Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Single Spouse Officership - ONE MISSION? (part 4)

“We need Officers ... Officership by its nature is about availability and mobility. In a worldwide Salvation Army we need people who are prepared to serve anywhere and be of service to the cause of Christ, with all their gifts. We need people who are available. So the more officers the better! We need officers who see this not as a profession in a secular sense but as sacrificial service. Officership needs to underscore sacrifice." –
General Linda Bond

The Lord says ‘Do not cling to the past or dwell on what happened long ago. Watch for the new thing I am going to do.
It is happening already you can see it now!’…”
Isaiah 43:18-19 GNB

The Salvation Army has maintained an unyielding, unique and historical position on its officer ministry selection and regulations for more than 125 years. The SA’s insistence that both spouses wishing to become Salvation Army officers (ministers) must first be senior soldiers within the organization, equally called by God, trained, ordained and commissioned, is a proviso that has been of great strength and value for more than a century.

Candidacy and Training
When applying to become a Salvation Army officer, strict acceptance guidelines must be adhered to before training can commence. Each territory will have similar conditions that applicants must fulfill prior to entry and include, but are not limited to, the following, they must:

  • ·         Believe they are called to full-time ministry, specifically Officership.
  •     Be active Soldiers in their local Salvation Army corps.
  •     Receive a recommendation from the Corps Officer of that Corps.
  •     Be endorsed by the Divisional Candidate Secretary(s).
  •     Partake in a formal interview with the Territorial Candidacy Board and Territorial Candidate Secretary(s).

Those wives/husbands who were aware of their spouse’s calling prior to marriage are often called to the same or similar ministry. And within TSA this unique spiritual revelation is considered the norm for those contemplating officership. Many rise to the challenge and seek to fulfill their calling and embrace the SA’s ministry design and discipline. However, a survey conducted among 400+ former SA officers revealed that almost 50% of the hundreds who’d resigned and ‘left the work’ did so because one or both spouses had misinterpreted/ misunderstood the ‘call’ and God’s leading in their life.

The Salvation Army International Commission on Officership (2000) seeking to remedy the significant reductions in the number of officers in many developed countries opened the door for Christian ministry and spiritual leadership for those called by God, but whose spouse does not share the same calling to ministry. It broadens access to officership for those who are married to non-officer spouses. Equally important; it acknowledges and celebrates individual calling to ministry as officers in TSA while also seeking to quell the fundamental problem of the diminishing number of active officers in many ‘western’ country territories.

Potentially, this shift in policy may prove to be the single most important provision in the army’s effort to stave off closing more doors in more towns and cities and reigniting and refocusing our movement’s evangelistic zeal in accordance with the General’s; One message – One mission proclamation.

The model of service where an officer is married to an officer will continue to be encouraged and endorsed. However, although there are great advantages in having both husband and wife in ministry team leadership, this should not impede couples where only one wishes to become an officer.

This year, 2011, there are 109 appointments to be filled in the UKT and only 49 officer units on transfer. In Canada, Sweden, NZ and Finland where the losses in the number of active officers run to a staggering 75%, recent statistics reveal a total of only 24 Cadets in Canada, and only a handful in Sweden/Finland.

Does Single Spouse Officership in its present form represent a possible solution in seeking a turn-around? 

The nature of officership as a spiritual covenant rather than a contract with The Salvation Army must be understood and affirmed by the SSO

The SSO programme was designed initially to attract SA soldiers who were prepared to abide by SA regulations and lifestyles and to become partners in ministry with their officer spouse. 

    The non-officer spouse will possess a thorough understanding of The Salvation Army, its mission and values and its officer appointment system.

Many questioned the expectation and requirement that the non-officer “must be a soldier or member of the Army”, or can they simply be a professing believer of the Christian faith? There was concern that the applicant pool was too small, and some potential candidates were already married to non-salvationists.

What is the application process?

The non-officer will possess a thorough understanding of The Salvation Army, Its mission and values, Its officer appointment system,   The nature of officership as a spiritual covenant rather than a contract with The Salvation Army must be understood and affirmed.

The application process starts with a written request to the Divisional Commander or Department Head asking for consideration as a single spouse officer.  An interview with the applicant and the non-applicant spouse (or spouse to be) follows. A significant review will be part of the application process. The Salvation Army wants to ensure the very best candidates for SSO so that our mission will be accomplished.

The officer spouse will or has received extensive training on how to be an officer. However, the same cannot be said of the non-officer spouse. Instead, unless they are themselves former officers, they may well feel totally unprepared for the expectations associated with their ministry role.

In a poll conducted in December among non-officer spouses in 5 territories where the Single Spouse Officership provision is in place, less than 10% of respondents felt they had been provided sufficient training for their role (call). And most shared that it was a learning-on-the-job through onsite experience and from the insight provided by the officer spouse. 

Some of the expectations of the non-officer spouse are:
·      Would they be willing/required to move to a new location when the officer spouse receives transfer orders?
·      Would they be prepared to live in an officer’s quarters if their combined income enabled the couple to afford a more expensive place to live?
·      Would they be prepared to live in an officer’s quarters if they deemed the property was in disrepair, lacking conveniences for a disabled spouse, located in a dangerous neighborhood, or wherethe furnishings were worn, dirty, etc?
                               GENERAL CONCERNS:
How would our corps/community churches accept this new leadership arrangement?

·      What kind of expectations would be placed upon the non-officer spouse by HQ and the congregation at large?

Yet, even with all the precautionary concerns and ‘controls’ there have been many negative experiences. In seeking to rectify these issues it’s  clear that the major causes for the negative experiences stem from the lack of preparation and/or ongoing training of the non-officer spouse? Are they fully aware of the spiritual commitments made by their spouse, and the army’s mission and their combined role in it?

In communicating with SSO the expectations and provisions do not appear to have been satisfactorily explained or reviewed regularly. In fact the SSO provision was scrapped in NZ last year due a number of unexpected controversial issues, and only one SSO couple remain serving in that territory.

What might be learned from that experience? In Finland and Australia non-officer spouses are challenging the expectation that they move their household due the officer spouse’s new appointment.

Those non-officer spouses (SS0) I’ve spoken with, or have contacted me privately, see the spouses’ calling and vocation as the officer's own, and do not consider themselves a specific part of his/her ministry, although they consider themselves 'supportive'.

It might be helpful to remind all SSO advocates, officers, soldiers, adherents and friends that the Army’s mother, Catherine Booth, was without question the most influential SSO non-officer in our movement’s history. Can it be all that difficult to demonstrate to the non-officer spouse what their assumed role represents? And their general attitude should be seeing themselves as 'servant-helpers' - their primary ‘calling’ being; to anticipate, meet and support the needs of their officer spouse.

Some, along with me, consider ourselves ‘appointed’ to be in part- time unpaid ministry with the officer spouse determining how we should be involved in the corps. (this subject has proved to be controversial on many levels and requires further research) The corps often assumes incorrectly what the non-officers role might be… It would therefore be unrealistic to determine a specific role within the corps based on models where in the past both spouses were SA officers. There is no one size fits all or any magic SA formula.

Leaders need to address why so many non-officer spouses have not received a formal or even ‘recommended’ job expectation/description.

to be continued

Dr. Sven Ljungholm
SA soldier
Liverpool - Birkenhead Corp


Anonymous said...

Brilliant - hope someone takes notice!


Anonymous said...

If Salvation Army leadership would be in contact with other denominational leaders , several questions could be answered about one spouse serving in full time ministry and the other spouse supporting the other while not involved in full time ministry.

The old outdated regulation that both spouses must serve in officership is adequate in some instances but in many it is not. Time to face the truth and reposition old outdated tradition. In many cases this regulation is not Biblical and has caused harm. Change is good.

Great article !

USA former

Anonymous said...

Struggling Single Spouse ... someone has to look further into our plight. It seems as if this was passed without thinking it through. Dear Salvation Army, please look into this for our sake, for the Army's sake, for the Kingdoms's sake.

Active UKT

Anonymous said...

Sven I've followed your blog since its inception and marvel at the depth of your devotion to TSA's mission. Wish with many in the UKT that were active and at THQ !
Former UKT

Anonymous said...

Anyone else believe their have been situations in the past where one partner in an officer couple have unofficially not been active (usually in larger or HQ appointments)? If it has unofficially happened why can not it work officially? Surely there's nothing wrong in an honest and open discussion, or even in voicing/suggesting such a concern; especially if no names are mentioned to make it a personal attack on anyone.

(I can't therefore understand why my non-personal expression of concern would have been deleted from another chapter in this debate. So much so I will keep posting it on every thread even if it keeps being deleted.)

Cheryl Hagedorn said...

I find the whole idea of an non-officer spouse intriguing. There were certainly spouses that should not have been officers but were, simply because they "had to be" so their partner could fulfill his/her calling. It was tragic. This change would be a breath of fresh air but as pointed out has its own quirks or challenges :-)
Have I missed a previous discussion about enlisting formers to fill empty pulpits?
USA, Central

Anonymous said...

There appears to be, and rightly so, good interest in this series Sven. Is there any assurance that UKT HQ are reading it, or better yet, 'getting it'?!

I'm in Australia where they've spoken about a manual for SSO couples (6 were commissioned last week, and as far as I could fathom, not all of the non officers were in uniform.

I don't understand why HQ hasn't reached out to you for guidance on the issue and others seeing you and your wife are a SSO couple. Pride?

Former officer
Considering a return

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david march said...

My wife was the first SSO to be appointed,2002, she was told to stand down after I resigned, she sand no I'm an officer, and want a new appointment. She received one within six weeks. I was asked to pay rent to live in the quarters, I refused, and went to the local council for housing benefit and was refused when they found I lived in a manse.
My wife died five years latter, and I was given six weeks to leave the quarters. Ex officer

Anonymous said...

Yes, I am a former officer from Canada.I was not surprised to see that Canada was mentioned along with other countries who have a decline in officers and not many entering the Training College. Some years ago, the powers that be were told that would happen when they made some bad decisions and now we have been reaping the harvest of their decisions ever since. I do know one officer who is married and her husband is not. Everything is working out fine now but I don't know what will happen if she receives another appointment and they have to relocate to another place where her husband has to find another job. Has anyone in the Army thought of looking into what is causing officers to resign and why others have no interest in full time ministry? I did hear someone say that the Army is too political and if they wanted that they would become a politician. Maybe that's some food for thought.