Thursday, February 14, 2013


Where to from here?

It has been an interesting journey, this series on GLBT issues and the Salvation Army. As I have talked to people online and in person there have been 3 kinds of responses:
  • ·       Why do we have to talk about these things? People’s minds are made up, the discussion threatens the fabric of our movement, it is not essential to salvation, we should not waste time on it.
  • ·       Why is this taking so long? It is a matter of justice, why can’t we resolve it, surely there is common ground. We are becoming a laughing stock.
  • ·       Why is this even a subject for discussion, the bible settled this long ago, we should not countenance the discussion. We are at risk of heresy if we are not already there.

It looks pretty hopeless doesn’t it? Looks like there is no way forward? No point on which we can agree?

I want to suggest there is a way forward which:
  • ·       Preserves the distinctive life and witness of the Salvation Army 
  •        Provides space for a different kind of conversation
  •        Does not require anyone to accept a position or practice that they find challenging, difficult or wrong.

The Salvation Army is not a democracy. It will not resolve contentious issues by a vote or some kind of political process. We are not Anglicans, or Baptists or Catholics. We are Christians in the Salvationist tradition. We need to approach this issue in a uniquely Salvationist way.

The Salvation Army is all about saving souls, growing saints and serving suffering humanity. Let’s use that model to advance our understanding of the Salvationist way forward in these issues.

Firstly, let’s recognise that there is suffering humanity in the middle of this issue. Both gay and straight people have suffered from traditional understandings and the challenge to those understandings. And it is not just the clients of our services, there are people in our Corps, in officership, in leadership who suffer as a result of exclusion or poorly thought out teaching Let’s acknowledge that some have been hurt because a same sex attracted person was “encouraged” to marry a person of the opposite sex to “cure” them. Let’s acknowledge and repent of the damage caused by name calling, and heresy wars, and unholy conversations.  And let those of us who are GLBT acknowledge that we have excluded people who disagree with us, just as we have been excluded from the life and witness of the Army. There is hurt on all sides of this conversation, let’s find a safe place to serve suffering humanity. We do not have to agree with each other to demonstrate compassion and a servant’s heart. We seem to have developed a view that in order to serve you, I must agree with you.

Secondly let’s be honest about what we think and feel and so grow saints. If the position of the Salvation Army is ultimately that there is no place for GLBT people, let’s say that unambiguously. It is far better to have an honest conversation than to live in half truths. But before we get to our final position let’s have a different conversation. Let us grow saints by teaching that takes the bible seriously, by a conversation that is characterised by really grappling with the issues and not adversarial proof texting from across the platform. Let us reason together, each accepting that the other has a genuinely held position which has been arrived at with integrity. Let us seek first to understand, rather than be understood. As a movement we have changed our view on lots of things and lots of social issues, we have been at the forefront of justice. Let’s talk about this issue with all the intensity and integrity that we discuss poverty, or human trafficking, or the role of women. Just because an issue is contentious does not mean, in an International movement, we ought not to discuss it. It does mean we should take our time and discuss the issue in a spirit of humility on all sides.

Why should we do this? Because not having grappled with the totality of this issue is affecting our ability to engage with our community so that souls may be saved. There are people who no longer listen to us because they think we have a closed mind, they cannot see evidence that we are genuinely trying to resolve the issue among us, that we are genuinely listening from either perspective. As Paul says;
Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever. I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!
(I Corinthians 9:19-23 The Message)

Do you want to reach the whole world for Christ? Then be prepared to invite the whole world including gay and straight into your Corps, and be prepared for the ride of your life. It is okay to say we do not have the answers and we have strongly held differences, it is not okay to not deal with them honestly.

You and I might disagree on whether my committed same-sex relationship is permitted for a Christian, we might even disagree on whether or not I am a Christian or am saved. I might not think you can say the things you do about me and be saved. But our salvation, or lack of it, is a matter for God. What we can agree on, I think, is that Jesus died for all and that whosoever will may be saved.

So, what do you reckon? Can we try and walk this path together? I am willing to be open to the possibility that I am wrong, can you allow the same possibility? Can we  search the scriptures together. Good then, I’ll put the kettle on- at least we can agree there’s nothing like a salvo cup of tea.

Former Officer
Messengers of Hope
Australia East


Anonymous said...

Excellent article. Wonderfully expressed and written. The prayer from many gay Salvationists/formers is that there can be a conversation with respect for the views and concerns of each side. I am hopeful this has happened and begun. We each have much to gain and much to lose by the exclusion of all of us in joint worshipping and sharing the christian journey with support and honesty.

Anonymous said...

I have participated in this discussion not expecting any change in The Salvation Army's position, but only in the hope of raising the consciousness of both readers and participants that this is at heart a justice issue.

The writer has acknowledge that the Army is not a democratic organization in which its stakeholders are entitled to a vote. Neither does it have the freedom to bring about the kind of change available to national churches. It is international, which is a great blessing, but which also has its limitations.

Some parts of the Army world like Africa can be quite liberal about concern for the environment and compassionate about polygamy, and at the same time very conservative about homosexuality. Other parts are quite liberal theologically believing that the cardinal doctrines allow a wide spectrum of interpretation, while others are extremely conservative, while all are evangelical. Therefore it is totally unrealistic to think that someone at the top is going to bring change down the line. It is not going to happen unless scientific evidence is brought forward that cannot be denied, just as Copernicus and Galileo eventually changed the Church's concept of cosmology and the three decker universe.

The most the LGBT community can expect, I believe, is that the Army will respond more and more with love and compassion, and that some Corps in certain parts of the Army world will truly embrace its own gospel of the whosoever. This is what the Army was meant to be, a place of welcome for all varieties of sinners, truly inclusive in its welcome.

It also needs to be remembered that it was only a few generations ago that there were a number of lesbian couples who faithfully served as officers. I remember many of them still by their names, always spoken of in pairs. The administration must have known, as most everyone else did, and nothing was said one way or the other.

Gay officers were not so obvious, but they did exist, some were celibate, and others were pressured to marry, which some did, only to hurt their wives and children. They have gone to their eternal reward, some of them died of AIDS. There were also pedophiles in TSA, not to be confused with homosexuals, and there are some biblical scholars who believe that they are those who are referred to as an abomination, which they are and continue to be. That said, Jesus died and was raised from death for them as well as for all the rest of us.

I want to thank Sven and Graeme for the effort which they committed to this series, I know that I have increased my awareness, and am also pleased that the discussion was able to proceed without rancour or animosity or name calling that has taken place when this issue has been discussed in other forums. It says volumes about the good will of the Army. So as a former, who has served another denomination for many years, I take off my hat to TSA. May God bless all who have taken part as well as those who have simply read the daily posts.

Canada and Bermuda <)))><

Anonymous said...

The most influential officers in my life were lesbian - 2 couples. I wouldn't be an officer today if not for their influence.

Active Canada and Bermuda

Anonymous said...

Active Canada and Bermuda

Thanks for verifying my witness, and it just goes to prove that:

"We have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be visible in our bodies." 2 Cor.4:7-10

God is not limited, Hallelujah!

Not long ago I attended the funeral of one such woman officer. She and her partner befriended me when I was a lone single officer. I was there to show my gratitude.

Canada and Bermuda

Anonymous said...

This has been an excellent series Sven. Thank you for making the 'comfortable' who bury their heads in the sand, and fail to acknowledge this is alive and well in TSA throughout the world, 'uncomfortable'.

Thank you for encouraging us to ask the age old question: 'WWJD'? 'What would Jesus do'? 'How would Jesus to respond'?

Many of us now look forward to the many other 'unspeakable' subjects you will raise through the means of this blog.

Active USA Eastern