VOW OF OBEDIENCE AND POVERTY TO THE ORDER OF SPECIAL FULL-TIME SERVANTS OF JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES.
As an ordained minister, wholly dedicated to Jehovah God. I hereby express my solemn desire to be recognized as a member of the worldwide Order of Special Full-Time Servants of Jehovah’s Witnesses (“the Order”). I vow as follows:
1. While a member of the Order, to live the simple, nonmaterialistic life-style that has traditionally existed for members of the Order;
2. In the spirit of the inspired words of the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 6:8) and the prophetic expression of the psalmist (Psalm 110:3), to volunteer my services to do whatever is assigned to me in the advancement of Kingdom interests wherever I am assigned by the Order;
3. To be submissive to the theocratic arrangement for members of the Order (Hebrews 13:17);
4. To devote my best full-time efforts to my assignment;
5. To abstain from secular employment without permission from the Order;
6. To turn over to the local organization of the Order all income received from any work or personal efforts in excess of my necessary living expenses, unless released from this vow by the Order;
7. To accept such provisions for members of the Order (be they meals, lodging, expense reimbursements, or others) as are made in the country where I serve regardless of the level of my responsibility or the value of my services;
8. To be content and satisfied with the modest support that I receive from the Order as long as I am privileged to serve in the Order and not to expect any further remuneration should I choose to leave the Order or should the Order determine that I no longer qualify to serve in the Order (Matthew 6:30-33: 1 Timothy 6:6-8; Hebrews 13:5);
9. To abide by the principles set out in God’s inspired Word, the Bible in publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses and in policies dispensed by the Order, and to follow the directions of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses; and
10. To accept readily any decision made by the Order regarding my membership status.
Name (please print legibly)__________________
RELIGIOUS ORDER OF JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES
25 Columbia Heights • Brooklyn, NY 11201-2483 • U.S.A. • Phone: (718) 560-7000
BA January 1, 2002
TO ALL SPECIAL FULL-TIME SERVANTS IN THE UNITED STATES
Re: Vow of Obedience and Poverty
Dear Brothers and Sisters:
Under the care and direction of the “faithful and discreet slave” (Matthew 24:45-47), those in special full-time service have always led a life wholly devoted to Kingdom interests.
Your desire to serve in this capacity calls to mind the example of the Nazirites of old who separated themselves from the day-to-day concerns of the dedicated Jewish nation in general and, by taking a vow, undertook special service to Jehovah.—Genesis 49:26 footnote; Numbers 6:1-8; Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 2, pp. 477-8.
Similarly, special full-time servants are known worldwide, by the brotherhood and even by those who do not serve Jehovah, for living lives dedicated full time to supporting and spearheading the all-important Kingdom proclamation work and in caring for the needs of the congregation. This is in contrast with most of our brothers and sisters who are required to balance Kingdom interests with necessary secular employment of one kind or another. Although the work of those in special full-time service began in the late 1800’s, for some time now those serving in this manner have been known as members of the Order of Special Full-Time Servants (the “Order”).
You have previously signed a “Vow of Poverty,” which is on file with the branch office. However, as you know, our religious order was recently incorporated as a separate legal entity in the United States. The name of the corporation is the Religious Order of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the name that will be used for the order is Order of Special Full-Time Servants of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Because of the formation of this new legal entity and for several other reasons, the Governing Body has directed that everyone currently in the Order should take and sign a revised Vow of Obedience and Poverty (“Vow”). Enclosed are two copies of the revised Vow. You should prayerfully consider each portion of the Vow. If you are in agreement with it, then you should sign and date both copies and return one to the branch office by January 31, 2002. You should retain the other signed copy for your file.
Why is it appropriate for all in the Order to take and sign this Vow? Doing so demonstrates willingness on the part of every member of the Order to serve under the direction of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses in an arrangement through which they can devote their full-time efforts to advancing Kingdom interests. (Isaiah 6:8) It documents the understanding through which each member of the Order provides his services, something that
assists governmental agencies to understand better the self-sacrificing rather than pecuniary motivation of those who serve in special full-time service. Reading prayerfully and signing the enclosed Vow demonstrates that members of the Order are committed to live simple, nonmaterialistic lives of service to Jehovah and our brothers. Having all members of the Order sign the Vow helps to avoid misunderstandings and confusion that might occur if some have signed the Vow and others have not.
All in the Order, members of the worldwide Bethel family, missionaries, special pioneers, traveling overseers and their wives, Assembly Hall overseers and their wives, international servants, and Kingdom Hall construction servants, are subject to the provisions set forth in the Vow. Although the enclosed Vow contains some changes to the document you previously signed, the Governing Body has made no change in the structure of your work nor has it mandated a change in the life-style of those in special full-time service. However, some expressions in the revised Vow may be new to some of you and therefore should be explained.
A religious order is an arrangement to accomplish a common religious, rather than profit motivated, goal. Members of the order agree to work toward its accomplishment, often under a segregated arrangement. In the case of members of the Order of Special Full-Time Servants of Jehovah’s Witnesses, membership requirements include a whole-souled desire to devote all of one’s energies to the advancement of Kingdom interests, following the principles set out in God’s Word, the Bible, and the directions of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
All live in unity of religious purpose and adhere to a common set of rules. What is involved in serving under the simple Vow? It means that those in special full-time service have formally entered into an arrangement in which they agree to expend their full-time efforts toward the advancement of a religious goal. It also means that they are doing so without any expectation of being paid, as one would be in a secular setting. Members can enter into this arrangement because the Order sees to it that each member’s basic necessities of life are cared for. Although the term “poverty” is used in the Vow, this does not mean that the Governing Body is asking you to relinquish ownership in property that you now possess or that you may acquire in the future. Rather, this expression means that you agree to forego the expectation of being paid for your endeavors while serving in the Order and that you also agree to not seek gainful employment while serving in the Order. As those of you who have devoted many years to special full-time service can verify, this is the arrangement under which special full-time servants have been living for many years, even prior to the time when this arrangement was formally documented through the signing of a previous vow.
Concerning point six of the Vow, sources of income other than work are not affected by being under this Vow. It does not pertain to income such as interest from bank accounts or bonds, dividends from stocks, rent received from property owned by the member, and other
income unrelated to present personal efforts. It does not apply to gifts, inheritances, or other unsolicited benefits, which a member of the Order may receive from time to time. Any of you who are receiving income from possessions are not required to turn these monies over to the Order, although you should be aware that (his income is no doubt subject to taxation.
In summary, reading prayerfully and signing the Vow does not mean that you cannot own property or that you have determined to donate all your material possesions to the Order. Rather, it documents that you have agreed to serve Jehovah as a special full-time servant, serving in cooperation with others in the Order, without expectation of financial gain and that you have determined to refrain from any gainful activity while in Jehovah’s special full-time service.
We are pleased to present you with this direction from the Governing Body and trust that this letter answers any questions you may have. However, please feel free to write to the branch office if you have any remaining inquiries.
Please be assured of our warm Christian love and best wishes in your service.
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