Family ties cut for ex-Jehovah's Witness from Wells

BBC/January 24, 2011

A 24-year-old man has spoken of his sadness and frustration leaving the Jehovah's Witness which has resulted in him losing all contact with his family.

When Nathan Phillips decided to leave he was told by the elders that he would be disfellowshipped immediately.

He said: "It does make me feel very angry, not with the people so much and not with mum but the way the religion works."

The elders in Wells and his family have refused to comment about the issue.

Smoking and drinking

Nathan was disfellowshipped by the Jehovah's Witness in May 2009. Prior to this, he had stopped attending meetings for six months because he had stopped believing in the faith.

"My beliefs had changed; my views had changed - it just wasn't for me."

He had also taken up smoking and drinking.

Smoking goes against the rulings of the faith and although drinking alcohol is permitted, it is only allowed in moderation.

Each congregation of the Jehovah's Witness has a group of elders who are regarded as spiritually mature and are responsible for leading the congregation.

"I was called into a judicial committee of three elders.

"They sit in front of you like a panel and asked me questions to see if I had been smoking or drinking - basically they sent me out the room and when I came back in they said they'd decided to disfellowship me.

"Obviously I did explain to them about the impact this would have on my family but none of that was taken into consideration.

"It was a shock to begin with, and I hoped it would turn itself around, but they believe it so much I don't think it ever will."

'Upside down'

Nathan was brought up in the Jehovah's Witness faith and had been baptised at the age of 15.

After being disfellowshipped, all contact with his friends and his mother's side of the family ceased despite his efforts to stay in contact with them.

"It's turned my life upside down really. It's like losing your mum in a way because I have no contact at all.

"It affected my work and it took me quite a few months to get back on track but I've kind of got my head around the fact that's what it's going to be."

Now Nathan hopes to shed light about the religion.

"There's a lot of nice people in the witnesses, I'd never bad mouth them. Jehovah's Witnesses are very well-known for knocking on people's doors and for speaking to people out in the streets and they always come across as being very nice people.

"But what people don't realise is this part of it [disfellowshipping process] and how it goes on behind closed doors."

Wrong reasons

Nathan said he did not believe the situation would change and recently met with the elders.

"About three months ago I arranged a meeting with the judicial committee again and pleaded with them really that I was finding it very hard and thought that I could cope with it but couldn't and they said the only thing I could do was come back.

"Again I explained to them I was coming back for the wrong reasons and the only reason I wanted to come back was to be able to see my family but they said there was nothing they could do."

BBC Somerset asked his mother and family for a comment but they refused, as did the elders in Wells.

A spokesman for the Jehovah's Witness headquarters in London said Nathan's situation was a "private matter" between him and his mother.

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