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I will apologize at the outset as this question stems more from anecdote than from research.

Anecdote 1 - Some years ago, while at the local dump, I was approached by a woman for help unloading the trunk of her car. By way of thanks (after a brief conversation) she offered me some Jehovah's Witness material, notably a booklet called "What Does The Bible Really Teach?". I gladly accepted and offered to read the book and then reunite with her to discuss the contents. She declined and instead offered to have one of the deacons (male) from the local Kingdom Hall contact me if I was interested in studying the booklet together. The reason she gave for declining my offer was that JW women were not allowed to instruct men.

Anecdote 2 - Much to my wife's chagrin I have always invited JW into my home to discuss the scriptures when they come knocking at the door. My wife was homeschooling our children at the time and would send JW visitors away if I was off at work. As these visits were concurrent with a year long bible study via telephone (the result of anecdote 1) I requested of the JW deacon with whom I was speaking that visits during my away hours cease. What occurred is that male visits during my away hours ceased but small groups of females periodically stopped by (more spousal chagrin). As my work schedule became apparent so did this pattern: When I was known to be home it was men who came and never women.

I found some relevant information in Watchtower online which seems to indicate that women may witness to and teach men in an evangelistic setting but may not teach doctrine or preside over a congregation wherein there are baptized male believers.

My question is: Was the woman from anecdote 1 just being extra cautious in declining to undertake bible study with me or was it my baptism in a Protestant denomination that was enough to disqualify her as my teacher?

A corollary question is: How does this affect a JW woman's ability to answer questions on a site such as this Christianity Stack where an OP's gender is often unknown and an OP's baptism into Christianity is often unknown but is likely to have occurred?

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    Husband and wife Jehovah’s Witnesses would be allowed to conduct a home study with either a man or a woman. This happened to me, a woman, when a Pioneer couple came to my door. Both were able to come into my house to share their views with me even though I told them I was a baptised born-again Protestant Christian. A female Witness would be able to conduct a home study with a woman regardless of her faith.
    – Lesley
    Dec 10, 2020 at 14:54
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    Both men and women are advised to be careful about the appearance of impropriety when it comes to on going discussions or studies with members of the opposite sex. There is also certainly an element of risk when a female witness is invited into a home where a man expresses interest in bible discussions.
    – user23657
    Dec 10, 2020 at 15:01
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    A recent Watchtower article shows female Witnesses teaching other women as they share in the ministry (the preaching work that involves conducting home studies). jw.org/en/library/magazines/watchtower-study-october-2020/…
    – Lesley
    Dec 11, 2020 at 10:19
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    @Lesley Women can also conduct Bible studies with men, but they would be wise to bring along a friend so that she is not alone with him. If that Bible student gets baptized, or if she brings along a baptized male Witness to the study, then the woman would need to wear a head covering while studying with him.
    – user32540
    Dec 11, 2020 at 15:23
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    @Lesley that article is the one that is going to be studied at our public meeting this weekend.
    – user23657
    Dec 13, 2020 at 3:24

2 Answers 2

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There is no issue with a female Jehovah’s Witness evangelizing to a male.

Within the congregation women do not generally teach from the stage. Exceptions would be in isolated groups where a man is not available. When this becomes necessary a sister wears a head covering. Head covering protocols are explained here

Your baptism would not effect this since head covering protocols relate to baptized Jehovah’s Witnesses and within a family where the wife is taking on a role that is usually the responsibility of the head of the household (husband).

Since you have not been baptized as a JW nor are you married to her this would not be an issue.

As for your anecdotal observation this is a matter of propriety and safety.

When a sister comes upon a man who expresses interest in learning more about Jehovah’s Witnesses beliefs she will engage in a discussion with him. If this occurs at the mans home and she is invited into the home a sister will use good judgement to avoid putting herself in danger or giving an appearance of impropriety.

She would not enter the mans home if it would mean she and he would be alone in the house.
A brother would exercise the same good judgement if invited in by a female. Most of the time we don’t go to doors alone and that goes a long way toward preventing this from becoming a problem.

If a sister determines that the man is genuinely interested in learning more she will arrange to return with a brother on the next visit if possible. If not possible two sisters may return and the evangelizing session could resume.

Generally when a sister finds a man who wishes to learn more she will turn this over to a brother for future visits, not because there is a problem with a female JW evangelizing or teaching a man who may be baptized into a different denomination but for the avoidance of any impropriety or appearance there of.

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The simple guide it this: no JW female may teach a JW male; but all male and female JWs are expected to engage in evangelistic outreach to non-JWs, irrespective of gender.

This is demonstrated by comparing the activity that goes on in Kingdom Halls, and outside of there (for evangelistic activity). All teaching is done by accredited JW men. Only they pray. Only they hold such offices such as that of elders. The women may offer to give answers to questions asked by men from the platform, but those answers must be from printed Watchtower Society literature, without deviating into their own personal views. The women may give demonstrations from the platform as to how to engage in evangelistic activity, but only with another female. None of the women need to wear head-coverings, however.

Contrast that with evangelistic activity. The women usually provide at least half of all JW evangelistic activity, where attempts are made to get non-JWs interested in studying their literature with them. This is done outside of the Kingdom Hall. Women may speak to men and women, sharing JW teaching from their literature. But if a man wants a book-study, then a JW male should take that. Even if the JW man takes it with, say, his wife also attending, she is not allowed to lead, or to pray. The JW man must lead the lesson. If a woman wants a JW book-study, women can take that and lead it. But if a JW man also attends, he must take the lead and the JW woman must be sure never to say anything that could be taken as instruction of the JW man.

A good example is in JW letter-writing, since the Covid lock-downs interfered with their door-knocking word. Letters sent out could be read by both males and females. But there's no problem, because the women simply point whoever reads it to the official JW web-site, and to JW literature. When they copy existing statements already produced by the Watchtower Society, this is not so much viewed as 'teaching' as directing people to the Society, to be taught by it. However, if a man developed a correspondence as a result, a JW man would be required to respond in writing.

There's certainly need for JW women to be really careful in contacts with strangers, especially men, so nobody should be surprised at that. And as no JW woman is allowed to teach a JW man, there are restrictions on that at the Kingdom Hall. However, when it comes to the wide, open world of evangelising, women are free to speak equally to men and women and to teach doctrine to women, but JW men must take over when a man becomes a student.

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  • "The women may offer to give answers to questions asked by men from the platform, but those answers must be from printed Watchtower Society literature" - all are encouraged to answer in their own words at our meetings. This shows that the individual knows and understands what is being discussed. A newly interested person attending a meeting could read the information straight out of the publication but not really know or understand the material. Answers given should be in line with Biblical principles.
    – agarza
    Apr 25 at 14:38
  • "The JW man must be in control of everything and lead the lesson." - It's not about control but in line with the arrangements found in the Bible about men taking the lead in instruction.
    – agarza
    Apr 25 at 14:41
  • @agarza Fair point, with which I agree. I'll remove the "be in control phrase". Though all are encouraged to answer in their own words, their answer must agree with what's printed in the study material, otherwise they (male or female) won't be invited to answer next time they put their hand up.
    – Anne
    Apr 25 at 16:47
  • It doesn't happen often, but if a person answers in a way that is not in line with the material or Biblical principles the individual is not approached. I don't know for sure, but (only if it happens on a regular basis) if the individual is a baptized JW then the elders would probably speak with that person. If the individual is not baptized and is studying to be a JW, then the person studying with the individual should point out the relevant Biblical principles.
    – agarza
    Apr 25 at 17:13
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    @agarza There’s no need to “approach” anyone not giving an acceptable answer. They’re simply not invited to answer again, until it is ascertained that they will answer in harmony with Watchtower Society statements.
    – Anne
    Apr 25 at 17:25

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