Saturday, June 25, 2011

PLAN YOUR WORK- WORK YOUR PLAN


Phil. 3: 13-14

‘I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead. I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.’

We set goals for our lives .. things we want to achieve. People who aim at goals are more successful than those who don’t for instance loosing weight … or earning money … achieving at work. Most of the studies in books concentrate on one particular area. Whereas the Bible is the only one where we can meet all the wisdom collected from all the world and only the Bible can give us answers to life’s most perplexing problems and those of eternal significance … the areas we want to find out or want to discover.

Our project is in the final stage .. we have nearly finished. And I am thankful to Sven-Erik and Glad for inviting me. Without planning how to achieve these goals our project wouldn’t be successful.

Jesus Christ had His own goals and mission when He was on earth. And He has also outlined His plan and mission for us individually and as a team this week. Without each team member being aware of his or her assignment and fulfilling it the overall plan will not be successful. and we have our own goals. We need to stick to the guidelines of the Bible to be more successful in what we are going to succeed.

But thank God for His leading in my life in guiding me towards His purpose for me and to the Holy Spirit for providing the necessary focus and strength in order that I can fulfill God’s expectations of me.


Kostia Berezkin
Paisley Corps
Scotland UKT

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

CONSENTING ADULTS part five

The death of our spiritual brother had a profound impact on many in our fellowship. The ‘born-again’, uniformed, Salvationist was in his late 20s, and was always the 1st on his feet to witness to the change in his life.

His death and the diagnosis of life threatening illnesses raised questions of mortality, life after death, suffering, spirituality, and religion. These issues took on greater importance because of the stigmatization and judgment that accompany HIV/AIDS. I led a discussion with a focus on our 'spiritual dilemma' challenging all to explore and answer those questions that give purpose and meaning to our lives; what is my role and purpose in this world?

The reality of AIDS in our midst raised questions of sexual orientation and the stigma attached both to ‘fags’ and AIDS and why some faiths denounce homosexuality as sinful (this was in 1991-92). Stories of a ‘creepy’ uncle were told, and I shared from my own children’s experience about the ‘nasty’ Star Lake counselor who showed the boys in his cabin how to ‘stimulate and pleasure oneself’. Then there was my kid’s equestrian teacher who liked to have the young girls model their riding breeches privately in his office. And there was the swimming coach in our local Junior high school who was arrested for indecent exposure.

The group agreed that ‘we all have a nasty Lester type person in our private past’, however, most accepted that deviant persons and behavior were not normal for any person regardless of their sexual orientation. And we agreed too that homosexuality as an inherent part of the person, but believed that homosexuals, as with heterosexuals, ought not act on their orientation except in committed relationships. Our discussions were rooted in ethics, cultural and societal, this at the time, when in the latter part of the twentieth century when churches began to move their emphasis away from discussing ‘distasteful, evil, sinful’ homosexual acts to the more Christian response of love and inclusivity, no matter how naïve and cloudy “our” understanding was. For our corps and me there was no turning back.

Less than 10 years later when stationed in Moscow, Russia, I initiated a mighty row with the Burroughs Wellcome Ltd Corp, a subsidiary of Wellcome, a British drug manufacturer of AZT, the prevailing drug to thwart AIDS devastating effect during those years. I had learned that Wellcome was ‘dumping’ outdated medicines to the 218 AIDS sufferers, all toddlers, and their families I represented in Volgograd. There was clear evidence that some of Russia’s top health officials, those responsible to approve the government’s purchase, were on the ‘take’, a standard operating procedure in many companies and government ministries.

My threat to expose their greedy efforts to the BBC and London Times correspondents in Moscow, both good friends of mine, brought about a quick turn-around and apology. The tragedy of that AIDS epidemic may be shared in a later article.

Our open discussion groups examined other ‘important’ issues; The Church's teaching about the immorality of violence, prejudice, discrimination, unequal distribution of wealth and resources, etc. We also spoke of American corporate greed and global efforts to dominate capitalistic expansion. Pejorative words to label companies that act only out of self-interest were thrown about: self-indulgence, self-satisfaction, self-righteous, self-rationalization, self-delusion, self-serving, and more. Positive words lacking in their makeup include self-control, self-discipline, and self-correcting. We agreed that the words can be exchanged with ease between individuals and organizations…

But what about the Salvation Army? Could we be called self-righteous, self-rationalizing, self-delusional, self-serving etc.?

TSA in both the southern and northern hemisphere issued official press releases in haste to demonstrate our position in favor of, or our stance against political ‘takes’ on various equal rights for homosexuals and same sex partnerships only to rush out new releases where we made complete red faced turn-arounds due public and/ or political pressure. Salvationist leaders, who apparently new little of the issues being debated were caught off-guard and we found ourselves embarrassed by the organization to whom we were so loyally bound. The SA in the USA appeared to have constitutional amendments in the works, in collusion with Washington, D.C. and perhaps since they were working at such high levels is why it was a non-concern for us and remained so.

And as shared in an earlier article, I wonder if we, as a youngish member of the family of churches, have too willingly taken the role of observer, letting our older and ‘wiser’ brothers voice their authoritative interpretations first and we simply add our Amen?

BITS AND PIECES

The SA flip flops in the USA

Political Controversy
However, during the last decades of the twentieth century, the Salvation Army placed itself in the midst of controversy, taking a firmly right wing stand as part of the conservative Christian movement. It campaigned against sodomy law reform in various parts of the world, including especially Australia, and opposed the glbtq movement for equality in the United States and Great Britain.
Since the 1970s, the Army has moved away from street evangelizing to become more of a general service provider and has received millions of dollars in government grants. In 1998, the Salvation Army turned down a $3.5 million contract with the City of San Francisco because the city requires organizations it contracts with to offer domestic partner benefits to queer workers.
As a Christian church, the Army refused to offer benefits to gay or unmarried straight workers. In October of 2001, the Western Territory of the U.S. Salvation Army did sign a government contract in which they agreed to provide domestic partner benefits, but after protests from anti-gay Christians, they rescinded the decision just a month later.
The Secret Deal with the Bush Administration
Perhaps the most shocking controversy of the early twenty-first-century Salvation Army revolved around an internal Salvation Army memo, which was made public by The Washington Post in July 2001. The memo exposed a secret deal between the Army and the office of President George W. Bush.
The Salvation Army promised support for the president's so-called "faith-based initiative," a proposed policy to grant hundreds of millions of tax dollars and billions in tax breaks to religious groups providing social services. In return, the administration would support legislation allowing the Army and other Christian groups legally to discriminate against gay men, lesbians, and other sexual minorities.
Although the White House and the Salvation Army quickly backed away from the notion of a secret quid pro quo, many people were scandalized by the cynical deal-making. In a protest led by the gay support group Parents, Friends and Families of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), many communities showed their disapproval by placing fake "three-dollar bills" in Salvation Army kettles during the Christmas season of 2001, stating that they refused to donate to a bigoted organization.
Meanwhile, efforts by the Bush administration to grant waivers from anti-discrimination laws to participants in its faith-based initiatives continues.

And our ‘stance to non-stance to stance’ brought this from New Zealand…

It is likely that many initially supported the petition and/or the submission, but later changed their mind when they saw the strength of the opposition to the Army’s stance or began to think through some of the complex arguments involved in this issue.


It is probable therefore that many Salvationists had difficulty discerning the Army’s position in all this from media representations. It is possible that few would have read or understood the Army’s submission. The Salvation Army’s own good reputation in society may have made it a target in this issue. The Editor of the Catholic magazine The Table, having roundly praised the generosity and compassion of The Salvation Army said “that’s why it [the Army] has to be attacked and besmirched by those who want sodomy to become an acceptable practice in our society" (Kennedy 1985:1). In such a heated cauldron of emotion it is understandable that opponents to the Army’s position would wish to denigrate the Army in an attempt to discredit its cause.


One positive aspect the involvement in this issue did was that it got Salvationists involved in discussing a particular issue that was a real part of life and not some ethereal spiritual concept.

-----------------
Thank you for inviting The Salvation Army to comment on the 20th anniversary of the passing of the Homosexual Law Reform Act. We are grateful for this opportunity, as we are conscious that because of actions taken by The Salvation Army at that time there is still a need to rebuild some bridges.

Our statement for publication on your TV2 series, Kiwifruit, follows:

SALVATION ARMY COMMENTS ON ANNIVERSARY OF THE HOMOSEXUAL LAW REFORM BILL

“The Salvation Army encompasses a diverse community with a wide range of opinions on the subject of homosexuality and other issues. We continue to seek God’s wisdom on what it means to live as Biblically-informed Christians in today’s world.

We understand our official opposition to the Reform Bill was deeply hurtful to many and are distressed that ill feeling still troubles our relationship with segments of the gay community.

We regret any hurt that may remain from that turbulent time and hope to rebuild bridges of understanding between our movement and the gay community. We may not agree on all issues, but we can respect and care for one another despite this.”

Commissioner Garth McKenzie
(Territorial Commander)


This from Der Bund, a Swiss newspaper interview with General Shaw Clifton (2007)
B: What is your standpoint on homosexuality?
SC: We take our standpoint on sexuality from the Bible. According to the Bible, the right context in which to live out our sexuality is the marriage of man and woman. But we don't ask people who apply for work with us whether or not they are homosexual.
B: What happens if you know someone is homosexual?
SC: If a person's sexuality has a negative effect on their work or their clients, that would be dealt with according the local labour laws. We expect that a person's sexuality should not hinder their work.
B: Does that mean you would appoint a homosexual?
SC: Yes. There are even homosexuals amongst our clergy. But of course we expect them to lead celibate and abstemious lives.

This from the BBC

Homosexuality
The Salvation Army believes that homosexual Christians must live celibate lives, since the Bible forbids sexual intimacy between members of the same sex.
The Army does not accept same-sex unions as equal to, or as an alternative to, heterosexual marriage.
The Salvation Army opposes any discrimination against homosexuals, and accepts as members homosexuals who will abide by the principle that sexual intimacy is only acceptable within marriage.
Homosexual practices unrenounced render a person unacceptable as a Salvation Army soldier, in the same way as heterosexual acts of immorality.

Is there a turnabout in the making?

Sven Ljungholm
On the road in Latvia
FSAOF LATVIA MISSION 2011

Monday, June 20, 2011

FOUND !


It has been a very big pleasure to be a part of our UK Latvia Mission 2011 team. I was born and experienced living in Ukraine for 24 years and I thought I had seen a lot in my life until I came here. I knew something of my neighbours to the north but not until this, my first visit here, did I appreciate that the Latvians are a truly good people and a good country. However, the conditions in which some people live are absolutely reprehensible.

Our visit to Skangali, our residence while working here and the focus of our work, Sakarni, a short distance down the dirt road, was the most dramatic I have witnessed in my life. Six derelict buildings.

During our visit we have had the opportunity to meet local people who are alcoholics who are imprisoned in both their dependence on alcohol and their dire living conditions. They have no income and have been virtually abandoned by the state because they couldn’t pay their bills in any of the larger cities. This settlement, Sakarni, is located in the fields between the forests and there is nothing around. All of them are unemployed and receive minimal support from the government and which is all spent on alcohol. There are about twenty five young children growing up in this environment with their alcohol dependent parents and luckily for them the Salvation Army is running kids club programme in two renovated flat (last year’s UK Team), by dedicated Officers and a assistant bringing some hope to the village.

Among the children and their parents lives a man, probably in his 60’s but through the toll of drink and harsh winters looks much older. As soon as our team arrived the children came running from all directions but not far behind came Nikolai looking a bit weary and clutching what must be a very precious possession.

His face lit up in a beautiful smile when he recognized some of the team members from last year, however, what I found so special was that half our team went directly to Kolia and left the children to be entertained by the other half of the team. As soon as Kolia recognized he had an attentive audience, his story began to be told. He shared his memories of his past life, time when we were all part of the same nation, the Soviet Union, I translated his Russian stories to the team members next to me but Kolia’s mind ran faster than his words as he shared the glory of the Soviet’s past in which everyone had an important role. That past guaranteed him job security, income, health care, pension, holiday, accommodation and sufficient comfort for his family; health and happiness for life.

Twenty years ago following Perestroika, and the break up of the Soviet Union Latvia gained its independence and with it fell into free fall. The economy, manufacturing, exports, the military all crumbled. The population decreased from 4 million as hundreds of thousands of Russian troops returned home from Latvia with more than a million emigrating to the west as Latvia joined the EU. Included in those who were caught in the downwards spiral was Nikolai, and we considered that he lost everything since the government ‘sentenced him’ with a score of others to a life without hope living with others in the former Russian military barracks, dilapidated buildings abandoned for more than five years lacking heating, water and toilet facilities. This is one of Latvia’s abandoned villages, Sakarni.

Kolai and I learned that we have a lot of things in common since our countries were joined under the hammer and sickle flag for so many years. He told us some Latvian and managed to say a few phrases in Ukrainian. And in spite of the obvious hardships the glint in his eye expressed his appreciation for our taking time listening to his stories. He clutched under his arm a pictorial history of the famous Soviet astronaut Yuri Gagarin representing the glorious and golden history of the Soviet Unions triumphant wins in the space race against the USA. Kolia played a part in that race we never learned what part, but that’s irrelevant.

So what now with this proud veteran with his somewhat cloudy reminiscences of the past. Today he moves between bottle and shuffling along the dirt road to the occasional chat with those willing to listen. I am pleased to be a part of this new wave of Salvationist volunteers not only willing to listen but to do so lovingly as a soldier of Jesus Christ. Kolia will perhaps never know much of the Salvation Army but he will know that a small group of Christ’s servants visit his village at least three times yearly providing hope and making it feel just a little less abandoned than it truly is.

Jesus Christ Hope of the World.

Ivan Berezkin, SA Soldier
Glasgow, Scotland

Friday, June 17, 2011

Reluctant Journey: Pilgrimage of Faith from Homophobia to Christian Love Chapter 9

Chapter 9

Gay Christians and the Church

There are some amazing stories in the New Testament about the early church and the Apostles. There is the remarkable conversion of Saul - a Rabbi and an important Pharisee, taught by Gamaliel himself - a Jew of the Jews, with utmost respect for the Law and separation from the Gentiles. He was to become Paul, 'the apostle to the Gentiles'. You will no doubt be very familiar with his story.

In Acts 10 we find a story that is no less amazing.

It is about a man called Peter - a fisherman, a pillar of the Church. He, like Paul, was fastidious in keeping the Law. As regards the Gentiles, he didn't eat with them, he wouldn't go into their homes, and he would only associate with them when absolutely necessary. That was the Law, and that was how he played it.

Then he had this vision about unclean foods:

'Rise, Peter. Kill and eat!'

'Not so Lord. I have never eaten anything common or unclean.'

Three times the voice challenged:

'What God has cleansed, call not that unclean.' [RSV]

Peter responded amazingly well when he understood what God was saying to him. For it was new truth - difficult new truth. Such truth was to throw to the wind many of the things he formerly considered precious and holy.

But not only did he go to Gentiles to proclaim the gospel; those Gentiles were the hated Roman conquerors. His obedience opened the gate for the Gentile Pentecost!

Yet there is a sadness in what I have to say here. For Peter saw no further than the immediate challenge. It was a big challenge, but he interpreted it only in the sense of what he was called immediately to do. It was a staggering new truth, the breadth of which he did not seem to fully appreciate.

And not only Peter but the Church has interpreted that vision in too narrow a sense. The Church continually has to learn afresh the lesson of Peter's vision. A big struggle is needed to persuade the Church to appreciate how broad the interpretation of this vision could and should be!

The struggle for women in the ministry still going on, 2000 years after this magnificent vision that speaks to us. Traditionalists are still fighting the battle against that great truth.

And the struggle goes on to persuade Christians to welcome homosexual people - men and women - into the full fellowship and ministry of the Church. We are still not listening to that voice which says:

'What God has cleansed, call not that unclean.'

I have come to the conclusion that much of the intolerance in the Church - and it is not universal, thank God - is due to ignorance about the sexuality we call 'homosexuality', and lack of experience of meeting homosexual people while being aware of their sexuality.

This is one of the reasons my wife Carol and I have arranged occasional get-togethers over a buffet meal, for homosexual Christian friends from the Essex LGCM Group and heterosexual Christian friends who have previously been to a Bible study and discussion group where the issue has been properly addressed.

It takes some courage for homosexual Christians to 'come out' to people they have not previously met, as well as for those who meet them. People come apprehensively, but the ice is soon broken, and they go away saying how good it was to meet each other and have the opportunity to talk.

We all know homosexual people because there are so many of them. But so often we just don't know we know them! If we did, many of the false images we had of them would evaporate. We would find we are just like each other!

We would find that they fill many of the posts in our churches, at all levels. They are to be found in all walks of life. There would be so many astonished people if homosexuals, especially those who are Christians, all declared themselves.

The sad thing is that many homosexual people have been hurt so often that they cannot trust us with their truth. This is our problem, and we need to address it. All that most of us know of lesbians and gay men is when one of them fails and we see it in the TV and newspaper headlines.

The good news is that lesbian and gay Christians have so much to offer the Church. Apart from being loving, faithful people, they include many very gifted people among their number.

And they have much to teach us of Christ, who was himself 'despised and rejected'. We need to think how we can work together for the Kingdom of God for we need each other.

From what I have learned, one of the problems homosexual people, especially Christians, struggle with when they enter a loving relationship is the lack of role models. There is no knowledge of homosexuality as we understand it today in the Bible, so there is neither specific guidance nor a 'role model' for those who live in a committed, loving, faithful relationship with a partner of the same sex. The only guidance that the Church offers at present is nearly all negative.

There are of course some general guidelines, such as faithfulness, love and commitment in relationships - values that enrich our most important relationships, and give them stability.

And Christian scholars like Jeffrey John are working at developing role models. His book 'Permanent, Faithful, Stable' says a good deal about the direction this is taking.

Obviously there is a problem about children: homosexual people are denied so much, and I know for some this a great loss. It is easy for those of us who don't understand to say that they should therefore get married.

But pressures on marriage have never been so great, and to add the pressures of a homosexual wife or husband is to place any marriage under almost intolerable strain. While some survive, almost inevitably many such marriages fail.

There is so much for us to think about here - so much to understand. Much compassion needed. Such issues represent the difficult side of the equation.

But there is another side of the equation too - the fact that homosexual Christians are as faithful as, if not more faithful than, most heterosexual Christians. Why?

They have had to struggle with their faith as few other Christians have, and to work through that barrier of tension that has traditionally equated homosexuality with evil. But they know the Lord has called them, though many of them are mystified and mortified at his people's response to them.

I know their love is genuine Christian love, and I know they need to be affirmed - not only to be accepted but to be loved with Christian love. And as Carol and I know from experience, this love is something which will be returned with good measure.

We have shared worship and fellowship with lesbian and gay Christians for a few years now. We have found great understanding for those who have hurt them. And never has there been anything said or any suggestion made that made us feel uncomfortable, or question whether we are doing the right thing.

Rather, have they gone out of their way to welcome us, despite our representing those who cause them problems. We are shown love and respect, even though in our ignorance we have doubtless sometimes said things that have caused some pain or hurt.

Our experience leads us to hold a high opinion of them as Christian people - as faithful, God-loving, Bible-respecting Christians. But they are not to be intimidated. They know who they are. They know they cannot change that part of them that has caused them such problems. In faith they have come to terms with it and know that they are a precious part of God's Kingdom people.

They are not going to go away - or rather I hope they are not going to go away! We need them for without them we are incomplete.

We in the Church are called by Christ to love them, and part of loving is seeking to understand. We should welcome them as Christians into every part of the Church. We should work with them to provide a basis and proper recognition of their 'covenant' relationships. If we do not do these things, we will have failed to obey the command of Christ to 'love one another as I have loved you.'

Carol and I were recently invited to join a weekend conference of Christian fellowship and worship with some 30 lesbian and gay evangelical Christian people. It was a time of Christian love, healing and joy. I gave to them as I opened the scriptures that are in this book, and affirmed them in the love of God. Carol and I received as we shared with them in all the things they had planned - prayer times, worship and sacraments, meals, and of course, conversation and laughter.

Just before that conference, Carol and I had been through emotional turmoil on account of an experience that had befallen one of our family. I was left with deep anger inside. That anger was healed as the agape love of our friends there surrounded us. I was renewed by the love of Christ within them.

Isn't this how it's meant to be? Loving, sharing, supporting one another in the love of Christ.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Reluctant Journey: Pilgrimage of Faith from Homophobia to Christian Love

THERE HAS BEEN UNPRECEDENTED INTEREST IN OUR RECENT SERIES AND THEREFORE 'VE DECIDED NOT TO INTERRUPT THE FLOW BY REPLACING IT WITH THE LATVIA REPORT. INSTEAD THEY WILL BOTH BE POSTED ON ALTERNATE DAYS. THE BELOW IS BORROWED FROM 'RELUCTANT JOURNEY' AND HAS RECEIVED STRONG SA BACKING. (OUR FELLOWSHIP HAS NOT REVIEWED THE PUBLICATION AND THEREFORE SHARE IT WITHOUT COMMENT) NOTE! THIS BOOK WAS PUBLISHED 14 YEARS AGO... A PERUSAL WILL SHOW JUST HOW FAR WE'VE COME, OR, HOW WE CONTINUE TO FALL SHORT...
sven
__________________________________


Chapter 2

What is homosexuality and how does it come about?

It is in people's assumptions about the nature of homosexuality that much of the misunderstanding lies, leading many to draw faulty conclusions as to what God's will is for gay and lesbian people, especially those who are Christian.

First we need to be clear about the term 'homosexuality', because it is so often used loosely - as a kind of 'catch-all' that not only reveals confusion in the minds of those using it, but also perpetuates that confusion.

Many who oppose homosexuals in the Church think they know what this is all about, and rush to express opinions about those affected. I recognise these opinions - they were once my own. But I have yet to hear anyone who is critical about homosexuality express a correct understanding of the matter.

We regularly hear phrases such as 'sexual preferences', 'choosing their way', 'sexuality caused by bad parent-child relationships' etc. - sometimes from people who should know better. They clearly have neither weighed the evidence available, nor listened to the people they so freely discuss. Perhaps they are afraid to hear or accept new truths, or think that the evidence offered by homosexual people is tainted - or, perhaps worst of all, they have closed their minds, treating the Bible as a textbook of religious laws, thinking that the Holy Spirit has given them an interpretation that can't be challenged.

Since I've learned more on the subject myself, I have found that most of what we hear in conversations or sermons, and read in newspapers, is misleading. 'Homosexual' is not another word for 'paedophile'; children are as safe with gay men as with heterosexual men. There are abusers among them, just as there are those who are sexually obsessed or perverted, but they are no more prevalent than among heterosexuals.

Equally, there are many fine, gifted, faithful people among them, just as there are among heterosexuals. Homosexuals rarely fit the stereotypes of butch females and effeminate men,which is why they are usually unrecognised in churches and society until they 'come out'. Certainly, those whom I know are just ordinary people living ordinary lives like you and me.

Nevertheless, while there is obviously much misinformation, there are well-informed, responsible TV programmes and research writings. I have also found that lesbian and gay people are often very willing to speak of their experiences to people they trust, and their accounts are invaluable to us in learning about the issues.

What is homosexuality?

Let's start at the beginning, always bearing in mind that if we turn to the scriptures without a good knowledge of the issue we are studying, we will mislead ourselves by misinterpreting, and therefore dishonouring, the Word of God.

The answer to this first question is very straightforward. The only difference between those of us who are heterosexual and those who are homosexual is in the nature of our natural sexual attraction. Most of us are heterosexual,possessing a natural sexual attraction for the opposite sex. Homosexual people are by nature sexually attracted to the same sex. This is their natural sexual affection - no less natural than the heterosexual attraction towards the opposite sex.

However, the word 'homosexual' is loosely used to include different groups of people, and this can lead to considerable confusion.

True homosexuals are people with a natural sexual attraction to others of the same sex. No amount of prayer, counselling, Christian healing or deliverance can change their sexuality.They are homosexual by nature (we shall consider what this means later).

They express their sexuality in ways similar to those practised by heterosexuals, though as with heterosexuals this expression might take many different forms such as celibacy, 'courting' or more intimate expression.

Just like the rest of us, homosexuals include many who are responsible, faithful and truly loving in the way they express their sexuality towards the person they love. (This is how I find those of my homosexual Christian friends who are in covenant relationships.)

There are also homosexuals (and heterosexuals) who express their sexuality in exploitative and damaging ways, destroying their own dignity and that of others.

Then there are same-sex sexual adventurers - not bisexual people (see below) but heterosexuals who engage in same-sex acts for various reasons: money, experimentation, sexual obsession or, in the case of men, lack of female opportunity. This used to be found mainly in single-sex institutions, prisons, armed forces etc. but is now reported to be much more widespread in a 'sexually freer' society. It is these people that need healing to be restored to their true sexuality.

Finally, to add to the confusion, there are bisexual people, who are sexually attracted to people of both sexes. It has been suggested that human sexuality is on a continuum, with 100% heterosexuality at one extreme, 100% homosexuality at the other and bisexuality in between. This fits the experience of many people.

It is easy to see how confusion can occur when the term 'homosexuality' is used without qualification. There is a variety about all aspects of God's creation, some of which stuns us with its beauty and some of which requires our understanding and compassion.

For the purposes of this study, I wish to confine myself to true homosexuals - people who are sexually attracted to those of the same sex and who, because it is part of their given nature, cannot be changed. And for the most part I wish to speak with reference to homosexual Christians, and others who are responsible in expressing their sexuality.

Once we have reached the end of this study, the place of bisexual people in the love of God will, I hope, become a little clearer.

Is homosexuality a 'given'?

What evidence is there that homosexual orientation is a given state?

There is much compelling evidence, most of it relating to men, though it has to be said that some of the evidence, while pointing in a particular direction, is not finally conclusive. But taken together with the evidence of the experience of gay and lesbian people themselves, it does points to their sexuality being a 'given'.

So let's look at the evidence, but only after dispelling one false assumption that is the root of misunderstanding for some. Most people know that our X and Y chromosome patterns, with a very few exceptions (see page 16), determine our physical gender attributes (i.e. whether we have the bodies of men or of women). What is not so well understood is that the processes that determine our physical gender do not also determine our sexuality. Other processes determine this.

Essentially, there are three principal theories about how our sexuality is determined: the nurture theory, the choice theory and nature theory.

Nurture

The first theory - unlikely from the evidence available - is that sexuality is governed by early child-parent relationships. In the case of boys, the theory states that the father-son relationship is very important to the right development of the son's sexuality; a bad father-son relationship, or the absence of the father, may lead to an over-close mother-son relationship that in turn predisposes the son towards homosexuality.

Some supporting this theory fear that the present high rate of family break-up and divorce will lead to an unusually high number of gay men. Yet one doesn't have to look far to discover that the theory is highly questionable and does not fit the facts.

For instance, were there unusually large, even vast numbers of gay men as a result of the war years taking fathers away? And what of the many children raised in families where dam-aged relationships seem almost to be the norm?

The evidence from gay people them-selves is that, like the rest of us, some had poor childhood relationships with dad, some with mum, and many had a happy childhood.

If this theory had any credence, it would enable the proponents to find and offer effective methods of healing.

Yet the evidence of successful healing is signally lacking, as many true gay men have found who have wanted to be the same as other people. Their difference causes them much pain in our society in the various ways they are oppressed. Suffice it to say that many lesbian and gay people laugh in frustration at this theory - and with good reason, as you will see.

Choice

The second theory is that gay and lesbian people choose their sexuality.

I have only to ask you this question: did you choose your sexuality? Of course you did not. Sexuality is an integral part of all of us, however it has developed.

Yet the choice theory and the nurture theory, in various mixed measures, are the basic foundation underlying the viewpoint of many who seek to offer 'Christian help' to homosexual people to 'repent' of their homosexuality. The help they are offering is undoubtedly well-meant, but it is based on a misunderstanding of homosexuality and a misinterpretation of the scriptures, and is therefore misguided. Such 'help' can cause real distress.

The only healing needed is the affirmation and love that Christ offers - and forgiveness for any who have strayed into abuse of their sexuality.

How we express our sexuality is something we do choose - whether to enrich another's life as well as our own, or to use it in ways that destroy our own dignity and that of others.

But that's another thing entirely.

One opinion commonly expressed by Christian homosexuals is particularly telling: 'Do you think I would choose to be homosexual, with all the pain that goes with it, if I had the choice?'

Among the Christian gay people I have met are some who at one stage have tried everything they could to be rid of their homosexual feelings - years of praying; counselling from Christians and others; Christian healing and deliverance ministry; therapy from professionals - all to no avail.

One such person that I didn't meet, but whose story is well known, was Simon Harvey - a young Christian who did everything he could possibly do to be rid of his homosexual feelings, but without success. He was desperate to change, and his despair led to suicide.

Others have followed the advice given by well-meaning but misinformed counsellors that they should marry to rid themselves of their homosexual feelings. Most such marriages are a recipe for disaster.

There is no way for true homosexuals to change their sexuality, though some in the Church do offer ways, and in the name of God cause some homosexual people much emotional damage.

Depression, even suicidal thinking, can be the negative results of such attempted 'healings' that undermine the given personality of true homosexual people.

Throughout history, gay men in particular have been persecuted in the most terrible ways - thrown into asylums, tortured, put to death. And today, they are blackmailed, beaten up, murdered, rejected in various ways - some subtle, some not so subtle.

They have no prospect of children and family in the accepted sense - some-thing which causes many to feel a great sense of loss.

Given all these pressures upon homosexual people, we can be sure that most of them - Christians especially - would indeed have changed their sexuality if they could possibly have done so.

They are denied a rightful place in God's kingdom - not by God in Jesus, but by many who call themselves his people - although we can thank God that, under the guidance of his Holy Spirit, more and more of his people are coming to see their ignorance and repent of their attitudes, just as I have.

Thankfully, the climate is slowly changing. There are now support groups, helplines and other ways of helping those who find they are homosexual to realise that, while they may be different from many others, they are a very significant group in society and their sexuality is quite normal for them - nothing to be ashamed of but rather to thank God for and rejoice in.

Many are helped through these support agencies to find and accept themselves as they are - though it is still hard even for these, the more fortunate ones, because of the prejudice and ignorance that is still rife.

Sadly, there are many who just cannot face the consequences openly - lives blighted by pious bigotry, ignorance and prejudice. I sometimes wonder, how angry does this make God?

Nature

The third theory is that our sexuality is a given part of our nature, whether we are heterosexual or homosexual - and there is a lot of evidence that supports this. Here are some examples of such evidence:

1. The experience of gay and lesbian people is that their sexuality is a 'given' part of their make-up. Their only choice, like everyone else's, is how they are to express it.

2. Powerful aversion therapy has been used to try to 'cure' homosexuals of their sexuality. Such methods have proved successful with 'learned behaviour' in the sexual sphere such as fetishes, but unsuccessful when used to 'cure' homosexuals of their sexuality. This would suggest that homosexuality is not something that is 'learned'.

3. A Dominican family that has been the subject of much research has, over a period of about 140 years, produced among the many children nearly 40 who were girls at birth and were raised as girls, but who at puberty become young men with no serious effects on their male sexuality. This is evidence that certainly refutes the 'nurture' theory.

4. An East German scientist followed up some research into the behaviour of lower mammals which showed that interfering with testosterone flow during critical stages in foetal development produced homosexual behaviour in the resulting male offspring.

Postulating from this that the brains of homosexual male mammals had been somehow 'feminised', he carried out experiments that supported his hypothesis. He then repeated the tests on two groups of men: a homosexual group and a heterosexual group. He found that when oestrogen was introduced into the bodies of homosexual men, this produced an ovulating hormone response (even though there were no ovaries present), whereas there was no such response in the heterosexual men. This would suggest that there are hidden but significant differences between homosexual and heterosexual men. I should add that this work has been challenged.

5. Other work being carried out by scientists with male homosexuals in the United States, including twin studies, suggests increasingly that the two major factors that determine sexuality are genetic make-up and foetal development in the womb. But the work is not yet complete.

6. Among various mammal and bird populations there is a significant proportion of animals that exhibit homosexual behaviour. Homosexuality, it would appear, is a natural part of animal behaviour as a whole.

We can conclude from all this that most of the evidence, while not definitive, strongly suggests that sexual orientation is a matter of nature, rather than of nurture or choice, neither of which has much real evidence to sup-port it.

Furthermore, if sexual orientation is a matter of nature, then we are dealing here with something that is a 'given'.

If our sexuality is a 'given', then it is a gift from God

There have always been homosexual people; they are a natural part of the human population. Homosexuality is a natural, healthy sexuality in its loving expression, just as is heterosexuality. To compare homosexuals, as some do, with those who sexually abuse others eg paedophiles, reveals deep ignorance and does grave damage. The problem lies not in being gay or lesbian, but in living in an ignorant, fearful, condemnatory, rejecting world.

Homosexual people are diminished and their dignity undermined when they are not acknowledged or affirmed as heterosexual people are. They can-not be fully themselves when part of their nature is denied.

In spite of all the pressures, however - and I find this astonishing - homosexual relationships can be as loving, committed, long-term, faithful and happy as any heterosexual relationship, including marriage. I have seen this, and seen the grief when a long-term partner has died. Other Christians have also told me of gay relationships that 'if all marriages were as happy, the world would be a better place.'

Yet the pain of being homosexual in a heterosexual world is real. A philosopher said that 'we cannot understand others unless we have walked in their shoes..'


George S. E. Hopper (Sep 15, 1997)

Monday, June 13, 2011

MISSION TRIP

The current series focusing on the SA's position on active homosexuals and their acceptance as full fledged SA soldiers is being placed on hold as we focus on the FSAOF LATVIA 2011 MISSION.

The series on TSA's response to the GLBT community is garnering unprecedented interest with a tripling of daily visitors.

Mention was made by two persons in the comment section that their earlier posts had been removed. Please note that NO comments were edited or deleted by me, the only person with access to and the administrative control to take such action.

Please follow our mission trip on this site - reports may not be on a daily basis as there are intermittent power outages in the remote area where the FSAOF mission work will be carried out.

blessings

Sunday, June 12, 2011

CONSENTING ADULTS part four


From a USA Church web site…

“The bishop opened with a greeting and then said what I knew was coming: "Well, when a duck dies, ducks come to the funeral. When a chicken dies, chickens come to the funeral. And by looking at who has come to this funeral today we all know what Robert was!"

Robert was a gay man who had passed away from AIDS… In my twenty some odd years of observing and doing care work within the church, my conclusion is that the black church has been complicit in the spreading of HIV/AIDS because of our deafening silence on this issue that has never escaped us.

From day one the issue has been seated in our pews and we have most often looked away. Our conscious sin has been to allow young lives to end because of our phobias, biases and bigotry. The deeper subconscious sin still left unattended to, may be found in the question: Why are we okay with this?”

Can it not be said that we Salvationists were or perhaps in some locations remain on the same track of silent complicity, not asking questions of the Spirit when challenged with circumstances for which there is no easy, comfortable or textbook answer? I’m not referring specifically to the AIDS’ response, but our phobias, biases and bigotry targeting the GLBT community.
Granted, in part three of three of this series I shared reasons why not all Salvationists, adherents, soldiers and officers alike, are capable of comprehending and participating in new levels of Evangelism: reaching to the gays in and outside TSA. A very different level of respect is necessary when asking the necessary questions. We must not allow fear of the answers and the necessary adjustments individually or in our corps necessary to thwart our zeal.

And with respect, not all should be invited into this exchange. In an organization comprised of millions it’s reasonable to assume that many will be confused by the arguments and observations being made. Our blog’s language consists of new rhetoric not linked directly to scripture simply because they relate to a society very different from that of Hellenistic Palestine. New York, London, Sydney and Paris are not modern remakes of Ephesus or 1st century Rome. And in reading the many comments submitted, in response to this series it’s obvious how far our thinking has taken us from St. Paul’s warning in his letter to the Romans. Some of those sharing responses to this series appear to deliberately move us away from the Scriptures, ‘they that only constitute the Divine rule of Christian faith and practice’ while others cling vehemently to the ‘clobber’ texts.

A new collection of voices and resources have been provided to our fellowship over the course of the last 3 - 4 years, and no one can deny that there exists a very different spirit of understanding, if not a parity, in appreciating and responding to the differing positions.

Focus on congregational parity
My interest and concern for homosexual in TSA came about through the death of my spiritual brothers, and my concern for others in my corps, a growing, maturing congregation, facing the same fate. That concern was the springboard that came to form the corps’ mission statement, in part; ‘serve lovingly and caringly those marginalized within our community’.

At the local corps level
In the space of 3 months our young adults ministry in our mid-Manhattan corps program grew to number some two dozen teens and persons in their early twenties. In addition, we initiated a Sunday afternoon ministry geared to ‘street people’ (200 meals served: non-related worship service 200 in attendance late Sunday afternoon) and catered to hundreds on a weekly basis.

Of interest to people within the corps and to DHQ/THQ was that many of our new ‘regulars’ were from SA officers’ homes, however, due rifts at home, lack of stimulating church programming elsewhere, or just plain indifference to ‘canned’ spirituality they found their way to the ‘Rink West’, the nickname given our corps. The ‘Rink’ is a central London corps well known for its creative and energetic outreach to people in bustling Piccadilly Circus area. Other newcomers included a number of non-active Salvationists. (one is today a Lt.Col., three are Majors, etc.)

Our young adult fellowship consisted of a wide cross section of people; Salvationists (two were gay and two others were intrigued by this unexplored area of sexuality: two are today SA officers), some from mainline traditions, an officer from a nearby corps, an officer who shared that he had many gay friends and ‘knew their lifestyle well’ (died of AIDS 3 years later), and others whose SA surnames would be immediately recognized internationally. Among the Salvationists were five alcohol and drug abusers, 3 of whom were OKs, officers’ children.

This eclectic collection of God’s children, their energy and synergy lit the corps on fire!

We sought to and learned to reduce irrational fears as our hearts and doors were opened to the whosoever. The word AIDS powerfully affected our people. It was a transition period for our corps. We’d become consenting adults, inviting noxious smelling street person to share space in our pews, with a multi-millionaire member of TSA National Advisory member on one side and a PanAm pilot on the other. TV newscast presenters, West Point Military Cadets helped us serve meals donated to us from Manhattan’s Playboy Club, to the homeless while a Juilliard School string quartette played Vivaldi.

A concern for the corps’ long time fellowship members, and the many newcomers and our transients demanded that I learn more about this ‘gay men’s disease’. The logical arguments were by this time, 1990-91 empirically documented by laboratory studies. I knew that none of our traditional worshipers were placed in any jeopardy, only our ‘live in’ guests and those who chose to dine with us. Yet there was much to do to convince them.

Not incidentally, the meals served to our guests were “the best on the street”. Guests were seated at tables bedecked with starched white tablecloths and where silver ware, fresh flowers and napkins were neatly placed. There was always one reserved chair, and the guests knew by word of mouth that it was where Jesus would sit. A single lit candle graced that table. My spoken prayer (Grace) included a form of communion; the majority of our many guests were southern USA Blacks with traditional Baptist upbringings. And yes, we celebrated the occasional baptism. One General, several TCs and DCs had witnessed our weekly Love Feast and none, if they felt that my representing the roast beef as Christ’s body, or the lemonade as His blood, ever made it known directly or indirectly that they frowned on this practice. An officer’s brother, one who assisted weekly, was elected General of TSA some decade later.

Our regular Bible lessons included the alert that people who live with "people with AIDS" do not acquire HIV infection unless they are sex partners or share needles and syringes (which applied to some in our resident ‘family’).

We also made clear that eating food prepared by PWA does not transmit the virus. The same holds true for washing laundry mixed with laundry from a PWA, etc.

Our emphasis was on becoming consenting adults; mature Salvationist servants, ministering without fear to PWA. We had no specific strategy in mind, it was the simple recalibration of traditional SA programming and it formed the structure of our vision.

We invited them into our homes, shared daily meals, Bible lessons, prayer and confidential chats- not counseling as we didn’t know enough or have sufficient experience. Our corps’ role was to be God’s incarnational center, one free of judgment, fear and discrimination. There are no exceptions to our marching orders. The people Christ welcomes into His arms He also send to ours; the hungry, the thirsty, strangers, the naked, the terminally ill; serve with acts of compassion, all are precious to God and we were assigned the privilege of loving and caring for them.
The young gay men and one lesbian sought me out for private conversations. I learned a great deal from them and also from a book published at that time, Embracing the Chaos, (Theological Responses to AIDS). I also read a comprehensive history of AIDS; the rampant spread, important events , medical advances and changes in attitude.


The question of whether active gays had a Christian role to act out in TSA was not an issue. They were a part of every facet of our active outreach; teaching GED classes, members of our musical sections, serving meals to the homeless, etc. My role was to model Christ’s love, to embrace one and all who crossed the SA threshold and ask all others to do the same; a congregational fellowship. The SA in mid-town Manhattan had become a multi-family building: our family living quarters were on the SA buildings 2nd floor; my wife and I and 4 teenage children. In a reconstructed attic wing lived four very active Salvationist young people (3 are today officers), and in the basement were our “adopted” family of 17 men. We shared at least one meal a day together. And we’d arrange excursions near and far traveling as family, including one very special visit to the nation’s capitol and the White House.

Could it be that the very first person living with AIDS to step inside the White House was a Salvation Army soldier in the company of his heaven-bound Salvationist brothers?


Dr. Sven Ljungholm
Govan Citadel Corps UKT

Saturday, June 11, 2011

CONSENTING ADULTS part three


Following the army’s recent bashing by the Cold Facts TV investigative team in Sweden many churches came to our defense congratulating us for standing firm on our soldiership regulations relative to active homosexuals.

I wonder though, how many soldiers, adherents, indeed officers, really know our official stance, but more importantly, how many know why and how our position was formulated and approved?

I wonder too just how many SA groups get together and how often, for times of real personal reflections, biblical interpretation, and historical study on subjects of concern as reflected by the debates taking place in other denominations. As others wrestle with topics under the heading of homosexuality is the TSA’s response simply a matter of:
• I’ve made up my mind so don’t bother me with facts
• I’ll let others debate such weighty topics and decide for me
• I’ve heard the ‘8 verses’; the clobber passages work for me
• I’ve always seen those sexual activities as sick and perverted.
• Churches ought not to grapple with questions regarding same sex unions.

Have we been silently complicit due our ignorance on the subject? Or were some of us closet homophobes, afraid to ‘come out’ and speak up for this too long disenfranchised group? In the last three decades the GLBT movement has gained credibility, their voices heard, and as a result gained acceptance and an almost equal social status as many Christians saw the church’s influence and impact fade. Can TSA take any credit at all in the significant strides taken by the GLBT action groups? Is it thinkable that a SA band lead a Pride parade or provide accompaniment at a Gay Christian rally?

The question before us now, in 2011 does not relate to casual homosexual practices, but asks instead whether homosexual partnerships, loving, committed, and lifelong are a Christian option. My concern is, as I believe yours ought to be, are we subject to prevailing attitudes (whether total rejection or equally uncritical endorsement) to biblical scrutiny. Can the Bible be shown to sanction homosexual partnerships, or at least not to condemn them?

John Stott in this regard highlights the Biblical contentions commonly referred to as "the clobber passages”.

Traditionally, it has been assumed that the bible condemns all homosexual acts. But are the biblical writers reliable guides in this matter? Were their horizons restricted by their own experience and culture?

And were the biblical writers addressing themselves to ‘our’ questions. Had Paul, the chief expositor of our Christology and theology in the New Testament, with all the Spirit filled passion by which he wrote, ever considered "the homosexual condition"? Paul knew only about certain practices. Had he had an insight into the possibility of persons being attracted to each other, developed a relationship and fallen in love, might he not have written that slaves, blacks, women and gays too are liberated.

In his "Time for Consent," liberal theologian Norman Pittenger lists six characteristics of a truly loving relationship. “They are: (1) commitment (the free self-giving of each to the other); (2) mutuality in giving and receiving (a sharing in which each finds his or her self in the other); (3) tenderness (no coercion or cruelty); (4) faithfulness (the intention of a lifelong relationship); (5) hopefulness (each serving the other's maturity); and (6) desire for union.

If then a homosexual relationship, whether between two men or two women, is characterized by these qualities of love, surely (the argument goes) it must be affirmed as good and not rejected as evil. It rescues people from loneliness, selfishness, and promiscuity. It can be as rich and responsible, as liberating and fulfilling, as a heterosexual marriage.”

Could it be that we Salvationist are so enamored by what the army represents, its colorful history, victories, and Evangelical zeal that we march forward without seeing ALL those to whom we are called to care for? We are, after our now almost 150 year history a massive movement, and for which we give God all praise. However, even a cursory look at our soldiery will confirm that our troops include the ‘whosoever’. Look around at the next Divisional meeting or congress and you’ll see the frail, those whose lives consist mainly of following flag no questions asked, and may God bless them mightily!


In the 1950s, the social psychologist Solomon Asch conducted a famous experiment that highlighted the fragility of the person in a mass society when he is confronted with the contrary opinion of a majority, and the tendency to conform even if this means to go against the person's basic perceptions.

On the southwest coast of Sweden, where the ocean winds blow steadily, every tree is bent at almost 45 degrees due their lack of strength to withstand the powerful forces pushing againsrt them. It’s a large area dotted by wind farms providing power to local communities. Are we not swayed by the masses in a very similar fashion against our deepest feelings and convictions?

Or is our guilty silence the result of not being more alert in re-examining all positions (our own included) and then making decisions as free, mature and consenting responsible human beings, whatever the direction taken by the masses?


Cultural influences shape every person's practices, prejudice and judgments defining our values in a very powerful way. And make no mistake, the army has a very distinct culture impacting on every member’s ethos to the point where one might easily depart from more logical and moral positions. (ethics and morals differ and the words are not interchangeable)

The question of SA internal influence and pressure is especially pertinent in our day

Life in society requires consensus as an indispensable condition. But for consensus to be productive it requires that each individual contribute independently out of his experience and insight. When consensus comes under the dominance of cultural conformity, the social process is threatened by becoming polluted and dissipated.


Our army is strong, but could be stronger yet if every reasonable, intelligent and well-meaning member sought God's grace on this divisive issue and followed His will as it becomes known.

I began doing some light research on the subject of gays in the church and returned to my era of enlightenment; the 1960s and my years living in New York.

Greenwich Village held a certain allure for young people with its mix of clubs, theatres and restaurants. One of the most popular was the Stonewall (Inn) a bar frequented by gay men and the site of regular police raids. On one such occasion the patrons decided they’d had enough and stood their ground and in fact barricaded the policemen inside the club. It was a Seminole moment and Stanley Grenz, in his book Welcoming But Not Affirming, writes that this event, coupled with singer Anita Bryant’s crusade against homosexuality a few years later, marked a turning point in the relationship of gay and lesbian people to the wider society.

Gay and lesbian people began to come out of the closet and publicly affirm their sexual orientation. Their goals were not focused, yet they wanted their voices to be heard. Tolerance was a key goal as acceptance seemed too far distant. Minor steps would result in ever-greater achievements. Tolerance and the elimination of homophobia were steps one and two and then the greater goal became that of helping society understand homosexual preference and orientation as being on an equal footing with heterosexual orientation and preference.

TSA seeking to ‘remain current’ opened a coffee house in the East village, however, as is so often the case when good willed people initiate projects far outside their knowledge and scope it soon failed and folded. We wanted to be hip but instead came away destined to serve our coffee to policemen hell bent on ridding NY of gays, from emergency vehicles.

As a college student and salvationist I don’t remember ever spending time studying the subject of homosexuality. I think I equated homosexual behavior with compulsive behavior, a person’s immature and excessive attempt to connect properly or experimentally with other people, a view that I’ve for the most part come to refute.

The issue of gay and lesbian equality as a justice issue was well known by, and tacitly supported by the army. But there were also those within our organization who seized the moment to march out of the closet. The few in my Division soon realized though that the timing was far from perfect. The associated social stigmas addressed in scripture were thrown at them from every side. Most had changed their views on subjects such as race, the role of women, and the issue of divorce and remarriage. Consequently they should be able to change their minds on the issue of homosexuality. But they could not get around the biblical texts that address the subject of homosexuality; God’s divinely inspired word.


Dr. Sven Ljungholm
Govan Citadel Corps UKT

Thursday, June 9, 2011

CONSENTING ADULTS part two

Thirty-five years ago my mentor of almost 40 years was dying of cancer. He was a pillar of faith and referred to by others as a great Bible teacher in training college, a fine speaker on the Old Testament: he was able to maintain the interest of his listeners for the 15 minutes he had disciplined himself to speak. He was a Salvation Army Officer business man, coming to officership at age 40 from a professional background. He had earned his university degree as a young man, his CPA at age 50 and begun an earnest study of ancient Greek at age 55.

I was in Brisbane Australia with the New York Staff Band when the call came saying: ‘Your father has been promoted to glory, please come home right away’. God often spoke to me as a young man in bursts saying: ‘I want this from you, or that’, but on that 20 hour flight to my boyhood home of Chicago God spoke repeatedly asking: ‘Who will take his place?’, ‘Who will people catch My Spirit from now that I have taken him home’?

My religious lessons from my Dad came not from his preaching but from his asking me to assist him in inventing truths that could be built into a matrix whereby we designed moral and ethical paradigms. If indeed God was asking me to become a ‘preacher man’ it was clear to me and others that I fell far short of the required qualities. I had my father’s inquisitive and logical mindset in all manner of things but no theological training and only rudimentary knowledge of philosophy.

As a freshmen university student living at home I had thumbed through many of the books in my father's library, and among them, Honest to God John by A T Robinson, the then Bishop of Woolwich (1963) in South London explored new ways of viewing traditional Christianity. The controversy stirred up by the book raged for some years in the mid-sixties although much of it was unoriginal. It was primarily thoughts borrowed from Rudolf Bultmann, Paul Tillich and Dietrich Bonhoeffer peppered by the author's observations.

The social situation in the 1960s was one of startling transitions. The contents of Honest to God were not striking in themselves but the climate was right and the book took off in a big way selling an immediate 350,000. People read his offering and sensed that it spoke deeply to them. It was the social climate, the clear and simple language of the book, and the hierarchical position of the author in the Church which stimulated rapid sales and that soon passed the million copies sold mark.

My reading at the time also consisted primarily of the books by Ayn Rand who’d gathered a large following of humanists- I subscribed to her newsletter. Two favorites from my father’s shelves, were two classical works, Kierkegaards ‘Fear and Trembling’ and Tillich’s ‘Courage to Be’ (both are now on my books shelf).

TWENTY YEARS LATER...


It was clear to me that if I were to follow in my father’s footsteps I would have to ask, ‘Give me a double portion of Your Spirit’ I became a ‘consenting adult’ and at aged 39 took the courageous step of becoming a Salvation Army Officer.

I threw myself into reading everything that I deemed of interest to the small congregants that gathered each Sunday on East 52nd Street in New York. I made weekly visits to the Strand bookshop on Manhattan’s lower east side and there combed the enormous selection under the headings philosophy and religion. I subscribed to a wide array of religious journals; the Army was very liberal and encouraging in this sense in providing an allowance for this and to further expand my knowledge I enrolled in a Master’s degree program at New York’s Jesuit Fordham University. This was in the 1980’s, a period when it was quoted that a Buddhist monk said that: ‘to the eastern religious it looks as if Christianity has reached the stage in adolescence when the child is slightly ashamed of his father and embarrassed when talking about Him.’ This was the time when John Stott began warning the Christian and the church that ‘we’ were becoming too much like the world. The chief dilemma was the rapidity with which modern life was changing.

It was a period of uneasy confusion both inside and outside the church. The church was emulating the world at an alarming pace saying we must have a new gospel for this new world. The old gospel was out of date and irrelevant. In contrast William Temple’s statement in, ‘Towards the conversion of England’ shared the truism that, ‘The Gospel is true, always and everywhere or it is not a Gospel at all’. Sometime later the commission wrote: ‘It is the presentation of the Gospel, not its contents that changes with succeeding generations and their varying conditions’. It was a time when more and more churches began to assimilate and identify themselves with the world, and in doing so ceased to be a church. ‘If the salt looses it saltiness …’ Canon A. R. Vidler said that we are called to live in natural surroundings a supernatural life, however, this became less and less of a reality. In our seeking to make the church more attractive to the man outside we sought to become as much like him as possible forgetting that ‘when the church is absolutely different from the world she invariably attracts it’, said Dr. D Martin Lloyd-Jones.

There were ‘consenting adults’ in the church who moved toward a temporal theology; human emotions allowed them to exploit irrational forces in mans’ natures. It is neither a denial nor suppression of human desire nor is it surrender to it. It is according to Aristotle a use and moderation of our appetite selves that allows us to be committed to our own moral aims and aspirations. It is a theology that opens itself to the powerful feelings of people in their every day lives. It is the interweaving of theology and ethics with ethics finding its genesis in modern culture and as such is a virtue that is often impacted by compromise and the lack of convictions of so typical in liberalism. Against this temporal theology one senses the clash of ‘courageous theology’. Courageous theology leads to and undergirds the virtue that opposes social pressure; to stand by ones convictions. ‘Give me a double portion of Your Spirit’.

For me, now some 18 months into my study and sharing a weekly message I was a bit like Koko in The Mikkado in that: ‘I’ve got a little list’ that became my trilogy: ‘Faith, hope and love’ were the classic topics of almost every sermon preached or article written. This was an era of new theology, new-age thinking and sexual liberation /exploration. Whether naïve, ignorant, or lacking courage, or a combination of all three, there were areas I was not prepared to tackle. Instead I found constant consolation in witnessing the change in the ever-increasing number of homeless persons coming to our corps and in the return of many ex-Salvationists. They were human beings though flawed, vitiated and fallen demonstrated the central truths of the Christian faith in their lives and works. They were ‘consenting adults’ taking to heart the teachings of the church and living it.

A year or so subsequent to opening our doors to the homeless I watched a man who I had sworn in as a soldier begin to weaken physically. As the weeks passed his condition worsened. The only option was to drive him to Belleview Hospital where I waited with him in the emergency department, while watching stab, shooting, and over-dose victims being delivered in numbers. We thought we recognized some of the arrivals as ‘regulars’ to our corps feeding program.

In addition to my concern for the friend in my care was the fact that he had no insurance, no documents confirming his identity, that I had brought a black man to Belleview for treatment, and that he was an illegal alien! He was examined and admitted as a patient. I was instructed to go home and that I’d be informed in the morning as to his condition.

The phone call came and the doctor’s words were, “I’m sorry to inform you, but your SON is HIV positive, an advanced case, and it’s best that you come down straight away…” I raced to the hospital and to my friend’s side and there held his hand and prayed with him. When I opened my eyes the doctor was standing at the foot of the bed looking at us, one black and one white, in a SA uniform, and his eyes said; “you’ve been given a double portion of His Spirit’.

Three months later we’d arranged for his credentials to be reissued and through my airline contacts. Having spent 15 years in the airline industry, I'd secured a free one-way ticket to his home country. A group of friends from the corps traveled with me to JFK Airport where we said our farewells. I saw my friend, my spiritual son, for the last time.

Just before Christmas I received a telephone call from the Divisional Commander in his home city informing me that my friend, “a fine Salvationist and witness had been promoted to Glory”.
Two of our other early GED program entrants, on learning of their friend’s death admitted that they were active homosexuals, and that one had supported his drug habit by prostituting himself. The word on the street was that Mother Theresa would soon be opening an AIDs hospice in NY. It was now quite clear that God had chosen the basement confines of a SA corps on East 52nd to do the same. Both men along with many others became converts and SA Adherents.

In that I saw God’s hand in it all I saw no reason to seek HQ's blessing. A million dollar brownstone adjoining the corps was opened to us for our use. Daily donations of furniture, and promises of free renovation construction followed. As did food from upscale markets, and financial support from anonymous sources that more than covered our operating costs. Our bi-monthly graduation ceremonies with our grads in gowns and mortar boards became media events beamed across the world. Many of our GED grads followed our lead and registered for university programs with some becoming fellow students at Fordham.

‘Give me a double portion of Your Spirit’

I had not expected to face the question of homosexuality and its place or relevancy in the church (corps), but God had brought His concern for His children to our doorstep. Gay religious fellowships had begun to spring up in the 'village' and some gay Salvationists had begun coming to our corps believing that our tolerance and acceptance of ‘all’ included an endorsement of their lifestyle. We found ourselves in that proverbial ‘fence sitting’ role between tolerance and acceptance. I wasn’t certain what exactly the Army’s position was on our acceptance of active homosexuals into full membership.


Dr. Sven Ljungholm
Govan Citadel Corps UKT

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

CONSENTING ADULTS part one


The debate following the Cold Facts’ TV program and the reprehensible unethical reporting methods used in investigating the Salvation Army caused a storm of protests, including several from our own fellowship. We shared daily updates from the Swedish media translated for our English-speaking visitors. The number of visitors to our blog site quadrupled during that period. Of note is that of the many hundred complaints received by the network, few faulted the army’s stance on the issue of active homosexuals becoming full-fledged members of the church (SA). The Army’s position on allowing active homosexuals into our membership as soldiers/officers, however, while challenged by some, remains unchanged.

Many predicted that the fury over the transgressor’s lack of professional conduct would be short lived. Thankfully that has not been the case. Both the government and TSA are reviewing, rethinking, and redefining the resources and programming being provided to homosexuals and others.

There have been many within our fellowship and others who have asked me over the course of the last few years to share a substantive view on active homosexuals and their place in TSA. I will do so in the next day or so but will preface my remarks by pointing out that, while I was one of those who founded our fellowship, served as a Salvation Army officer for a number of years and remain an active Salvationist, I would highlight that I speak only for myself. But first, let’s have a look and see how others have responded.

The newspaper World Today contacted twelve major Swedish religious groups requesting an update on their current stance regarding active gays and their place in their church. The World Today writes: 
"Only the Swedish Church (State church - Lutheran) equate heterosexual relationships with homosexual relationships.” It’s Interesting that the same churches, if asked the same question just a few weeks ago, prior to the Cold Facts program, would have been far less consistent and united in what had become increasingly undefined views. Of the twelve church communities interviewed, ten communities are united in defining marriage as between a man and woman.

The majority of Swedes have been expectedly and predictably neutral on the subject, although since the Church of Sweden's decision to make no distinction in its marriage service between straight and gay couples, it was a far less triumphant celebration for liberals than expected. For one thing, half the church's bishops signed a letter condemning it; but the extraordinary decision-making structure of the Swedish church means they have no special voice in its decisions. An assembly that is elected directly in theory by all its members runs the church. In practice, the turnout is about 10% and the majority is elected on the tickets of secular political parties.

The vote on whether the right to wed should be extended to same-sex couples was decided primarily on party lines. So once the parties had decided in parliament that marriage should make no distinction between sexes in Swedish law, the church's agreement was almost certain. Whether this actually reflects active Christian opinion in Sweden is much more difficult to know. All of the other major Christian denominations in Sweden have criticized the decision. There is also a divide within society.

In recent years Swedes have deserted the Swedish Church in droves; just 2 years ago nearly 72,000 people, or roughly 1 percent of the church's 6.8 million members walked out of the church. There has not been a direct correlation made between the diminishing church attendance and the church’s stance on same sex unions however, some argue that there must be some residual consequence as other denominations flourish. (Only 3% of Swedes are regular Church of Sweden worshipers.)

Yesterday the government's view of homosexuality was debated in parliament. The focus was the Salvation Army's biblical view of marriage, and the requirement that enrolled Salvationists must either be living in heterosexual marriage or celibacy. Is this alone not a reason for celebration? The world’s most liberal nation stops to reassess its values because of the army. The reinvigorated debate on active homosexuality and the church’s position should cause great interest as it appears all those tolerant Swedes are rethinking where their liberal acceptance of all manner of values and morality has brought them.

The World Today’s article shows that there is broad consensus around upholding the traditional heterosexual marriage model.


Dr. Sven Ljungholm
Govan Citadel Corps UKT

Monday, June 6, 2011

Zeligman's Execution... Diary of Adjutant Otto Ljungholm

RUSSIAN SA CADETS Adjutant Otto and Gerda Ljungholm 2nd row 3rd&4th from left

-Part Two-

How did it go with Zeligman some will ask… and of course we sought to know his fate – warm, heartwrenching prayers were lifted up throughout the night – because we felt it would be at best a very brief legal process… (we had no time to spare) There were many disturbing rumors and reports coming back to us at the training college compound …

But then we heard it; between 5 and 6 a.m. (as we prayed) a pounding at the front portal of the Training College compound… The watchman said, ‘Stand back! Stand Back, who goes there?’ ‘Zeligman’, was the answer, and rushing in to the hall he tells us the following. “Immediately on arrival at the Red Guards’Commissioner’s office the questioning began, and they asked me what kind of meetings were we conducting and what is your personal relationship with God?”

The determination was made that Zeligman would be executed by a firing squad. He was tied up and placed against a wall. But before any shots were fired he yelled: ‘Listen to me before you shoot, I am not afraid to die’ and as he said those words he tore open his shirt and pointed at his heart and said: ‘I am saved and in few moments I will be in heaven, but before that let me tell you something about my life. I was an active party member, but then my life was turned around when I accepted salvation and now my only motive is to help others find salvation.’ This was interesting to them; those who listened and the Commanding Officer said: ‘Take him away from the wall, we will postpone his execution …’ the execution was postponed and then they spoke and decided to halt everything until the next day.

And now Zeligman said: ‘I wish to sleep and at 12 today I am to return to the Commissioners compound in order that the sentence be carried out…’

At 11.00 am Zeligman bid farewell to his wife, his comrades at the training college and slowly made his way to the Commissioner’s compound. At the stroke of 12 noon he entered with the words ‘I am here … I am Zeligman.’ However, the Commissioner in charge of the case was busy handling another matter in a private office and answered through the door: ‘I don’t have time today, return tomorrow at the same time.’

The following day Zeligman arrived again, promptly at 12 noon. The results were the same as the day before and in due time the entire matter was washed away like sand in the sea. It was so very close, in fact only seconds from his death – the whole matter was now turned upside down and Zeligman continued as a Cadet …

Truly a strange land...
Otto Ljungholm


------------------- translated from Swedish by Sven Ljungholm

Friday, June 3, 2011

CADET ZELIGMANN'S ARREST AND IMMINENT EXECUTION Part One


Acts 5:40. "His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42 Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ".
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Petrograd, Russia 1919 (Personal Diary: Otto Ljungholm)
During our initial period of service in Russia we enjoyed enormous freedom to conduct our religious services in city squares, on street corners and in fact, wherever we wanted. And, we took advantage of each opportunity. In each instance we met bewilderment as well as empathy and interest. Every meeting was conducted without specific expectations and with some trepidation.

One day when I was on the streets of Petrograd (Leningrad) with Cadets to conduct open-air meetings, as we set up our circle we were suddenly surrounded by a large number of armed soldiers. They ordered us to halt our activities immediately. That command was followed by yet another; “One of you must return with us to the Commissar!” Brother (Cadet) Zeligman immediately stepped forward – “a brave and wonderful man…”

A passing horse-drawn carriage was commandeered and the soldiers with Zeligman securely tied up set off bound for??? We feared for the worst!

One thought immediately entered my mind; How will Mrs. Cadet Zeligman take the news when I break it to her. I was preparing in my mind what I might say as I approached the gates to the compound when I heard the Cadets’ voices cry loudly “Zeligman’s been arrested! Zeligman’s been taken captive…” And then the little wife comes out and approaches me… how will she take the crushing news? I sense she is about to faint in a heap, or at the least to cry out, “what will happen to me and my little ones? Maybe I’m aleady a widow, and the children without a father”?!

No one could have predicted what happened next…

Mrs. Zeligman shouted, with her arms raised toward the heavens, “SLAVA BOGA, SLAVA BOGA! PRAISE BE TO GOD – PRAISE BE TO GOD – THANK YOU FOR MAKING ME WORTHY TO SUFFER FOR JESUS’ SAKE!!

Here is one example of the willingness to serve and the courage displayed, indeed the willingness to suffer- so readily offered and witnessed in serving these poor Russians.
(Part One)


RUSSIAN OFFICERS CONGRESS 1918

Petrograd, Russia 1919
Personal Diary
Otto Ljungholm

(translated from Swedish by Sven Ljungholm)