Australia has been given a rare insight into the workings of the Jehovah’s Witness Church, which believes only 144,000 people will get to heaven and they are top of the list.
A member of the secretive church’s New York-based governing body Geoffrey Jackson is giving evidence at a child sex abuse royal commission hearing in Sydney.
On Friday Mr Jackson, quoting the Bible, including from the gospel of Matthew, Deuteronomy, and the Book Of Revelations, explained that the church believes the world is now in its “last days” and seven reputable men were anointed by the Holy Spirit to be the equivalent of Jesus’s disciples.
Mr Jackson is on the seven-member body which interprets scriptures for their congregations around the world.
The commission has raised concerns that the church’s scriptural interpretations applied as doctrine mean its handling of child sex abuse allegations traumatises abuse victims and is not safe or effective.
Under church rules, a survivor of sexual assault is expected to confront their abuser before a judicial panel of three men and have to have two witnesses to the assault before a wrongdoing is found to be proven.
Mr Jackson said that was changing but did not have details.
He described the governing body as: “A spiritual group of men who are guardians of our doctrine, and as guardians of the doctrine, look at things that need to be decided based on our doctrines, which are based on the constitution of the Bible”.
He confirmed to the commission that women could never hold the role of elders or judges in the church and said that they were highly respected in the church as copilots to the male pilot. Chief Commissioner Peter McClellan has been pressing the church on the need for women to be involved in the investigation of child abuse allegations as victims.
He asked Mr Jackson to quote him the biblical reference which excludes women as judges.
The witness could not quote the biblical passage.
He said the judicial committee was not judging the victim but rather offering support.
The hearing continues.
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