Terri O’Sullivan founded XJW Friends in 2007 as a small meetup group called “The Kent ‘Free To Be Me’ Ex-Jehovah’s Witness Meetup Group”. Since then it has expanded its membership far beyond the 7 members who met in Strood Library, Rochester on 23 July 2007. Terri has been instrumental in forging links with other groups of people who have left high-control religious groups such as ex-Muslims, ex-Ultra-Orthodox Jews and the Association of Black Humanists (ABH), and she has strengthened ties with Faith to Faithless, a programme of Humanists UK and a non-profit organisation in the UK dedicated to confronting discrimination against non-religious people who have left minority religions.
Terri left the Jehovah’s Witnesses when she was 21 in 2000. She used to be a regular pioneer and was involved in the religion quite heavily. She left due to the unreasonable limitations and wanted to live her life. She studied a degree in social psychology in the Netherlands and leads a very busy and happy life. Terri currently lives in the West Midlands where she co-organises the group with Ste.
Ste Richardsson joined Terri in co-organising XJW Friends in summer 2012 when Terri began her Masters degree. He helped expand group membership to almost 1000 members and introduced a wider variety of events such as museum tours, theatre trips, film screenings. He set up LGBT XJW Friends in 2014 as an offshoot of the “European LGBT ex-JW Support Group” due to a need for LGBT-specific support services in the UK.
Ste was born a 4th generation Jehovah’s Witnesses and served in both English-speaking and French congregations. From very early on, bored with the routine of meetings and ministry and viewed the religion as intellectually stifling. He went to his last meeting in 2007 at the age of 23 after coming out as gay. He studied a degree in Linguistics and Translation and spent a few years travelling and teaching in both France and Japan. Ste currently lives in Deptford, London with his partner Peter, and co-organises the group with Terri. Ste is currently servicing as Vice-Chair of Faith to Faithless.
We are faith-neutral and our one rule is that no preaching take place whether it be pro- or anti-religion. We also strive to remain neutral toward any controversies and conflicts that arise within the community as a whole. Whether you are an atheist, a Christian, have adopted another belief or haven’t made your mind up, you will be welcome and fit in with our group.
The group focuses on:
- Helping those ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses who have been shunned find meaningful friendships and connections outside the religion.
- Providing a space for ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses to share their experiences with those who truly know what it’s like to leave such a high-control group.
- Helping those who still have doubts to learn the truth about the organisation’s teachings and doctrines.
- Forming links with other individuals and groups who have left high-control groups to emphasise the similarities in our experiences: ex-Muslims, ex-Ultra-Orthodox Jews, ex-LDS (ex-Mormons).
- Connecting people to online peer-support groups especially created by ex-JWs and for ex-JWS. These groups offer confidential and real-time moral support by those who get it because they’ve been through similar experiences.
We have meetups in pubs/restaurants, bowling alleys and we also arrange talks, conferences, museum tours and hope to start events which showcase the artistic talents of ex-Witnesses through art exhibitions, musical talent events and comedy shows.
Merice Ewell, the organiser of the York/Humberside group has a closed UK-wide Facebook group for LGBT XJWs in the UK and a UK-wide secret Facebook group (which both Terri and Ste are admins of) for people who cannot be out as doubters to their family and friends.
Please send us an email or use the contact form to be added to the secret group.
Please join us if:
- you feel alone after leaving the JWs,
- you are questioning the Watchtower doctrines (blood policy, 607 BCE, the overlapping generation, two-witness rule, misrepresentation of evolutionary theory),
- you have left and are still wondering if you made the right decision to leave,
- you find it difficult to think critically about your beliefs,
- you are gay, lesbian, bi, trans or non-binary and need a listening ear.
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