Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Standards first and foremost !


A friend who’s been employed at the seminary in our community came into my office today and said, “I resigned from my job yesterday.” I was surprised, as I knew that he truly enjoyed the writing and development work he’d been doing, and realized that there must be more to the story. And there was, for as the story unfolded I learned that he and his wife had been having problems for a while, leading to their decision to separate, at least for a time. As a result, the seminary has now required him to resign his position, leaving him with a broken family and no work.

At a time when he needs the church to step up and provide a place for healing, the arm of the church that’s been his employer for some time is no longer willing (or able) to walk alongside through these dark waters. Now I don’t know the details of my friend’s marital concerns, but I do know that he has done the things that Christians do when their marriage is troubled. They went to counseling. They prayed. They spoke with dear friends. They tried, they really tried. But it just didn’t work out.
These are good, godly people. He hasn’t robbed a bank. She hasn’t murdered anyone. They both love Jesus and are spending time in the Word. They just can’t live together in marriage, at least for now.

This is not a new story, for it’s happened to Salvation Army officer friends. Yes, the innocent party has sometimes been able to remain an officer, but generally only if he or she is willing to divorce the spouse.

I know that a ministry has to have standards. I know God hates divorce. I know, I know, I know. But I care about my friend, his wife, his children, and I know that God cares about him much more than I do. I am grieving for them just now.


Major JoAnn Shade
Major JoAnn Shade ministers with her husband Larry as the corps officers and Directors of the Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center. She received a B.A. in sociology from S.U.N.Y. at Binghamton, a M.A. in Pastoral Counseling, and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Ashland Theological Seminary in June, 2006. She is a prolific writer, lecturer, and busy counselor and has contributed to this blog since its inception.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Michael Jackson, me, and the meaning of life

The news of the death of Michael Jackson has reminded me of the January day in 1993 when for the first and only time our paths crossed. Margaret and I had an 8 hour lay-over at Narita Airport in Tokyo on our way to New Zealand where I was speaking at a Youth event. Eight hours is a very long time to kill, so after I'd drunk my coffee and read my book I went wandering round the airport to see if I could find anything interesting.

That's when I came on an enormous crowd of people and an excited buzz of conversation - all in Japanese, of course, which meant I couldn't understand a word of what was being said. But it looked too interesting to miss, so I took a chance on an official looking person wearing some kind of uniform and asked him what was happening. Fortunately he spoke enough English to understand me and quickly informed me that Michael Jackson had just landed and was about to pass through that part of the airport.

Now one of the really good things about being in Japan was that, for the first time in my life, I was above average height. So I made use of my height and weight advantage and pushed my way to the front of the crowd just in time to see Jacko pass in front of me surrounded by half a dozen minders. The whole thing lasted about thirty seconds and then he was gone. We've never met since!

But here's the thing that's set me thinking today. Here in Britain - and I guess it's been the same around the world - his death has had an enormous impact. Serious news programmes are not only making his passing their headline story, they're also devoting the greater part of their scheduling to an analysis of the man and his music. Even more significant in many ways is the outpouring of grief from thousands of people, the vast majority of whom have never had the opportunity I had to see him in the flesh. The latest BBC news programme I watched less than an hour ago was suggesting that his passing has had a greater impact even than that of Princess Diana!

And I can't help asking 'Why?' Why has this enormously talented but deeply troubled and confused human being had such an effect on the lives of so many. No doubt much of it is due to the fact that his music has been the sound track to the lives of an entire generation of people. But there's more to it than that I suspect. Here is a man who has not only spent millions of dollars on empty trivia but whose reputation has been sullied by accusations of child abuse which he was never able to shake off. And yet he is admired and even loved by millions.

It is 'way too soon for anyone to make a full assessment of his life and legacy. But I wonder how much of the grief that is being felt relates to the fact that for his entire life Michael Jackson remained a vulnerable child. There's something terribly poignant about those early clips of his singing with the Jackson Five, something very moving about the images of a sweet little kid dancing and singing with an abandon that still touches the heart. And there's something deeply disturbing about those stories of his Dad who never told young Michael that he loved him, who pushed him mercilessly, and who told him he was ugly.

Maybe, just maybe, there's a lesson to be learnt here. We're all vulnerable little kids really. We all need to be loved and encouraged and hugged. Which is probably why Jesus always spoke of God as his Father and insisted that the secret of success in his Kingdom is to become like a little child again. Maybe,just maybe, the talented, flawed, disturbed Michael Jackson can help us to rediscover the meaning of life. And, if the gospel is true, it's not too much to hope that, at the last, he too has discovered that secret for himself.

Chick Yuill
In October 2006 Chick relinquished his position as the denominational leader for The Salvation Army in Greater Manchester and now devotes himself fully to reflecting, speaking and writing on issues relating to what it means to be authentic followers of Jesus in the 21st Century. As part of this ministry in the wider church, he gives two days each week to fulfil the duties of chairman for HOPE in Greater Manchester an initiative that seeks to encourage churches to work together to share the good news of the Christian gospel in word and deed in a way that will not only bring individuals to faith but will also impact and transform surrounding communities.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Musings over a cuppa 'round the corner from the old 'hall'... PART -2-

Commissioning last year in Melbourne was a great occasion. When we were queuing up to enter the auditorium, a youngish officer came up to me and asked if I remembered him? I didn’t which I was not surprised at but he said that he was a Junior Soldier at a Corps where I was the officer many years ago and he remembered me and my enthusiasm for the Army and at a very young age started thinking about Officership. Quite a bit of the sense of futility of the past few years dissipated and I did feel fulfilled in that all those years were not wasted when I became a former. Was it Cadman who said cast your bread upon the waters and it shall return to you as ‘hot buttered toast’. We have all done that and no matter what the reason we became formers our influence is still out there doing what it should do, influence people for the Kingdom. Nothing that you ever do goes unnoticed.

DC’s have come in for a bit of stick in these pages and there is part of me that wants to join in and say I have a better story of an incompetent, unfeeling, you fill in your words here, and I am sure I can go one better, a DC who made life not too pleasant on any level. However, I can also talk about my hero. He was just a good bloke and if I could be like him today, I would consider that I would have ‘arrived’. He took good pictures, was good with people, preaching was average, respect for authority was poor and I could go on, but he too is a 'former' and I had better be careful what I say; however, whenever I was with him in a public meeting or as an individual I felt that I was the most important person in his world at that particular moment. It was such a powerful feeling; that I believed I could do anything. I remember him saying at one stage, when he visited my Corps “people will often forget what you say and forget what you do but they will never forget how you make them feel”. Here was a leader who I loved and respected above all the others that I had known, who did more for my Salvationism, my belief in myself and my commitment to my fellow’s, be they 'formers', work colleagues, family and friends than any person before, or since. Heroes are in very short supply and to this day he is mine and I treasure every thought of what, I believe, he gave to me.

Our ministry did not end when we became 'formers' and I believe that we still have a wonderful opportunity to influence people for good and the Kingdom no matter who we are and where we find ourselves. I have written this little reflection while sitting in a coffee shop just around the corner from my home Corps, which has been closed for over 30 years and the building, still very much a ‘Citadel’, is now corporate offices for a HR company. As I sit here I have my iPod in my ears and yes, it does have brass band music playing as if I am sitting in the band room. It’s Croydon Citadel Band from the UK and I sat with silent tears as they played ‘In Wonder beholding’, which I too played just round the corner and can remember playing all those years ago and feeling so strongly committed to all that the future held for me as a young larrikin learning what life was all about. It has been a very special moment for me, but as the music played on we get to one of the most significant pieces that has ever been in our music repertoire; ‘To Serve the Present Age’. It is not without a sense of commitment that the next line in the song is ‘..my calling to fulfill’. It is a stark statement and encourages me to just be aware that no matter what has happened in the past to allow me to join this august group of people that we call ‘formers’, I have a responsibility and commitment to live for the future. What that means I do not know but I am committed to whatever it might be, however in looking to the future I am sure that I do not want to be remembered because I was a ‘former’, but that I have in some way continued to live out my ‘calling’ whatever it means.

Now I am going to finish my coffee and ……….

Fletch
Peter Fletcher
Former
Australia
Peter Fletcher

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Musings over a cuppa 'round the corner from the old 'hall'... PART -1-

What has become of my life since…….?

So much can be written about what has transpired since that day when I became a former. I have lived with the ‘what if’s’ for many years and the pain and disappointment that I have caused to so many people. People who made up my life; my YPSM, and Songster Leader, fellow Bandsmen and Songsters, eventually people I ministered to, and yes of course there were those who ministered to me; my family and friends and colleagues. Nothing new here and I am sure many readers will also be remembering and reminiscing like me. I have the photos, some I still chose to display, and one that is of the Corps' band that I played in as a young Salvationist. It was the photo taken when we bought a new set of instruments and there I am proudly holding the EEb bass that was the pride of my life and which I valued more than my ‘wheels’. Yes of course the photos are good memories, but there are still times when they almost reach off the wall and mock me to my very core and yes there are the tears and it really is easy to allow the pain to take over and color all that I now have and am.

I have recently returned from an extended ‘Geriatric Gap’ year in the UK. I was fundraising for a Hospital in the Midlands and just loved getting around and seeing so much of the country. I now wish that I had been able to catch up with some of the 'formers' in that part of the world but it was not to be. Being an extrovert who just loves public speaking I developed a minor reputation as someone who would go anywhere to present at conferences. I would not claim to be an expert in very much at all, but I think that my accent and Aussie heritage were quite a novelty and so off I went into all places to speak about fundraising, to try and be motivational and even inspirational. People were usually very generous and I did get invited back on couple of occasions; however one of the evaluations had the comment “not bad for an Aussie”. I took this as a great compliment seeing as we had just won the Cricket Ashes Test Series 5 zip in Australia.

One day I had a phone call to meet with someone who was running a fundraising conference for her rather large national organization, would I meet with her. Of course I am always up for a coffee, as that is where most meaningful conversations take place. Maybe we should have had a regulation that said all CO and DC interviews should be in Starbucks. When I met this woman I was astounded; here was a beautiful woman from northern Africa who towered over me, dressed in her very, very colorful national costume with a matching turban style headdress, and absolutely beautiful presentation with English that was far better than mine will ever be and she was asking me if I would speak at her conference; yes even I am sometimes lost for words. I stammered out one of those inane questions about what did you want me to speak about, and she looked me in the eye and told me that she wanted me to do the same presentation that I did at the Cardiff Fundraising Conference the year before where she was a delegate. It did ring a bell because I really enjoyed doing that gig, but what I struggled to comprehend was the fact that she then proceeded to tell me what I had spoken about, and she related it almost word for word. Now as I said I do not consider my presentations to be world changing but here was this extremely articulate woman, remembering every detail of my presentation. In thinking about it after I had this powerful, almost overwhelming sense of responsibility to be careful what I say because there are always people listening and taking note. Nothing you ever say goes unheard.

Fletch
Peter Fletcher
Former
Australia
Peter Fletcher

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

AND YOU THOUGHT WE WERE UNIQUE ?




FOR SALE! BUSINESS CARD HOLDER - NO LONGER NEEDED - LEAVING THE WORK; ON EBAY !






Policy concerning Former Pastors

Definition
A former pastor is one who no longer serves as pastor, associate pastor, or in any temporary
pastoral relationship in a congregation once served, due to a call to other service, retirement,
release from or termination of ordained office, or involuntary termination.
Rationale
(1) When the pastoral relationship between a minister of Word and Sacrament and a
congregation is dissolved, the nature and character of the relationship changes. Both
the pastor and the congregation must disengage from the nature and character of the
pastoral relationship in order to engage and establish new relationships. This policy
addresses issues in this transition.
(2) When a pastor leaves a congregation due to reasons identified in #1 above, there are
certain ethical standards that should be followed in order for the ties between the former
pastor and the congregation to be severed and for new relationships to be established
between the new pastor and the congregation. (Among such standards are those provided in
the “Standards of Ethical Conduct” adopted by the 210th General Assembly.) When such
standards are followed, it helps to provide for a smooth transition and for a happy
relationship among all parties.

THE POLICY
1. During the closure phase of ministry, the "former pastor" shall provide written
correspondence to the congregation indicating the implications of this changed relationship--
especially the need for boundaries in this new relationship. [Presbytery shall have available for
church members, copies of Guidelines on how to relate to a former pastor.]
2. When a pastor resigns, retires, or leaves for other reasons, due care should be exercised not
to influence, by direction or indirection, by spoken or written word, the selection of any successor or
the policies of that successor.
3. We recognize the unique problem of a former pastor who will continue to reside in the
community which he/she served. Normally, former pastors shall have no contact with the church
previously served for at least two years following dissolution of the pastoral relationship. If there is
another Presbyterian presence within reasonable distance, the former pastor will be advised to
worship with that congregation. If there is no other Presbyterian presence except the congregation
formerly served, the former pastor may petition the Committee on Ministry to continue to worship
in his/her former parish following the above two year period. The Committee on Ministry must
approve this association with a former parish through a Covenant agreement clearly enumerating the
boundaries of acceptable behaviors by all parties (including families--see #f).
4. If the former pastor remains in the community, that person best honors their ordination
vows by exercising self-restraint regarding the business and spiritual well-being of the congregation.
He/she may maintain friendships with members of the former congregation, but he/she must avoid
conversations regarding policies, practices, or programs of that church as such conversations could
be perceived as attempting to influence decisions or relationships within the congregation. Under no
circumstances may the former pastor make public (or likely to be made public) statements critical of
the new pastor.
5. We remind the former pastor of the professional behavior standards as indicated in the
Book of Order, G-14.0606 and the CODE OF ETHICS adopted by the 210th General Assembly,
which make clear that former pastors may not officiate (funerals, weddings, baptisms) or provide
worship leadership in a former Parish unless personally invited to do so by the current Moderator of
Session.

6. While the Presbytery has no jurisdiction in making policy regarding family members (of
former pastors) who may wish to remain members of the church, it does recommend that good judgment
and restraint be practiced in order not to interfere with the transition to a new pastor.
(Adopted by COM, August 1998)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

SPIRIT AND LETTER Part -2-

There are a number of themes that come through in this forum and even in our own day to day relationships that appear to spark certain responses and it is a valid question for us all to ask ourselves why. There are of course those who would call me a libertine (of sorts) and yet I do not believe that is what I am in my everyday living, but who knows what thoughts I have inside my head. Someone once said: ‘If the police could read our minds; only a small percentage of the population would be outside of the prison bars’. I had a very interesting conversation with a fellow officer at one stage as to when does adultery become adultery? Is it when intercourse takes place? Is it when inappropriate fondling takes happens? Is it when a discussion takes place along the lines of the possibility of a relationship? Or is it when the thought is entertained in the mind and a decision is made to do something about that thought?

Might I suggest that in all of these things we focus too much on the sin that we can see where possibly that is just the outcome of the greater sin that is hidden?

I am convinced more than ever that we are all flawed and I more than most and what I require more than anything for myself is the gift of tolerance and understanding from all those who I have contact with. It is also a gift that I covet for myself in my daily dealings with other people. I am further convinced more than ever that people are good and that when we look at others we see in them a mirror of ourselves. We always see other people from our ‘default point of view’. I know that there will be those who will still want to sit on the judge’s bench, and that is OK if they feel comfortable but if we look at the words of Jesus as narrated in the gospels I perceive that it was not necessarily actions that he only condemned but attitudes and abuse of power. The sins that you can see (if they are sins) are really easy to fix – just tell people “don’t do it” and if they persist we have ‘ways and means’ to make you comply; but attitudes of the heart, the intentions, and sins of the heart, are a totally different thing altogether.

Fletch
Peter Fletcher
Former
Australia
Peter Fletcher

SPIRIT AND LETTER Part -1-

Faith is one of the great topics of life to deal with and it is really interesting to read other people’s versions of it. I continue to be traumatized by our formers’ experience of what constitutes how they ‘left the ranks’, and although there is very rarely a mention of the reason, almost invariably it has been expressed in terms of ultimate pain. I am no different and I have a history of pain going back to the time when my own mother, as a candidate for officership in 1927, had a fight with her fundamentalist style mother on Saturday night; on Sunday her uniform had been shredded and left in a pile of rags in the middle of the lounge in their small house and she was gone. She was not seen for another 19 years when she was found as a single mother in another town in the English Midlands. I know what pain is. Over the years I have experienced my own pain, as have we all, but I have chosen to focus on the joy that I have had in trying to make my way in this complicated, confusing world, where I have had to live out ‘My faith’ (Yes the capitals are in the right place) in a world where I perceive that thinking has at times become something that is left to others, as it seems easier for most people that way.

In recent articles it seems that there is an increasing divide in our numbers between those of our number who favour the Letter of the Law and those who seem to try to understand our position in a more holistic manner that is often perceived as soft and fluffy and not in keeping with a faith that demands the flooding of the Egyptians as they chased the Israelites through the Red Sea, than with the faith that expresses ‘Let him/her who is without sin….

I know of a Corps Census meeting where the members were demanding that a couple who were ‘reportedly’ having an affair, be stood down immediately. No one had any evidence of this and one hates to use the word ‘witch hunt’, but that is what it was described as. Demands were made of the CO to stand them down and almost publicly shame them, their families and friends. I am sure that I do not need to relate here what the O&R’s state in a case such as this, but they are very simple. Three things: 1) Smoking or drinking, 2) Proven immoral conduct. The first one did not apply and despite extensive questioning of the members in this forum, no one could provide evidence that the reported actions had happened; but it was the third criteria which was crucial in this situation and it is 3) Malicious gossip. Now the letter of the Law was that in one foul swoop this whole Census Board could have been ‘Stood Down’. However the CO of the time decided that it would not benefit the Kingdom or the Army to do that. Spirit and letter is a very interesting concept.

CS Lewis in his short spiritually, rambling fantasy called ‘The Great Divorce’ talks about someone who was trying to get into heaven and was approached by someone who was one of his employees on earth’. The past employee saw his old boss as he approached the Promised Land because he knew him on earth was keen to ease his transition. He was aware that His boss had not lived a good life and that he was feeling great guilt, which is something that many of us feel, and he noticed that his old boss was trying to escape his gaze and his potential ‘welcome’. When the old boss found he could not hide he expressed regret for the bad deeds that he had done but the welcomer responded with his own ‘sins’. The ‘welcomer’ indicated that he had claimed forgiveness then and they involved sins of his thinking and not necessarily the things of that he committed. “Because you were such a bad boss, I killed you in my thinking every day and wished harm on you and your family, but I have claimed forgiveness and I want you to forgive me also. Even though the boss treated him so badly and thought that his employee was such a weak person and could not retaliate in any way. Forgiveness comes in many forms.

When I was in college we had to do one of those projects to produce a poster that depicted ‘Sin in the world’. It was an interesting project not least for the fact that some of us felt that we should have been sitting on ‘little’ chairs, with an apron on and doing finger painting to possibly be exhibited at Commissioning. We had a few weeks to do this with cuttings from the paper, and headings etc etc. One of my fellow cadets who I respected greatly, asked me what I was going to focus on; I had a few things in mind but, because I am who I am, it was not going to happen until the day it was due and so it had not risen to be an urgent task. He indicated to me that when people have to do this then they will always focus on their own internal weakness, because it takes up so much of their thinking time; the things that are their own weaknesses, or temptations. As a Corps Officer my then wife and I always produced a three month preaching plan that was thought out and prepared for; rather than just deciding on Monday morning what we should preach about on the next Sunday just for that reason; the temptation to preach about what could be perceived as our own weaknesses.

Fletch
Peter Fletcher
Former
Australia
Peter Fletcher

Born in Birmingham (but that does not make me a Brummy) and as a young lad migrated to Melbourne as a £10 tourist with his Mum, and became a ‘dinky di’ Aussie. Entered the Training College in ’69 from South Melbourne Corps into the ‘Undaunted’ Session. (someone is supposed to say Hallelujah). After serving in Australia with a short stint in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, he became a 'former'. A new career loomed in fundraising and he has worked for over 20 years with a variety of Charities. Sitting in a Starbucks cafe in San Hose for three days after Sept 11 it was time to evaluate everything that made up his life and so a lot of things fell off the agenda so that things that could make a more significant difference could be supported. Then he took to wandering the world. With a British passport he found himself back in the UK working as a Fundraiser at a Hospital in Birmingham. This turned into nearly 6 years but has now returned to the Promised Land. He is very committed to his profession and has worked as a volunteer for its professional bodies for many years.. Passionate about anything to do with people, fundraising and education and doing all that he can to help people to just simply ‘grow’. He has been a regular presenter around the UK and Australia. Although English by birth he claims his 'spiritual' heritage is as Australian it is possible to be and he still bleeds red, yellow and blue.. Now working as a life coach specializing in retirement coaching and also as the fundraiser for an internet based charity that uses the latest internet technology to support people with mild to moderate depression. The use by date is still blurry and has an active involvement in mentoring and supporting people from all areas of life. Futurefletch is the tag line and he lives it.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

FORGIVE THEM FOR THEY KNOW NOT... Part -2-

As officers we most often acted on a priori knowledge, that is, what was known independently of experience (that is, it is non-empirical, or arrived at beforehand).The pain we experienced on resignation and beyond was the exact opposite, it was a posteriori knowledge, knowledge that can only be known by experience (it is empirical, or arrived at afterward). That experience includes every member of the affected family, the corps of the family members and comrade officers, however, on very different levels from the person resigning and breaking from their SA commission (call).

EXISTENTIALISM
All who have stood behind a pulpit will have shared from their personal experience in making the Bible more relevant and timely to the listener. Without question the analogies shared that were most effective in speaking to the listeners were those learned through a painful, personal experience. My own preaching, when it focused, as yours would have, on the death of a family member, took on a very different perspective following the private pain I experienced on the death of my father. When speaking about family and divorce I sensed again that I could speak from a special level of understanding due affliction, again from my personal and individual experience following the break up of my marriage.

All in our fellowship have had similar existential experiences that move us into a new level of spiritual awareness. However, few who serve as SA officers will ever come close to knowing our unique spiritual existentialist pain and affliction. The leaders and colleagues from whom we expected and sought empathy, have all suffered various painful experiences. but none the private pain of being separated from the full time calling of preaching, pastoring and practicing Christ's love in the ranks of the 'dear old army'.

The term 'lacking empathy' has been used by some when describing leadership. However, once again the assumption of a similar existentialist insight is incorrectly credited and assumed. Empathy can be described as a shared experience, that is, stepping into the shoes of another. However, that word empathy cannot be used in this instance. Our hurt and pain stems from our separation from a unique fellowship with God and comrades under the ‘Blood and Fire’ flag. Being separated from that fellowship, whether willingly or not, can best be likened to divorce; one of the most traumatic experiences in life. We know better than any what ‘this’ deep pain entails. It’s an acknowledgment of our soul's pain, an existential one that we ought not to assume active officers should understand or be able to identify with. Consequently, we ought not exhibit any arrogance in finding fault with how we were ‘mistreated’, or not provided after-care subsequent to our resignations. Rather, we, the formers, must demonstrate forgiveness, understanding, and future-care to SA Leaders.

What now? We must make every effort to bridge our existential knowledge with the Army’s programming, at every level, beginning with the SFOT (include a seminar/discussion with 'formers') and right through to IHQ to ensure that a more Christian, sympathetic process is created and adopted. A white paper will be shared with all formers for comment prior to forwarding to SA Leadership in the weeks ahead.

Dr. Sven Ljungholm
Former
Exeter, England

Sven was a senior executive working in the airline industry prior to becoming a Salvation Army officer at age 40. He served with his then wife in the USA, Sweden, Russia, and Ukraine being one of the pioneers who re-established The SA in the former Soviet Union. A90 minute TV special, "THIS IS YOUR LIFE", was broadcast in his native Sweden, and 3 other TV broadcasts (Sweden, the UK) have featured his SA activities. He was a frequent contributor to SA periodicals. Subsequent to resigning from The SA he completed his PhD at Moscow State University and taught for several years at Central Ct. State University, and in the MBA program at 2 other New England universities. Today he continues teaching university courses online and is an active soldier of the Corps at Exeter Temple working with the homeless, encouraging them in the restoration of their lives through weekly Bible Study.

FORGIVE THEM FOR THEY KNOW NOT... Part -1-

Over the course of the last several weeks I have been re-reading dozens of the articles, blog comments and the remarks in the private fellowship found in Face Book. To date we have had more than 18,000 visitors to our blog, 70 topics of discussions in our private Facebook site with more than 260 comments relative to after-care and moving on... Our current membership totals 211 members, many representing a spouse who is also a 'former' so the total may well exceed 300.

I have also looked back on private e-mails received and IMs (instant messages) exchanged, some on a daily basis lasting many months. They speak of a unique spiritual trauma.

The one ‘constant’ thread echoed time and again is the sense of abandonment felt by hundreds of former Salvation Army Officers who share in our fellowship. And, I’m convinced that from what our members have shared, not hubristic sharing, but rather, painfully and tearfully, there are perhaps thousands more hurting from the same sense of abandonment, alienation, and isolation.

The two most common comments shared by our membership are: I felt no sense of gratitude for my many years of service, and there was a total lack of after-care. These comments came from across borders and from each territory represented by our fellowship. And, while many longed for contact with former comrades for comfort they felt unwelcome as no one had reached out to them, taking that first step. And, many in our fellowship have shared that they were shunned when attending SA meetings by corps officers and ‘friends’, even by family members.

Is there any greater pain than the wound resulting from silence? Those we emulated, loved and admired were silent. We struggled then, and still, with the silence of the organizations, the church we served that in an instant took on the attitude of a multi-national corporate entity. Silence is golden, it would seem while for us the silence was deafening. All that was needed were the two words: ‘I care’, a sense of caring we had to find for ourselves:

‘I know He cares for me
I know He cares for me.
I’ll trust my Father in heaven
For I know that He cares for me.

He knows, he knows,
The storms that would my way oppose
He knows, He knows
And comforts every wind that blows.

There are wounds, and there are mistakes, and no doubt guilt and shame that time and separation erases, but not fully. God's given us though, a powerful formula where He says "Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:14).

I believe that a major component in ‘pressing on’ demands an honest assessment of one’s past. Is it possible that you and I haven’t shown the same forgiveness to those in leadership who we deem as having wronged us, as that which Jesus offers and asks of us? A new beginning means giving His forgiveness to the people who we believe have wronged us and asking for forgiveness from the people we have wronged. The forgiving love of Jesus Christ can banish forever the hurts and wrong-acts of the past. The Bible says, "If You, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness" (Psalm 130:3 ). That's because every sin we’ve committed or has been done against us was paid for by Jesus on cross, as we’ve all preached time and again in SA halls,

The process of forgiveness essentially consists of an initial step that lead us from our egos back to God. It entails the recognition that what we have attacked and judged against in another is indeed what we may have condemned others of doing. It is precisely because we are so enmeshed in our own ego that the Holy Spirit needs to enter our world of understanding to move us from ourselves to the mind of God.

The General shared in his article, ‘If Crosses Come’, “Let me take this opportunity to say that I hope and pray we will continue to make progress in the way we treat and think about officer colleagues who relinquish officership. Trials come. Some are unavoidable. It is not for us to stigmatise any colleague."

He also shared in his article, “The great 16th century religious reformer, Martin Luther, used to tell his students that it takes three things to form a minister of the Gospel: prayer, study and afflictions." The first two do not surprise us, but the third is unexpected. Luther was right. If we have never known affliction, how can we understand the lot and the lives of our flock?

This existential philosophy question is, in my view, at the heart of our concern; knowing the affliction/suffering, the experiential, the experiences of the individual. How a person experiences life is unique. Relating to others is possible, but only within the limits of shared experiences.

Dr. Sven Ljungholm
Former
Exeter, England

Sven was a senior executive working in the airline industry prior to becoming a Salvation Army officer at age 40. He served with his then wife in the USA, Sweden, Russia, and Ukraine being one of the pioneers who re-established The SA in the former Soviet Union. A90 minute TV special, "THIS IS YOUR LIFE", was broadcast in his native Sweden, and 3 other TV broadcasts (Sweden, the UK) have featured his SA activities. He was a frequent contributor to SA periodicals. Subsequent to resigning from The SA he completed his PhD at Moscow State University and taught for several years at Central Ct. State University, and in the MBA program at 2 other New England universities. Today he continues teaching university courses online and is an active soldier of the Corps at Exeter Temple working with the homeless, encouraging them in the restoration of their lives through weekly Bible Study.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

FILM REVIEW: MILK

“You can’t live on hope alone, but without hope, life is not worth living.” Harvey Milk

Thirty years after Harvey Milk was gunned down in office, his story has made it to the big screen, and at a time when the main cause driving Milk’s political career once again finds itself publicly embattled. Directed by Gus Van Sant and starring Sean Penn, Milk provides a sensitive, discerning portrait of Harvey Milk’s life and work.

To those unfamiliar with the history, Harvey Milk (Penn) was the first openly gay man elected to public office in the United States. A half-closeted investment banker in Manhattan, Milk moved in the early 1970’s to San Francisco, where he opened a camera shop. Moved to action by the city’s hostility toward its gay community, Milk decided to run for public office. After three failed campaigns, he was elected City Supervisor in 1977.

Though Harvey Milk is often seen as a larger-than-life figure, the film does not overly romanticize his story or turn it into a fable. Van Sant’s use of actual local news archive footage interspersed with shots of Milk recording his memoirs alone give the movie a distinctly journalistic feel. But it is the performances of Milk’s phenomenal cast that truly give the story its depth and add more dimension than can be gathered from the facts of history. Penn’s performance is stunning, capturing Milk’s famous charisma and sweetness without trying to make him look like a deity - or a boy scout.

The most significant achievement of Milk’s 11-month political career was his successful opposition to Proposition 6, a statewide measure that would have banned gays from teaching in public schools. The battle over Proposition 6 is one of the key events of the film and echoes the recent fight surrounding California’s Proposition 8, which barred same-sex couples from legal marriage.

Harvey Milk urged homosexuals to come out of the closet en masse, confident that showing the straight majority how many gay people they knew personally would go far in undermining their instinctive bigotry. “They’ll vote for us two-to-one if they know one of us,” Milk says in the film.

In the midst of battle, Milk is portrayed as a kindhearted leader. I was particularly moved by those scenes showing Milk’s quiet, reassuring conversations with frightened teenagers. It was in these moments that the film peaked in its humanity, stepping down from the political podium to give us a glimpse of the relief that arises from one-on-one acceptance. It is this acceptance that is the root of the gay rights movement.

I struggled to find my voice as I sat down to write this review. I knew that, given theRubicon’s readership, it couldn’t be just a film review; it called for some words of perspective on the church’s fractured relationship with homosexuality and homosexuals. It’s a topic on which Christians seem endlessly divided, both among ourselves and with the world outside the church. Though the Bible contains condemnations of homosexuality, many believers cite historical context as a reason not to lend those passages much weight. Many other believers argue that as the infallible Word of God, the Bible provides explicit commands for the Christian’s stance on social issues.

Were I a more informed biblical scholar, perhaps I could take refuge in the certainty of one side or the other. But I’m not.

So here is what I think: Harvey Milk is an inspirational figure because he offered hope to a fearful population. As Christians, we have words of hope to offer as well. Words from a God who loves his people - all of his people. Words that as his followers, we are obligated to do likewise. This is an amazing thing.

However, we can’t share these words of hope if we are unable to get within earshot of our listeners. And we can’t get close if we plaster “KEEP OUT” on our doors. I don’t think that we’re justified in using our faith as an excuse to exclude this part of the world from our fellowship. As Christians, we’re never excused from reaching out in love to our fellow man, whatever we perceive his flaws to be. Our faith may be powerful - powerful enough to move mountains, even - but if we don’t have love, we’re nothing (I Corinthians 13:2).

With that in mind, perhaps we should start our own movement - one to make the church a place of solace rather than judgment, one where ears and hearts are open rather than blocked shut by a fear of what we refuse to understand.

Reviewer: Lesley Carter is a copywriter and editor living in Atlanta, GA, USA. Growing up with Salvation Army officer parents laid the foundation for what would become a life spent searching for the true meaning of service and community - and how both factor into God’s purpose for her life. Lesley serves the Rubicon as a copy editor and our movie reviewer.

http://therubicon.org

Thursday, July 2, 2009

In a Phone With a Book at a Crucial Time

The first book I downloaded and read on Amazon's Kindle application for the iPhone was Mark Batterson's In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day. Batterson is a fellow pastor as well as a fellow author, and his excellent book couldn't have come at a better time for me. It renewed my soul, it challenged me, corrected me, and strengthened me. I couldn't recommend it more.

Batterson constructs the book on the story of the warrior Benaiah from 2 Samuel 23, in which Benaiah jumped into a pit with a lion on a snowy day...and won! He uses that slim account to write an entertaining and practical book on "How to survive and thrive when opportunity roars."

It's filled with tremendously quotable passages:

“Spiritual maturity is seeing and seizing God-ordained opportunities.”

“We tend to rank miracles. Almost like a judge at a gymnastics competition that ranks a routine based on degree of difficulty, we rank our prayer requests. We have big requests and little requests. We have easy requests and difficult requests. But that is a false construct. The truth is this: To the infinite all finites are equal. There is no big or small, easy or difficult, possible or impossible. When it comes to God, there are no degrees of difficulty.”

“Don’t accumulate possessions; accumulate experiences.”

“If you study the teachings of Jesus, you’ll realize that learning wasn’t his primary goal. His primary goal was unlearning. He was reverse engineering religious minds.”

“So here is my question: Are you living your life in a way that is worth telling stories about?”

“Too many of us pray as if God’s primary objective is to keep us from getting scared. But the goal of life is not the elimination of fear. The goal is to muster the moral courage to chase lions.”

“Don’t let what’s wrong with you keep you from worshiping what’s right with God.”

“Here is a novel thought: What if we actually did what they did in the Bible? What if we fasted and prayed for ten days? What if we sought God with some ancient intensity instead of spending all our time trying to eliminate His surprises? Maybe then we’d experience some ancient miracles. One of the spiritual highlights of the past year was putting this passage into practice at National Community Church. We fasted and prayed for ten days leading up to the Day of Pentecost. It was during that Pentecost fast that I identified seven miracles that I’m believing God for. You’re reading one of them.”

“Faith is embracing the uncertainties of life.”

“The genealogy of blessing always traces back to God-ordained risks.”

“Easy answers produce shallow convictions.”

“Is it just me or does it seem like some people act as if faith is the reduction of risk? They act as if the goal of faith is to eliminate risk so our lives are, in the worlds of the old hymn, ‘safe and secure from all alarm.’ Have you read the Bible lately? Faith is risky business. The goal of faith is not the elimination of risk. In fact, the greatest risk is taking no risks.”

“If you were to always act in your greatest self-interest, you would always obey God.”

“We need to stop criticizing culture and start creating it.”

“Most of us want our opportunities nicely packaged and presented to us as a gift we simply have to unwrap....But opportunities typically present themselves at the most inopportune time in the most inopportune place.”

“One of our greatest spiritual shortcomings is low expectations. We don’t expect much from God because we aren’t asking for much.”

“The Aramaic word for prayer, slotha, means 'to set a trap.' Prayer helps us catch the opportunities God throws our way.”

“In the business world, missed opportunities are called ‘opportunity costs’....Far too many people think of righteousness in terms of actual costs instead of opportunity costs....[But r]ighteousness isn’t just running away from sin. Righteousness is chasing lions.”

“Too many people in too many churches look too much alike.”

“David gives us a picture of pure worship. Worship is disrobing.”

In short (too late, I know), it's a really good book. And one I think God clearly intended for me to read at this point in my life and ministry. God, help me to be faithful to the vision of this book. Give us this day our daily lions.

Bob Hostetler is an award-winning writer, editor, pastor and speaker from southwestern Ohio. His twenty-six books, which include The Bone Box and American Idols (The Worship of the American Dream), have sold millions of copies. He has co-authored eleven books with Josh McDowell, including the best-selling Right from Wrong (What You Need to Know to Help Youth Make Right Choices) and the award-winning Don't Check Your Brains at the Door. He has won two Gold Medallion Awards, three Ohio Associated Press awards, and an Amy Foundation Award, among others. Bob is a frequent speaker at churches, conferences, and retreats.

Bob was ordained to the ministry in 1980 by The Salvation Army. He and his wife, the lovely Robin, served in The Salvation Army from 1980-1992. In addition to his training for ministry with The Salvation Army, he earned degrees in English Bible from Cincinnati Christian University and English Communications from Bloomfield College. Since 2000, Bob has also been one of the leaders of Cobblestone Community Church in Oxford, Ohio, which he co-founded with his wife and four friends.
He has been a disc jockey, pastor, magazine editor, freelance book editor, and (with his wife Robin) a foster parent to ten boys (though not all at once). Bob and Robin have two adult children, Aubrey and Aaron, son-in-law Kevin and daughter-in-law Nina, and grandchildren Miles and Mia. They live in Hamilton, Ohio.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

IT'S SPELLED: A F T E R C A R E...

When one's officership is terminated you should expect not one moment of aftercare from within the ranks of the Red and the Yellow and Blue. In our officership I was considered the sinner in need of severe discipline and my spouse the innocent victim, all based on rumor and falsehoods and some pretty creative thinking by the Chief Secretary for Personnel and others.

During a pre-termination interview by the Chief's appointee, the Army offered my spouse a guaranteed appointment if my spouse would end our marriage in divorce. Without compromise, THQ attempted to destroy our marriage. With this kind of "theology" and "ministry" at work, is it any wonder my spouse volunteered to resign? That was more than a decade ago and our marriage is thriving.

Following our termination/resignation, no one from our corps, no one from our division, no one from our territory, no one from our session kept in touch with us. In fact, no one made any move at all to minister to our needs, save one family of officers with whom we had close fellowship prior to officership.

The difficult to accept truth is that in some territories (ours was USA - South) THQ and DHQ officers have forgotten even the smallest of steps on how to minister to its officers. Some DC's and Area Commanders may be great administrators, but they are extremely poor shepherds, without any inclination towards compassion, forgiveness or grace. In some instances they are more akin to wolves than shepherds. Some have spirits so calloused that they terminated a couple's officership at the altar rail after hearing a sacred confession of repentence (this was not our situation; we witnessed this at an officer's councils in Kentucky-Tennessee in the early 90's).

If not for the counsel and ministry of a close pastoral friend from another denomination, our marriage would have been lost, condemned by an Army that wanted one one of us to continue to salute and go. In the past several months since opening my FaceBook page, I have come into contact with many former officers who experienced similar "beatings" by their supervisory officers, former officers who found comfort and solace and genuine ministry only from pastors of other denominations.

Former
USA South