The disfellowship of a friend
My friend and classmate George had gone abroad for years. In this time period he had “progressed” more than me. He had finished his military duty before we met in the night school so he did not face the problem of being jailed. Thus advancing in the hierarchy of the organization he was made a “presbyter*.” After, he worked for a few years in the central offices of the organization in the U.S. not too long ago he returned to Greece and he offered his services to the Anglophone “church.” A few months prior he had visited me being greatly distressed. When I asked him what was the matter, he declined to tell me. He only said:
- Some people are out to destroy me! I know too much about them and they are afraid for their positions. They wish to throw me out of the “organization of the Lord.”
- Who are they, and why would they want you disfellowshipped; I asked him.
- Forget it Nikos, because the less you know the better. And don’t discuss our conversation with anyone because we will both find ourselves outside of the organization instantly.
I did not insist so we parted company without me having much knowledge about his problems. A few months later he invited me to his wedding planned a few weeks later. A few days before his wedding I was informed that he was married at a different date from the one he planned and that he was immediately disfellowshipped. This hit me like a lead balloon! “now if they disfellowshipped this outstanding man, what would they do to me?” I wondered. I asked to find out about the reason of his termination and they told me: “Apostacy.”
- How can this be? George an apostate? He served in Bethel and he knows the members of the “Governing Body” one by one, I protested.
- He joined the arch-apostate Friskoulas! They were serving at the same “church” and he lead him astray! They answered. …Wasn’t he even a member of the 144,000? So anyone can fall!
I felt horrible. “All my efforts for this man, his progress, were all these wasted? I could not get this out of my mind! “What if he was innocent and they expelled him unjustly? But joining up with Friskoulas this was sufficient for me to consider him an apostate.
During that time the name of Friskoulas was heard prevalently among the “witnesses.” He was a man who pulled great numbers to his homilies as a “witness.” At the conventions we all stared at him with enthralled! And a few months prior he was cut off for apostasy. We were all saying that he became proud like the devil and he created his own dogmas and followers. Meanwhile, sometime ago, he reported to the newspapers two “witnesses” who were video taping the apostates, who had gathered for their own corresponding “remembrance of the Lord “feast celebrated by the “witnesses” once a year. Then the local police intervened and arrested the trespassing “witnesses.” Although they were sent by the leadership of the Greek Bethel, they lied in court, pretending that they were following one of their female relatives. Of course they were found guilty and were charged, and consequently none of us believed their excuse.
Futhermore, a few were scandalized from this action and they departed from the “Watchtower” organization. I as not convinced that my friend George had anything to do with the apostates and I was seriously thinking of calling him, so I could find what really happened from him. But what if, regardless of his possible unjust disfellowship, he was still true to the organization and he reported to the “elders” that I called him while disfellowshipped? Then I would also be faced with serious problems! Consequently, I could not make such a decision. Yet I was keeping my ears open about anything pertaining to the apostates. This way I could somehow come to the bottom this. Suddenly, however, my desire to find out more news about the apostates was extinguished abruptly. One morning, some newspapers were displaying the picture of Friskoula who was addressing an audience including some priests. This particular article referring to the homily he had just presented, was making a multitude of false claims against the organization. Included in this picture was also my friend George.
What a plight! I thought. To speak lies against the “Organization of God” in front of priests!
I was now certain that he was an apostate. Among the apostates however, the words of one of my jail mates, and those of Stamatis who had coached me on how to make it through jail, were also published in the papers! Both of these men I had respected greatly. And now they were apostates! Unfortunately, unbeknownst to me at the time, all these lies recorded in the newspapers were not told by the apostates, but unscrupulous reporters added their own imaginings to increase the circulation of their newspapers. And while up to this point the “witnesses” of the country (of Greece) were abandoning the Society in droves, from that day on the wave of apostasy came to a halt. Everyone was convinced that the apostates were liars! And the weight of responsibility for this falls on the shoulders of these unconscionable news reporters. This detail however, was known only by those who were present at Friskoulas’ homily. From that day forward I began to criticize the apostates at every opportunity, even in my talks at the gatherings. The liars, who had the audacity to criticize the “Organization of God” in front of inimical priests, needed to be exposed!
Some day though, while at work the phone rang. I picked it up and I was very surprised to hear George’s voice.
- Hi Nikos, how are you? This is George! I heard him say on the other end.
I refused to greet him as befitting for an apostate.
- I’m doing well! Is it true that you are an apostate? I asked.
- No! They set me up with false witnesses! I…
- You are lying. I saw you in the newspaper, and we have nothing to say to each other until you repent and return to the “organization of God!” And I was ready to hang up the phone.
- Friskoulas did not say the things written in the newspaper… he was able to say and I hung up the phone.
I felt horrible! However, I needed to follow through with what I thought the Holy Scripture was saying, i.e. to refuse “even a greeting” to the apostates.