Stances of Faiths on LGBT Issues: Salvation Army
The Salvation Army is an evangelical Christian movement founded in England in 1865. Its mission is “to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.” The Salvation Army is the second largest charitable organization in the United States and one of the world’s largest providers of social aid, providing services like disaster relief and food and clothing assistance for the poor. The Salvation Army operates according to eleven religious doctrinal statements as well as position statements on a number of controversial social issues.
Position on Homosexuality
Sexual attraction to the same sex is a matter of profound complexity. Whatever the causes may be, attempts to deny its reality or to marginalize those of a same-sex orientation have not been helpful.
(1983 – There can be no certainty about the causes of homosexuality, despite its widespread presence in many cultures, ages, and civilisations. Shaw Clifton)
The Salvation Army does not consider same-sex orientation blameworthy in itself. Homosexual conduct, like heterosexual conduct, requires individual responsibility and must be guided by the light of scriptural teaching.
Scripture forbids sexual intimacy between members of the same sex. The Salvation Army believes, therefore, that Christians whose sexual orientation is primarily or exclusively same-sex are called upon to embrace celibacy as a way of life. There is no scriptural support for same-sex unions as equal to, or as an alternative to, heterosexual marriage.
(2010 It pleases me that in our ranks are fellow Salvationists, both soldiers and officers, of a homosexual orientation but who are living disciplined, celibate lives of effective service for Christ. Shaw Clifton, General of the Salvation Army: 2006 - 2011)
Likewise, there is no scriptural support for demeaning or mistreating anyone for reason of his or her sexual orientation. The Salvation Army opposes any such abuse.
And from ‘down under’ -
…. Sometimes, The Salvation Army inflicts harm upon itself. Last year, in a radio interview that spread quickly, a media relations director for a Salvation Army branch in Australia seemed to imply gays should be put to death.
Craibe, in an interview with LGBT journalists Serena Ryan and Pete Dillon for the Australian radio show Salt and Pepper, was asked whether the SA accepted as literal truth a passage in Romans 1:18-32 which says that “God’s decree” is that homosexuals deserve death.
Ryan noted that the Salvation Army handbook contains the hateful biblical passage and asked what Craibe’s attitude was towards it.
Craibe replied: Well, that’s a part of our belief system.
Just hours after the LGBT advocacy group Truth Wins Out published the interview the SA issued an apology to the LGBT community.
Major Bruce Harmer, Salvation Army Communications and Public Relations Secretary for the Australia Eastern Territory, issued a statement saying that Craibe’s responses to Ryan and Dillon were a “miscommunication” that resulted in a misrepresentation of the group’s official teaching.
The statement read, in part:
The Salvation Army sincerely apologises to all members of the GLBT community and to all our clients, employees, volunteers and those who are part of our faith communities for the offense caused by this miscommunication.
Harmer added that the Salvation Army is committed to building a more healthy relationship with the GLBT community.
Said John Becker, Director of Communications for Truth Wins Out: The Salvation Army was wise to distance itself from Major Craibe’s disturbing remarks and apologize promptly for them. However, it’s clear from Major Harmer’s statement that the group still believes ‘homosexual behavior’ is sinful. The Salvation Army and the LGBT community cannot possibly have a healthy relationship while these offensive beliefs remain in place.
Until recently, The Salvation Army had a “position statement on homosexuality” posted on its website. Erin Kanter, a national spokeswoman for The Salvation Army, told me the statement was removed because “it is a theological statement not meant for an external audience.”
The position statement can still be found elsewhere. The website for the Human Rights Campaign quotes disapprovingly from it: “Scripture forbids sexual intimacy between members of the same sex. The Salvation Army believes, therefore, that Christians whose sexual orientation is primarily or exclusively same-sex are called upon to embrace celibacy as a way of life.”
The Salvation Army, whose teachings are rooted in Methodism, isn't just a church. If it were eligible for the Fortune 1000, it would be ranked at No. 578. Its network of thrift shops, corporate and government funding, and alms-collecting volunteers form a $4 billion not-for-profit business that employs more than 64,000 people and provides social services to more than 30 million homeless and poor each year -- making it the second-largest charity in the U.S. after the United Way. Or, if you will, a Goliath with two heads: church and charity.
Lauren McNamara, a 24-year old writer for a marketing firm in Orlando, created a Facebook page in 2009 called Boycott The Salvation Army. Then last month, she launched NoRedKettles.com with a friend. The site compiles many isolated incidents that have given the Salvation Army so much grief from the gay community for the past 20 years: the closure of homeless outreach programs in San Francisco in 1998 in retaliation for a city requirement to provide benefits to same-sex partners; a similar threat in New York City in 2004; and a failed attempt in 2001 to lobby the Bush administration to exempt religious charities from local laws banning discrimination….
The Salvation Army denies any such discrimination. In an interview with Fortune, Major Ron Busroe, the Salvation Army's community relations and development secretary said "all of these allegations are false. The Salvation Army does not condone discrimination of any kind," and referred to the U.S. organization's statement made at the time of the incident in Australia, which reads, "There is no scriptural support for demeaning or mistreating anyone for any reason including his or her sexual orientation." While that may be the official line, Busroe and McNamara are conversing -- a sign that the dialogue for change continues.
The charity contends that it abides by all local anti-discrimination laws and has a very broad policy that condemns all types of discrimination. It maintains that it currently offers health and wellness benefits to the same-sex partners of employees. (It has also returned to performing outreach work in San Francisco.) However, nowhere within its written policy does it include protections for or mentions of gender or sexual orientation.
Since the social media onslaught, the organization has made great efforts to control the damage to its image, going so far as to create a web page devoted to "Debunking the Myth of LGBT Discrimination," as well as producing video accounts of LGBT people who speak in support of the church. In November, after receiving a complaint from the gay advocacy group Truth Wins Out, the Salvation Army removed two ex-gay therapy groups from its online list of resources for people seeking help for sexual addiction.
…. For all of the changes that seem to be occurring, however small and slow, the Salvation Army still doesn't permit its clergy to conduct same-sex marriages. According to a spokesperson, "as a Christian church, the Salvation Army holds theological beliefs that direct the actions of our officers and church members. Our beliefs are based on our interpretation of the Bible. As a result, our officers officiate traditional marriage ceremonies between men and women who are in committed relationships."
…. “The accusations are a falsehood put out by people or groups that haven’t come to visit Salvation Army locations in person to investigate what we actually do,” said Envoy Bill Miller, director of The Salvation Army Harbor Light Shelter in Minneapolis.
If they did investigate, Miller said, they’d meet people like Jacquelynn Massengill, a 55-year-old transgender woman. She lived at Harbor Light for 18 months, moving there from Indiana to escape a domestic violence situation. “The accusations are not true and they’re not fair,” Jacquelynn said. “I’ll go to my grave thanking The Salvation Army.”
Harbor Light shelters about 550 people per night and serves hot meals to hundreds of homeless people every day. Miller estimates up to 20 percent of these people are members of the LGBT community.
Another example: More than 20 percent of all residents staying at The Salvation Army’s youth homeless shelter in St. Paul identify themselves as gay or lesbian. We know this not because we’ve asked them, but because they’ve volunteered the information.
That goes double for all of the nearly 15,800 Salvation Army centers of operation across the world. Discrimination is antithetical to their very existence, as described in this Dec. 6 Washington Times op-ed.
ROBERTS: Vilifying the Salvation Army harms mission of charity
Christian group helps everyone in need
By William Roberts
Thursday, December 6, 2012
This year’s Red Kettle Campaign has begun, the annual Christmas fundraiser that helps The Salvation Army collect money to meet human needs in local communities across the country. Each year’s campaign brings heightened media attention to The Salvation Army, particularly regarding its beliefs and practices.
In particular, we face such questions as: How does The Salvation Army help people in need? Are we a church? Perhaps most important, is the organization truly committed to serving all those in need?
The Salvation Army is a Christian organization, founded by a small group of people in London in 1865 to serve those who were suffering. They were fueled by their love of God and their belief that God was leading them to do his work on earth. The only qualification to receive help from The Salvation Army was to have a need. That has not changed in more than a century.
We serve nearly 30 million Americans in need each year, from a variety of backgrounds. We do not pick and choose whom we serve based on religion or any other factor, and no one should ever be turned away in need.
The Salvation Army has doctrine and beliefs that help guide members of the church in life and on a daily basis. Many people have questioned why The Salvation Army holds certain positions on issues such as homosexuality. This issue has created misunderstandings and confusion about The Salvation Army. This in turn has led many to think that the Salvation Army judges others and denies them services or employment. None of this is true.
The Salvation Army believes that all people are equal, regardless of sexual orientation or any other factor, including race, gender and ethnicity. We firmly oppose the vilification and mistreatment of any member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, just as we oppose the mistreatment of anyone. Any such incident is in clear opposition to all established Salvation Army policy.
Indeed, this promise is emphatically laid out in our organizational mission statement, which says: “The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.”
The Salvation Army is founded on Christian values and biblical standards, and those in need receive our assistance each year through a broad array of social services, which include food for the hungry, relief for disaster victims, assistance for the disabled, outreach to the elderly and ill, clothing and shelter for the homeless and opportunities for underprivileged children.
Many wrongly believe The Salvation Army lobbies the federal government to deny equal opportunities to people with beliefs that differ from ours. For more than a decade, The Salvation Army has not engaged any lobbyists, nor does the organization have any lobbyists working on its behalf nationally to lobby for particular laws or to deny liberties to any American. This is not within The Salvation Army’s moral fabric.
Notably, The Salvation Army employs more than 64,000 people from all backgrounds across the country. Employment for holders of those positions, who include social workers, senior care providers, program administrators, athletic coaches, counselors and chefs, is based solely on how well applicants meet job requirements. Only for employees within The Salvation Army that hold religious responsibilities, such as the 3,500 Salvation Army officers who are ordained ministers in our church, do we seek those whose faith and values are consistent with our theology. In that, we are no different from any other church in America.
The Salvation Army hires the best candidate for a position and offers employee benefits to all, equally. The Salvation Army adheres to all relevant employment laws and provides for domestic-partner benefits accordingly. We offer benefits to all employees and do so in much the same way that other companies and private organizations provide them.
The people who work for and volunteer with The Salvation Army aim to serve others in need, to work with people and not against anyone. Over the years, The Salvation Army has demonstrated a consistent ability to work with and alongside individuals and organizations that may not always be in agreement with our theology. They support us with time and financial resources because of a common cause and commitment to serve people in need. Like Jesus, we strive to love the unloved and be compassionate to all — even when we disagree theologically. When we serve those in need, we are serving him.
To act in any other way would contradict the very reason The Salvation Army was founded.
William Roberts is national commander for The Salvation Army.
Thousands of people receive loving care at Salvation Army locations absolutely everywhere.
Harbor Light food delivery driver Jerry Koenig, 64, started working for The Salvation Army four years ago. After taking the job, a friend asked why he’d work for an organization that discriminated against “their kind.” Based on his firsthand experience of seeing that the Army does not discriminate, he could only respond: “Huh?”
“Sexual orientation is the last thing they’re thinking about here. It’s not even a topic. It’s all about how we can keep this person off the street, how we can keep them from hurting themselves or somebody else."
Roger Craig Bailey, 51, has struggled with drugs, alcohol and loneliness his whole life. He’s currently enrolled in one of Harbor Light’s long-term rehabilitation programs and is now the best he’s ever been. He’s particularly grateful for the spiritual guidance he’s received.
“God is what I’ve been missing my whole life. Harbor Light has done nothing but open its doors to me in a loving and caring way. It has given me so much emotional stability, so much direction. They have never discriminated against me. I would welcome any person with an alternative lifestyle to come to Harbor Light or any other Salvation Army.”
Jacquelynn Massengill, 55, is a Harbor Light volunteer and former transitional housing resident, living there for 18 months from 2004–2006. In that time, she became Harbor Light’s Volunteer of the Year. She arrived at Harbor Light from Indiana to escape a domestic violence situation.
“I called (Harbor Light) and told them everything – that I was on a fixed income, disabled, transgendered and trying to get away from my ex. It wasn’t even an hour later that they called back and said they’d hold a spot for me. I arrived with nothing but a hope to start my life over and a desire to be strong again. A year and a half later, I was back on my feet. Living there was drama-free and I was never disrespected. They started a community service bug in me that’s kept me active to this very day.”
Written and compiled by: Sven Ljungholm, Former Officer
Written and compiled by: Sven Ljungholm, Former Officer