preparation for major renovations or repairs now get sent to the Society or Branch where these funds are managed centrally and become part of a more flexible “general” fund shared among congregations in that Branch based on the branch’s priorities, not the congregation.

Local congregations are now expected to keep much lower bank  account balances because they no longer collect money in advance for major projects, which will now be prioritized among all other projects within the branch. Therefore, the money in any bank accounts in excess of what is needed for small maintenance and repairs will now be sent to (and controlled by) the branch.

Some have suggested that smaller local congregation bank accounts will leave a congregation with less exposure to theft, vendor favoritism, embezzlement, etc.  And in legal matters there is clearly less liability in local matters regarding injury, “malpractice,” sexual abuse, pedophilia, etc.  If the Society decides to allow (or redirect) a lawsuit to local elders or congregation members for their personal liability in serious matters, then Watch Tower losses will be minimized. If, lawsuits are directed at the branch level, there is more pooled money to fight those efforts effectively.

Closely related to this is the fact that money earmarked toward “Kingdom Hall Funds” or even “Worldwide Work” may have been legally restricted to spending on publicly announced projects that have already been associated with those contributions.  This would be in accord with the expectation of the donor. The following problem could therefore arise: Let’s say a large settlement against the Watchtower in a “child molestation” case is paid to the victims or goes to court fees or fines. These cases often do not sit well with donors who wonder where those funds came from, or why they had been used in the defense of a child rapist, for example.  It would be a legal nightmare if the Society had worked hard to keep a case quiet, but then had it publicized by an individual JW who decided to sue them over an undesignated and potentially improper use of donated funds.

Some of the bullet points above were discussed and exposed in public Internet forums shortly after the March 29th letter was sent to congregations. In light of this, it really came as no surprise to hear that the anticipated November announcement might have been postponed due to potential backlash.

What were the specifics of that rumor? That the announced change would promote the same congregation “pledge” arrangement discussed above, but at a more personal, individual level. It would encourage more people to set up automatic, periodically-scheduled donations electronically through jw.org, or other websites set up for that purpose. Additional functionality was already added to the website to help make such payments more secure. The announcement would also have included information about how the Society might only be able to provide tax receipts for charitable donations when periodic payments were set up through electronic payment services and credit cards. But the concern was that this sounded a lot like “tithing.”

GLAD “TITHINGS”?

Even without a specific announcement, it is still quite evident that the 2014 marketing campaign of the “1914-2014 Centennial” had already become the backdrop for several other campaigns of 2014, all expected to increase excitement about the extensive, expansive and expensive new capabilities:

  • “Memorial invitation” campaign
  • the “International Assembly invitation” campaign
  • the August JW.ORG campaign
  • the Kingdom Hall signage campaign to add JW.ORG
  • the high pedestrian traffic display campaign
  • the TV.JW.ORG Broadcasting introduction
  • even the less formal “How to explain 1914” campaign.

And all these 2014 campaigns were themselves a part of the backdrop of genuine excitement over several of these accomplishments which provided the context for the new congregational “resolved donation” arrangement. The promotion of such a donation arrangement announced at the congregational level only works well when it can approximates the Israelite system of “tithing” at the individual level.

“Tithing,” of course, is the system of donations initially described in the laws of Moses for supporting the temple and priesthood, as described in the following Watchtower article:

*** w91 12/1 p. 28 How Can We Repay Jehovah? ***
A tithe is a tenth part of something. It is the 10 percent given or paid as a tribute. Tithing is especially done for religious purposes. It means giving a tenth of one’s income to promote worship.

The Watch Tower Society hesitates, of course, to make any direct application of “tithing” — or a literal 10% — when speaking about donations. This would be true of any of the Mosaic laws which are not promoted in the Greek Scriptures. Of course,  the principle can still be promoted. The context of the same 1991 Watchtower article quoted above made that point very clear. It is also a good, general representation of the Watchtower’s yearly donation article.

The original donation article actually started about 100 years earlier in the November 1891 Watch Tower. It was named the “Good Hopes” fund in February 1892, calling for a promise of a weekly amount to be set aside and sent to the Society. Collections were still taken under the name “Good Hopes” until 1954.

A review of the latest Watchtower Library CD shows that the “yearly donation article” was usually presented in a May issue, for about 30 years from 1950 to 1981, but since 1982, it has usually been presented every November or December. (That’s the same time period chosen by most of the world’s non-profit organizations for their fund-raising efforts.) Most of these yearly articles contained fairly typical wording, although the direct parallels to “tithing” are stronger in the December 1, 1991 Watchtower.

Tithing was not a burdensome arrangement. In fact, when the Israelites kept these laws, they became more prosperous. The tithe promoted true worship….
Indeed, Christians are not commanded to tithe. God himself put an end to the Mosaic Law, with its tithing arrangements… Instead of being required to give a specified amount to defray congregation expenses, therefore, Christians make voluntary contributions.
…Of course, if a Christian voluntarily chooses to give a tenth of his income to advance true worship, there would be no Scriptural objection to his making such donations. In a letter accompanying his donation, a 15-year-old lad in Papua New Guinea wrote: “… I remember the words of Proverbs 3:1, 9, which say we must give the firstfruits to Jehovah to honor him. So I promised to do this, and now I must fulfill my promise….”
…A Christian may choose to set no specific limit on donations he makes to advance the worship of Jehovah God. …
Since Jehovah’s people have dedicated their all to him, they gladly make monetary donations and other contributions to support true worship. …  Such giving is not restricted to a tithe, or tenth, and there may be circumstances in which an individual is moved to give more to advance Kingdom interests.—Matthew 6:33.
The apostle Paul said: “Let each one do just as he has resolved in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7) If you give cheerfully and generously in support of true worship, you will fare well, for a wise proverb says: “Honor Jehovah with your valuable things and with the firstfruits of all your produce. Then your stores of supply will be filled with plenty; and with new wine your own press vats will overflow.”—Proverbs 3:9, 10.

Note how the primary point about “tithing” being abolished was utilized to make the point that donations no longer need to limited to a tithe.

(Note: The “heightened” sense of financial solicitation in 1991 is easily explained by the new donation arrangement for literature that was being put into effect starting in 1990. That change was followed by the WatchTower’s admission of a shortfall in contributions that lasted for many months. The clearest explanation of that problem is found at the following link, previously mentioned above: http://marvinshilmer.blogspot.com/2013/07/complete-donation-what-happened.html )

These yearly donation articles, starting in the 1980’s, were accompanied by a box that explained how to contribute. That “box” has now turned into an entire page. Below is an example from 1985 on the left and 2014, on the right.

Watchtower, December 1, 1985, p. 22.
contpage2014
Watchtower, December 15, 2014, page 5.

Not only does the “box” now take up a whole page, but it is supplemented by a separate publication mentioned in the 2014 version: “Charitable Planning to Benefit Kingdom Service Worldwide” first released and then updated in 2000, 2004 and 2010. The article also mentions other websites besides jw.org. The Watchtower Society in Britain has such a site here: jwgift.org

COMBINING “KINGDOM” MARKETING WITH A CALL FOR DONATIONS: A 2014 REVIEW

2014 was a very busy year. From the beginning of 2014, it was clear the intention was to “advertise, advertise, advertise” the supposed “centennial” of the reign of Christ Jesus. To that end, some of these previously mentioned 2014 highlights are listed below, this time with some of the donation-specific items highlighted in blue.

  • January: The 2014 Yearbook opened the year, and set the tone with a letter from the Governing Body that began: “Dear Fellow Domestics: How delighted we are to write you at the beginning of this momentous year! By late 2014, a whole century will have passed since our beloved King Jesus Christ began ruling in the midst of his enemies.” This letter was scheduled to be read and highlighted again in a March Service Meeting.
  • January – December: Talks at Bethel and Pioneer Schools, etc, referred to 2014 as “The Year of the Kingdom” (For an example, note this phrase exactly one minute into this linked recording that includes Mark Noumair.)
  • January – December: The Year Text (year-long “motto“) was taken from Matthew 6:33: “Let Your Kingdom Come” and posted prominently behind the platform at every Kingdom Hall for the year.
  • January – December: Watchtower Articles and campaigns announced in “Our Kingdom Ministry” throughout the year highlighted centennials of the “Kingdom,” of World War I, of the Photo Drama, etc., and, of course, Daniel’s “1914 prophecy.” Some examples from January through April:
  • February: Watchtower Study (Feb 10-16, 2014) is from December 15, 2013 titled: “Will You Make Sacrifices for the Kingdom?” one of the longest study articles ever that repeatedly mentioned the giving of money.
  • March/April: Ministry School talks on subjects such as:
    • “The Events Associated With Christ’s Presence Take Place Over a Period of Years (March 24)
    • Christ’s Presence is Invisible (March 31)
    • Opposing God-Appointed Authority Is Tantamount to Opposing Jehovah (March 31)
    •  In What Manner Will Jesus Return, and How Will Every Eye See Him? (April 7)
  • April/May: announcement, preparation and campaigns to invite people to “International Conventions” with theme “Keep Seeking First God’s Kingdom” which jw.org says were intended to highlight two “core beliefs” of JWs: “God’s Kingdom was established in 1914 and that Jesus Christ is the King of that Kingdom. Really, the convention marks the centennial of God’s Kingdom.” (link is to jw.org)
  • April/May: The preparation and implementation of a new donation arrangement described above in the section Money Matters First.
  • The May “Our Kingdom Ministry” (as usual) includes instructions for how donations should be made at the assembly and that they can again be made by cash, check, or credit card at the assembly site.
  • June/July/August/Sept: The discourses given at the Assembly intended to convince audience, for example, that there is more evidence for this Kingdom in operation for last 100 years than there is evidence for gravity, electricity and wind.
  • August: “Our Kingdom Ministry” it titled: 1914-2014 One Hundred Years of Kingdom Rule! — All service meetings for the month include talks on that theme. The article: “A Century of Advertising the Kingdom!” states: “The month of October 2014 will mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Kingdom.”
  • August: A campaign to promote the JW.ORG website is a first.
  • August/September Most JWs now have the new release from the International Assembly: “God’s Kingdom Rules”
  • October: New songs were released at Annual Meeting on October 4th, the first and most important of which was  “God’s Kingdom Is in Place — Let it Come!” The December “Our Kingdom Ministry” said:This song, which was featured at the recent annual meeting, was specially composed to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Kingdom.
  • October/November: The Watchtowers from both months, present back-to-back articles presenting an overly hyped, yet awkward and inadequate attempt to explain Nebuchadnezzar’s “Tree Dream.” (which is still used by Witnesses as if it can pinpoint 1914). The October “Our Kingdom Ministry” turns those articles into special service meeting presentations: “Explaining Our Beliefs About1914.”
  • October/November/December: TV.JW.ORG where the primary video each month included at least one segment about how a different project (including the tv.jw.org project itself) was expensive yet clearly backed by Jehovah, but would need additional funds to meet its desired potential.
  • November: Campaign now rolled out internationally, to provide table and rack displays for high-traffic pedestrian areas. This extends the JW.ORG marketing campaign., begun in August
  • November: Kingdom Halls, make a global effort to replaced their signs and added JW.ORG signage to a prominent place on the front of the Kingdom Hall.
  • December: Material in The Watchtower on donations is emphasized THREE times more heavily than usual this December:
    1. The new publication “God’s Kingdom Rules” is made available on the just released  2014 Watchtower Library CD now that the major assemblies have finished. (It’s the first ever publication  with an entire chapter on donations.)
    2. The Watchtower article itself, December 15, 2014 with its full page of methods about financial giving, including Wills, Estates, Real Estate, Life Insurance, Annuities, Jewelry, etc.
    3. A special letter that went out on December 5, 2014. What is unusual, but not unexpected, is that this time donating financially is tied more directly to being loyal subjects of the Kingdom in both the Watchtower article and the special letter.

Here’s a copy of that December 5, 2014 letter for reference: (Click on it to enlarge slightly.) contribletter

 

NEW PUBLICATION BREAKS NEW GROUND — FINANCIALLY SPEAKING

The new publication, “God’s Kingdom Rules,” contains most of the information contained in the Watchtower‘s yearly donation articles, and then some. In fact, there are three full chapters that deal with financially-related subjects.

This is one of the most interesting items found in the new book, God’s Kingdom Rules:

**** kr chap. 18 p. 196 How Kingdom Activities Are Financed ***
One scholar says that the Greek term rendered “resolved” “has the idea of predetermination.” He adds: “Though there is spontaneous joy in giving, it is still to be planned and systematic.”—1 Cor. 16:2.

It might have been difficult for the Watch Tower to quote from this particular scholar. He is not named. Yet he has written excellent commentaries that are often very much aligned with the teachings in the Watchtower. And his excellent works have been around for years. But this is the first time the Watch Tower publications have ever quoted from him.

Why not quote from him before? Well perhaps this will give a hint. It’s because, the unnamed scholar is John F. MacArthur. Here is a quote from his book Charismatic Chaos, by John F MacArthur, p. 95:

jfmac-jwsThere are several similar quotes in his books and commentaries. None are in any way supportive of Witnesses.

But he is now  a “scholar” worthy of quoting in Watch Tower publications because he used the following words about donations: they should be “predetermined.” They should be “planned and systematic.” What a perfect quote to apply as counsel to individuals, now that this same idea has been implemented on a congregation level.

To get a sense of how this book ties money to the subjects like “Kingdom” and “loyalty”, note the following from chapter 18:

*** kr chap. 18 p. 197 par. 13 How Kingdom Activities Are Financed ***

We are well-aware that the work God’s Kingdom is doing requires money. … Do the King’s followers need to be prodded to give? ….As Kingdom subjects today, we do not need to be coerced into giving….“God loves a cheerful giver.” Another translation reads: “God loves people who love to give.” …Second, we make material contributions as a way of thanking Jehovah for our many blessings. ….When attending the three annual festivals, each Israelite man was to give a gift “in proportion to the blessing that Jehovah” had given him. …by our voluntary contributions, we show our love for the King Jesus Christ….
Yes, as loyal Kingdom subjects, we want with all our heart to show our support for the Kingdom by making financial contributions.

There is a similar impression of heightened “solicitation” for money, just as there was in 1991 after the new donation arrangement at that time resulted in a shortfall of contributions.

AN EMBARRASSMENT OF RICHES?

Of course, this is not in any way meant to condemn a religious organization for collecting large amounts in donations. It is common to hear complaints that the Watch Tower Society has made billions of dollars in donations, as if such large amounts might somehow embarrass them. The idea of a religious organization being embarrassed by their money is not new to the Watch Tower publications:

*** g80 3/8 p. 30 Embarrassment of Riches ***
◆ Seven prosperous money institutions…are owned by the Lutheran Church and five by the Roman Catholic Church, …[a] German newspaper… notes that “some of them are proud of this, whereas others shamefully try to hide their success, although it cannot be concealed completely.” German Lutheran and Catholic churches are supported by state tax money, and… the churches fear a change in tax laws that would dole out the money on the basis of need rather than the set percentage they now receive.

It’s a bit ironic that the change to the donation arrangement in 1990, mentioned further above, was also triggered by a change in tax laws. Over the years, the fact that the Watch Tower filed in court to avoid this change (alongside televangelist, Jimmy Swaggart) has been used to try to embarrass the Watch Tower. The fact that the “revenue” of the Watch Tower Society has been reported to be on the order of a billion dollars a year seems to put the Watchtower, too, in the category of those who “shamefully try to hide their success.” The Watchtower has only recently begun using the word “millions” with reference to its revenues, yet, its pretty clear that they could proudly announce “billions” if they wished. For example:

  • If every JW donated an average only $1 a week to the Society, that would be over 7.5 million dollars a week, multiplied by 52 weeks, which equals 390 million a year, which is well over a billion dollars every 2.5 years.
  • If every JW donated an average of only ten cents each for every Watchtower and Awake! magazine distributed, that would be about 100 million magazines per month, which is over 1.2 billion a year, meaning that magazines alone (not including books, videos, and other publications) would also bring in another billion dollars every 10 years.
  • Of course, there are many other ways to donate as the previous references have shown.  Newsday reported 14 years ago that the Watch Tower revenues were about 1 billion per year (.95 billion). –Newsmax, October 2010,  referencing Newsday, 2001.

Another major source of revenue for the Society is the buying and selling of property and buildings for their “Bethel” Branch Offices, Assembly Halls and Kingdom Halls. Methods for creating revenue from real estate is an interesting subject on its own, but this kind of “Kingdom haul” is not our current topic.

However, the general tenor of more recent announcements being reported from many congregations makes it sound as if there is an embarrassment of financial shortfalls, not an embarrassment of financial successes. The last time there was a financial shortfall of much note, it was admitted only in letters to elders, not to the congregations themselves. There also appears to be a form of revisionist history when those “secretive” letters to elders from 1990 and 1991 are compared with the current discussion of that same time period. The addendum to the March 29th letter stated:

“For example, it has been 24 years since we began offering literature under the donation arrangement, yet Jehovah’s blessing on this adjustment has been obvious. We are confident that by means of Jehovah’s continued blessing and the generosity of the worldwide brotherhood, the new arrangement for financing Kingdom Hall and Assembly Hall construction will be a success as well.”

Ultimately, the new donation system may have finally been worked out when combined with other changes, however, during those years when the Society was complaining about shortfalls, a contradictory rumor was simultaneously spreading very fast in all parts of the United States. That rumor, repeated by publishers and elders and Bethelites alike, was that the new arrangement was immediately successful because so many who were formally being asked to contribute 25 cents for magazines, or $1.00 for the small books, or $2.50 for “My Book of Bible Stories” were suddenly giving $1.00 for the magazines, and much more for the other books, even without being asked. We were touting Jehovah’s blessing on the arrangement while at the exact same time, the Society wrote letters to congregation elders including one on January 24, 1991 stating that  “funds received for the worldwide work have diminished somewhat over the last year.” Nearly 9 months later,  the following example from September 6, 1991 was even more specific:

“Despite this growing need, there has been in the United States a significant decline in donations toward the Society’s worldwide work. It is surprising that while donations are down, requests for all deluxe items have increased…  We are confident that you will help the local congregation to fully appreciate their privilege of contributing regularly to the worldwide work.”

The change proved to be financially problematic but was still being touted as an arrangement blessed by Jehovah. This is an indication that there is a reluctance on the part of the Society to admit that any new arrangement has proved to be less than successful. But that’s what makes recent unscripted hints of financial trouble more likely to be true, rather than a ploy to drum up funds (as some televangelists have been caught doing).

If one listens closely, they might even pick up these hints of financial trouble from “scripted” sources. Listen carefully to , for example, to the words of William Samuelson which were part of the Interviews in the January 2015 broadcast on JW.TV.ORG  in a new video about Divine Education (link is to tv.jw.org):

There is no government on earth today that educates its citizens like the Kingdom. The first thing that goes in a government if they get into an economic problem, first thing they cut is education…instead of that here, we increase education.” 

In spite of billions of dollars taken in, there is real evidence, that this is not proving to be enough. Jehovah’s Witnesses who have long believed that financial contributions are never pressured or solicited may indeed find that there are tougher times ahead that will test their faith. But that test may be whether or not there faith should have been placed in a man-made organization.

End of Part 1 of 2   (Link to Part 2 of 2)

(In the next part of this article, linked here, we will discuss the ways in which both these projects, the campaigns surrounding the Kingdom Centennial, and the new financial arrangements, were both unscriptural and hypocritical.)