Thursday, May 31, 2012

Healing of a Divine Physician


scripturePsalms 103:3
 
Humbling as this statement is, yet the fact is certain that we are all more or less suffering under the disease of sin. What a comfort to know that we have a great Physician who is both able and willing to heal us! Let us think of Him for a moment tonight.
His cures are very speedy—there is life for a look at Him; His cures are radical—He strikes at the center of the disease; and so His cures are sure and certain. He never fails, and the disease never returns.There is no relapse where Christ heals, no fear that His patients should be merely patched up for a season. He makes new men of them: He also gives them a new heart and puts a right spirit within them.
He is well skilled in all diseases. Physicians generally have some specialty. Although they may know a little about almost all our pains and ills, there is usually one disease that they have studied more than others; but Jesus Christ is thoroughly acquainted with the whole of human nature. He is as much at home with one sinner as with another, and He never yet met an unusual case that was difficult for Him. He has had extraordinary complications of strange diseases to deal with, but He has known exactly with one glance of His eye how to treat the patient. He is the only universal doctor; and the medicine He gives is the only true panacea, healing in every instance.
Whatever our spiritual malady may be, we should apply at once to this Divine Physician. There is no brokenness of heart that Jesus cannot bind up. "The blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin."1We have only to think of the myriads who have been delivered from all sorts of diseases through the power and virtue of His touch, and we will joyfully put ourselves in His hands. We trust Him, and sin dies; we love Him, and grace lives; we wait for Him, and grace is strengthened; we see Him as he is, and grace is perfected forever.
11 John 1:7
Alastair Begg

Don’t ban Catholic school clubs that support gay rights



Last November, the Catholic school board in the Southern Ontario community of Halton passed a resolution banning “gay-straight alliances” – clubs in which gay and straight high-school students meet to talk about and promote gay rights. Other school boards then confirmed they have similar bans.
Gay students in the Catholic schools say their rights to free expression, assembly and equality give them the further right to form gay liberation clubs. The Catholic boards say their right to operate distinctly Catholic schools – guaranteed by the British North America Act and Section 29 of the Charter – allows them to block at least some gay equality projects on school grounds.
As a compromise, the boards have said students can form broad-based “equity clubs.” The clubs can promote homosexual and transgender equality alongside racial equality and rights for women and the disabled, but they can’t use the word “gay” in the club name. Apparently, the key difference between an equity club and a gay-straight alliance is that an equity club promotes equality for all, while the alliance clubs are more narrowly focused. Also, the alliance clubs call themselves “gay.”
The boards knew they were on thin ice banning discussion of homosexual rights entirely. The equity clubs are the answer – a way to avoid officially censoring the conversation, while keeping the word “gay” off the morning announcements. The Jesuit art of equivocation lives on.
Ironically, the Fathers of Confederation wrote Catholic school rights into the Constitution because they wanted to protect minorities. Catholics were then a profoundly marginalized group, and many of their schools were francophone. Preserving them was a way of shielding what most French Canadians saw as an elemental part of their identity. Still other Catholic schools had large numbers of Irish, who also were intent on preserving their culture.
The Catholic schools were a way of making peace. In protecting them, the Constitution advanced its project of enshrining respect for diversity as a central value. Today, the ban on gay-rights clubs in Ontario’s Catholic schools stands as an amnesiac denial of the Catholic education law’s history and what that law means.
Many Catholics support gay rights. They defy their leaders and offer theological arguments for doing so. Unfortunately for gay students, these Catholics are not in charge of the Church. Nor, for the most part, are they in charge of the Catholic school boards.
The debate over gay-rights clubs is part of a broader controversy in Canadian schools as to what should be taught about homosexuality in the classroom. Where does it leave many families’ religious views, for instance, if students must learn about gay sex alongside straight sex in health class?
I am a gay man who grew up Catholic. My relationship with the Church is complicated. On one hand, I know that Catholicism is tied up with my sense of compassion and of Irish heritage. But I also know that the Church made me ashamed for a long time.
Many gay teenagers harm themselves today out of shame. The last thing they need is a ban on clubs that offer them support
.
AIDAN JOHNSON

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Two Teenage Girls had their Seventh Abortion


New figures from the British government show hundreds of teenagers in the U.K. are having multiple taxpayer-funded abortions with three who had several government-funded abortions before their 20th birthday.
The Daily Telegraph newspaper obtained official NHS figures using a Freedom of Information Act request and determined that two teenage girls had their seventh abortion in 2010, the most recent year during which the government has figures. Another four teenage girls had six abortions paid for at taxpayer expense.
“Fourteen teenage girls had their fifth abortion in 2010, 57 teens had a termination for the fourth time and 485 women aged 19 or under went through the procedure for a third time,” the newspaper indicated.
From the report:
Of the abortions carried out on teenage girls in 2010, more than 5,300 were on teenagers who had already had at least one termination. Out of the 189,574 abortions carried out in 2010 for women of all ages, more than 64,300 terminations were for women who had already had the operation in the past.
Some 85 of those women had undergone at least seven previous terminations, including 30 women who were aged under 30.
The number of abortions for teenagers dropped 4.5% in 2010, from 40,067 in 2009 which was itself a 6.1% fall on the 42,690 in 2008. But while the number who had two previous abortions or fewer before they had a termination in 2010 fell, the number who had previously had three or more rose from 62 to 80.
The total number of abortions for women of all ages rose slightly to 189,574 in 2010, up 0.3% on the 189,100 carried out in 2009, following a 3.2% fall from the 195,296 recorded for 2008.
Rebecca Mallinson, of the Pro Life Alliance, was shocked by the figures, and talked with the Telegraph newspaper about them.
“There is something seriously wrong with a country where teenagers are having even one abortion, let alone repeat abortions to this extent,” she said. “We are failing these young people in an appalling way, and storing up serious sexual health problems for the future, whether the direct issue of sexually transmitted diseases, but also the effects that multiple abortions can have on future fertility.”
“As to the psychological impact for these extremely vulnerable teenagers, one can only hope they find proper counseling and help as soon as possible,” she said.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Parable of the Sower



Luke 8:4-15   )
   11 -12 "This story is about some of those people. The seed is the Word of God. The seeds on the road are those who hear the Word, but no sooner do they hear it than the Devil snatches it from them so they won't believe and be saved.
   13"The seeds in the gravel are those who hear with enthusiasm, but the enthusiasm doesn't go very deep. It's only another fad, and the moment there's trouble it's gone.
   14"And the seed that fell in the weeds—well, these are the ones who hear, but then the seed is crowded out and nothing comes of it as they go about their lives worrying about tomorrow, making money, and having fun.
   15"But the seed in the good earth—these are the good-hearts who seize the Word and hold on no matter what, sticking with it until there's a harvest.

Gardening – how many people here today have green thumbs?   When you decide to start growing something like vegetables or flowers what do you do in order to get the soil ready.  Most people will go to the garden center, talk to someone and find out what they need, buy it, bring it home and then get started.  God's word should be looked at in the same way, when we have a need we can look to God's word for the answers and then apply it to our lives.


When I was a little girl living in Philadelphia we lived on a small street, and each house had a small piece of land in front.  Most people on this street were able to plant some small bushes, some flowers and that's about it.  I remember my mother going out each spring time with her gardening tools, taking out the weeds as they grew, cutting back the two or three small rose bushes and also cutting back another small bush that lined the side of the steps.  She had put in some rocks along the way and as I grew I always admired how the small garden looked when she was finished.  I vowed to someday have a garden like that.
         
Rick was about 3 years old when we bought our first small house in Philadelphia, it was a VA repossession and so the house as well as the garden was in disarray.  I wanted my garden to look as good as my mother's had when I was young.  So with Rick on his big wheel, going up and down the small sidewalk, I tended to my garden, with my mother's help of course.  I had to dig up the dirt, take out all the stones, cut back some of the original bushes, put in the fertilizer, plant some grass and also plant some new small bushes.  I worked very hard that first spring and finally after a few years my garden looked almost as good as my moms.


Taking care of a garden is not as easy as it looks, and Jesus uses this story to allow us to understand how the word of God is heard and how people either take it in or it falls to the wayside.  Most preachers use this portion of scripture when they are preaching to unbelievers or new Christians.  Jesus does the same, using this story to explain how the word of God is heard and then taken to heart by the listener.  Not everyone that hears the word of God is going to change their life instantaneously.  Sometimes it takes time for a person to hear the word of God and be able to turn their life around and continue to follow the Lord.  Many things that happen in a lifetime can get in the way.
                  Most people today would read this portion of scripture and understand somewhat of what Jesus was trying to say, but the scripture tells us that the disciples aren't understanding what Jesus really means at all with this story.  In the Message it says that Jesus said to them: “Are you listening?  Really listening?”
         
I can picture the look on Jesus face when he looked at the disciples as he said this, they must have had that puzzled look on their faces, much like a small child has when they don't understand something.  If you have studied the Bible in any way you will see that there are several place in the scripture where Jesus gets very upset because here are a group of 12 men who have traveled with him for several years, they've listened to him teach and preach and yet they still have a hard time understanding what Jesus is trying to say with this and other parables.  So the next thing we read is where they ask Jesus “why did you tell this story”. 
         As many of you know Rick's father was from Argentina, so over the years I've spent a lot of time with Spanish speaking people.  In the beginning of our relationship I was constantly asking “what did they say”, “what does that mean”.   Eventually I learned enough Spanish to be able to understand much of what was being said or written.  To this day I still cannot hold a conversation with anyone but I can make myself understood and I can understand most written things.  So when I read this portion of scripture I can imagine that it was this way with the disciples, even though they had spent at least three years with Jesus they were still asking him what he meant a lot of the time when he spoke to the masses.
        
In Luke 8:10-12  Jesus would explain that “Their eyes are open but don't see a thing, their ears are open but don't hear a thing.  This story is about some of those people. The seed is the Word of God.  The seeds on the road are those who hear the Word, but no sooner do they hear it than the Devil snatches it from them so they won't believe and be saved.
        
         Some people who come to church every Sunday are like these first few verses of the story, they are like the seed that falls on the road and doesn't come anywhere near the soil. Verse 13"The seeds in the gravel are those who hear with enthusiasm, but the enthusiasm doesn't go very deep. It's only another fad, and the moment there's trouble it's gone.
This verse could be the people who come to church, anxious to hear God's word because they have had so many bad experience in the past week, and they are looking for answers to their problems.  Maybe they are going to have a difficult week coming up and they are looking for strength from the word.  They come with open hearts and the word hits home and there is an initial response but they go home and eventually are discouraged because things do not seem to get better as quickly as they would like.
Verse 14"And the seed that fell in the weeds—well, these are the ones who hear, but then the seed is crowded out and nothing comes of it as they go about their lives worrying about tomorrow, making money, and having fun.
Other people may come to church because they want to be refreshed, but because they have so much on their minds the seed gets chocked out.   How many time have you and I been so distracted by what has happened in the past week or what will happen in the coming week that we really don't hear all of what the preacher has to say that day.        
In our world today there are many things that can keep us from allowing the word of God to sink in.  The distractions of their daily lives, their constant worrying about their money problems, they are having trouble at work, the kids are having problems at school, maybe their relationships are not as they should be, so even though they may go to church, they cannot concentrate on what is being said.  People get discouraged because they feel that they are not getting anything from God's word to help, or they only hear bits and pieces of the word that only helps them in small ways

15"But the seed in the good earth—these are the good-hearts who seize the; Word and hold on no matter what, sticking with it until there's a harvest.
Then there are people who absorb the word, just as the earth absorbs the water and the fertilizer so the seeds can take root.  These people know that no matter what happens in their life, as long as they cling to the truths that can be found in Scripture, there will eventually be a harvest, things will change, things can and will be different.  These Christians hold fast to the word of God and even when under pressures from their lives they know that things will be different, all they have to do is have the perseverance to wait and see the changes that happen.

Jeremiah 29:10 “I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.

Deborah Castillo
Former Officer, USA East

Friday, May 25, 2012

WHEN IN ROME...



The concluding SSO Provision brought a number of very varied and interesting responses. And it also brought a spurt in the daily number of visitors. I'm sharing one of the challenging responses below; something we perhaps think but are afraid of telling the Major?!



Thanks Sven, dead on as is your trait, yet gracious by not pointing fingers, but we do know who they are! 


TSA, more than ever it seems, has stooped, due the staggering losses or plain weakness of heart, to compromise our standards on many, many fronts. 


How many of today's soldiers refuse to include wine or champagne in their wedding menu? And the frequency that Sallies are seen having a glass of wine, beer or mixed drink is mind boggling. Are they making a statement in their social media space they dare not make at home, in person when out with a corps section following the weekly rehearsal? And does the Major confront the returning revellers or simply look away? Don't want to lose our soloists, our leaders, do we?

SA officers buying their own quarters, negotiating the duration of their appointments, and the non-officer spouse not respecting SA standards? What's up with that and what's next?!

Nepotism, favouritism, envy, threats and ultimatums rewarded, the old boys same old, compromise gone awry?

Would any church really expect to prosper in growing saints in such an unholy atmosphere?

Fourth generation Salvationist and perhaps the end of the line. My 4 adult children, all talented and uni grads, now with families of their own, have all left and are active in other denominations. They asked the same questions I posed above, and witnessing no action or change, they said enough is enough while in the early 20s!

Is there one active corps or Division, where standards haven't slipped to the point where William Booth would't strip them of the name TSA and remove our precious crest? Tell me and I'll be there by the time you step out on your march to the Sunday morning open-air meeting. But you'll have to wait a week- Congress this weekend!


I'LL FIGHT!
UK soldier

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

FEELINGS OF INADEQUACY




CONCLUSION

FEELINGS OF INADEQUACY AND TRAINING

 A poll was conducted among SSO spouses living in six territories. The respondents included former officers, SA soldiers, those committed to another denomination, new Christians and a very few professing ‘no faith’.

The purpose of the survey was simply to determine if the non-officers were familiar with SA history, mission, policy, the ‘call’ to ministry, etc.

I believe I have received sufficient training in the following areas and have a good knowledge of:

SA MISSION
27%
SA THEOLOGY
24%
SA HISTORY
28%
SA OFFICERSHIP
28%
SUPPORTING my OFFICER SPOUSE
0%
LITTLE TO NONE OF THE ABOVE
71%

‘My knowledge of the above subjects has come exclusively from what my officer-spouse has shared, not from any SA directed training: 28%.’

Can it be all that difficult to demonstrate to the non-officer spouse to be what their assumed role represents and to initiate a training program to achieve that goal? And, to convince them that their general attitude should be seeing themselves as 'servant-helpers' - their primary assistance being; to anticipate, meet and support the needs of their officer-spouse.

A voluntary introduction course (distance learning) including a clearly defined and expected role of the non-officer spouse would have circumvented and eliminated many of the difficulties and controversies experienced. This should be offered to all interested SSO couples. In addition the elusive brochure should be examined and, if needed, updated.

Further a ‘continuing education’ program that would meet the specific needs of a non-officer spouse ranked high among the recommendations, with 89 percent affirming this.

On my visit to the Training College, London, several spouses of Cadets in training, those who will soon be my colleagues, sought me out to share various concerns; I sensed they simply needed to vent. I learned, to my great surprise, that they aren’t allowed to worship with their cadet spouse and the student body in the Sunday Morning services at the College. Nor are they included in the Spiritual Day programs. These ‘policies’ differ from those in some other territories where the SSO provision is in place.

Officers and their marriages (and families) will be under constant scrutiny once in the field, and the health of their marriages is an important part of their credibility in spiritual leadership. Worshiping as a couple, or as a family, with other likeminded called and committed Salvationists (Christians) is absolutely essential.

As in any training program, couples learn and benefit from sharing their own knowledge and spiritual experiences as much as they do from the material taught by the trainers/facilitators. The non-officer is often isolated from SA procedures and programming and the training becomes a vital forum for sharing experiences, learning from each other, and reinforcing each other. The spiritual side of the non-officer is absolutely critical if the officer-spouse is to become effective. It is an essential part of everything that the officer-spouse hopes to accomplish. 

The nurturing of pastoral family relationships is not a diversion from the work of ministry, a sort of necessary evil; it is fundamental. Unless the SSO couple are in harmony, the officer-spouse will soon become discouraged, and the effectiveness of the ministry will decline or cease.

There will never be a better opportunity to bring these non-officer spouses to be, into an understanding of their Cadet spouse’s ‘calling’ and life-long commitment to serve, than while living in community at the Training College.
                 
And, how difficult would it be to establish a ‘discussion group’, geared to the non-officer to be, to include SA history, theology and SA mission in the mix, perhaps led by a select group of cadets, officers and staff from the Heritage Center?

The policy on where the SSO couple will reside needs immediate action. One can only imagine if 5-10% of the UKT officer pool became entrenched in mortgage obligations and refused their ‘marching orders’.

The expectation was when signing the non-officer contract that: “the non-officer spouse will possess a thorough understanding of The Salvation Army, its mission and values and its officer appointment system.”  Has this requirement been adhered to?

A comment heard from a non-officer spouse recently was: “I really have trouble relating to a concept until I can tie it to something I fully comprehend”.

Other non-officer spouses (SS0) I’ve spoken with see their spouses’ calling and vocation as the officer's own, and do not consider themselves a specific part of his/her ministry, although they’d like to, at the very least, ‘appear supportive'.

In communicating with SSO non-officer spouses 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.

There has never been nor is there is currently an educational training curricula for becoming a non-officer spouse. Incongruous as it may seem, one simply completes and signs a short contract and seeks the approval of the Divisional Commander. However, because of the nature of the officer’s role, the non-officer spouse is involved in the ‘work’—trained or not, wishing to or not. There is no standard measure of expectation, success or failure.

ORDINATION
With the introduction of the word ordination to its commissioning of new officers in 1978 came the contention that officers are the equivalent of clergy in every respect, possessing and elevating them to a status that sets them apart from their soldiers and also their non-officer spouse.
  
The nature of officership as a spiritual covenant rather than a contract with The Salvation Army must be understood and affirmed by the non-officer spouse. However, does the connotation ‘ordained’ cause even greater confusion and possible enmity between the non-officer and SA persons? Will the non-officer be seen as irrelevant to the officer-spouses’ role, particularly if they are not sufficiently trained for their own unique contribution?

Traditionally the commanding Officers are the primary leadership team of SA corps; churches.  They are both the spiritual leaders and the backbone of the leadership and other teams within the corps. They are responsible for the effectiveness of every form of ministry. They have the difficult task of leading and motivating a wide variety of local officers and other volunteer leaders. They set the vision and direction and are charged directly or indirectly to energize the staff, soldiers and adherents and recruits and to impact their communities through their spiritual gifts and leadership skills.

SA Officers are well trained in theology, administration, social work and other necessary skills, but yet feel inadequate in certain areas. And it’s in those areas where the spouse, once sufficiently trained, will apply their unique gifts.

Officers attend a variety of management and leadership seminars or do extensive independent reading and self-study. Most non-officer spouses are ill equipped in the areas management and leadership. And without training it cannot be assumed that all non-officers can move forward with the same sense of confidence and effectiveness. They may be called and empowered by God, but are constantly challenged by the lack of necessary training and educational support.

Isn’t it a ‘given’, using today’s contemporary business vernacular, to include the non-officer in such training whenever possible? Or at the very least, if mixing the two servant roles is problematic, might separate training sessions or retreats not be conducted to dramatically increase the non-officers’ contributions and effectiveness as the CO’s assistant?

Surely they can lend assistance in order to balance issues and deal with the very problems married SA officer couples face on a daily basis. This will also develop stronger marriages through greater emotional intelligence and understanding of their own marriage partners’ spiritual strengths and commitment. Both the officer and their spouse, who now recognizes that they have a role in the ministry, dramatically change their approach and learn to feed and motivate the other; it can grow in a way that transforms the relationships and consequently, their combined ministry impact.

And is it not likely that for some that such a dual serving relationship might move the non-officer to contemplate officership?

FACTORS GENERALLY AFFECTING A PASTOR’S SPOUSE

In sharing their spouse’s work, developing friendships, meeting people, and finding fellowship ranked as the number one joy among 24 percent of those surveyed. Following in close second, with 23 percent of the respondents was, "seeing persons come to Christ/soul winning."

Level of educational attainment (across denominations)

Spouses generally, have shown a feeling of inadequacy including intellectual inadequacy as the rule; 89 percent of the spouses affirmed this need.

Perhaps by offering continuing education opportunities for non-officer-spouse, the level of their self-confidence will be raised as it also strengthens morale and the spouse’s level of effective support.

More than 60 percent experience feelings of loneliness and isolation in their non-officer (ministry/support) role.

Having the needs of others take priority over the needs of the family frustrates 58 percent of Pastor’s spouses.

68 percent are worried about finances and resent having no opportunity to share actual needs with SA Administration. (Our quarters are in very a  run-down condition. I would never consider my retired SA officer mother or children to visit. My quarters, when a part of the pioneer team in ‘opening fire’ in Russia, was only marginally worse- no furniture!

My officer spouse is the Divisional Candidate Officer. We would love to invite prospective candidates and others to our quarters but believe that condition of our quarters would turn some away from eventual SA officership and instead socialize with them elsewhere)

72 percent are concerned about having sufficient family time.

21 percent sometimes wish their officer-spouse would leave the ministry.

The majority of non-officer spouses do not know where to turn for counsel when confronted with a serious personal or family problem. 74 percent of the spouses agreed that it is important for TSA to provide a professional counselor who has no administrative ties to whom they can turn. Why is such a support system provided only to the officer-spouse?

What then will be the role of the non-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 appointment. (This subject has proved to be controversial on many levels and requires further research)

The corps often assumes incorrectly what the non-officers role ought to be. It would therefore be unrealistic to determine a specific role within the appointment based on models where in the past both spouses were SA officers. There is no one size fits all or any magic SA formula.
(This is an issue that requires research and consideration separate from the recruitment, selection and training) 
 _____________________

All these questions and many more fall under the heading: Ecclesiology and the Army (the study of the church). Although the word is rarely used in SA circles and no doubt unknown to most Salvationists, it’s one we must acknowledge as we question what measure of reform is necessary. One need only take a cursory look at the high percentage of non-Salvationists who seek approval as the non-officer spouse under the SSO provision.

With the alarming number of officers resigning from active service each year we recognize both the immediate and long-term needs of those willing to serve under this relatively new provision. However, was sufficient thought and preparation given to the inherent implications?

The army’s genius lies in great part in its fundamental dependence on a victorious history; a tradition built on immense trust in God’s word, the obedient seeking of the Holy Spirit’s leading, and a fierce commitment and loyalty to SA leaders, often perhaps, blindly so. However we need not go blindly forward.

In Shaw Clifton’s, Selected Writings, Volume 2, p.19 he writes on what it takes to be a ‘thinking Salvationist’, and there is wisdom here as it relates to the screening and training of the non-officer spouse.

Clifton writes, ‘I do not think anyone can rightly claim to be a thinking Salvationist without knowledge of Army history.’ Should this not also, at least in part, be a part of every employee’s portfolio of knowledge? And ought we not to require the non-officer spouse to also participate in a briefing session or two? And encouraged to join the SSO non-officer fellowship?

“Part of the Army’s God-given genius is to move with the times. We were born out of a specific time and specific culture in English history, but God has moved Salvationism on and outward through many generation and into countless cultures ever since”. (Shaw Clifton) 

The army’s colourful and victorious history is a wonder to many and one that continues to draw researchers, believers and skeptics alike. Case studies are written and our history disseminated to witness to how one trial was overcome only to become the genesis for the next. That is until now!

When pressed to share details, fact and figures, the ethics and values ascribed to by the non-officer spouse, there was a tendency of certain SA leaders to become vague and even non-responsive. Most organizations operating in a military fashion will have as a key phrase for insisting on, or refusing commands; It’s policy! Those of us who deem ourselves ‘thinking Salvationists’, those with years of experience, find such responses to our questions repugnant.

One possible solution is to create a team ministry option for qualified SSO couples. Our history is replete with examples in which it’s demonstrated that a couple can be more effective than a single person in accomplishing the mission of the SA. Spouses who feel themselves an integral part of the team are not as likely to be isolated, lonely, and frustrated. Territories should seek ways to encourage and train for team ministry.

Even more, the SSO couple present a model to the SA community of what God intends; —a caring environment in which each member loves, supports, and encourages the others on their journey to the kingdom of heaven.

Dr.  
Sven Ljungholm
Former SA Officer
USA, Sweden, Russia, Moldova, Ukraine

Monday, May 21, 2012

You mean I should quit my Friday night pints with my mates?!



The steady decline in the number of active officers has adversely affected the army’s evangelistic outreach to such a degree that the 125 old non-trenchable marriage policy was abandoned in 2000 and the Single Spouse Officership provision was introduced in the UKT. Was the ancient regulation rescinded in time?

The SSO provision was designed initially to attract SA soldiers, those prepared to abide by SA regulations and lifestyles, and to become partners in ministry with their officer spouse. However, TSA found within a short time of the provision’s introduction that non-Salvationists too, and even non-believers had to become a part of the mix. Some pointed to the threat of potential legal battles and others to the small number of applicants as the impetus. Forcing every facet of the non-officer spouse’s life to fit into a Salvationist framework was seen as untenable, and to expect that non-officer spouses would adopt an attitude of religiosity would smell of hypocrisy.

Does the SSO provision in its present form provide the necessary and expected positive results? What is the future of the army if the expectations of the non-officer spouse are not made clear, meaningful and controlled?

The SSO provision after just a decade appears so entrenched that, even with some major flaws, the status quo is being protected and maintained, rather than break free from it before it self-implodes.

Is it too late to acknowledge its weaknesses, redefine the program that sought to remedy the significant reductions (attrition as high as 78%) in the number of officers in most developed countries? The SSO provision opened the door for Christian ministry and spiritual leadership for those called by God in TSA, but whose spouse does not share the same calling to ministry.

Commissioner Kay Rader speaks to the commitment expected of all SA soldiers (the clear division in expectations between soldiers and adherents): Actually, the Soldier’s Covenant (what we used to call, ‘The Articles of War’) signed by every soldier, commits us to a lifetime covenant of service within the Army. It is part of the uniqueness of our movement that we expect that level of commitment from all our members “

William Booth's wife Catherine, the first non-officer spouse, put it like this: Soldiers of Christ must be abandoned to the war. They must be thoroughly committed to God's side; there can be no neutrals in this warfare. When the soldier enlists and takes the Queen's shilling, he ceases to be his own property, becoming the property of his country, going where he is sent, standing at any post to which he is assigned, even if it be at the cannon's mouth. He gives up the ways and comforts of civilians and goes forth with his life in his hand, in obedience to the will of his sovereign… that is just what Jesus Christ demands of every one of his soldiers, and nothing less.

However, would such demands severely reduce the pool of qualified and willing applicants? Would SA restrictions, regulations and demands limit the freedom of the non-officer and cause SSO to appear unattractive and too confining??

Today’s, non-officer spouses include Salvationist, former officers, those of other faiths and some professing no faith.  Some non-officer soldiers wear uniform, others don’t. Some take an active role in supporting their spouse and the SA’s mission. Others are less committed and involved.

Without some sort of universal regulations on whom an officer can marry is it not simply a matter of time and the territory before this becomes a PR nightmare and embarrassment for the Army at the local level? ”

The Canada and Bermuda included in the ‘beliefs and expectations’ of the prospective non-officer spouse that they be Salvation Army soldiers. And they pointed to the “well functioning of the SSO provision already in place in the UKT”. One wonders what this comment references? Or was it simply a ‘off the cuff’ remark made to bolster support for the SSO provision’s acceptance and approval.

The SSO provision after just a decade appears so entrenched that, even with some major flaws, the status quo is being protected and maintained rather than break free from it’ Is it too late to acknowledge its weaknesses, redefine the program that sought to remedy the significant reductions (attrition as high as 78%) in the number of officers in most developed countries? The SSO provision opened the door for Christian ministry and spiritual leadership for those called by God in TSA, but whose spouse does not share the same calling to ministry.

The non-officer spouse represents an often un-tapped resource. And the pool of candidates and their suitability needs to be further explored by The Salvation Army in order to determine where the non-officer spouse might be recruited and how they might best ‘serve’. The International Commission on Officership, in seeking to broaden access to officership has missed at least one significant, well-trained, experienced, and spiritually charged pool already well known to individual SA commands and territories.

While the nature of officership is a spiritual life-long covenant, the non-officer’s commitment is rather in the form of a contract with The Salvation Army. These uniquely distinct pledges must be understood, agreed to and affirmed by all entering into the SSO proviso. Although it was initially proposed and expected that the non-officer be a Salvationist, a soldier, that proviso was eventually ruled ‘unenforceable’ and has been the cause of much concern. The obvious benefits of such a proviso are self-evident. The immediate advantage would be that, if every non-officer spouse was a SA soldier it might be assumed that they would understand and accept their soldiership as a call to mission; that being a ’soldier’ is synonymous with being a support person to the officer spouse.

However, would such a demand severely reduce the pool of qualified and willing applicants? Would SA restrictions, regulations and demands limit the freedom of the non-officer and cause SSO to appear unattractive and too confining??

Today’s, non-officer spouses include Salvationist, former officers, those of other faiths and some professing no faith.  Some non-officer soldiers wear uniform, others don’t. Some take an active role in supporting their spouse and the SA’s mission. Others are less committed and involved.

Without some sort of universal regulations on whom an officer can marry is it not simply a matter of time and the territory before this becomes a PR nightmare and embarrassment for the Army at the local level? ”

In communicating with other SSO couples 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, with only one SSO couple remaining and serving in that territory.

Can it be all that difficult to demonstrate to the non-officer spouse what their assumed role represents? And, to convince them that 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.


 ______________________
Canada & Bermuda Territory 2005

Beliefs and Expectations expressed in support of the SSO provision enactment
·               “The non-officer spouse will possess a thorough understanding of The Salvation Army, its mission and values and 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.
·                He/she must sign a ‘declaration’ of support for the officer spouse’s ministry and a willingness to relocate with the officer spouse as part of the Army’s appointment process.
·                The non-officer spouse must be a senior soldier of The Salvation Army ‘in good standing’.
·                This person will share the same commitment as his/her officer spouse to The Army’s mission, values, beliefs and lifestyle.

Divisional Commanders and Department Heads will provide a copy of the ‘Manual of Guidance for Single Spouse Applicants’  to interested persons when an interview date is established. This manual will address questions and detail the application process.”


“This manual will address questions and detail the application process.” The Canada and Bermuda included in the ‘beliefs and expectations’ of the prospective non-officer spouse that they be Salvation Army soldiers. And they pointed to the “well functioning of the SSO provision already in place in the UKT”. One wonders what this comment references? Or was it simply a ‘off the cuff’ remark made to bolster support for the SSO provision’s acceptance and approval.

They reference a manual, and is this a Canadian publication or one supplied to all non-officer spouse applicants in all territories where the SSO provision has been enacted?

On applying in the UKT I was not provided a manual nor have I ever seen one. My wife and I met officially with our DC and he explained in clear detail the Beliefs and Expectations – The DC left nothing requiring further clarification; the issues were clear and we agreed to abide by the expectations. It needs to be noted though, that in the almost four years since I became a non-officer spouse, there has not been any attempt to verify if my promise of support remains strong. Perhaps my not opposing a move, in following my spouse’s three varying appoints in four years, even across nationals borders speak to my support of the system. The occasional show of interest and concern would, however, speak volumes of TSA’s recognition of, and the importance of the non-officer spouse.  This would seem especially prudent as it concerns the non-officer spouses with little or no SA history.

Perhaps due the lack of foresight, precautionary concerns and ‘controls’, there have been many negative experiences. In seeking to rectify these issues it’s clear that the major causes stem from the lack of preparation and/or ongoing training of the non-officer spouse.

One wonders, if in fact, there is anyone assigned at THQ to look into and oversee this very important resource in effecting TSA’s overall mission? Should there not be an interest in the non-officer spouse’s spiritual, physical and emotional wellbeing?

The expectation was that ‘the non-officer spouse will possess a thorough understanding of The Salvation Army, its mission and values and 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. He/she must sign a ‘declaration’ of support for the officer spouse’s ministry and a willingness to relocate with the officer spouse as part of the Army’s appointment process. The non-officer spouse will share the same commitment as his/her officer spouse to The Army’s mission, values, beliefs and lifestyle.’

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 expectation is that:
  • the non-officer spouse will possess a thorough understanding of The Salvation Army, its mission and values and its officer appointment system - be fully aware of the spiritual commitments made by their SA officer spouse, the army’s mission and their expected combined and role in it.
  • the non-officer spouse be fully aware of the spiritual commitments made by their SA officer spouse, the army’s mission and their expected combined and role in it.
  • the non-officer be aware of the SA soldier’s covenant wherein they subscribe to the Army's ban on the use of alcohol and tobacco. (Would these things be allowed into an officer's quarters and how would that look to the public and/or the soldiership if one's spouse were engaging in those activities?)


SA Adherents for instance, do not subscribe to the SA ban and are already included among the non-officer ranks. Can we, TSA, realistically ask all non-officer spouses to represent Christ at all times and promise: I will not smoke, drink alcoholic beverages, etc. and reject their application and suitability unless they sign ‘on the bottom line’. People signing such a pledge will tend to fall into one of several categories:

1.     They sign it with the intention of breaking the rule with discretion when necessary.

2.     They sign it with every intention of honoring their commitment and as a sign of the esteem in which they hold their spouse, TSA, and the church.

3.     They sign it believing they can uphold the rules with little or no effort- a practiced life style.

These issues are already of very real concern.

Other current issues causing potential threat to the smooth running of the SSO provision, is the predictable refusal of the non-officer spouse to 'move' away from a geographical area providing employment, quality education, safe housing, and attractive neighbourhood etc. In several instances SSO couples in the UKT have ‘broken’ with the signed contractual promises, and live in their own privately purchased homes; not in the assigned and agreed to SA quarters

(from the Intro’ Part One- …)

“Instead SSO in the UKT have been allowed to vacate the SA provided quarters and purchase their own homes, with TSA assisting by paying towards the mortgage and other monthly payments. What happens when it comes time to take on a new appointment in a distant place and the real estate market bottoms out? Is the couple prepared to take loss when selling their home or will TSA step in, as is the case with many corporations. And will TSA insist that the house be of a standard and in a neighbourhood in keeping with what soldiers, employees and the general public perceive suitable? Would it not be more practical for TSA to improve the quality or buy new quarters to avoid the obvious battle when the ‘marching orders, are received.”

Forcing every facet of the non-officer spouse’s life to fit into a Salvationist mindset is now seen as being untenable, and to expect that all non-officer spouses would adopt an attitude of religiosity would be hypocritical.The minute it was recognized that ‘the non-officer spouse will possess a thorough understanding of The Salvation Army, its mission and values’ were not being met immediate action should have been taken. 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'.

What if any roles will the non-officer spouse assume in the SA appointment? Will they be given a 'deacon' role or become a 'pastoress' as some are referred to in some churches? With the ever-decreasing number of persons coming forward offering for service as SA officers, does the army have any options but to begin giving substantially more and appropriate attention to the very real potential represented by the non-officer spouses? Finally, what if any roles will the spouse assume in the SA appointment? Will they be given a 'deacon' role or become a 'pastoress' as some are referred to in other churches? 


Sven Ljungholm