On Approaching People in the Ministry
Dear TrueTom: Mental Illness, Attrition, Spiritual Progress

The Diversification of the Governing Body

Your governing body is ruling right now, 8 mainly American men, with American thoughts and personalities.” 

On the surface, this might seem a valid objection to the present Governing Body—why aren’t they more diversified? I could be wrong, but I think 3 of the 8 are not American—Losch (German—maybe Austrian), Jackson (Australian), and Splane (Canadian)—still I understand the supposed imbalance. It is based on a questionable assumption, though, that Eskimos (to take an example) cannot possibly be adequately governed unless there are Eskimos on the Governing Body. Is it really that way?

First of all, I submit that the “imbalance” is not so dire as is suggested. If we were speaking of 8 mainly American businessmen, all educated in American universities, all wealthy as large corporate businessmen usually are, all “insulated” socially from the working-class people, then I would say that he raises a good point. But it is not that way with the Witness Governing Body.

Your GB are ruling right now, 8 mainly American men, with American thoughts and personalities.”

Why don’t you ask the military generals or the national politicians just how “American” their thoughts and personalities are? The fact is that nobody has been able to overcome nationalism—or racism, classism, or social and educational differences, like Jehovah’s Witnesses, and everyone knows it.

Sam Herd is the son of a mule-driver. Think that puts him out of touch with the regular people? Both Sanderson and Jackson have served as missionaries in developing countries, doing work not as lowly, but more lowly, than those of most of those that they will later lead. Call that being out of touch? Didn’t Losch operate behind the iron curtain? Call that typical? As for the others, I am not sure of their backgrounds, but I know that all of them have worked full-time service, probably for a lifetime, where the emphasis is on working with the lowly people and even taking direction from them. I mean, these are not blue bloods by any stretch. Previous GB members have spent years as missionaries—humble door to door calling and interacting with the common people—in varied foreign assignments; Lloyd Barry in Japan comes to mind, but there are many others. So they are hardly so “white” and “American” as you suppose. 

I am in the US. A few decades ago, the question was asked: ‘How come there are not more black brothers in positions of authority?’ The answer was that, due to social injustices, most black brothers were disadvantaged in various ways—plus the number of JWs themselves was quite small—they only hit 2 million in ....what ....1980 or so? and they were only 75,000 worldwide heading into WWII, and that, with time and growth and societal rebalancing of some grievances, we could expect to see more black brothers in “higher” positions. 

That has proved to be the case. Black brothers have “risen the ranks” and, to my mind, bring unique gifts to the table that whites lack. It is a black brother that gave the streamed Memorial talk one year (streaming is quite new) and the streamed special talk the next. I have spent most of my life working in congregations with about a 50/50 mix of white/black in the rank and file and the servant body. It is with congregation things as it is with music—things are more interesting and have more “life” once blacks are involved. Jazz, rock n roll, the interesting developments of American music, all come only from the contribution of blacks.

A friend in Myanmar tells me this inbalance of resources that once held American blacks back is duplicated where he lives with native brothers. Those in the positions of highest oversight are usually “needgreaters” of various nationalities, and locals are not heavily represented. The reason? Poverty is so extreme that most locals cannot afford the nominal transportation costs to travel to any destination that isn’t absolutely essential to hold together life and limb. It is not the Governing Body’s fault that the world is all screwed up. It is enough for them to spearhead the message of how it will be fixed.

Will there be a Japanese GB member someday, or a Brazilian GB member, or a Mexican one? It could be, as those countries catch up (and even outstrip) US and European lands where the organization first took root. It is unlikely to be an Indian member, a Middle Eastern member, a Myanmmarese member, because the preaching is yet thinly represented there. But it could be one of the former, though I wouldn’t hold my breath. The end is “right around the corner.” It has proven to be one heck of a corner—but still, the end is right around it. I wouldn’t mind seeing it, but it is hardly a big deal.

No, even as is, international interests are well-represented by the GB, given their unique backgrounds, worldwide unity, and lowly origins. Besides, this insistence that only Brazilians can represent Brazilians is largely a contrived political concern. President Obama is black and yet his background is not at all like those of any but a tiny minority of black Americans. He is mostly a product of large universities run by white blue bloods and infused with their philosophies for building a better world. Poor urban blacks will complain that he didn’t do a thing for them. Nothing changed for them with him eight years at the helm.

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