Letter 3 of 9
THIRD LETTER, 1 year and 3 months later:
November 15, 1999
From: R. Jensen 24 Running Deer Road Phenix City, AL 36870
To: Watchtower Bible & Tract Society 25 Columbia Heights
Brooklyn, NY 11201 Re: Blood and upholding righteous standards
Back in 1998 I wrote you with questions regarding facets of our teaching and stance on use of blood. (See my letters dated 2/16/98 and 7/31/98) Those letters made clear my difficulty in teaching our present stance regarding medical use of blood. On this topic your last correspondence to me dated 8/24/98 said, "...it would be appropriate at this time to let the matter rest."
I fully realized the gravity of what I had addressed to you and understood that you perhaps needed some time to consider what I had said. In that respect I agreed that letting the matter rest was a good idea and thus I was content to wait for a future consideration of the subject. In light of that, I confidently expected some forthcoming explanation to my questions in a Watchtower article or else personal correspondence. I do not expect that letting a matter rest means letting it die nor do I think that was your intention. For that reason I have patiently waited. At this time I again ask for your consideration of my questions in those letters. My reasons for being concerned about this topic are many and varied.
As an elder I am expected to teach with conviction and to impart understanding. Such teaching is required from elders in several circumstances. Those circumstances can be in our public ministry, one on one with publishers, publicly from our Kingdom Hall platform, in judicial hearings, etc.... In each case elders have a responsibility to teach with conviction and to impart understanding. While all will not accept our convictions or understandings we should nonetheless have sound explanations for them. We should have, know and understand the reasons for our answers. In this case we should have scriptural reasons for answers from our existing scriptural stance. How can I teach with conviction and impart understanding without reasons for the answers?
Besides responsibilities as an elder I am also a husband and father. As a teacher my foremost responsibility is to my family. When questions are considered serious and worthy of an answer how can I so answer when I cannot explain it myself? In the case of my questions on medical use of blood, what do I say when I must admit that I do not have reasons for my answers? What will my wife and child think? How can I build within them conviction for something that I cannot explain?
Circumstances have already put me in the difficult position of avoiding situations where my questions asked are likely to arise. I do not want circumstances where someone could be hurt or stumbled because of my truthful admission that I see no explanation for certain of our stances on what is or is not tolerated. Since my last correspondence I have been asked twice to help with serious medical issues involving blood. In each case I had to defer publishers to another elder by asking that they be contacted for help instead of me. I explained that I was unable to assist them as needed at the time and that the other elder could. What I did not tell them was what made me unable to help. One of those circumstances was an emergency and it was crushing to feel unable to help directly. Circumstances such as that have caused me much distress. When my brothers needed me the most I feared being there out of concern for stumbling them with my inability to answer legitimate though likely questions for which I see no scriptural answers. The potential is there to cause stumbling, or discouragement at least, when they are already in a vulnerable position.
Then there is the matter of my family. Our daughter is now 16 months old. My wife and I have taken time to discuss what we should do in the case of a medical emergency involving blood. I must tell you that those conversations I find very stressful because I do not want to stumble my wife by admitting that I have serious concerns about not being able to explain with scriptures our stance of tolerance toward some blood components versus intolerance of other blood components. Then there is the discussion with our family physicians, which is likewise problematic.
Besides those circumstances there remains my initial problem causing me to write you in the first place, that of being able to address this topic in our public ministry. Particularly is this problematic when the recipient is a healthcare professional fully aware of aspects of blood, medical procedures involving it and solutions derived from or utilizing components of it.
My conscience dictates that I not lay a stumbling block before my brothers, family or anyone else if I can help it. Again that puts me in a stressful position of limiting who I can turn to for answers to all that I have asked in my former correspondence to you. Who can I turn to for scriptural answers regarding an existing scriptural stance if not to you brothers? Once back in 1980 (or it could have been 1981) I was told that brother Albert Schroeder was in the same hotel in which I was lodging for the convention in Jacksonville, Florida. At the time I had what was then to me a serious question for which I needed an answer. I was encouraged to just go knock on his door and ask. I did so and was warmly welcomed in and provided with an answer from the Bible. Well, I am again knocking at the door in need of an answer.
While patiently awaiting answers to my questions I have continued to pray and ponder over our stance of tolerance toward some blood components and intolerance toward other blood components as well as our overall teaching regarding medical infusion of blood. That prayerful pondering has led me to the idea that it is not proper to make or impose distinctions or applications if they are not so specified in the Bible. It is inconsistent that we tolerate some components of blood for medical purposes while being intolerant of the very donation making that possible. It is contradictory that we denounce it when blood is stored for later consumption and then turn around and use blood components requiring massive amounts of blood stored as denounced. Without scriptural distinctions it is inconsistent that we tolerate some components of blood when every component from blood is equally of blood. As far as I can see, making such scriptural distinctions is impossible. Considering the aforementioned and that medical science will continue inventing various techniques for manipulating blood and dividing and using components of blood, it seems that we should apply the same onus toward all components of blood, either that of tolerating individual conscientious choice or that of intolerance of accepting any blood components.
I hope the tenor of my letter is understood. I am not seeking to cause you brothers any distress. Indeed we all experience distress in these days and need for endurance. I support my entire association of brothers and am willing to give my life rather than needlessly stumble one of them. The Watchtower of June the 1st, 1982 on page 20 states, "At times, some bring to the attention of the 'slave' class various doctrinal or organizational matters that they feel ought to be revised. Certainly, suggestions for improvement are proper, as are inquiries for clarification." It is in harmony with that statement that my letter should be understood.
Your last correspondence to me on this topic advised it was appropriate at that time to let matters rest. Hopefully you will see observance of that advice in my patience. Likewise I hope that you will see my request as genuine and worthy of serious consideration for an answer at this time, whether that be in personal correspondence or some future Watchtower article. I have enclosed my earlier letters for that purpose and your convenience. If you need any clarifications regarding my questions or suggestions feel free to write or call and I will clarify all that I can.
Please be assured of my love for you and accept my appreciation for all your hard work in behalf of our neighbors, our brothers, my family and myself.
Your fellow servant,
[Signed: R. Jensen]
Copy of my letter dated 2/16/98
Copy of my letter dated 7/31/98
REPLY TO THIRD LETTER
February 21, 2000
Watchtower Bible & Tract Society
25 Columbia Heights
Brooklyn, NY 11201
24 Running Deer Road
Phenix City, AL 36870
Dear Brother Jensen:
We acknowledge your letter of January 18, 2000, in which you sent us a copy of your letter of November 15, 1999. In addition to considering these two most recent letters from you, we have reviewed your two letters of February 16, 1998, and July 31, 1998, and our replies to you dated March 23, 1998, and July 24, 1998. Your concern is why the accepting of some fractions of blood for medical treatment has been left as a matter of conscience.
Likely you will recall that at last week's study of The Watchtower, at the close of paragraph 18 on page 10 of the January 1, 2000, issue of The Watchtower, the point was made that "if a Christian does not fully understand a new explanation of a scripture, he does well humbly to echo the words of the prophet Micah: 'I will show a waiting attitude for the God of my salvation.'--Micah 7:7." We would like to encourage you similarly with respect to your questions on the matter of blood fractions. This is the wise and safe course.
You state that you have difficulty "in teaching our present stance regarding medical use of blood." You recognize as an elder you are expected to teach with conviction and to impart understanding. You express concern that you felt unable in the past to assist in cases of your brothers where there was an issue involving blood. Properly, you are concerned about making decisions on this matter that will have Jehovah's blessing as to yourself and your family, and as to what you teach publicly. You also again bring into the picture your discussions on this subject with health-care professionals with whom you have contact and their reactions. Desiring to act conscientiously in all these respects is certainly commendable.
However, care needs to be exercised, Brother Jensen, that you not seek to impose your deductions and conscience on others. For some decades now, "the faithful and discreet slave" has been giving the matter of blood usage in medical procedures careful and prayerful consideration in the light of the Scriptures. (Matthew 24:45-47) As blood began to be broken down into smaller and smaller component parts, arguments pro and con as to the use of these were considered. The consistent position of "the faithful and discreet slave" has been as expressed under "Questions From Readers" in the June 1, 1974, issue of The Watchtower: "While refraining from approving or condemning in such areas where we believe the decision must be left to individual conscience, we do, nevertheless, urge all to seek to maintain their conscience clear before God, never showing deliberate disrespect for his Word." And you will see this same balance reflected also in answers to a series of questions under "Questions From Readers" in the June 15,1978, and March 1, 1989, issues of The Watchtower.
Thus, acceptance or nonacceptance of small fractions of blood is left for each one to decide conscientiously after weighing all factors having a bearing. In your case, if you find no basis for accepting any component from blood, no matter how small or for what purpose, in treating a medical condition, then that would be your decision before Jehovah. In deciding matters this way, you could go ahead with your service to Jehovah with a clear conscience. Others, after also carefully and prayerfully considering all factors having a bearing, have concluded that they could accept certain minor components. Should they not be allowed to accept the responsibility before Jehovah for their decision, just as you are allowed to do the same regarding your decision?
Moreover, whatever one's decision is, this should not prevent him from helping others to understand what has been published by "the faithful and discreet slave" on the subject in the light of the Scriptures. Then those individuals can make their own informed decision. And this decision need not be, and should not be, because responsible brothers influenced them either way. As to this, we are aware that some elders, including some on Hospital Liaison Committees, have conscientiously decided that they personally do not wish to have certain minor blood components used in treating them, or none at all. But this position does not prevent them from being of help to their brothers and sisters, according to the need, when they need help understanding some aspect of what has been published on the use of minor blood fractions or some mechanical process that involves extracorporeal circulation of one's blood.
Regarding those in the health-care field who do not always understand our position, we are sure you will agree that this is not unexpected. Even as to our rejection of whole blood or major components of blood, many feel we are being unreasonable. However, as to those who ask sincere questions, we might say that those brothers who make presentations before doctors and receive questions from health-care professionals often find it suffices to say that while individuals may not see the logic of a particular position or agree with our reasoning, we ask that they respect our religious position on this matter, which includes letting each one decide whether or not to accept a minor fraction of blood. This almost invariably absorbs any implicit demand that we explain what appear to be inconsistencies or why some of Jehovah's Witnesses feel they can conscientiously accept certain small fractions while others do not.
We trust the additional comments above will be helpful. We take this occasion to send warm Christian love and best wishes.
[Signed: Watchtower Bible & Tract Society of New York, Inc.]