The worldwide organization of Jehovah's Witnesses has just undergone major reorganization. For the first time in history,
the president of the Watchtower Society is not the sect's spiritual leader. Rather, the Governing Body (the spiritual leaders)
have been totally separated from the Watchtower corporate presidency and its Board of Directors.
Milton Henschel, president since the death of his predecessor Fred Franz, is now neither president of the Watchtower Society,
nor even a member of its Board of Directors. Rather, he is merely a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses --
a secretive group of spiritual leaders totalling 13 men as of this writing.
Although the Governing Body had originally been identical with the 7-member corporate board of directors, and was expanded
in the 1970's to include additional leaders, it now has nothing to do with the Board of Directors. The overlapping membership
This major restructuring was announced at the October 2000 Annual Meeting of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania,
the parent body of all the various Watchtower corporations worldwide. Henschel, 80, was replaced as President by a younger
man, Don Adams.
Additionally, the powers and the material assets of the Society have now been divided among a number
of separate corporations, each headed by its own president -- none of whom are members of the Governing Body. So, the Governing
Body members who formerly sat on corporate boards and controlled the assets, now exercise a moral influence rather than any
legally binding authority.
One obvious result is that the organization and its assets are less vulnerable to a major lawsuit. If the Governing Body is
sued for deaths resulting from its ban on blood transfusions, the Society's factories can not be taken in a settlement, because
the factories are owned by a distinct corporation. If the WTB&TS corporation is found criminally liable, the Governing
Body members are safe, because they are not Directors of that corporation.
This is the biggest shakeup since Judge Rutherford took the reigns of power away from the Directors his predecessor Charles
Taze Russell had placed in charge through his last will and testament.
A change was long expected, since the sect's leadership had painted itself into a corner. Governing Body members were required
to be of the "Anointed" class, composed of men who became Witnesses as adults before the year 1935. This excludes
younger men, and limits the Governing Body to an older group each year. Few men in their 80s or 90s are up to running a corporation.
During the mid-1990s the Witnesses attempted to sidestep the problem by beginning to appoint a few younger men who
had earlier declared themselves to be of the Anointed -- exceptions God had allegedly chosen after 1935 to replace un-named
members of the Anointed who became unfaithful and lost their salvation. But with five out of the thirteen Governing Body members
now among these 'exceptions,' adding a couple more would put the 'exceptions' in the majority. With more following the exception
than the rule, the ruling doctrine would have been called into question.
Rather than change the doctrine, the Witnesses
have restructured the organization. Since the Governing Body is no longer connected to the corporate Board of Directors, the
Watchtower corporations can be run by a new generation of younger men.