The FSAOF was inspired and launched on August 15, 2007, an era when every facet of business had begun using one common media outlet to expand their market focus and outreach, the world wide web (www). Both the intrinsic and extrinsic usefulness of the Internet was immediately recognized and motivated many to form international alliances. It was in this same fashion that I was inspired to form the FSAOF. Initially I created a web-log page where ‘former’ officers could visit and read challenging and inspirational messages with ‘formers’ being the main article contributors and our focus audience. I, along with several other former officers, still active as soldiers in TSA saw this as Divinely assigned role. We’d given centuries of combined years of service and shared a keen spiritual concern that our investment not be without gain for TSA and the Kingdom. One of the driving purposes was to slow the steady flow in the numbers of Salvation Army officers resigning and deserting the assignments they’d prayerfully and willingly accepted.
Our primary intent was to get alongside those contemplating resignation and those who’d already made a ‘break’. We wanted to make all ‘formers’ our friends through our Spirit led fellowship; we were careful to not be seen as in any sense making them our ‘mission’.
If our fellowship, the FSAOF, was ever to become a force for stemming the attrition rate and the eventual return to officership of those who’d resigned, it was paramount that TSA and our own members recognize the crucial role each group had to play. There had never existed a fellowship of any size, except the almost 100 year old strong and tightly run FSAO association in Sweden.
Within a few weeks the interest, need and usefulness became evident with an average of 100 blog visitors daily; www.FSAOF.blogspot.com . And the FSAOF has to date welcomed almost 90,000 visitors from more than 100 countries, with around 50% of the visitors having no SA link.
Dozens come together in fellowship daily. Our fears, hurts and joys are shared. We discuss, mostly in a brotherly way, all matters of interest and concern- no subject is too insignificant or foreign to be shared. Hundreds of discussion threads and thousands of responses speak to our mission’s intent; it is a place of healing, rest and reconciliation and Godly praise.
As already mentioned, ours was not the first fellowship formed to support former officers. The first was created in Sweden in 1934, more than 75 years ago. The fellowship appealed only to officers who’d served in the international SA in Sweden.
(In 1905 TSA in Sweden, during its greatest annual assembly, saw the coming of a conflict that eventually caused a major rift with hundreds of officers and soldiers resigning from the international SA and formed the “Swedish Salvation Army”, an almost identical copy of Booth’s Army, but without input and control from IHQ.)
SA leadership in Sweden made no secret of how they perceived the loss in faith of the departed.
Stockholm, April 24, 1934
Colonel Sven Wiberg,
My dear spiritual father, I so long for the Colonel [you] to come to Stockholm, but it looks as though a welcome will be soon, and if the Colonel [you] can put up with living at the Hotel Elcelsior, you are welcome…
And so I have another plea, we have founded an association for former Salvation Army officers in order to gather them back to God and the Struggle for Our Lord; we will have the annual meeting at the beginning of the Convention and they want the Colonel to come and lead a Salvation Meeting …
The Swedish FSAO association was a SA initiative and its intent was to seek and to save the officers; resignation from TSA was equated with a fall from Grace and rebellion against God. The stigma that was brandished on 'deserters' then spread across all borders and hangs like a black cloud to this day.
Ours was an initiative to save officers from leaving TSA and to alert TSA that our struggle for our Lord is a joint struggle with them! And now, five years on of struggling, extending our hands and hearts, our intent is beginning to be understood and welcomed.