Thursday, November 26, 2009

Womanist Theology PART -2-

African-American Officers; USA Eastern Territory

From: Journal of Aggressive Christianity, Issue 45, October - November 2006 21

I’ve especially appreciated the writings of Renita Weems, who definitely has the ability to “cross-over,” for she makes the leap from learned theologian to conversational writer, and she is able to use her African-American womanist background to speak broadly to women of varying ethnicities and backgrounds. Weems is currently the William and Camille Cosby Visiting Professor at Spelman College, and has spent many years on the faculty at Vanderbilt University. Weems has also been ordained in the African Methodist Episcopal Church since 1984. Of her ordination, she says, “I didn’t choose ministry so much as ministry chose me. I hope I heard correctly, but I can’t always be sure” (Weems 1999, 115).


Her personal story shines through her writing for women. Rooted in a small storefront Pentecostal church in Atlanta, she speaks of those days: Of course, education tends to make us look back at our conservative, working-class origins with contempt. In order to gain acceptance into the upper classes, in order to buy into academia, in order to move around in a class of educated clergy, for the sake of upward mobility, we must denigrate the people, the experiences, and all the
memories that shaped us . . .

Yet, Weems recognizes, that grounding provided her with “a heart full of hope which keeps me tiptoeing to the altar” (Weems 1999, 97).

Role in the Church

It may be too early to judge the impact of womanist theology on the church at large, and on the Black church in particular. Baker-Fletcher suggests that, “Black women and men can transform present existence by actively remembering and practicing the prophetic, generational wisdom of the past . . . in a way that is salvific and communal.” She also believes that its purpose is to “ remember the heritage of creative, prophetic wisdom in African-American culture “(Baker-Fletcher 1993, 8). Linda Thomas knows that “womanist theologians can bring the experience and knowledge of the marginalized to the center by standing aside to let the community speak for itself” (Thomas 2003, 2).

One of the questions to be answered, although it may be too early to do so, is this: Is womanist theology just a flash in the pan of the late twentieth century, or will it have value in the history of the church? Townes asks a similar question in a different form:

I think it telling that in this late modern/postmodern theological world academic denominational local church that the work of men and women of African descent, the work of other racial ethnic women and men remains off the radar screen of so many who declare what is perfect and imperfect in theological thought church doctrine and righteous living
our lives
our experiences of God
our strivings to understand the nature and work of the church
our yearnings for the spirit
our cries and shouts to Jesus
oddly enough remain categorized as drama or theater or “interesting’ some have noticed our absence in their thought
but have faulted us for not using the masters’ and mistresses’ tools with the same kind of ghastly precision they do to annihilate or obscure the vastness of God’s ongoing revelation and God’s eternal and unrelenting call to all of us to grow in grace from right where we have been planted to celebrate the richness found in being created in the image of a god who is quite simply limitless they have forgotten a cardinal rule that many of us learned in nursery school or perhaps kindergarten: sharing (Thomas 2004, 189-190).

Another question of importance is this: Can womanist theology impact the lives of the average church-going woman of color, or is it, like many other theological positions, potentially only for the theologians to discuss? How can it impact the lives of poor black women in the neighborhoods where Salvationists minister?

It will be up to scholars such as Renita Weems to find ways to communicate outside of the ivory towers of academia, as she had through her column in Essence and in her recent writings such as Showing Mary and What Matters Most, in which she has been
able to speak to every-day women about common life situations from a theoretical base of womanist theology. She, like Sojourner Truth, is finding ways for ‘keeping things going while things are stirring’” (West and Glaude 2003, 845). But it will also be the responsibility of the ordinary woman of color to tell her story, and so to keep alive the
tradition of faith and practice into the twenty-first century.

Practical Implications

While the Salvation Army is not considered a black denomination, in the US quite a number of its congregations are predominantly African-American, and so the lack of exposure to this way of looking at theology is of concern, even considering the Salvation Army’s conservative theological bent. Yet I am not a woman of color, so how can I
speak to this topic? In 1994, Jane Evershed coined a new term, “sisterist”. “To be sisterist is to recognize and celebrate diversity among women, to work towards a common goal regardless of race, creed, nationality, or sexual preference, to disregard social structures which place women in groups that separate them from each other”
(Baker-Fletcher 1998, v). As a white woman of relative privilege who has worked for a number of years among poor African-Americans, as much as I might long to be, I cannot truly be a womanist, but I can, by Evershed’s definition, be a sisterist, and I
would suggest that can be a start for those of us who minister across cultures.

We are able to adopt the spirit of womanist theology as described by Townes: [Womanist spirituality] is the deep kneading of humanity and divinity into one breath, one hope, one vision. Womanist spirituality is not only a way of living, it is a style of
witness that seeks to cross the yawning chasm of hatreds and prejudices and oppressions into a deeper and richer love of God as we experience Jesus in our lives…

This understanding of spirituality seeks to grow into wholeness of spirit and body, mind and heart – into holiness in God. Such cogent holiness cannot hold its peace in a world so desperately separate from the new earth (Riggs 1997, 190).

As Salvationist women in particular, we can also take courage from Weems, to be the kind of woman that she and her womanist sisters are, women who “know how to dive deep within and tap into the inner resources God has given them” (Weems 2004, 84). She reminds us that, “You have to learn how to focus your energies and intelligence on what you want” (Weems 2004, 90). Her belief that “You will never become the woman you want to become until you learn how not to disintegrate in the face of difficulty, learn how to stay focused despite whatever difficulties that come your way, and learn how to disarm difficult people” (Weems 2004, 93), is a powerful perspective to offer to those we work with. Her words remind us that although womanist theology may be a theoretical discipline, it is also a way of seeing God that gives hope to everyday people.

As a start, might I suggest two options for a better understanding of womanist theology. The first is to read one of the authors listed in the reference section or the paragraph on womanist theologians. The second is to seek out a woman of African descent and truly listen to her story – her hopes and fears and her love for Jesus. For it is in the stories of
real women who seek to grow into wholeness of spirit and body, mind and heart, that we find the essence of womanist theology.

JoAnn Shade currently ministers with her husband, Larry; they are C0-Directors of the Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Ashland, Ohio. JoAnn is a trained counselor who holds a D.Min. from Ashland Theological Seminary, where her doctoral thesis was on Women in Prophetic Leadership.

REFERENCE LIST: Available on request

Womanist Theology Part -1-


Journal of Aggressive Christianity, Issue 45, October - November 2006 19
I recently asked twenty women officers in the USA Eastern Territory if they could define the term “womanist,” and only two of the twenty could do so. That didn’t surprise me, for I had spent six years serving predominantly African-American congregations in Philadelphia and Cleveland in the 1990’s, but I wasn’t exposed to this term until enrolling in the Women in Prophetic Leadership track at Ashland Theological Seminary.

As Salvationists, all too often we find ourselves so busy in ministry that we lose track of the various theological ideas that are introduced in the years following our own training. This article is an overview of womanist theology and offers a few thoughts for its application to Salvation Army ministry, particularly among women of African descent.

The term ‘womanist’ is attributed to Alice Walker, writing in In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens, but aspects of womanist theology are as ancient as Hagar naming God, Vashti saying no, and the slave-woman Felicitas facing the death of a martyr. Carried forth in spirit on the lips of Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth, it began to have the hint of a theology (although still unnamed) in the writings of women such as Anna Julia Cooper, Maria Stewart, Mary Church Terrell and Ida B. Wells-Barnett. Cooper’s work in A Voice from the South is described as “forcefully arguing for the unmuting of Black women’s voice and the telling of their own stories so that everybody would know their precise status as told by them, and not by Black men or well meaning Whites” (Burrow 1998, 19). This, in essence, is womanist theology.

Womanist has its origins in “the black folk expression You acting womanish,” meaning, according to Walker, “wanting to know more and in greater depth than is good for one – outrageous, audacious, courageous and willful behavior.” A womanist is also
‘responsible, in charge, serious.’ She can ‘walk to Canada and take others with her.’ She loves, she is committed, she is a universalist by temperament” (Williams 1987, 68).

Defined early on as a black feminist or feminist of color, Walker uses the analogy that womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender (Williams 1987, 69). In doing so, Walker provided “a way of thinking, talking, writing about, and doing theology and ethics” based on the experience of Black women (Burrow 1998, 20).

William’s comments add theology to the definition. “Womanist theology attempts to help black women see, affirm and have confidence in the importance of their experience and faith for determining the character of the Christian religion in the African-American community” (Williams 1993, xiv). Thomas proposes that, “Womanist theology is critical
reflection upon black women’s place in the world that God has created and takes seriously black women’s experience as human beings who are made in the image of God” (Thomas 2003, 1). As an alternate explanation, Mitchem writes that womanist theology is “an opportunity to state the meanings of God in the real time of black women’s lives” (Mitchem 2002,60).

If a theologian is both black and female, does that make her a womanist? JoAnne

Marie Terrell would answer “no” to that question. She suggests that it is also necessary that “Black women entering the womanist enterprise commit to exploring further the Journal of Aggressive Christianity, Issue 45, October - November 2006 20 contradictions that shape their collective and personal lives in the spirit of critical inquiry and in the spirit of hope” (Terrell 1998, 188). Womanist theology is a way of thinking, feeling and living, rather than simply a school of thought.

While womanist theology owes much to feminist theological thinking, it has had its clashes with what has been seen as white, upper middle class privilege. Rosemary Radford Ruether addresses that perception:

Let me make clear that I do not think that white feminists, such as myself, are innocent of racism just because we have consciously adopted a certain rhetoric of pluralism . . . I still live in a context of race and class privilege that is automatically accorded to me no matter what my personal views may be . . . [Yet] I affirm a plurality of feminist theologies both in various Christian racial and cultural contexts and in various inter- religious contexts and I reject any dominant form of feminist theology that claims to speak for the whole of womankind (Thomas 2004, 57).


It would appear that in pointing out valid concerns regarding perspective, grace has not always been extended to the other. And of course, in comparison to women who live in poverty and/or in third world cultures, the privileged womanist of North America has the same difficulty as the feminist in attempting to find ways to cross those cultural divides and speak to all who live under oppression.

Voices of Note

There are many African-American women with a role in the on-going development of womanist theology. Names associated with womanist theology in the USA are Emilie Towns, Katie Cannon, Delores S. Williams, Cheryl Townsend Gilkes, Kelly Brown
Douglas, Shawn Copland, Clarice Martin, Francis Wood, Jamie Phelps, Marcia Riggs, Jacquelyn Grant, Karen Baker-Fletcher and Cheryl Kirk-Duggan. Thomas describes these women:

We are university, seminary, and divinity school professors. We are ordained and lay women in all the Christian denominations. Some of us are full-time pastors; some are both pastor and professor. We are preachers and prayer warriors. We are mothers,
partners, lovers, wives, sisters, daughters, aunts, nieces – and we comprise two-thirds of the black church in America . . . We are charcoal black to high yellow women
(Thomas 2003, 3).



JoAnn Shade currently ministers with her husband, Larry; they are C0-Directors of the Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Ashland, Ohio. JoAnn is a trained counselor who holds a D.Min. from Ashland Theological Seminary, where her doctoral thesis was on Women in Prophetic Leadership.

Books
Seasons: A Woman's Calling to Ministry published by Salvation Books, explores the life of women in leadership, drawing on the author's own 30 years of experience as a Salvation Army officer in the USA. Unique in the Christian world is the team-ministry concept, in which both husband and wife are ordained.Seasons explores the distinctive challenges faced by women in Christian leadership and provides theological and practical support through biblical character studies and wisdom gleaned from Shade's experience.

Heartwork of Hope: A Directed Journal
Major JoAnn Shade’s 2006 work published by Others Press, is designed to take the reader on a journey of discovery — through Scripture and quotations from a wide variety of authors, poetry and the experiences of the author herself — and into a deeper walk with the Lord.

This directed journal opens new possibilities for the soul to breathe the presence of God.”
— Elaine Heath, Ph.D., Perkins School of Theology

“A tool for discovering the ‘more’ that God has for you.”
— Lucinda Secrest McDowell, author, Spa for the Soul

“A treasure to mine and a trail to follow.”
— Jerry R. Flora, Th.D., Ashland Theological Seminary

Monday, November 23, 2009

THANKSGIVING

Admittedly an American holiday and not one we should be particularly proud of it is still a good day to consider thankfulness. Sitting at my desk this morning I decided to start a list to see how it progressed as the day went on. We’ll see how much I do or do not have to be thankful for.

1) My job. I really quite like it. It came to me thru a strange turn of events. I was in a situation where I was unable to learn database management (hey, I’m a business major and a TSA former, what do I know about db management) and was moved to a different job that changed dramatically between the time I interviewed and the time I arrived. Quite frankly, it was miserable. But I did what I do. I put on a cheery face and went in each morning and did the best I could. Meanwhile a new branch was being built not far up the road from my home. When I would drive by I would get out and walk around it and peek in the windows and try to figure out what the heck they were going to do in there. I did this many, many times just out of curiosity. When the construction crew was on site they would even let me wander inside the building. I was totally convinced that what is the conference room was a giant terrarium. I mean it was a science building and it had three glass walls. What else could it be? Then one day the VP for this area showed up at my desk and asked me if I would like to go work there. There were quite a few angry people who wanted the job themselves and told me so. Since it was never posted they never had the chance to apply which really irked them but it was me they wanted and me they got. And I needed that in my life. So here I am in this magnificent new facility surrounded by windows and sunshine. There are only six of us out here so the dramarama is low and the atmosphere is calm. Talk about God watching over me.

2) The students. Ann just stopped in to tell me about a problem with the Student Senate. Sometimes she brings me coffee. Sometimes she makes it in the break room for the other students. We have about a hundred students on site already. Some I never see. Some I see every day. Many I now know by name. The student drama has been very low as well in huge part by design. Again, a spectacular building and specially designed for the programs that are here. Huge, sparkling labs with state of the art equipment. They frequently bring in cupcakes and snacks and treats and seem to enjoy little parties on a regular basis. We provide them with a big lunch once a month.

3) Planning the parties. This month it’s wings.

4) Florida weather in November. Clear, cool, bright, sunny, slight breeze. This is the weather we move to Florida for but rarely have. Last night was in the low 50’s and today will be in the mid 70’s. Perfect for sure.

5) Coworkers from the main campus. Our advisor is a gem. Instead of me stumbling along telling someone info that may well be incorrect a mere transfer of the phone and voila….excellence.

6) Technology. I mean really, where would we be without it? Here I sit writing something that will fly across the sky this afternoon to Sven. He will fly it again to his site. It’s like magic and I like magic

7) Coffee. Fletch and I haven’t had a cyber coffee chat in a while. My brother drank his black. My dad drank his black. When I pour a cup I remember many people in my life past and present who drank coffee and I have a brief commune with their spirits.

8) Our construction crew. Yes, even though we are here we are still under construction. The first addition is almost complete but it requires an enormous amount of work that seems to go on right over my head and on into the ladies room. Honestly, I couldn’t make that up. Evidently that is the wiring path and I am mostly in the way but they are gracious and safe. Mostly. And the project manager, his assistant, and our liaison are all awesome. They are an absolute joy to work with.

9) Visitors. Today we have staff onsite from the main campus. They are here to photograph students in action in the labs for future brochures. One of them had not been here before so I got to take her on the tour. That’s always a fun thing for me.

10) UPS. My delivery guy actually is a bit crabby but, still, he brings cool things every morning.

11) Clothes. Having a closet with choices is not to be taken for granted. I have more than I need. I will cull and share the wealth with others via thrift store donations.

12) Home. That closet has to dwell somewhere. I love my house. It’s small and cozy and all about me and only me. It’s the perfect place to head to at the end of the day.

13) Girlfriends. The big girls are making plans for tomorrow evening dinner as we oft do on Friday. It’s when the single chicks get together for family night. In the last year we have split the group a little into the younger and older brackets so we could have a quieter evening. We still see the young ones just in different settings.

14) The same girlfriends including one of the young ones with a 4 year old. Because they are willing to do doggie duty for a day or two so I can visit with my sister and her granddaughter.

15) My sister, her son (he’s 29), his daughter (she’s 6). Always a delight to spend time with them. We will spend Saturday at the Pioneer Days at Chinsegut and eat funnel cake and hot dogs.

16) My car. Having the ability to run off for the weekend is something many do not have. I do not take that for granted.

17) Non friends. Yep, even them I am grateful for because they made me realize priorities and true friendship. I had to let some go. Too much negative energy and whining. It’s one thing to have a bad spell. It’s another to choose misery. I feel better out of their company.

18) Weddings. Last week a friend got married. Her father is Indian so it was traditional saris and garb. Her mother is Jewish so it was a traditional Jewish ceremony. The groom and his family are Christian so I was asked to take part by offering a Christian blessing.

19) Good health. The guy next to me has a migraine today. I’ve had and have my physical issues, some of them fairly substantial, but all in all I’m pretty well off. I do not take this likely especially since the death of a younger brother earlier this year.

20) Art. On my desk is a spectacular alabaster lamp. It was made by the artist we had do an installation for our grand opening. My boss purchased it and it will be here until she finishes painting her house. Lucky for me that will be a while.

21) Yogurt. Call me crazy but I eat the Greek stuff every day with fruit and granola. I have for years. I believe it is the perfect food.

22) Pink shoes. Today I am wearing pink shoes. They make me smile every time I look down.

That’s about it for now. And that was all in about an hour while I sat at my desk in between all the other activity. Given any length of time this could become quite a missive. I believe the blessings are there if you choose to look. In spite of American history I will celebrate Thanksgiving and recognize as many as blessings as I can, be they large or small.

Deb Taube
Former
USA East

Saturday, November 21, 2009

When the Answer Is N0 Part -2-


When the Time is Not Right

Few names in the Bible shine as brightly as the prophet Elijah. His story is set against the backdrop of a nation that had turned their backs on God, and had turned instead to the worship of other gods.
One day, Elijah challenged the prophets of the false god Baal to a contest on Mt. Carmel. The priests of Baal prepared an altar with a sacrifice on it, and both parties to the contest agreed that they would pray to their god, and whichever god answered by sending fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice would be declared the one true God.
The priests of Baal lost that contest when the God of Elijah answered the prophet’s prayer of faith by consuming the sacrifice Elijah had prepared. All the people fell to the ground, crying, “The Lord, he is God!” And Elijah routed the priests of Baal that day.

Soon thereafter, however, an exhausted Elijah began to worry about what Queen Jezebel might try to do to him in retaliation. He took off for the desert and, after a full day’s journey, came to rest under a tree.
“I have had enough, Lord,” he prayed. “Take my life.”

Elijah--the great champion of God, the great man of faith, the great prophet of Israel, prayed, “Let me die.” And God said no.
Why? Not because Elijah’s heart was not right; God did not rebuke his prophet as he had Moses and the children of Israel. No, Elijah’s case was different; it illustrates the fact that many times, when the answer is no, it is because the time is not right.
God did eventually answer Elijah’s prayer, in a manner of speaking. Not many days later, as Elijah and his new companion Elisha were walking along the Jordan River, the Bible says, “suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind” (2 Kings 2:11, NIV).
As it was with Elijah, so it may be with us. Sometimes, when the answer is no, we may find hope and encouragement in knowing that God knows best. . . and his timing is perfect.


When the Prayer is Not Right


Like Elijah and Moses, the Apostle Paul is another towering figure of faith. More than anyone else, Paul was responsible for the rapid and effective spread of Christianity throughout the civilized world of the first century. His inspired writings form the foundation of the doctrine of the church. Yet even this great apostle of God knew the frustration felt by a praying soul when the answer is no.

Paul once wrote to the Christians in Corinth,
To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9, NIV).

We don’t know what Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was. Some have speculated that it was a form of epilepsy. Others suggest it could have been an eye disease. Still others think it was a difficult wife! But whatever it was, it was an affliction that brought suffering and agony, and prompted Paul to pray three times for its removal. But God said no.

Why? Paul answers the question himself. Because the prayer was not right. Paul did not see--until God pointed it out to him somehow--that his “thorn in the flesh” was being used by God for a purpose.

The Apostle John wrote, “if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us--whatever we ask--we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:14-15, NIV). But, of course, we often ask according to our own wills. As James wrote, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives” (James 4:3, NIV). We tell God what we want, instead of asking what he wants. We promote our wills to him, instead of allowing him to promote his will in us. Consequently, often when the answer is no, it is because the prayer is not right.

God always answers prayer according to his righteousness, his timing, and his will. If we would make sure, when we pray, that our hearts are right, we might receive the answers we seek. If we submit to God’s timing, we will see him make everything beautiful . . . in his time (Ecclesiastes 3:11). And if we ask according to his will and not our own, “we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:14-15, NIV).

Thus, the solution to unanswered prayer lies not in changing God’s mind. . . but in changing how we pray.

Bob Hostetler at a recent book signing event.
Former Officer
USA East and NHQ

Bob Hostetler

Friday, November 20, 2009

WHEN THE ANSWER IS NO part -1-

My mother was hospitalized with cancer the summer of my fourteenth year.
Day after day that summer, I knelt at a crude altar at a church camp in Missouri, praying for her healing, begging God not to let my mother die.

God answered my prayer. The answer was no. She died September 29th of that year.
All of us can remember similar moments when we prayed, and God answered . . . with a no. And no matter how many testimonies of answers to prayer we may hear, no matter how many books we read or how many preachers we hear extolling the power of prayer, it’s the times when the answer has been “no” that stick in our minds--and in our throats.
But we are not alone. In fact, God’s Word records instances when the prayers of even the greatest saints of God were answered with a “no.”

When the Heart is Not Right
Moses was a man of faith, a man of prayer. It was he who had announced the ten plagues on Egypt. It was he whom God used to part the Red Sea. It was he who received the Ten Commandments from the hand of God. It was he who had led the children of Israel out of bondage in the land of Egypt right to the very threshold of the land of promise, the land of Canaan. Yet this man of God had a prayer that was unanswered.

After the Israelites had defeated the kings of Bashan and Heshbon, Moses told Joshua that God would give their people similar victories over all the kingdoms of the promised land. And then Moses described to the people of Israel the request he had made of God:

Let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan--that fine hill country and Lebanon.
But because of you the Lord was angry with me and would not listen to me. “That is enough,” the Lord said. “Do not speak to me anymore about this matter” (Deuteronomy 3:25-26, NIV).

God’s servant, standing at the edge of the promised land, nearly at the banks of the Jordan, prayed, “Let me go over.” And God said no.

Why? Because the children of Israel--and Moses himself, in fact--had disobeyed God, and that disobedience blocked the answer to Moses’ prayer. Many times, when the answer is no, it is because the heart is not right.
As Isaiah explained, “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2, NIV). We may be indignant when God seems not to hear our prayers, but often the fault, as Shakespeare wrote in Julius Caesar, is in ourselves. When the answer is no, we might ask ourselves if our prayers are being hindered because our heart is not right.

Bob Hostetler at a recent book signing event.
Former Officer
USA East and NHQ

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A LIBERAL RESPONSE -1-

This week (beginning 9th of November) in the UK has been designated ‘National Families Week’. There has been an emphasis on the diversity of the modern family, highlighting same-sex adoptions. This, as one can imagine, is highly controversial. Religious based adoption agencies are being threatened with de-registration if they do not allow same-sex couples to adopt, while conservatives are taking the opportunity to highlight the fundamental nature of the traditional nuclear family. Much of the controversy still rages around the ‘morality’ and ‘legitimacy’ of same-sex relationships and homosexuality in general. With this in mind, this article will attempt to outline – extremely briefly – my ‘liberal’ response to the question of homosexuality. It will touch on theology, statistics, science, and testimony. At no point will it attempt to be a definitive answer. The purpose is simply to point discussions in a particular direction, encouraging the serious enquirer to research themselves in the directions pointed.

Theology
As with all things relating to the church and Christian living, the best place to begin a discussion is from the Bible. The Bible has long been used to condemn homosexuality. But is it the Bible that is condemning it, or is it men and women’s desire to condemn it that they interpret the Bible in such a way?

We must first realise that the Bible was written many years ago, in languages that have been dead for many years. The culture in which it was written is as foreign to us today as that of the culture of space aliens if they were to reveal themselves to us. It is something that we gradually come to learn more and more about. As we come to understand the language, we realise that many traditionally translated documents were grossly mistranslated. Academics are constantly re-translating the classics, realising that previous translations were completely wrong. With this in mind, the same must be done with the Bible. There is no such language as Biblical Greek or Biblical Hebrew. There is Ancient Greek and Ancient Hebrew, and the Bible was largely written in these languages. As our knowledge of these languages increases, we need to re-translate the Bible. This is terrifying as it will inevitably lead to a major re-write of much of our theology.

When such a task is applied to passages which traditionally condemn homosexuality, we find they do not refer to homosexuality at all. Let me give two examples:

Leviticus 18:22 “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.” The word here ‘man’ is better translated as ‘Temple Prostitute’ (in the Hebrew tradition) or ‘Temple Priests’ if one were to use the template of Ancient Hebrew. The ‘Temple Priests’ were priests (men) who served the fertility god Ba’al. It was believed that by having sexual relations with them, one would be imbued with the fertility powers of Ba’al. If one wanted fertile crops, or a large family etc., or to remedy lack of crops or lack of children, one would ‘lie with’ one of these priests. In this context, we realise that Leviticus 18:22 has nothing to do with homosexuality, but everything to do with Idolatry.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 “9Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral ...... nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10...... will inherit the kingdom of God.” The phrase translated here as ‘male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders’ is ‘malakoi aresenekoine’. Literally translated (according to Ancient Greek – not Biblical Greek) it says ‘soft compassionate/effeminate men’. This makes no sense, until one realises that Paul was using common ‘slang’. In Pauls’ day, there had been a long tradition of what we today might refer to as ‘pederasty’ (although this doesn’t fully convey the full meaning). The practice was for older men to take young, pre-pubescent males from disadvantaged backgrounds, give them their name (backing), and financial support, so that they could escape their plebeian life and enter into public life. In return, the youths would provide sexual favours for the men. We know from the wealth of other ancient documents that ‘malakoi’ was a derogative term used to describe a male who dressed as a child, and made themselves look like a child, in order to maintain that ‘lifestyle’ of being ‘pampered’ by older men. In essence, a ‘malkos’ was a male who refused to grow up and take their place in society. They essentially ‘robbed’ the rest of society from the potential income they could generate and contribution they could make etc. This understanding makes far more sense given the context of the verse. Aresenekoine was the term given to men who encouraged such behaviour, and so encouraged men to be lazy and not contribute to society. To translate such passages as ‘homosexual’ is as offensive to homosexuals as it would be to women to use the word ‘wife’ interchangeably with ‘prostitute’. They are equally as far removed from each other.
The traditional translation of such passages is wrong. It feeds prejudice, and perhaps was willingly translated as such because it would seem to lend weight to a misunderstood expression of personhood. The important point here is that there are no verses that condemn homosexuality. Equally, there are no verses that support it either. But then again, there are no verses that condemn paedophilia, yet we do. One could in fact find passages that support paedophilia, or slavery, or genocide, yet we condemn them. The reality is that God gave us an intellect to enquire ourselves as to what is right and wrong, and to change our understanding as we mature.

Graeme Randall
Former
Australia

Links:

This is a religious website devoted to ‘religious tolerance’. It provides information and essays on various religious subjects from a liberal perspective. Very balanced, and not preachy.
http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_fixe.htm


This is a secular website giving up-to-date media articles, scientific research, and support information on gender development. Specifically aimed at the layman. A good resource for a basic, background introduction to the subject.
http://www.gender.org.uk/

Just Thinking | THE GHETTO RANT -4-

Here are a few ideas:

Teach good theology. Make every officer read Why Not Women? by Loren Cunningham to start. Not just the women - all officers. We must teach on this subject. If we don’t give proper theology, our officers will get it somewhere else. Most likely it will be the Baptists and most mainline Evangelicals teaching their own theology on women. This is important. What we think affects what we do. So this is not just a method problem; it’s a thinking one.

Use separate appointments/or separate tracking early. Follow the gifts and skills of officers. Do something easy to make this happen. Please don’t make another committee to discuss it. Just have married couples give a report of how they divide up the command and what their gifts are. It’s not rocket science. Get to know your leaders.

Dismantle the women’s ghetto. Put the women’s department where it belongs, in Program. Give officers appointments that match their giftedness and/or capabilities.

Dismiss officers who don’t work. Get on it. They are a drag on our system, our culture and our potential. It doesn’t matter their gender. Incompetence should be rewarded with a new job (just not with us).

Make it a must. Imbalance cannot be corrected without a counterweight. Create a reasonable minimum requirement of married women department heads in each territory. Do this for a minimum of five years to correct the initial imbalance. Whole countries do this in the workforce to create an equal setting from which the “best man for the job” becomes more than a literal description of what’s happening. We should be leading the world, transforming the culture, and this will only happen by intention.

Invite good married women officers to actually speak at non-women events. I know a few if you need some suggestions.

Most of all, let’s stop making excuses. Let’s stop pretending. Let’s be honest, real and practical about what to do. I know I sound passionate, but it is our whole future we are talking about here. Do I think God can’t use me outside of structure and system, promotions and process? Of course not!

But these days, it would appear that he simply can’t use me as General of The Salvation Army or any kind of department head, or anything that might insult my husband’s ego.

Let’s start partnering with God in His great design for The Salvation Army. Let’s really allow our workforce to grow in big proportions overnight and engage the enemy in a fight he hasn’t had to bear or to lose for a hundred years now. We did have him scared; now we have him sleeping. But I think if we started marching full strength, we could wake him with a fright. And he just might meet his end at last. Read Psalm 68:11 for details.
Writer: Capt. Danielle Strickland is currently the Social Justice Director of the Southern Australia Territory. She digs traveling, reading, running, speaking, basketball and movies. Her passion is grace, mercy and justice… and all the stuff in between. Her favourite question is ‘how hard can it be?’ and most of her days are spent answering it. (While waiting to enter Training College as an accepted Candidate, Canada, she helped pioneer the work in Moscow, Russia.)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Just Thinking | THE GHETTO RANT -3-

I recently saw a movie that reminds me of the situation. It was called Jarhead. I don’t recommend the movie, but it may offer us some advice. It was about some soldiers trained, equipped and sent to the front to fight in a war. The problem was that they were never deployed. The government that sent them wouldn’t give them permission to engage the enemy (they were caught up in political talks) and so the soldiers sat on the ground - trained, equipped and stuck.

Not able to engage the enemy - not able to shoot, fight or even die - they started doing other things. Trying to keep in shape, wasting time on the decorations in their bunkers, learning to cook in different ways and getting angry at each other. It was a picture of soldiers stuck. And every married women officer-leader lives the same reality. So we busy ourselves on the ground… taking courses, watching our weight, picking on each other, over-organizing every women’s event and project… all the while simply trying to create some meaningful existence for ourselves, convincing ourselves that it isn’t our fault that we can’t lead, but having no way to prove it.

Now I’ve had this conversation enough times with enough people to tell you the responses:

Why do you need to lead on a positional level… are you hungry for power? This suggests that every leader wanting to stretch her ability to lead is hungry for power. It is an argument already lost by the practice of many godly men who long to lead well and lead bigger to mobilize forces and take more ground for God. Stop insulting us by considering any godly ambition for women leadership to be a Jezebel-inspired desire for control. It’s embarrassing.

The women’s ministry department is a valid leadership area. Good one. If that’s valid, then why can’t even the top dogs in the ghetto qualify to lead the Army? And considering that any single woman General can simply add the duties of World President of Women’s Organizations to her other responsibilities as international leader of The Salvation Army, this hardly seems like a division that needs to stand on its own.

The Army’s great strength is in “team leadership.” Married couples should work together and the women shouldn’t need a position to be able to lead with her husband. Yeah, this one really works, except when it comes to any administrative position where there is only one head, and except when it comes to an organizational culture that dismisses women from the boardroom and power positions. It’s such a nice offer to let us women “influence” the final decision made by men anyway, but let’s be honest: no signing authority, no positional authority, and no real authority means no authority.

Don’t get me started on headship. Anyone who still holds to this view needs to read the Bible again. Here’s a hint: look deeper. Not only that, but our movement has already established Army theology (even if it remains unimplemented), so if you believe in headship limiting women leaders, join another movement.

It has the potential to wreck marriages. Nice marriage. There is nothing like a union that insists on one of the members stuffing her gifts and abilities down inside of her for fear of her partner looking smaller in light of them. This behaviour insults the purpose of marriage and makes men look bad. Grow up and get a healthy ego. Stop needing your women to be smaller than you to feel good about yourselves. Actually, to take a more pastoral note: get some counselling.

I’ve heard that there were once attempts to make some married women officers department heads, and one couple was called in to see if they would accept. This is insulting. I’ve never heard of a couple being called in to see if it was okay to offer promotions to men. Never. Ever. The marriage is never considered and often is compromised when it comes to promotions. Think about it. The Commissioner calls me up and says, “We’ve been thinking about promoting your husband but were concerned about how that would affect your marriage. Would it be okay with you?” Yeah, that’ll happen. But when it has potential to work the other way, we ask first and then call it off! What happened to equality… what happened to the greater work of the war trumping our personal preference? Come on.

Women don’t want to lead. To that, I would point out that the women’s ministry department in many territories have the most success at getting converts and then building disciples by making soldiers. This means that even from the ghetto, women are leading and leading well. Perhaps the shrinking program departments around the western world should take note. There might just be a married woman who could grow a whole programme department… imagine!

While I’m on this one… does it matter if a male officer doesn’t want to lead? Don’t sign up. Kick women out who don’t pull their weight. Don’t use lame women leaders as an excuse to paint us all with the same brush. It’s pathetic. Honestly, I’ve known some male officers who lack the muster to work hard… it doesn’t seem to make a difference on the ones who do.

Here’s the best one of them all: In many cultures and situations this is not culturally acceptable. I can’t help but chuckle as I imagine Catherine Booth in Victorian England scandalizing the country and even herself as she spoke the scriptures publicly for the first time. It was as counter-England in her century as you could find. Now come with me to America as 16-year-old Eliza Shirley leads the charge, or how about the Marechale opening the Army as a young woman in France. And on and on I could go. We have never been a culturally relevant movement; we’ve been the very opposite. We were a threat to the established church culture, we were a circus to the thinking class, and we were a sign and a wonder for the average person on the scene. When did we start thinking cultural sensitivity was our calling? If there is an evil part of culture, let’s do everything we can to offend it. I suggest that subjecting women to unequal treatment and opportunity is an evil to be challenged, not a relevancy to be followed. Let’s go buy ourselves some courage and return to the war ready to actually fight!

How do we change it? With so many women of bad theology and bad practice, how do we turn the tide now?

Writer: Capt. Danielle Strickland is currently the Social Justice Director of the Southern Australia Territory. She digs traveling, reading, running, speaking, basketball and movies. Her passion is grace, mercy and justice… and all the stuff in between. Her favourite question is ‘how hard can it be?’ and most of her days are spent answering it. (While waiting to enter Training College as an accepted Candidate, Canada, she helped pioneer the work in Moscow, Russia.)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Just Thinking | THE GHETTO RANT -2-


High Council 2006

Sure, a married woman might one day aspire to be married to a man that can take her to higher positions on the totem pole of the women’s ghetto. It may be a nice place for her - but it does not matter if she is qualified, able or even gifted for the appointment. Indeed, all the women ghetto positions in the world cannot offer a reasonable opportunity for women to learn, cultivate, or prove leadership qualities enough to get out of the ghetto.

I realize that I’m on dangerous ground. To even speak about these things so plainly will cause some leaders to consider me a whiner; will permit unsympathetic male officers to disdain me as a “femi-nazi”; and might persuade women who have bought into the ghetto and find comfort in it to treat me as a threat. But I think it’s time we, at least, spoke plainly.

Consider life as a married-woman corps officer, celebrated in our system as a front-line leadership position. She is free to teach, preach, lead and learn. She can sort out all her leadership skills alongside her husband and can “share the load” and work it out together. This is likely the most extreme freedom she will ever experience in her officership. This is, in actuality, the promise realized… but it’s all downhill from there. It is true that the organization chants in response to this rant: “See, look at the front line… look at the trenches - corps officers are married women. They are leaders. They are free.”

Here enters the illusion that eventually gives birth to the anger. Every successful corps officer has proved his/her leadership abilities on the ground and is thus considered able to offer leadership to larger areas of command. The problem is that the leadership at a corps level is only credited to the male officer.

“Oh, that can’t be!” you lament. “That’s not true - surely a shared leadership command would be credited to team leadership not just the male.”

But alas, it is true. Women leaders, even after proving themselves in front-line appointments as fully functioning, fully able, fully contributing corps officers - active in leading the corps council, community PR, corps structure and systems, leadership training, preaching and teaching and training - are most often sent to the women’s ghetto when their corresponding husbands are given a job that is directly related to their success as leaders on the corps level.

Then you never hear from married women leaders again - unless you head to a women’s retreat. It seems we can’t match our walk with our talk.

The cause of this current system of imprisoning effective women leaders for generations is unknown. Booth was known to promote married women according to their giftedness, not their married-ness. But even Booth ran into problems from the mainstream-informed officers in his ranks. In 1888, addressing a meeting in Exeter Hall, William Booth said, “We have a problem. When two officers marry, by some strange mistake in our organization, the woman doesn’t count.”

From what I can piece together, it has been a subtle yet increasing theological and systemic shift that has managed to render a huge section of the Army’s leaders unusable and at best very limited to the larger war front. The Army has hamstrung itself, fighting a war against a well-armed enemy with an arm and a leg tied behind its back.

Now, there are officers who believe that “headship” is a scriptural principle and as a direct result keep married women in submissive positions as leaders. Married women officers themselves often have been taught and continue to believe this lie. When I have challenged it, I realize that not only does the Army perpetuate it by its current system but has probably even taught it by previous practice.

I don’t have the space to dissect the necessary principles on women in leadership here. Suffice it to say, Catherine Booth did it a hundred and thirty years ago in a book entitled Female Ministry (which no recently commissioned officer, male or female, seems to have read), and recently Loren Cunningham (founder and president of YWAM) along with David Hamilton (Biblical scholar) offers a great overview of the new world-winning strategy called Why Not Women? Good question.

I’ve met many capable married women officers - and an alarming number of them are on anti-depressants. I’ve got a hunch they wouldn’t be if they weren’t so frustrated with their seeming ineffectiveness. The Apostle Paul offers that health in the body is in part due to letting people use their gifts. If someone has the gift of leadership, Paul suggests a good, godly idea - let them lead (Romans 12). I think he’s on to something.

Captain Danielle Strickland

Writer: Capt. Danielle Strickland is currently the Social Justice Director of the Southern Australia Territory. She digs traveling, reading, running, speaking, basketball and movies. Her passion is grace, mercy and justice… and all the stuff in between. Her favourite question is ‘how hard can it be?’ and most of her days are spent answering it. (While waiting to enter Training College as an accepted Candidate, Canada, she helped pioneer the work in Moscow, Russia.)

Just Thinking | THE GHETTO RANT

The Married Women’s Ghetto

So here’s the rub. There were many married women officers at the most recent High Council, and not one of them was nominated to be General. Do we think that out of all the women officers represented at the High Council, only single women have the gift of leadership? Are married women less capable, less inspiring, less able? Most would insist, with some trepidation, that no married women possess the experience necessary for the office of General. The rough part is this: they would be right. This problem is the result of what might be called “the women’s ghetto of The Salvation Army”.

When Martin Luther King, Jr. was trying to stand up for the rights of the urban poor in the northern part of the United States, he ran into a movement of young black ghettoized youth that had assembled themselves into an organization known as the Black Panthers. They were a group of militant young people so jaded and cynical that they scoffed at King’s non-violent protest methods. They wanted something extreme to be done about the injustice they endured - and they wanted it done now.

The injustice they experienced was somehow more humiliating than that of the black man in the south because it occurred in what was supposed to be the “land of freedom” - the north. Yet they found that, while they were technically free, they were still trapped and bound by their circumstances - stuck in a ghetto. Even though they could hear about the freedom and see the freedom and even sometimes taste the freedom, they couldn’t live it. This infuriated them.

Today, the outlook of married female officers bears resemblance to that of the black ghettoized youth in the north. They are told they are free - and indeed they are free in many respects. They are free to learn, to grow, and to lead on a basic level (especially as corps officers). But they cannot have the freedom to truly lead in the full potential or capacity they offer in the current system of The Army because of the “women’s ghetto.”

By women’s ghetto, I mean that part of The Salvation Army’s infrastructure that allows men to exercise leadership within the formal system while deploying their wives into corresponding positions over other women in a weird parallel universe. In this corporate structure, a woman’s end goal is to be married to a Commissioner - and to ultimately be the wife of the General.

It has no bearing on the election of a General whether or not his wife is even good at her job - as the position is not functional, but positional. By this I mean that it is not a merited position and is not considered an appointment providing leadership experience to become General (in fact, the wife of the General is the only Commissioner not allowed to attend High Council!).
High Council 2006

Captain Danielle Strickland

Writer: Capt. Danielle Strickland is currently the Social Justice Director of the Southern Australia Territory. She digs traveling, reading, running, speaking, basketball and movies. Her passion is grace, mercy and justice… and all the stuff in between. Her favourite question is ‘how hard can it be?’ and most of her days are spent answering it. (While waiting to enter Training College as an accepted Candidate, Canada, she helped pioneer the work in Moscow, Russia.)

Abortions on the basis of gender

MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND SOCIAL AFFAIRS, SWEDEN

On Wednesday the opening speech was by Health and Social Affairs Minister Göran Hägglund at the Midwives Association's annual conference.

- If man were a utility creature, one who constantly calculated every little move, weighed it against other features solely based on how it serves a self, considering each neighbor based on what he can bring in benefits, then society would be in trouble, "said Göran Hägglund and continued.

- If she were a creature of each of these so-called useless spiritual, social and cultural values all the time would be taken apart to see what was the most logical and practical, then it does not matter how technologically advanced we were. We would not be much more than intelligent animals

- "There are values that are universal in all countries. Or rather, should be. In China, it has for many years been the system to eliminate fetuses that are known to be girls, preferring to have boys as children. That is nothing more than a mockery of the idea of equal value. We should be very careful to take a stand against this trend in Sweden," he said.

In his speech Göran Hägglund highlighted the importance of the midwives' important role as team leaders in a number of open parenting courses offered in maternal and child health centers. In addition, he highlighted the government's extra investment in developing countries, maternal health and reducing maternal mortality. SEK 100 million from the aid budget for 2009 is earmarked for accelerating the development. A large part of the speech however, was devoted by Hagglund to criticize gender-selective abortions and the commercial philosophy, or utilitarianism - that people are valued based on the benefits they bring to society - as Thursday's speaker, Professor Torbjorn Tännsjö will cover.

Hägglund grew up in the Pentecostal movement, but is now a member of the Church of Sweden. He is married and has two children.

Jacob Rudolfsson (translated: s. ljungholm)

jacob.rudolfsson @ varldenidag.se

New Chief of the Staff Announced by General



General Shaw Clifton appoints Commissioners Barry and Sue Swanson respectively as Chief of the Staff and World Secretary for

I am pleased to advise that, following extensive consultation with senior Army leaders, both here at International Headquarters and further afield, I have decided to appoint Commissioners Barry and Sue Swanson respectively as Chief of the Staff and World Secretary for Women’s Ministries. These appointments are effective from Saturday 1 May 2010. Commissioners Swanson are officers of the USA Central Territory, currently serving as territorial leaders of that territory.

Commissioner Barry Swanson takes up his appointment as Chief of the Staff in succession to Commissioner Robin Dunster who, at the time of her retirement in May 2010, will have served as Chief of the Staff for four years, and as a Salvation Army officer for forty years. Tribute will be paid to the commissioner’s service in separate correspondence.

Commissioner Sue Swanson takes up her responsibilities as World Secretary for Women’s Ministries in succession to Commissioner Lyn Pearce, who will enter retirement. We thank Commissioner Pearce for her valuable contribution to the work of the Army’s women’s ministries, and a more detailed expression of thanks will be recorded in separate correspondence.
Commissioners Barry and Sue Swanson became officers in 1978 and served in corps and divisional appointments in their home territory for the next twenty-one years until, in 1999, they were appointed to lead the work of the programme department at territorial headquarters. Four years later they became Chief Secretary and Territorial Secretary for Women’s Ministries in the USA Central Territory – followed, in 2006, by appointment to National Headquarters as National Chief Secretary and National Secretary for Women’s Ministries. In 2007 Commissioners Swanson came to International Headquarters as International Secretary and Zonal Secretary for Women’s Ministries, the Americas and Caribbean zone, prior to being appointed to their present responsibilities as territorial leaders in the USA Central Territory.

Commissioners Swanson return to IHQ with a commendable record of commitment to Salvation Army service and ministry, and I believe their contribution on the international scene will enrich the Army world and thereby the cause of Christ.
May God bless the Chief of the Staff-designate and Commissioner Sue Swanson.

Shaw Clifton
General

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

FIRST EVER FSAOF TEA FELLOWSHIP; AT THE CONGRESS !!!

All Former SA officers are invited to join for fellowship at the Cafe' in Colston Hall, Bristol, at 4:00 PM on Saturday Nov. 14. Refreshments are courtesy of the FSAOF... feel free to contribute a few pennies.

Please RSVP to Sven Ljungholm; selmoscow@sel.com in order that we can reserve space. Please feel free to bring a friend and family. Kindly share your name and the total number in your party. Sven, 6'6" and his wife Glad (much shorter; normal height and weight), both in uniform will be at the Cafe' door to greet you. Please share this information with all former officers- invite them even if they don't have time to RSVP.

Welcome !

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

LETTER FROM LATVIA; FSAOF PROJECT !

Nov 10, 2009

Dear, Brothers and Sisters in the Former SA Officers Fellowship,

We have completed calculating our needs against your donation. I would suggest that the generous contribution is earmarked for school lunches for children living in; -Sarkani -Seda -Drusti, LATVIA.

Seda is north of Skangale and it's the same SA officers and the same activity as in the town of Sarkani.
Drusti is also in the same area, about 1.5 hours northeast of Riga, the capitol.

We expect that the FSAOF contribution will cover the cost of all school meals for these children until school ends in May, 2010, six months from December 1 this year.


Blessings,
Peter Baronowsky
Regional Commander


------------------------
FSAOF Colleagues,

An additional donation will be sent in the days ahead of $1,000.00 to provide each child with a warm winter coat, and a SA sponsored Christmas party in each town. Any assistance in meeting our donation target is welcome !

Happy Thanksgiving...

AN ALL TOO COMMON SIGHT WELCOMING CHILDREN HOME FROM SCHOOL...

Monday, November 9, 2009

MRS. MAJOR N.O. ALLOWANCE - PART 3-

It t is unlikely that the above statement regarding status would be repeated publicly, as it is not one that current leadership would be able to defend. Yet this foundational position, built upon an unequal view of officers based simply on the marital status of a woman, leads to a sense of cognitive dissonance (an inconsistency between attitudes or behaviors), so that something must change to eliminate the dissonance. To resolve this dissonance, a woman can decide to ignore the lack of compensation, accepting it as ‘just the way it is,’ one of the quirks of the organization that simply has to be accepted. Or, she can receive the message that she is not equal to her husband, and begin to live that out as a self-fulfilling prophecy that keeps her from reaching her full potential in ministry.

While transcribing interviews done with women clergy in a variety of settings, a young woman noted her reaction:
I was struck most by the oppressive silence of the promising, bright voices who had left local church ministry. I thought of the gifts and graces the church was losing out on because of its fear of change. One phrase kept coming to my mind when I would think of women leaving: the gifts of God for the people of God are being rejected.

Because of the dual clergy requirement, the Salvation Army may not see an exodus of women as a result of this factor, but it is likely that their commitment to the ministry may not be as whole-hearted and healthy as possible. The Salvation Army is sending a message to its married women officers through this policy, and, at least in some cases, the church is losing out on the gifts and graces they bring to the table.

Implications for the Future

In regards to the growing emphasis on social justice within the Army, it is difficult to fathom that organizationally the Salvation Army would work for the rights of women, and yet within its own camp, this unjust policy continues to be practiced. Is this one of the “sin in the camp” concerns that General Clifton alluded to in his comments early in his role as General?

Change
S
o how to address this? Changing a policy that has seemingly served the organization well for many years is difficult, but not impossible. It begins with an understanding of how the policy affects the families of married officers. This matters far beyond the issue of money.

It starts with an acknowledgement that both the husband and wife are officers. They both sign the Undertakings of an Officer, with its language about an allowance that is provided to officers. They both are subject to assignment, and they both are expected to fulfill certain obligations in regards to their appointments. Although the woman is theoretically a volunteer (IRS), she is expected to abide by the regulation that forbids remunerative employment. As such, they both should receive an allowance as compensation for their service.

It appears as though the financial differential of having the allowance in one name, versus being distributed between the spouses, is minimal upon retirement (one example indicates, less than $30 per month). If the largest financial loss is at the time of the death of one spouse, is that simply reflective of what people in the United States face? If the Salvation Army has a married couple who works for the organization as employees, that is what they would experience. And, within the mindset that what is being provided is a living allowance, it would seem as though a single person would need less income than two people. Currently, it appears as though compensation in retirement is more than adequate in the US, and if it is not, provision could be made in individual situations in the same way that this has been done in the past for those who were receiving less than a minimum standard.

As a personal response, I have been an officer for thirty years. I work at least 60 hours a week. I handle our family’s finances. Yet I report no income on our income tax form, and receive a statement from the Social Security Administration yearly indicating that I haven’t worked over the last thirty years. I am a strong, confident woman who is fully involved in ministry, and I haven’t allowed the lack of financial compensation or the perceived stained glass ceiling to keep me from doing what I feel called to do.

Yet I also listen to the voices of women officers across the county, and this topic is seen again and again as one large piece in the puzzle of their role within the Army that needs to be solved and resolved. While women have not (yet) followed in the footsteps of the suffragettes and chained themselves to the gates of the Centennial Memorial Temple in New York, the undercurrent of restlessness and sorrow is stirring among many officer women. The compensation issue is seen as symbolic of the lack of leadership opportunity, and a sense of being second-class citizens within the Army. These women are products of their culture. They have been raised in a world that has been changed by the work of civil rights and feminism, and they see themselves as equal partners in ministry, only to bump up against this policy.

Upon entering SFOT in 1976, I was aware of this policy to some extent, but I thought, perhaps naively, that it was only a matter of time until it was corrected. I had no idea that more than thirty years later, it would still be in place. We cannot allow this to be a money decision. We cannot allow this to be a legal decision or one of personal preference. It is time to do what is right, what is ethical, and what reflects the biblical call to social justice.

Postscript: Since this essay was written, I have had personal conversation with Salvation Army leadership that indicates that this policy is being reviewed and will be changed at some time in the future. However, I’ve seen no verification of that information in writing or how it will be accomplished.

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.

Friday, November 6, 2009

MRS. MAJOR N.O. ALLOWANCE -PART 2-


When All Doesn’t Go Well
While both officers remain active and healthy, the social security question doesn’t have immediate impact as they have no need to draw upon those benefits. However, the following scenarios are examples of when this becomes problematic:
The death of the married female officer leaves the husband without social security benefits for their minor children, while if the husband dies, the wife does receive those benefits. While it might be argued that if the officer remains active, they are taken care of through the allowance system, a widower with young children may determine that active officership is not possible, and is left with fewer resources based sorely upon his gender.

The disability of a married female officer leaves the family without any income from social security for her, as well as potentially without medical coverage, again of particular importance if the couple needs to leave officership. In similar situations where early retirement is necessary, if it is due to the wife’s disability, no social security income is available to the household, but in the reverse case, the family can receive social security income. (It’s my understanding that a recent test case has allowed for social security payments to the woman officer).

A recent case in another territory involved a married woman officer who needed a kidney transplant. Because she had not worked, she was not eligible for a medical program that provided full coverage for medications. A male officer with the same situation was able to take advantage of that program.

It also raises the question as to whether any income is accessible to the married woman in retirement, either pension or social security payments.

The lack of income and work history can make employment, home ownership, and credit rating difficult for a woman who leaves officership, especially if the marriage does not remain intact.

Couples who would like to retire based on the age of the older spouse are unable to do so financially (at least prior to the husband reaching 62), if the older spouse is a woman. Therefore, Salvation Army officer women are serving past retirement age, to the age of 68 or 70. This has many implications, including struggling with poor health, stress-related illness and death, and one as simple as giving up precious years being near grandchildren.

On Shaky Ground
The current social security policy is based partly upon an opinion by the US Treasury Department (1957) that restates the Salvation Army’s information to the IRS that the service of the wife of a Salvation Army officer is gratuitous, and that she is considered to be a volunteer worker. It also affirms the position that she may render little or no service, or may devote full time to the religious and charitable work. “Like wives of ministers of other denominations, wives of Salvation Army officers are expected to assist their husbands in their religious and charitable work.” It is clear that in this decade, that statement is no longer valid, just as the expectations of clergy spouses is quite different than it was fifty years ago.

It is unlikely that this written statement could be used by a woman in conversation with divisional leadership to support her decision to volunteer in other ways, to choose not to participate in divisional activities, or to attend a different church. In fact, in contrast to this written description, there are many married women officers who have an assigned appointment, and the expectation is that they fulfill that role as is publicly posted in the Changes of Appointment.

-PART 2 of 3-

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.

MRS. MAJOR N.O. ALLOWANCE -Part 1-

The current Salvation Army (USA) policy on allowances for married officers which provides for one allowance that is in the husband’s name is one that has been in place for many years, with varying impact upon Salvation Army families and individual officers, particularly married women officers, who make up approximately 45% of the officer corps. The common rationale for the current policy is that it maximizes the financial benefit for married officers in retirement, but the downside to that policy has implications that I believe outweigh any possible financial advantage. As a policy, it is built upon cultural assumptions regarding the roles of women that are not accurate in this century.

Imbalance of Power.

When one spouse receives no compensation for the work she does, this can lead to an imbalance of power within the marriage relationship. If the Salvation Army supports the theological position of egalitarian marriage, then its policy would appear to be in opposition to that position. Orders and Regulations for Officers, as modified 5-31-2002, indicates that “married officer couples should recognize the individual vocation of each spouse, whether their ministry be joint or separate. Each should honour the officership of the other by giving consideration and support to the other’s personal well-being, spiritual development, calling and fulfillment in service.” When only one of those spouses is the recipient of compensation for that ministry, a message about the value of that service is sent to both spouses.

It is well documented in the literature regarding family violence that one of the prime factors in an abusive relationship is the limiting of resource to the spouse (in most cases the wife). For relationships that are troubled, the lack of separate financial resource for the wife is of concern. While it is hoped that most officer marriages have a modicum of health, experience proves that not to be true in all cases, and there are known cases where Salvation Army women were subject to on-going abuse that was multiplied by their lack of access to money.
Compensation for Work

In contemporary American culture, people are compensated for the work they do. That is a simple fact of life that is reflected in the popular culture, as well as in income tax reporting. Most women work outside the home, and those who chose to remain at home, particularly when the children are young, make a financial sacrifice in order to do so. While the language in the Undertakings for an Officer speaks to the fact that there is no contract of employment with an officer, and that the officer’s allowance is not a wage, salary, reward or payment for services rendered, there still is the recognition that this is compensation as a minister of The Salvation Army (as recorded on the 1099 tax form).

An officer is covered by worker’s compensation, and certainly if an officer refused to work, he or she (single women do receive compensation) would not be able to draw an allowance check forever. There is an expectation that an officer “show up for work,” and that expectation applies to men and women, although it is recognized that there is some flexibility for women with small children in the home. Women who are married to a Salvation Army officer in the US must also be an officer, and cannot choose to seek other employment, being expected to perform some tasks in regards to the appointment. Outside of the corps level, women are given separate appointments and expected to do the work associated with those appointments.
One argument that surfaces during discussion around this subject is that some – many – married women officers are not fully active in their appointments. While that may be true of some women, it may also be true of some men. However, an informal survey of married officer women in the NEOSA division in 2003 indicated that the average work week (self-reported) of those responding was 62 hours per week. It is also to be noted in regards to this argument that the work traditionally done by women as officers may be less defined than that of men, and may take place outside the corps building to a larger extent than does that of the traditional male role, particularly if that role is administrative in nature.

When considering scriptural teachings on work and compensation, Paul speaks of the need to work if one wants to eat (II Thess. 3:6-13), while the Proverbs 31 woman is valued for her work ethic. While it may seem a simplistic comment on this topic, in speaking to the seventy-two (Luke 10:1-7), Jesus affirmed that “workers deserve their wages.” Given that in Christ, there is neither male nor female, it is likely that his words would include married officer women within today’s culture.

- Part 1 of 3 -

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.