Thursday, April 29, 2010

Broken Covenant…? -1-

The early Saturday morning drive was marked by a brisk fall breeze as I got into my 2004 Honda Civic to visit Sue (not her real name) at the rehab center 40 minutes away. A couple of weeks ago she showed up with her mom at our little ‘home church’. Mom traveled 30 minutes up the Garden State Parkway, desperate for something or someone to help her beautiful 19 year old daughter kick her crack addiction.

We didn’t have any money, no food, clothing or rent assistance to give. While I am sure they could have used all of these services they weren’t the purpose of their visit. That evening huddled in our living room we shared the only thing we had to give…His name is Jesus. They came back the next week and asked for a Bible. We have been focusing on the importance of staying in the Word every day.

As I drove to see her I knew there would be no one to approve a voucher for my gas expenditure, there would be no one asking for an account of my visitation schedule, and instead of catching some extra sleep Monday morning, I would be back at my little office working the first of 2 jobs in order to pay our bills.












I walked past the guard at the door, dressed in my 15 year-old sports jacket, purchased prior to one of the Officer Family Life retreats our family was privileged to attend. He looked at me and said, “Salvation Army Man” My immediate response was, “Yes” then that changed to, “Not any more”

Where did he know me from, how did he connect me with The Army? Maybe it was the 4 year-old navy blue pants I was wearing that got hours of use while serving in the Salvation Army canteen following Hurricane Katrina? Perhaps it was the Bible in my hand, yea, I carried it everywhere as an officer, and it has my name embossed on it.

As I sat through the required 1 ½ hour orientation before seeing Sue that was led by 2 Nar-A-Non mothers, who volunteered to share their own journeys about their loved ones addicted to drugs, I wondered what it was that tipped him off to my 21 years as an officer.

The visit with Sue went great.


Blessings!



Jeffery Bassett

Jeffery is the Founding Pastor of Living Water Church Ministries. He has a BS in Bible and MS in Organizational Leadership from Philadelphia Biblical University where he teaches as an adjunct professor. Jeffery is employed full time by the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association where he serves as the Director of Development.
Living Water Church Ministries
1813 Central Avenue
Wall, NJ 07719
USA 1-732-280-1690
pastor@livingwaterchurchministries.org

Sunday, April 25, 2010

I Believe in Hope.

At one time I had over 600 ‘old’ Salvation Army books because I am fascinated by Salvation Army History, not just the good bits either. So every time we moved I seemed to have more book boxes than anything else and I will confess that it did become a bit of an obsession. People were always giving me bits and pieces; at one time I was given the original leather bound copy of O&R’s for Staff Officers that belonged to Arthur Arnott, I was given badges that were over 100 years old, and a Chinese coin that was the final one from a cache buried in the Training College grounds in Peking before the Army was forced to leave, and so much more that I just wonder how I carried it all round, but everything had a story behind it and if I knew it I was happy to tell it to whoever would listen.

It is nearly 20 years since I was promoted to the rank of ‘former’ and as needs be much of the collection has been passed on to others in various forms. What do you do with an almost complete set of ‘Musicians’ newspapers from the Australian Southern Territory? Except boast to your kids that I am in a picture of the massed Songster Brigade and hear them say ‘that couldn’t be you because that person has hair’! However I still have a few pieces that just cannot bear to part with.


One of these little gems is a small book by Lieut. Commissioner Gustave Isely called “I believe in Hope”. Chapter 11 tells of his first Corps; Hawick in Scotland. After commissioning it took three days to reach Hawick by a coal steamer up the North Sea Coast, and then a train trip. He describes it as a very traumatic trip in the extreme, but they arrived and for 6 months they laboured with the small congregation of 13 soldiers, a married woman and her 12 daughters. It was not a happy appointment with his Captain leaving the appointment to go home (becoming a ‘former’) and trauma after trauma seemed to dog the officers in this appointment. The Corps was left almost as they found it and Gustave went on to a long and significant ministry with the Army.

Many of us have been there in spirit if not in reality and we could tell tales of pain and agony in some places that an old FS once told me if Jesus was appointed CO here, He would struggle as well. However what struck me about this narrative was the last paragraph of this Chapter; allow me to quote...

“Twenty eight years later, while in London, I was invited by the officers to visit Hawick. There I found a prosperous corps, a fine hall, a band, a songster brigade, good congregations, all the things we had lacked. I felt humbled, and still feel humbled that God chose for Himself better work-men than ourselves to sow the land, and that, without us, a rich harvest had been produced.”

There is often within a forum like ours a tendency for the negatives aspects of the Salvation Army and its officers take centre court in our thinking, but here was an officer who seemed to have a different perspective on his place in the scheme of things. My active involvement in the Army is 20 years old but recently I have been reading some of the blogs the young officers are writing and when I look at what they are thinking and the love they have for the Army and its ministry in areas that I had absolutely no idea of, I am just so impressed and filled with pride hope for the future. As I have focussed on what some of our ‘younger officers’ are talking about it provides for me the perfect counterbalance to what in some places seems to be Henny Penny and the ‘Sky is Falling’ thinking.

Gustave Isely’s book is called ‘I believe in Hope’, and I do. He talked about his experience at Hawick as “I was enriched for life by lessons to be learned only in the school of vicissitudes.” But from the vantage point of time was able to see it all in context. I want that experience for me on an ongoing, daily basis so that I can know success, not because of what I have done or not done but simply because of ‘who I am and what I believe’.

Fletch
Peter Fletcher
Former
Australia

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Should Christians Become More Strident?


In her blog at The Daily Telegraph today, Christina Odone suggests that Christians ought not to be so passive in the face of increasing persecution for their faith. Her post is entitled: "In face of persecution from the chattering classes, Christians need to be as strident as Muslims."

"Afraid to be a Christian? Who can blame you? The authorities, the media and the chattering classes are forever trying to run you down. We don’t have to brave the Colosseum, with its rapacious lions; we don’t have to wear an identifying badge; or meet in secret – yet.

But there is no doubt that many are afraid to be Christian. They will watch anxiously today as Shirley Chaplin will fight the NHS in an employment tribunal. Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust has tried to ban Mrs. Chaplin’s wearing a cross, claiming it was dangerous. (Who staffs this Trust? Vampires?) Mrs. Chaplin refused to take off the cross and is now battling for her right to wear a symbol of her faith. Some of the highest ranking Christians in the land have come out in her favour – and widened the debate to the persecution of all Christians in this country.

High time, too. Prejudice against the majority faith is everywhere: from the BA check-in counter to the school, from the hospital ward to the Town Hall. In fact, it’s even in church. When I was invited to speak at St Martin in the Fields for a Christmas Carol Service two years ago, my speech was banned as deeply offensive. I had written about persecution, injustice and fear.

Had I been describing the suffering of blacks during segregation in America, or the unfair treatment of Indians under the Raj,or the plight of British Muslims after the Britain’s 7 July bombings I would have been welcome. But I was describing anti-Christian bias.

Our culture has grown increasingly hostile to God and his followers. Support for a minority faith – Judaism, say, or Islam – is justified when that faith is regarded as essential to ethnic identity. But when that faith is the majority faith, the faith, predominantly, of the white middle classes, then the standard reaction is of hostility.

The same liberal chattering classes who will spring to your support if you are campaigning on behalf of gays, Muslims or women will turn a deaf ear or worse, issue abuse, if you are agitating on behalf of Christian rights. This explains why even high-profile figures like Tony Blair and Jeremy Vine have admitted they were wary of coming out as Christians.

When even these people think twice before revealing their links, what hope is there for the rest of us ?

Perhaps there is a solution. We should be more like Muslims, who are self confident, strident and constantly haranguing authorities if they suspect an anti-Muslim bias. No one dares mess with them."

Cristina Odone is a journalist, novelist and broadcaster specialising in the relationship between society, families and faith. She is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Policy Studies and is a former editor of the Catholic Herald and deputy editor of the New Statesman. She is married and lives in west London with her husband, two stepsons and a daughter.

Friday, April 16, 2010

MUST WE LEAVE THE DEAR OLD FLAG?

I was, until very recently, an active officer. There have been some unfortunate turn of events for us here in our Territory in recent weeks. We had begun a very informal discussion with our Divisional Commander about trying to be creative in corps ministry, specifically with regards to offering to be tent-makers as well as work through some theological convictions about leadership. Our corps is in a poor urban area and was running at a major deficit, around £44,000 ($68,000.00) per year with an income of little more than £2000...and even that was very difficult to raise! We were offering to find outside employment to help offset budget burdens, but also seeking to pioneer ways for the future patterns of ministry, which may prove to be more sustainable in the long term. We were also trying to say that program based ministry in several post-Christendom inner city communities were not working, which we have proved in these last two years. The DC was willing to explore all this but we were very much aware that he himself was moving. It didn’t leave us with much hope.


We hastily felt at that time such concern that our main 'hope' in the situation was moving out, and having already spent so much energy and effort to raise funds, compromise on program issues and build an inner city corps with basically my wife, me and two soldiers, we felt at a complete loss. Our passion for the Lord and for the mission of the Army has not waned but we just could not see a way forward without becoming increasingly exhausted and frustrated by the whole experience. We could see so clearly what needed to happen for things so progress but feared there was just a lack of time and support to see things move on. We offered our resignation because we didn't know what else to do. It totally went against the grain of who we are.


After receiving our resignation letter, we spoke further with our DC who offered that we should write our vision for ministry down and send it to the Secretary for Personnel, who would be coming to see us the following week so that there might be some discussion. So that document, along with some convictions we were trying to work through were forwarded to him at THQ. In the documents, we offered how we could see things progress. The SP came to visit, however what followed was just so heart breaking. We found to our utter dismay that he had not, in fact come to talk about a way forward, but to conduct our exit interview. He said that he had spoken with a few people at THQ about our proposals and that they had said; 'nothing was available to us.' This broke our hearts...not just because they had nothing for us, but also because it felt as if the Army were just willing to let us walk away so easily without at least some discussion of the issues.


Having shared our heart and more than one or two tears, the SP conceded that he would go back to THQ and engage in more talks. A few days later, we received word asking if we would consider an appointment which would also leave us free to begin planting a corps organically in the community where we lived in, our 'spare time.' This is one of the suggestions we originally proposed, so we, of course, said yes without delay although all the while sad that there wasn’t much hope of changing things in the current appointment where we had spent so much time and effort expanding the ministry in difficult conditions. A week later, we took a week of furlough relieved that we were going to be able to continue to serve as officers in two roles that we felt were very possible and potentially very fruitful that would result in a double beneficial blessing to the Army.


We returned from furlough and the DC requested to come visit with an update wherein he shared that; “the board had met, however they had not agreed on the appointment they suggested, and that they had instead accepted our resignation.” I cannot describe in words very adequately how this has made us feel. God knows we love the Army, but it just hurts so much, especially when we had thought there was a way forward and that, in effect, our resignation was withdrawn in spite of us not having submitted any paperwork to that effect. We had simply assumed that our willingness to move forward was understood as willingness, certainly in the context of the level of certainty contained in the offer of the alternative appointment.


If we rescind our resignation, we are back to square one in this appointment...feeling pressure to find significant funds and build on a pattern that is unsustainable and which is taking more out of us that we can physically bear. It is not just finance however, we can’t plough our lives into a pattern of ministry that we don’t feel is sustainable in the long term. In spite of feeling that the acceptance of our resignation was rather hasty, especially without further discussion, we just don't know what our challenging it will accomplish and feel we have little option but to move on. The implications for our family are enormous...we are both in our early 30s, with two young children, and have led Salvation Army corps for close to 9 years. We worked for the Army before training so we have few other skills or workplace experience. Going straight to work in corps leadership from full time education at the age of 20 has meant we have no savings, and very little else in way of experience in the world of work.


Having said all that, we are not without hope. We believe that the hand of the Lord is upon us and has led us to this point. We simply must trust him for the next step. He is faithful, and he will do it.


TWO COVENANTED SERVANTS
(names on file)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

RESTORING THE LANGUAGE OF JESUS

When arguing for the existence of God and His love, people won’t be convinced by how much we know, but by how much we care.

In the village of Maaloula, where 5.000 people live, – both Christians and Muslims – they fight to save an ancient tongue of Aramaic, the Semitic language that Jesus used to preach to the apostles. The Aramaic languages are considered endangered and it’s feared that they will soon be extinct.

As we who profess to be Christ’s present day disciples speak, can it be said that we are speaking the language of Jesus? Or could it be that the world doesn't hear our message because we've lost the ability to care for our very own, and they find our language too foreign?

Tertullian in his "Apology", Chapter 39.7, described how outsiders saw the early Christians, when the movement was just over a hundred years old; "Look, how they love one another - and how they are ready to die for each other". The instructions to love were simply; No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. (1 John 4:12)

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12:10 NIV)

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. (Ephesians 4:2 NIV)

Paul is reminding the Christians in Ephesus and Corinth not to fight among themselves. In Corinth they're even suing one another in secular courts. Paul reminds the Christians in Corinth that they are under a new law:
God doesn't want us arguing over who is "in" and who is "out." God wants us to love one another.

Today the world says again, but in a very different tone and voice:
SEE THE CHRISTIANS, HOW THEY LOVE EACH OTHER… !!!

The Church is in a sorry ‘stating’ state ! Archbishop Rowan Williams, the head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, says the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland has lost all credibility over its handling of the scandal over child sex abuse by Catholic clergy.
 Relations between the Anglican Church and the Church of Rome have been strained for some time and Archbishop Rowan Williams' frank criticism could further strain relations. Williams said the problems, which had been a "colossal trauma" for the Church, also affected the wider public the entire Irish population.

BBC religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott said Dr Williams' words, aired on Easter Sunday, represented unusually damning criticism from the leader of another Church.The Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin said he was stunned and discouraged by Archbishop Williams' comments, adding that it would not help those trying to rebuild the Catholic Church in Ireland. He said those working to renew the church would be "immensely disheartened" by Dr Williams' comments…But Dr Williams' remarks do reflect a growing sense of alarm at what is perceived to be the Catholic Church's disastrous loss of moral authority. His comments will strike a chord with increasing numbers of people who feel the Vatican has yet to realize, let alone accept, the seriousness of the plight it shares with the Church in Ireland.

The damning remark was long in coming. And one can point to earlier apologies that the “world” was waiting to hear.

“Saving one of his most audacious initiatives for the twilight of his papacy, John Paul II attempted to purify the soul of the Roman Catholic church by making a sweeping apology for 2,000 years of violence, persecution and blunders.

Defying warnings from some theologians that the unprecedented apology would undermine the church's authority, the 79-year-old pontiff asked God to forgive the persecution of the Jews. "We are deeply saddened by the behaviour of those who in the course of history have caused these children of yours to suffer, and asking your forgiveness we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood."

A decade later we hear yet again a carefully worded apology from the Vatican.

OUTRAGE and SHAME...

”In the old days you had to wait 1000 years before, through gritted teeth, a pope would apologize for past wrongs. But for this pope saying sorry is almost routine” said the former editor of the Catholic Herald, Peter Stanford in the Sunday Telegraph.

But, “where in the (pope’s) letter asked Peter Schneider in The International Herald Tribune, was the apology for abuses in Germany where more than 250 cases have come to the light," and the cases emerging worldwide in Mexico, Brazil, Holland, Austria and Switzerland. Damien Thompson wrote in the Daily Telegraph that ‘Catholic bishops have betrayed children and their church by covering up abuses.’ It’s a heyday for the militant secularists who despise Catholicism providing them with a windfall of new ammunition with which to damn the church and its message.

While it is very unusual for one Church leader to make such comments about another, Dr Williams acknowledges that the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland and the UK's Anglican Churches are fighting the same battle against secularism and the erosion of Christian influence and status… Williams said: "I was speaking to an Irish friend recently who was saying that it's quite difficult in some parts of Ireland to go down the street wearing a clerical collar now."And an institution so deeply bound into the life of a society, suddenly becoming, suddenly losing all credibility - that's not just a problem for the Church, it is a problem for everybody in Ireland." A senior cleric said the Catholic Church no longer had any standing, credibility nor moral authority. Fr Michael Canny, Ireland, added he would probably spend the rest of his life as a priest trying to rebuild trust and confidence in the institution. "The issue is now one of trust and that is why it will take the rest of my lifetime as a priest to build up that trust again because the trust and confidence in the Church has been broken at a fundamental level."

All Christians need to stand together in restoring the trust of believers and non-believers alike. The Bible speaks of Christian accountability. In 1 Corinthians chapter 12, we read that Christians are all part of the same body - the body of Christ - and each member needs or belongs to the other. This Scripture suggests the importance of strong accountability between Believers. Galatians 6:2 proffers this well known principle, "Brothers... Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." It also admonishes us to consider ourselves because no one is above temptation. We Protestants share in the shame. We can add more than two dozen high profile scandals that rocked various denominations and independent fellowships from 1980 to the present. They caused many to denounce religion and thousands of believers to abdicate their allegiances. Modern culture is so devoid of faith that some people are declaring God “dead” and entire nations are losing their identity, Pope Benedict XVI warned in 2008.

Is it any wonder that the world questions the value of joining with us? Surely God must be severely grieved by how we ‘love each other’…

When arguing for the existence of God and His love, people won’t be convinced by how much we know, but by how much we care. That care begins at home and extends to all fellow Christans. If we come together as Jesus demands, the world may soon say again; "Look, see how the Christians, Catholics and Protestants, love one another..."



Dr. Sven Ljungholm

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Theology of Calling Part Two

It is clear from both practice and theological underpinnings that the Salvation Army’s view of calling is one that encourages many to “Come, join our Army, to battle we go” (Salvation Army Songbook, # 681, William James Pearson), and expects lifelong service, as William Thomas Giffe writes:

So we’ll lift up the banner on high,
The Salvation banner of love.
We’ll fight beneath its colors till we die,
Then go to our home above.

(Salvation Army Songbook # 782)

Are there other ways of considering this question of calling? Contemporary voices from various Christian traditions bring other insight to the question. Gratton lays the foundation: “Vocation is a matter primarily of being. It encompasses the totality of our response to God’s call” (Gratton 1992, 157). She suggests that:
Human beings have a deep need to embody the desires of their heart by using their uniquely human power of giving and receiving form in the real
world. . . . We want our lives freely to fulfill a unique, intrinsic purpose; we have vocational hunger. (Ibid., 15)

Barbara Brown Taylor writes:
Sometimes I think that those spectacular call stories in the Bible do more harm than good. At the very least, I suppose, they are good reminders that the call of God tends to take you apart before it puts you back together again, but they also set the bar on divine calling so high that most people walk around feeling short . . . The lives God is calling us to are the ones that we are living right here, right now, under these present circumstances . . .You have already been called, both to live and to magnify the abundant life of God. (Taylor 2001, 30)

William Willimon comments: “We are in ministry in service to God and God’s world, because we have been called and put here by a God who just loves to make something out of nothing” (Willimon 2001, 7). Walter Brueggerman describes vocation as, “finding a purpose for being in the world that is related to the purposes of God” (Gratton 1992, 157). Oswald Chambers, a morning companion of many, suggests that, “Our Lord calls to no special work: He calls to Himself” (Chambers 1931, October 16). And my preferred description of the call of God is that of Frederick Buechner, who likens the call to “the place where the world’s deep hunger and my deep gladness meet” (Buechner 1973, 95).

There is also the consideration that a call to ministry must be confirmed in some way by the church. Vogel speaks of vocation as seen “as a call from God, not an impetus from human beings” (Vogel 1976, 42). When it is considered in the light of a sending by Christ, rather than a personal choice, there is need for the church to speak. “Even when a person has felt called by God, the church has judged (as best it could) whether or not the call be genuine” (Ibid.).

In one last description from the standpoint of biblical counseling, Allender uses the metaphor of story to speak to calling, encouraging the reading of patterns that reveal themes and that connect dots, while at the same time stressing that our calling is not a to-do list for God, a job offer, or a wish list. It is, instead, a way of living that is open to be found by a calling. He writes: “You are gifted. You are called. You are telling a story. The clearer you can be about yourself, the further you will be on the journey of catching and being caught by your calling” (Allender 2005, 6). As the purpose of God is revealed to us in our personality and in our life path, it confirms Elizabeth O’Connor’s observation that, “We ask to know the will of God without guessing that his will is written into our very beings” (O’Connor 1971, 14-15).

“Called by God,” the officer covenant proclaims – might his direction be confirmed in our hearts as we walk in the steps of Jesus.

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.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Theology of Calling Part One

How does an individual know that he or she should enter, remain in, or leave officership? While many factors play into such a decision, often the question of “calling” is raised. Keim asks bluntly: “In our day, the word of the Lord is cheap, visions are widespread and telemarketers call us by name. How do we distinguish God’s call?” (Keim 2003, 16) It is an essential question for everyone in ministry for, but may have additional meaning to women in ministry. Creegan and Pohl found, “a sense of call allows women to value themselves and their struggles despite a lack of clear valuation by organizations in which they serve (Creegan and Pohl 2005, 43). It is, they insist, important “to be quite sure that the battle is worth the effort, and women find themselves wondering at times whether they are staying for the right reasons.”

A dilemma for many is this: whether a calling to ministry is defined as being for a specific place, a distinct role, or to an itinerant denomination where others define that role, or is it a calling to an identity and character that can find its fulfillment in a variety of circumstances? First delineated by the Puritans, their distinction was between a general calling to salvation and discipleship and a particular calling to a specific context (Banks and Stevens 1997, 58).

As a cadet, I was given a book written by a retired Salvation Army officer that attempted to clarify what constitutes The Call for service (Deratany 1972, 15). While the author does provide some space for “the call to general service,” his main focus is on the calling for “special service” through the Salvation Army. He outlines those callings as the mystical call, coming through a confrontation with God; the circumstantial call, because God needed me, I saw the need, felt the urge, and heard the call; and organizational (or ecclesiastical) call, coming indirectly from God through another person for special service to an organization (Ibid., 66, 74, 82).

Organizational practices have arisen from the foundations of the call to lifelong service, with an extensive emphasis on the public declaration of a calling to officership, an elaborate “sending off” for those entering the officers’ training program, and a celebratory appointment service directly following the ordination of each class of cadets (trainees). Its financial system is built on a substantial “reward” for completion of service, and a punitive financial arrangement for “early” retirement (currently prior to age sixty-six).

An emphasis on the call is found as well in the Salvation Army Songbook, with thirty songs under the heading of calling, including the following words by Frederick Booth-Tucker, a son-in-law of the founders of the Salvation Army:

They bid me choose an easier path,
And seek a lighter cross;
They bid me mingle with Heaven’s gold
A little of earth’s dross.
They bid me, but in vain, once more
The world’s illusions try;
I cannot leave the dear old flag,
‘Twere better far to die.
(Salvation Army Songbook, #780)


“Called by God,” the officer covenant proclaims – might his direction be confirmed in our hearts as we walk in the steps of Jesus.

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.

Good pastors are not parrots...
Q: What should pastors do if they no longer hold the defining beliefs of their denomination? Do clergy have a moral obligation not to challenge the sincere faith of their parishioners? If this requires them to dissemble from the pulpit, doesn't this create systematic hypocrisy at the center of religion? What would you want your pastor to do with his or her personal doubts or loss of faith?

People become members of religious denominations for a variety of reasons. Often, they are simply following their parents or family members, a spouse, or the dominant religious form in their community. None of these reasons necessitate a deep thinking about the beliefs of the particular denomination, but only a passive acceptance of them. This is the way in which most American and European Christians are connected with their respective religious denominations. For the most part, they know little about many of the doctrinal beliefs or pay little attention to them as they impact their lives. A relatively common term for such individuals is "C and E" Christians. The letters refer to Christmas and Easter, the only time many of them think much about their religious affiliation or attend a religious service.

For those who become members of the clergy, on the other hand, one would hope that they have thought deeply about and hold dearly to the defining beliefs of their denomination or their religion, at least initially. However, because clergy are expected to devote their lives to studying these beliefs, the scenario may well arise that some clergy will grow in their understanding of the Divine and of life, and their beliefs may change as a consequence of their study and experience. They may then find that their views and values no longer parallel the rhetoric of their denomination. This can be a natural result of a deep and open-minded study, and such growth should be encouraged. After all, what is the role of the clergy? Is it not to devote their lives to knowing God and truth more intimately each day than those to whom they preach and minister? If the clergy are only hired to memorize and spout doctrine without any allowance for growth and change in their understanding of the Divine, then they are expected to be little more than talking mannequins. Moreover, if they are not allowed to grow in the realization, they will either stagnate or die spiritually. For those who do grow and find a separation between their evolving beliefs and the doctrine of their denomination, what are they to do?

The answer depends a great deal on the denomination or religion to which they belong. According to the 2001 edition of the World Christian Encyclopedia, there are more than 33,000 denominations of Christianity worldwide. Because many of these denominations claim to have the ONLY truth or true form of Christianity, clergy from these groups are more likely to face a conflict if any of their views change than clergy from denominations or religions that accept and allow for a broader spectrum of beliefs. As a consequence, when clergy from denominations that narrowly define truth no longer believe the doctrines, they should drop out and not "dissemble from the pulpit." Hopefully, they would have enough self respect as well as respect for their parishioners to leave that position than to remain and be hypocrites. I have known several Christian clergy members who found themselves in this situation. A few quit, while at least one chose to remain for financial reasons. Unfortunately but predictably, he is not a person at peace with himself.

Many of the various religious traditions in the world, small and large, are open to their clergy growing, expanding, and realizing a broad approach to God and to Truth. Some are Christian denominations, many have other labels. Unlike fundamentalists, I don't believe the label is all that important. My own religious teachers encouraged me to trust my inner voice and my inner experience and to question any external teaching that does not "sit well" in a composed and quiet heart. Many traditions, and many Christians, say that God lives within. If that is the case, then learning to purify oneself to be able to listen to the Divine within is a better path to finding truth than memorizing answers in some text, no matter how great its promoters claim it to be. A religious teacher, or any other kind of teacher, should not simply be a parrot. Those for whom I have the greatest respect are individuals who teach what they have experienced and realized, not what they have read and memorized.

DR. RAMDAS LAMB
USA

Thursday, April 8, 2010

“The Most Effective Organisation in the US…….” Part Two

We are often tempted to think that diversity is a modern term and that it is related to a community’s racial or cultural mix. However it has been around for many years and diversity can be related to activities as well. Wherever the Army Flag is flown you will find a diversity of work and effort that seems contrary to the one allegiance that is expressed by the ‘S’s on the collar’. But it is this spreading of the responsibility that has brought great benefits (and financial profits to support the Welfare work) across the States and indeed many places around the world. However it is more about the fact that there is devolution of authority down through the various levels of the organisation. There is nothing new or magic about this; there is a narrative in the Old Testament where The Hebrews had to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem to protect themselves from attack and it was decreed that each family would repair the wall that was closest to his house. Job done and all the people benefited.

The early Army structure of responsibility was such that it was more vertical than horizontal and the further we get away from William Booth, who championed the ultimate vertical management structure, the more the responsibility flattens out in a horizontal manner with the benefits flowing to the whole organisation. Of course there are times when this may not be the case and an individual has to be aware of the impact on the whole organisation however it can happen. (red the latest issue of Priority and the Officers in their Tent Ministry in Alaska)

Organise to Improvise

One of the reasons that the Army is perceived as the most effective organisation in the states is the lack of this downward thrust of authority. At each level of responsibility you have this freedom to improvise. Yes there are principles and values that have to be observed and adhered to but there is always the encouragement to improvise with the basic understanding that if we always do what we always do we will always get what we have always got. Over many years all round the world the Army has been leading Social Welfare reforms, so much so that William Booths landmark narrative on the social conditions of his day, ‘In Darkest England and the Way Out’, was reprinted 100 years later as a text book for the Social Welfare course in a well known London University.

A quote is used that comes from the pen of the author of a management book called ‘Leading the Revolution’ and he says ‘In this new age a company that is evolving slowly is already on the way to extinction’.
Spread the responsibility, share the profits In various degrees this has been the catch cry of the Army revolutionise or fossilise. It has had its Glory days and its other days but everything is cyclical and this desire to improvise will keep it at the forefront of many of its activities long into the future.

Act with Audacity
Throughout its History the Salvo’s in so many places have been ahead of the field and a sense of the bold and dramatic has been a ‘hall mark’. From the time the early day Officer was carried in a coffin into the local market square, waited until a crowd had gathered and then jumped out to preach about the ‘Wages of Sin’ to Major Alida Bosshardt in Amsterdam who went and lived in a house alongside the brothels so that she could be a help to them if they needed it. Being bold and audacious can also be a sign that you are ahead of all the others who are waiting to get all the data in so that they can make a ‘responsible’ decision..

Make Joy Count
What can we say throughout its history and right up to the present day the Salvation Army has known how to celebrate. I suppose that it is often seen with musical sections but there is a wider aspect that is seen more as Public Relations. Over the years this aspect of the Salvation Army has been refined to almost an art form where in telling the story we encourage non Salvationists to support our work, but underlying all that is the joy that is expressed in serving others irrespective of race, creed or colour. There are many tears shed in telling some of the harrowing stories of the Army’s work but all the time is the almost incomprehensible joy of actually making a difference in the world.

If the Army can give one thing to the wider church life, or the corporate community as they come to terms with what makes an organisation effective, it is the simple understanding that it is possible to enjoy what they do. In all organisations there will be times when it is tough but if you can see the wider picture of the Army’s lessons to the world it is that it is having a good time.

This is the sort of thing that needs to be added to as experience and history roll into the future of an organisation. I am very aware that where I am at the moment in my particular position, I am laying down a tradition and background for the future. I realise that more than raising funds for various organisations, is the importance of setting down process and procedures that will last into the future when the culture changes to accept fundraising as a profession much as it has been accepted in the States. Until then I will need to keep putting into practice these lessons learned in the Salvation Army and continue to make a difference in the world.

Fletch
Peter Fletcher
Former
Australia

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

“The Most Effective Organisation in the US…….” Part One

It was at the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy’s Madison Institute at the University of Wisconsin that we were given a reading list of good books on Leadership, Management and Organisational Development. As each one was described a couple of them seemed that they needed to be in my library. This one seemed to come out of the blue in more ways than one. It was written by a retired National Territorial Commander of the United States, Robert A Watson, with a co writer, Ben Brown, and the title came from a statement reflected in the title of the book by none other than Peter Drucker, when he learned of the extent of the Salvation Army’s ministry in the States.

Robert Watson decided that it was time to set out why this is perceived to be the case. Following are the points that he distilled as he studied the process of how the Army does what it does. There is a great deal of Army illustrative material and also a good deal of the early day history of the Salvation Army when William Booth was struggling with the effects of autocracy that was tearing the Army apart and how it was resolved. It is a classic tale of ‘reorganise or die’ as far as management principles were concerned.

So in a nutshell here is why the Salvation Army was described by Peter Drucker as ‘The Most Effective Organisation in the US…’ The headings in Bold are a straight take from the book and I have added a few personal illustrations from my background and a little reflection on what was and what could have been.

It is an interesting journey that is still heading to the horizon. That horizon is in sight but it is still a long way off.

The Business of the Salvation Army
There needs to be a purpose bigger than the individual or the organisation. It may be difficult to find but it needs to be there. There needs to be a motivation that goes beyond material consideration, almost a spiritual integration of the individual and the organisation. This is not about religious activity but about the congruence between who we are, and what we do. Many conferences will concentrate on the development of skills to enable the delegates to go back to their employment and ‘do it better’, when the real need is to encourage them to connect with the bigger picture of what their organisations are doing. In the illustration of the Salvation Army one of the keys is that there is significant ‘Clarity of Mission’ and it is this that transcends all its activities, personalities and programs. Everything about the Salvo’s, feeds into this clarity of mission.

Engage the Spirit
An organisation needs to offer each employee the opportunity to ‘Bring their Passion to Work’; to in some way enable the employee to say of their work ‘This is who I am and this is what I do to make a difference in the world’. This is possibly the most difficult aspect of developing an effective organisation. Where each employee feels that their particular skill is recognised as part of the whole, and wants to contribute to the whole.

Put People in your Purpose
The purpose of any organisation has to have a People Base. It can be a factory making widgets, or a not for profit providing for homeless people, there has to be that vital people element. Even a waiter/waitress working in Starbucks can be educated to know that she/he is providing a ‘comfortable, hospitable place with a conducive atmosphere for people to meet and share aspects of their lives that would not be possible anywhere else’. She/he is not just serving coffee. Whatever purpose an organisation has, it is meaningless unless it incorporates and inspires human aspirations.

Embody the Brand
There needs to be a significant internalisation by each employee of the Company Brand. We are not talking about the outward wearing of the uniform here although I remember very well during the mid 70’s when some of the radicals were strongly advocating that having to wear a uniform was putting people off joining the ranks of the Army, yet at the same time many young people were queuing up to wear some form of uniform in other organisations. It was about this time that ‘corporate wear’ really took off and supermarkets and banks started wearing uniform. In a sense it is nothing about the outward expression although this is a significant benefit in belonging to a ‘family’, however it is more an outward expression of an inward desire to ‘embody the brand’. The brand is what makes an organisation unique. It represents the values, hopes and dreams of the organisation and the employee adopts those as his own. From the earliest days of the Salvation Army this was clearly understood when Elijah Cadman stated that he ‘wanted a suit of clothes that would tell the world he belonged to Jesus’

Lead by Listening

One of the difficulties of the early Army was that William Booth based much of his management style on what he was familiar with at the time the Monarchy and the Military. Both in their own way were very Autocratic and William hid behind his belief that God had given him the responsibility for the Army and it was going o be handed down to his Children. The trauma that it caused changed the management of the Army forever and it did become an organisation that listened to the people in the lower ranks who in turn listened down the line. In recent years very little of the Army’s endeavours have been pioneered from Headquarters. Overwhelmingly someone at the coal face has seen an opportunity to serve and convinced leaders up the line that this is the way to go. Generally speaking it is the people out in the field that hold all the creativity and where much of the drive and energy are based. Wise leaders today are always listening to their followers and they have developed a culture of no blame so that people are not ‘afraid’ to tell the emperor that he has no clothes on. (this may be argued in some cases but overall I think you will find it still applies)

Fletch
Peter Fletcher
Former
Australia

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Jesus Preferred the KJV to the NIV !


Is The Bible The Word of God?

I once heard a dear old Salvationist Soldier say in a discussion regarding which Bible translation is best to use ‘I use the King James Version. If it was good enough for Jesus to read, it’s good enough for me.’ I think many of us have heard comments like that. It highlights an issue that seems to have plagued Christians for centuries, and regularly raises its’ head in discussions around ‘Does the Bible really say.....’ I think the questions facing us in this regard are ‘Is the Bible the Word of God?’ If it is, ‘How literally can we read it?’ If it isn’t, ‘What is it?’ I don’t intend to answer all these questions in full, just raise some of the issues. A proper answer would require a major work.

The question is not a new one. In Genesis we read of the temptation of Eve by the serpent who said ‘Did God really say......’ (Genesis 3:1). Let us assume for the start of the discussion that the Bible is the Divine Word of God, and therefore to be obeyed in its’ entirety. Doctrine in most denominations would seem to support this assumption. The Salvation Army Articles of Faith state ‘We believe that the scriptures of the old and new testament were given by inspiration of God, and that they only constitute the divine rule of Christian faith and practice.’ This raises a number of questions for me – chiefly – ‘How literally can we take it?’ There are certainly a number of things which seem ‘wrong’ if we are to take a literal understanding. In Genesis, we have two different accounts of creation. We can say that one simply explains in more detail the other, yet that only raises more questions. They are obviously two different styles. If God only created Adam and Eve, then where did the other nations come from with which their children intermarried after the fall? By the time we get to Noah, the earth is full of nations. Where did they come from? It’s simply not physically possible for them all to have been descended from Adam and Eve in just a few generations. Yes. Genetics has confirmed that we are all related through mitochondrial DNA – but this does not mean one person – it means one small group of people (who were located somewhere in Africa). It also assumes that humanity is hundreads of thousands of years old and we need to accept in part the theory of evolution otherwise the idea that we are all related falls down. In order to take such a literal account of creation, we need to start making up other stories to force the various biblical stories to fit together.

Moving on from Genesis (although we could stay there for a long time), other Biblical passages don’t make sense in light of what we know of the world, unless we take them allegorically. No one today would assume that the earth is flat, or that the universe revolves around the earth, or that epilepsy is the same as demonic possession. Very few of us consider wearing garments of blended material to be sinful, or insist on maintaining the various food regulations (the list goes on). Suddenly, we find ourselves in the position of looking at the Bible and deciding which parts are to be taken literally, which parts are to be taken allegorically, and which parts are to be understood as no longer applying to us because they have ‘been fulfilled in Christ.’ This is a very dangerous thing to do. Once we start doing that, what difference is there between Christianity and any other man made religion? We can say that it was Godfearing men and women who made these decisions, but many of these same Godfearers were the ones who condoned the holocaust, the witch hunts, and many other atrocities throughout history. As a result, the Bible has been used to say whatever man wants it to say. Instead of asking ‘Did God really say....?’, we ask ‘Didn’t God really say....?’ and so justify anything we want it to. At that point we have arguments starting with ‘The Bible says...... and so that’s the end of it!’ While at the same time saying other practices are no longer applicable because they have been fulfilled in Christ.

We do need to realise that the Bible has a historical and cultural context – which is very different to ours today. There are difficulties in translation. How a particular phrase or word might have been understood in biblical times is very different to how it might be understood today. It has often been discussed as to the meaning of certain words in 1Corinthians 6:9. ‘Arsenekoine’ is translated as ‘homosexual’, while the previous word ‘Malakoi’ is translated as male prostitutes. However, in classic Greek literature, language and culture, these words have very different meanings. An example of a difference in understanding resulting from a difference in culture and history is that of marriage (or age of consent). There is strong evidence that Mary was at the oldest 14 when she gave birth to Christ, and that Joseph was probably in his mid to late 30’s with adult children of his own. Today, we would consider such a relationship as paedophilic. But in its’ historical and cultural setting, it was perfectly moral. As stated above, we are forced to make decisions as to which parts of the Bible are culturally affected, and which parts apply to us. We can not take the Bible literally. If we do, we are forced to admit that either the Bible is wrong, and therefore the word of God can not be trusted, or it is not the word of God, and is something different.

John 1:1 says ‘In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God.....’ It goes on to say ‘and the word became flesh and dwelt among us’ (John 1:14). The writer of Hebrews writes ‘For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.’ (Hebrews 4:12). Now, we can debate as to whether it is ‘Big ‘W’ word’ or ‘Little ‘w’ word’ as much as we like. But it would seem plain that the Bible is saying that Christ is ‘The Word of God’ – ‘Divine Logos’. Christ came to fulfil the Old Testament – so the Old Testament looked forward to Christ. It was but a dim reflection of what is in heaven. The New Testament is about Christ more explicitly. I would suggest that the Word of God is Christ, and that the Bible is man’s commentary on the Word of God (Christ).

This gives us a very different way of understanding the Bible, and our own faith. Only then can we fully reconcile positions such as women in church leadership, gender inclusive language, issues of sexuality within the church – the list goes on – to science, psychology and our personal understanding of our faith.

The Bible is not The Word of God, it is commentary on The Word of God. It is fallible and open to interpretation. It gives us a historical understanding of how men and women have understood God and salvation. It must continue to change and evolve. If it doesn’t, then as all things which do not change and grow, it is dead and has no power.


Graeme Randall
Former
Australia
Australia Southern Territory

The Death of our Savior has set us free.


Let no one grieve at his poverty,
for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again;
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.
He has destroyed it by enduring it.



—John Chrysostom, bishop of Constantinople; sermon, ca. 400

Saturday, April 3, 2010

FROM Our Poet General; Healing Water Flows...


'Will you follow me, please?' came the voice of the Naval Equerry to His Majesty King George VI, on duty at Buckingham Palace, on a morning in January, 1947. Up marble steps and along splendid corridors the Salvationist followed the naval personage to come at last to wide doors which were thrown open, and to hear the announcement: 'General Albert Orsborn, The Salvation Army.'

 The King came forward to greet his visitor. 'Take a seat,' he said, and the two men began a long and interesting conversation.

The King knew the General. His Majesty remembered pinning the C.B.E. medal on the General's tunic at a Buckingham Palace function during World War II. Now he noted that a 'Fighting Faith' badge had a place beside the ribbon of the Empire Order.

'What is this campaign? the King queried. The General explained that "this campaign… was for the souls of men.
"

…Now as he sat in the Palace, international leader of the world-wide Salvation Army, and the King was about to bring the audience to an end, it seemed that he had come a long way, though never so far as to forget the reason why he journeyed.



In the year 1947 General Albert Orsborn held in his hand a newly published red-covered book -a collection of his own verses -- The Beauty of Jesus.

Poets often find their form of expression unappreciated. For one Wordsworth or T. S. Eliot there are twenty who never achieve fame or who do so only posthumously. Some, indeed, pay to have their verses published. But here was a book of verse for which the writer neither paid nor would receive any pay. He had not asked for it to be published. One justification for his pride was that thousands of people already knew of the poems he wrote and sang them in meetings all over the world-and not only in The Salvation Army…

One day, after reading Matthew's account of the Crucifixion, he was moved to tears of shame to find that it only moved his mind and not his heart. An all-night of prayer and confession and a resolve to weigh his words against his experience brought him victory over that snare. His talks about the Cross of Jesus ever afterward were heart-moving and brought blessing to thousands.



The Bishop of Salisbury had thousands of Albert Orsborn's songs printed for the troops during World War I. They sang 'On the ocean of love and mercy' to their familiar tune, 'It's a long way to Tipperary'. When the zeppelins dropped bombs women and children sang 'We're in the Father's care' to 'We parted on the shore '.

With a Bible and prayer - often waiting days or weeks for the right phrase - songs flowed from Albert Orsborn's pen. Many of them are in The Song Book of The Salvation Army and include such favourites as 'Except I am moved with compassion', 'Fellowship with Thee', and 'Shepherd, hear my prayer'.



He learned to have firm ideas about the music. From New Zealand he sent a song to Eric Ball and told him what the tune was like.

'This is what I hear,' he said. He did not write any music at all, but tried to describe it. When the song, 'The Awakeners', came into being and he heard it for the first time, he knew that he had heard it before.

..

When the BBC. called him 'the poet General' he might well have smiled a wry smile. He denies that he is a poet, but he did, to the tune of 'The pink lady', write a song which other men have coveted and various religious movements have borrowed - 'Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me'.

This was the first song in the collection of Albert Orsborn's verse published by The Salvation Army. Unlike much true poetry, these lines were well known in many parts of the world. As he looked at the little book, to put it down and turn to his many tasks, the General had no regrets.


…By God's grace he had been 'counted faithful' since the days when, as a corps cadet in camp at Hadleigh, he had sung: 

Surely my Captain may depend on me,
 Though but an armour bearer I may be.
Bernard Watson

“He came right down to me, He came right down to me,
To condescend to be my friend, He came right down to me.

Because He loved me so, Because He loved me so;
He bled and died, was crucified, Because He loved me so.”

TAKE FROM MY MIND THE STRESS OF SECRET FEAR
CLEANSE THOU THE WOUNDS
OF ALL BUT THEE FAR HIDDEN
AND WHEN THE WATERS FLOW
LET MY HEALING APPEAR.

FROM A HILL I KNOW,
HEALING WATERS FLOW.
O RISE IMMANUEL'S TIDE
AND MY SOUL OVERFLOW !



“O is not this Christ midst the crowds of today
Whose questioning cries do not cease?
And will He not show to the hearts that would know
The things that belong to their peace.
And how shall they hear if the preacher forbear
Or lack in compassionate zeal?
And how shall hearts move with the Master’s own love
Without his anointing and seal.

Except I am moved with compassion,
How dwelleth Thy Spirit in me?
In word and in deed burning love is my need;
I know I can find this in Thee.”

“My all is in the Master’s hands
For him to bless and break;
Beyond the brook his winepress stands
And thence my way I take,
Resolved the whole of love’s demands
To give, for his dear sake.

Albert Orsborn