Annual Meeting Report
A Meeting Marked by Unity and Thrilling Plans
ANNUAL meetings of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania are always exciting occasions. The 127th annual meeting on Saturday, October 1, 2011, was certainly exciting. Guests from all over the world were invited to meet at the Assembly Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.A.
Gerrit Lösch of the Governing Body started the program by welcoming everyone. He told guests from about 85 countries that they are part of an international family that is more united than any other group of people in the world. Their unity is a good witness and glorifies Jehovah. Actually, unity was mentioned several times during this meeting.
A GOOD REPORT FROM MEXICO
The first part on the program gave examples of the unity of Jehovah’s people. The branch office in Mexico now has oversight of six countries in Central America. Baltasar Perla from the Mexico branch interviewed three other members of the Mexico Bethel family and asked them to talk about some of the results of this change. They said that the Mexico Bethel family now has more brothers and sisters from different cultures and countries and that everyone is encouraged by the good association. It is as if God has removed the national borders between them.
After this change, each congregation received a secure e-mail connection so that even those in isolated areas can communicate directly with the branch office. This helps publishers in countries that no longer have a branch office to feel part of the organization.
NEWS FROM JAPAN
James Linton from the Japan branch explained how our brothers were affected by the earthquake and tsunamis of March 2011. Many lost their loved ones and everything they had. Witnesses who were not affected by the disaster found 3,100 places for the victims to live and offered hundreds of vehicles. Volunteers sent by Regional Building Committees worked nonstop to repair the homes of our brothers. More than 1,700 volunteered to serve wherever needed. There were also 575 volunteers who helped repair Kingdom Halls, including a team from the United States.
Much has been done to comfort those who were affected by the disaster and to strengthen their faith. More than 400 elders visited the victims. The Governing Body sent two zone overseers from world headquarters to encourage the brothers and sisters in the disaster area. The interest shown by Witnesses all over the world has also been of great comfort.
Next, the audience was very interested to hear Stephen Hardy from the Britain branch and several other brothers discuss our recent legal victories. For example, the French government wanted the legal association we use in France to pay 82 million dollars (U.S.) in taxes. But the European Court of Human Rights decided that this was not legal. The decision showed that the Court agreed that the Witnesses were not trying to avoid paying taxes. It stated that the French government had acted against Article 9 of the European Convention, which protects people’s right to freedom of religion. For example, the government had refused to recognize the Witnesses as a religion, wanted to destroy their legal association, tried to remove the religion from the country, and used offensive language against them.
The Court also decided in our favor in a case involving Jehovah’s Witnesses in Armenia. Since 1965 the Court had believed that the European Convention did not give a person the right to refuse a government’s order to join the military. But the Grand Chamber, the highest authority in the European Court of Human Rights, decided that the European Convention gives a person the right to refuse military service if he does so for his strong religious beliefs. As a result of the Court’s decision, the government of Armenia as well as the governments of Azerbaijan and Turkey must respect this right.
Guy Pierce of the Governing Body spoke next and mentioned that all present were very interested to know about our construction projects in New York State. He introduced a video that showed what has been done and what will be done at Wallkill, Patterson, and our new properties in Warwick and Tuxedo, New York. At Wallkill, a new building with more than 300 residential rooms is scheduled to be finished in 2014.
There are plans to construct new buildings on 100 hectares (248 acres) at Warwick. Brother Pierce said that although the Governing Body is not certain what Jehovah’s will for Warwick is at the moment, we are getting ready to start building. The Governing Body hopes to move the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses from Brooklyn to Warwick. During the construction at Warwick, there are plans to keep machinery and building materials about 10 kilometers (six miles) away on 20 hectares (50 acres) of land. Brother Pierce said that we will start building when we get permission, and we hope to finish the work in four years or less. Then we can sell our property in Brooklyn.
Does the Governing Body no longer think that the great tribulation is near? Brother Pierce answered: “Not at all. If the great tribulation interrupts our plans, that will be wonderful, absolutely wonderful!”
BEWARE OF THE ROARING LION
Stephen Lett, another member of the Governing Body, discussed 1 Peter 5:8: “Keep your senses, be watchful. Your adversary, the Devil, walks about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone.” Brother Lett said that when we think of the kind of animals lions are, we can better understand how appropriate Peter’s illustration is.
Lions are stronger and faster than humans. Satan is so strong that we cannot fight him or escape from him on our own. We need Jehovah’s help. (Isaiah 40:31) A lion often hunts in the dark so that the prey does not see it. If we do not want to be Satan’s prey, we have to see, or understand, how he tries to attack us. Just as a lion kills a harmless antelope or a sleeping baby zebra, Satan shows no mercy and would love to kill us. And after a lion has finished eating, its prey is completely torn apart and looks nothing like it did before. In the same way, when a Christian becomes a victim of Satan, his situation becomes worse than before he knew the truth. (2 Peter 2:20) So we need to fight against Satan by always obeying what we learn from the Bible.—1 Peter 5:9.
BE THANKFUL FOR YOUR PLACE IN JEHOVAH’S HOUSE
The next speaker, Samuel Herd of the Governing Body, said: “We all have a place in Jehovah’s house.” This means that all Christians who have faith in Jesus’ ransom sacrifice are able to worship God in a way that he accepts. We should all be thankful that we have a place in Jehovah’s house. David wanted to “dwell in the house of Jehovah” all his life. Like David, we too desire to worship Jehovah all our lives.—Psalm 27:4.
Brother Herd referred to Psalm 92:12-14 and explained how Jehovah helps his people to succeed in their lives. God gives us comfort, protects us, and gives us refreshing waters of truth. Brother Herd encouraged the audience to thank Jehovah for that and to be content to worship Jehovah in his house forever.
TRUE CHRISTIANS RESPECT GOD’S WORD
David Splane, another member of the Governing Body, gave the next talk. He explained that true Christians have always respected God’s Word. For example, in the first century, they used the Scriptures to solve the problem about circumcision. (Acts 15:16, 17) But in the second century, some who called themselves Christians began to respect Greek philosophy more than the Scriptures. Later, others taught the opinions of Roman emperors and those whom they called Church Fathers, rather than teaching the Bible. This is how many false teachings began.
Brother Splane also talked about one of Jesus’ illustrations. This illustration shows that since the first century, there have always been anointed Christians on earth to defend the truth. (Matthew 13:24-30) We cannot say for sure who they were. But through the centuries, many have spoken against false religious beliefs and practices. Some of these people were Archbishop Agobard of Lyons in the 9th century, Peter of Bruys, Henry of Lausanne, and Valdès (or, Waldo) in the 12th century, John Wycliffe in the 14th century, William Tyndale in the 16th century, and Henry Grew and George Storrs in the 19th century. Jehovah’s Witnesses today continue to do what the Bible requires of them, and their beliefs are based only on Bible truth. That is why the Governing Body has chosen John 17:17 as our yeartext for 2012: “Your word is truth.”
EXCITING CHANGES FOR BIBLE SCHOOLS
Anthony Morris, a member of the Governing Body, announced changes for missionaries and special pioneers. In September 2012, classes of the Bible School for Christian Couples will begin in other countries. Last October, the purpose of Gilead School was changed. Now, all those trained at Gilead are already in special full-time service. Some are missionaries who have not been to Gilead. Others are special pioneers, traveling overseers, or Bethelites. After Gilead, they will be sent to serve in branch offices or in the traveling work or be sent to preach in large cities with local congregations. There they can strengthen, support, and train the brothers and sisters they work with.
It was announced that from January 1, 2012 on, some who attend the Bible School for Single Brothers and the Bible School for Christian Couples will become temporary special pioneers. They will preach in territories where there are few or no publishers. They will be special pioneers for one year at a time. After no more than three years, those who do well may be invited to continue serving as special pioneers.
The 2011 annual meeting was a happy time. God’s organization is working to preach in more places around the world and to help unite our brothers worldwide. We pray that Jehovah will bless our work and that it will bring him much glory and praise.
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WE GOT TO KNOW THEM BETTER
Five widows of Governing Body members were interviewed. Sisters Marina Sydlik, Edith Suiter, Melita Jaracz, Melba Barry, and Sydney Barber told how they learned the truth and started full-time service. Each one talked about some of her special memories, her husband’s good qualities, and the wonderful things they did together in Jehovah’s service. Then the audience sang song number 86, entitled “Faithful Women, Christian Sisters.”