Saturday, August 31, 2013


Sexpo Johannesburg 2013 set to “blow” minds

Salvation Army to Attend 'Sexpo' Event in South Africa, Show Christian Example on Sexuality

The Christian-based organization Salvation Army will soon be sending its troops to an unlikely place: a sexuality expo in South Africa. Members will attend the event next month as a way of being a representative of the "Christian understanding of sexuality," say officials with the group.

Carin Holmes, spokeswoman for the Salvation Army, said in a statement that the Salvation Army's presence is planned to be a show of availability, not one of judgment. 
"If Jesus Christ was on earth today, he would be standing beside us at Sexpo," said Holmes, who is part of The Salvation Army's Southern Africa Territory. "We're not going there to condemn anyone.  We aren't going to lecture people…We're going there to be available."

Scheduled to take place at the Nasrec Expo Centre in Johannesburg September 26-29, the Sexpo, or "Health, Sexuality & Lifestyle Expo", boasts of being the largest adult-themed event of its kind.

"The aim of the exhibition is to educate, inform, entertain and celebrate our sexuality in a fun, exciting and safe atmosphere," reads a Sexpo press release. "Sexpo is not just about the entertainment though, we offer a vast number of diverse exhibitors ensuring that there is something for everyone and for those of you on the prowl for that fun, unique or even special gift options for friends or loved ones, Sexpo will not disappoint!"

Features promised by Sexpo organizers include adult film stars, other celebrities, aerial artists, pole-dancing fitness acts, hypnotists, comedians, various stage productions, a "Music Fest" and "our world famous amateur strip."

Not all agree with the Salvation Army's decision to become involved in Sexpo. Barton Gingerich of the Institute on Religion & Democracy wrote a blog entry on "Juicy Ecumenism" regarding the Christian organization's involvement.

"First of all, Holmes's statements mark a betrayal of General William Booth's legacy. While he and his fellow workers were no strangers to seedy levels of human existence (including prostitution), they worked to call sex workers and everyone else to repentance from such lifestyles," wrote Gingerich. "Secondly, participation in a pornographic conference fails to resemble Christ's habit of breaking bread with prostitutes and tax collectors. The Sexpo is a place where leaders in the legalized sex industry advertise and promote themselves – it is where sin is promoted as an industry. Hardly a parallel exists in the pages of Scripture."

August 29, 2013

Friday, August 30, 2013



Hierarchy and Holiness?

Hierarchy is a way of structuring relationships; holiness is to do with the nature of those relationships. One is to do with form; the other is to do with essence. So the question needs to be asked, how holiness may be expressed in socially just relationships. Can our institutional structure, our hierarchy, facilitate loving behaviour, by all involved, so that we love all our associates, both those in authority over us and those subordinate to us, as we love ourselves? This is at the heart of the question of what holiness has to do with hierarchy.
I suggest that that the hierarchy created by clericalisation is a form which can make its imprint on the essence instead of the essence being expressed in the form. That’s a very sweeping generalisation and therefore only partly true, but let’s tease out the tension between hierarchy and holiness. Firstly, the hierarchical structure which clericalism has created can foster a spirit incompatible with “servanthood” Jesus modelled and taught; it can undermine relational holiness and so threaten the kind of community Jesus calls together.  Secondly, by concentrating power and influence in the hands of minority, clericalisation can disempower the majority of members of Church. That can co-exist with patronising the brethren but not with loving the brethren. It can therefore diminish the Church’s effectiveness in mission.
Of the first adverse effect, you could supply your own examples, but if it’s any help, Bramwell Booth was aware of the danger long back. In 1894 he was complaining that “the D.O.’s [Divisional Officers] are often much more separate from their F.O.’s [Field Officers] than they ought to be. Class and caste grows with the growth of the military idea. Needs watching.”[16] Thirty years later he was still anxious about Divisional and Territorial leaders in that “they are open to special dangers in that they rise and grow powerful and sink into a kind of opulence…”[17] (Unhappily, Captains are just as prone to this as Colonels.) General Albert Orsborn acknowledged to the 1949 Commissioners’ Conference that

dissatisfaction and decline… is blamed on our system of ranks, promotions, positions and differing salaries and retirements… that it has created envy and kindred evils and developed sycophancy, ingratiation, “wire-pulling”, favouritism, etc… It is a sad reflection that we are in character, in spirituality, unable to meet the strain of our own system.[18]

Koinonia and just social relationships are difficult to maintain within that system. All of which is to say that it is in the nature of systems to get in the way of the reason they exist.  If the doctrine of holiness is not lived as well as talked about, human nature will take its course, and a system which actually encourages it to do so, as ours tends to, requires extra vigilance.
And the second adverse effect, the disempowerment of the many by the exaltation of the few? The American Nazarene sociologist Kenneth E. Crow summed it up: “Loyalty declines when ability to influence decision and policies declines. When institutionalization results in top-down management, one of the consequences is member apathy and withdrawal.”[19] Likewise the Indian Jesuit Kurien Kunnumpuram claimed that “the clergy-laity divide and the consequent lack of power-sharing in the Church are largely responsible for the apathy and inertia that one notices in the bulk of the laity today.”[20]  Does our structure likewise disempower the Army’s soldiery? The root of disempowerment is a lack of respect for others, and that is, again, evidence of a failure to love one’s neighbour as oneself.
It would be difficult to say whether clericalisation had led to a loss of zeal, or loss of zeal had been compensated for by a growing preoccupation with status, or whether each process fed the other. There is a paradox here: the military system, quite apart from the fact that it fitted Booth’s autocratic temperament, was designed for rapid response, and is still officially justified in those terms. The Army’s first period of rapid growth followed its introduction. It caught the imagination for a time. However the burgeoning of hierarchical and bureaucratic attitudes came to exert a counter-influence. The reason for success contained the seeds of failure. The longer-term effect of autocracy was to lose the loyalty of many of those hitherto enthusiastic, and to deter subsequent generations, more habituated to free thought and democracy, from joining.
Clearly I’m talking about what we may loosely call the “Western” Army. In Africa and India the Army is still expanding rapidly and is also extremely rank-conscious! The cultures are different. I do not believe that in our culture, our salvation lies in the hair of the dog that bit us. Furthermore, the abuses of power already evident in the third world Army suggest that there will be a reckoning to pay there too. Faced with a flagrant example of such abuse in the past year, a Zimbabwean Salvationist wrote, “The Salvation Army now frightens me… We now know we are waging war against a Monster… Our very own church! Am now very ashamed to wear my uniform and so are many other people.[21] Such a reaction does not augur well for continued expansion. Unfortunately clericalism is to clergy as water to fish, wherever we live. It’s so pervasive we don’t recognise it, but as a soldier working at THQ once said to me, “It’s in our faces all the time!”
How may the ill-effects of the hierarchical system be mitigated?  That is, how may the essential holiness still be expressed through this form? Leadership is indispensable to the effectiveness of any movement; it’s a given. Structure is necessary; it will happen anyway, and it needs continuity, accountability and legitimacy to mitigate the effects of unrestrained personal power. There are two ways the problem can be approached: one is structural, the other attitudinal.
In 2002 the first edition of the Salvation Army’s Doctrine Council’s publication, Servants Together, made the following suggestions for structural change:

What actions does Army administration need to take in order to facilitate servant leadership? Here are some of the important ones:
·      Develop non-career-oriented leadership models.
·      Dismantle as many forms of officer elitism as possible.
·      Continue to find ways to expand participatory decision-making.[22]

I believe structural change is essential but none of us is in a position to make it, and you know it’s not going to happen. In fact that whole paragraph quoted was deleted from the second, 2008, edition of Servants Together. And wherever else the expression “participatory decision-making” was used, that was replaced by “consultative decision-making”.[23] Do you draw any conclusions from those excisions? Perhaps none of the structural changes suggested might have made any difference anyway.

[16] W. Bramwell Booth, letter of October 1894, in Catherine Bramwell Booth, Bramwell Booth (London: Rich & Cowan, 1932) 218.
[17] W. Bramwell Booth, letter to his wife, 27 April 1924, in Catherine Bramwell Booth, Bramwell Booth, 437.
[18] General Eric Wickberg, “Movements for Reform” (Address at the 1971 International Conference of Leaders) Minutes, 9.
[19] Kenneth E. Crow, “The Church of the Nazarene and O’Dea’s Dilemma of Mixed Motivation” (
[20] Kurien Kunnumpurum, “Beyond the Clergy-Laity Divide” ( May 2000.
[21] Email in my possession.
[22] Servants Together (2002), 121.
[23] A letter to Territorial and Command leaders from the Chief of the Staff, dated 31 July 2008, stated, “…it is the General’s wish that all copies of the previous edition be removed from trade department shelves, training college libraries and any other resource centres where copies may reside, and destroyed. Also, in publicizing the revised edition within your territory/command, please encourage your officers and soldiers to purchase this latest
edition and to discard any copies they may have of the 2002 edition.” Upon being asked about this, Commissioner Dunster wrote further that “The General’s request for copies of the first edition to be discarded is simply a matter of practicality and good sense.  We do not really want classes of cadets - or others - where some are using the old book and others the new one.  That would lead to unnecessary confusion.”
 Letter to Major Kingsley Sampson, dated 19 August 2008.

Harold Hill, Major
Wellington, NZ

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


When society becomes too unequal and is at risk of breaking down, Christianity seems to rediscover its roots and new groups with a greater emphasis on internal equality are formed.[5] Thus renewal in the Church often coincides with disruption in society as whole, or dissatisfaction of marginalised groups. Both the Christian Mission and the 614 movement started in the slums. Further, nearly all sectarian movements including and from the early church on – monasticism, the mendicant orders of friars, the Waldensians, the reformation churches and sects, the Methodists and the Pentecostals, have begun as “lay” movements, acknowledging little distinction of status between leaders and led, but nearly all have ended up controlled by priestly hierarchies, whether so called or not. The more institutionalised the body becomes, the greater degree of clericalisation and “hierarchisation” likely.
Bryan Wilson sums up:

What does appear is that the dissenting movements of Protestantism, which were lay movements, or movements which gave greater place to laymen than the traditional churches had ever conceded, pass, over the course of time, under the control of full-time religious specialists… Over time, movements which rebel against religious specialization, against clerical privilege and control, gradually come again under the control of a clerical class… Professionalism is a part of the wider social process of secular society, and so even in anti-clerical movements professionals re-emerge. Their real power, when they do re-emerge, however, is in their administrative control and the fact of their full-time involvement, and not in their liturgical functions, although these will be regarded as the activity for which their authority is legitimated.[6]

Religious authorities usually claim some “spiritual” legitimation for their human behaviour. For example, in the church there grew up a tradition that ordination indelibly and irreversibly changes a person’s essential, ontological character, just as baptism (or conversion, in the Evangelical tradition) is believed to do. The second Vatican council stood in a tradition stretching back to Augustine of Hippo (who died almost 400 years after Jesus) when it asserted that

The common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial priesthood… differ essentially and not only in degree.[7]

Others deny that. Emil Brunner says that:
All minister, and nowhere is to be perceived a separation or even merely a distinction between those who do and those who do not minister… There exists in the Ecclesia a universal duty and right of service, a universal readiness to serve and at the same time the greatest possible differentiation of functions.[8]

Nevertheless, whether we hold that clergy are essentially different from lesser mortals or we claim to believe in equality, the end result is often the same. Miroslav Volf noted that even in the contemporary unstructured house church movement:

“A strongly hierarchical, informal system of paternal relations often develops between the congregation and the charismatic delegates from the ascended Christ.”[9]

Whether in the Exclusive Brethren or the “Shepherding” movement, you know who is the boss. Having clerics does not necessarily involve clericalism. Not having clerics does not necessarily mean clericalism can be avoided. Office itself, formal or informal, inevitably confers power and power offers at least possibility of those who exercise it “tyrannising over those allotted to [their] care”.[10] (Peter was aware of the danger!)
In Walter Brueggemann’s Prophetic Imagination, the alternative, prophetic community of Moses is contrasted with the “royal consciousness” of Egyptian Empire. Within 250 years of the Exodus from Egypt, the establishment of Solomon’s Empire represented the rejection of that free association of Israelites and a return to structures of oppression.[11] In the same way, the process of institutionalisation and clericalisation in the church can be seen as a successful reconquest of the new community by the old structures of domination and power. These in turn may be subverted in due course by renewed egalitarianism.
My argument is that the Salvation Army’s own development conforms to this general pattern. I won’t rehearse tonight the steps by which this came about – you can read my book if you want the details; Salvationist Supplies still has some copies![12] I’ll say just one thing: The Salvation Army doesn’t accept that becoming a priest or a bishop (or, officer or an officer holding “conferred-rank”) alters your Christian “character”, but in practice it behaves as if it did. The most recent expression of the Army’s clericalisation is found in the adoption of “ordination” by General Arnold Brown in 1978. Ordination came about originally because of the Church’s adoption of the concept of “ordo”, the class structure of the Roman Empire. The Army doesn’t endorse that, so why play dress ups?
This is not saying we need no structure. Any human society needs some form of order to avoid falling into either anarchy or tyranny. A society called into being around some founding vision requires some means of maintaining what in the church is called “apostolicity” – authenticity derived from faithfulness to a founding vision. That is part of the role of leadership, which a hierarchy can provide. The danger with leadership, however, is that rather than being merely a means of maintaining authenticity, it can come to identify itself as central to it, the means becoming the end. That is clericalisation. That is the shadow side of hierarchy.


Now, leaving Hierarchy for the present, what about Holiness?  When I was growing up it was never explicitly stated but somehow assumed quite widely that holiness was a matter of personal morality, spirituality, piety and general “niceness”. It tended to be regarded as a field for the spiritually athletic, the virtuosi, rather than the general run-of-the-mill Christian like me. It was an advanced degree, an honours course, to which a few went on after getting their BA, or Born Again. Wesleyan Holiness, our traditional take on the subject, has lost credibility over the years, partly through being inadequately taught. The result, to adapt G.K. Chesterton, was that rather than being tried and found too hard, it was thought too hard and not tried. Put to one side the tedious “shibboleth-sibboleth” debate about “crisis” and/or “process” aspect of Holiness – I’m not concerned with that!

Holiness has suffered, amongst other things, from an unbalanced, individualistic interpretation of the gospel. In our Evangelical tradition Salvation, which includes holiness, was about me, getting me saved and sanctified and going to heaven. When we read that holiness is “the revealing of Christ’s own character in the life of the believer”,[13] that’s true, but it’s not the whole truth. That’s still about me. In western countries, that individualistic focus of our mindset was intensified in the later twentieth century under the influence of New Right economics when our whole society took a turn away from social responsibility and towards the sanctification of individual greed as the driving force of society, with the excuse that by a process of trickle-down, all boats would rise on the flood-tide of prosperity.

That hasn’t just changed our economic arrangements; it has increasingly permeated our world-view. It didn’t alter our doctrine of holiness; it merely completed the total skewing of our perception of what holiness involved. That is, that it was just a matter for the individual.

We glibly dismiss the people of Jesus’ day as preoccupied with his setting up an earthly Kingdom, whereas his Kingdom was “not of this world”. We, with the benefit of hindsight, know so much better than they did what he was on about.  Yes? No, not entirely.

If we read Jesus without our inherited spectacles of individualism, we notice that a lot of what he talked about was not about the saving and sanctifying of the individual as an end in itself but about redeeming society as a whole. He came preaching and teaching about the Kingdom of Heaven, which wasn’t pie in the sky for me when I die, but the   redemption of this world so that it would more closely resemble how God intended it to be. “Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven,” is what he taught us to pray. A renewed emphasis on social justice is a rediscovery of this dimension of holiness; embraced by many, while many others regard it as a distraction from the real spiritual business of saving souls.

Salvation, of which holiness is a subset, part of a continuum, is about Shalom: wholeness, peace, well-being, and righteousness – which did not mean being goody-goody two-shoes, but meant being in a right relationship with ourselves, with others and with God. Which is why John Wesley exclaimed, against the notion of the solitary seeking of perfection, that, “there is no holiness but social holiness.” Christianity is a team sport, not a narcissistic individual hobby like body-building.

At the personal and interpersonal level, holiness is expressed in what William Temple described as the “true test of worship”: “not whether it makes us feel better or more holy or more at peace… [but] what it does to our lives; whether it makes us more unselfish, more easy to live with, more efficient in our work.” That is “becoming more like Jesus”. At the macro-level, a concern for social justice is integral to a concern for personal holiness; it is making the earth more like heaven. I cannot be holy and still content that others suffer injustice. At Finney’s campaign meetings 150 years ago, seekers were directed from the “Mourners’ Bench”, either to the table at which they could sign up to the anti-slavery campaign, or to the table at which they could sign up to work for female emancipation and women’s rights. And if they were unwilling to do either, they were sent back to their seats: it was not believed that they’d made a real decision to follow Christ.

So the polarisation we frequently encounter, between “saving souls” and “serving suffering humanity”, as though either one of these were more central, a loftier aim, and the other merely optional window-dressing, is a false dichotomy.  As William Booth put it, there needs to be “Salvation for Both Worlds”.[14] Birds do not fly far on one wing only. If we want biblical underpinnings of this argument we need look no further than Jesus’ summary of the great commandments – to love God, and to love our neighbour as ourselves.[15] He said the second was “like the first”; it wasn’t a minor, optional extra.

[5]  The egalitarian vision remained, in David Martin’s terms, “a store of explosive materials capable of fissionable contact with social fragmentation” so that “schism is inevitable and rooted in the nature of Christianity itself as well as in the nature of society.” David Martin, Reflections on Sociology and Theology (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997) 42-3.
[6] Bryan Wilson, Religion in Secular Society (London: C.A. Watts, 1966) 136.
[7] “Dogmatic Constitution of the Church, Article 10” in Austin Flannery (Ed.) Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post-Conciliar Documents (Collegeville Min: Liturgical Press, 1975) 361.
[8] Emil Brunner, The Misunderstanding of the Church (London: Lutterworth, 1953) 50.
[9] Miroslav Volf, After Our Likeness: The Church in the Image of the Trinity (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 1998) 237.
[10] 1 Peter 5:3.
[11] Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2nd edn 2001) 23.
[12] Harold Hill, Leadership in the Salvation Army: a case study in clericalisation (Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2006).
[13] Frederick Coutts, The Splendour of Holiness (London: Salvation Army, 1983) 41.
[14] William Booth, “Salvation for Both Worlds”, All the World, 5 (January 1889) 1-6, reprinted in Andrew M. Eason and Roger J. Green (Editors), Boundless Salvation: the shorter writings of William Booth (New York: Peter Lang, 2012) 51-9.
[15] Luke 10: 27.

Harold Hill, Major
1965-69 Taught History and English, Gore High School, New Zealand. 1970-72 attended Salvation Army Training College, Denmark Hill, London; 1972-78 Taught at Howard Secondary School, Chiweshe, Zimbabwe. 1979-80 C. O., Salvation Army, Mosgiel, Dunedin.
1983-87 C. O., Salvation Army, Invercargill

1988-94 C. O., Salvation Army, Wellington City.

1995 Secretary for Education, and later various other roles at Salvation Army Headquarters for New Zealand, in Wellington, including Overseas Development Officer, Chairman of Moral and Social Issues Council and Manager of Flag Publications. 

Retired 2007.
Part-time lecturer
Booth College, Sydney, 
Sydney College of Divinity
2010 – Present (3 years)
Currently researching the history of the Salvation Army's interaction with the Pentecostal Movement and with charismatic renewal.

(with Ferrell Irvine) The Twelve Step Workshop Manual (Wellington: Flag Publications 2001, 2005, 2011) 
Leadership in the Salvation Army: A Case Study in Clericalisation (Carlisle: Paternoster, 2006) 
Te Ope Whakaora: The Army that Brings Life. A Collection of Documents on the Salvation Army and Maori 1884-2007 (edited) (Wellington: Flag Publications, 2007).

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Hierarchy and Holiness

Remember those cartoons where you are invited to Spot the Difference? Here’s one.

We hear of Pope Francis deserting the luxurious Papal apartments to hang out in a sort of boarding house for priests, scooting round Rome in a little old Ford Fiesta instead of using an armour-plated Mercedes, laying aside ornate vestments and handmade red shoes in favour of a simple cassock and his old scuffs. He’s sending signals.

 We’re used to receiving and interpreting such signals. I remember in my callow youth asking the formidable Commissioner Robert A. Hoggard whether he didn’t think his snazzy new 1952 Plymouth Cranbrook was a little too flash for the Salvation Army to be seen going about it? (I do not know where I got that idea from!)

He replied, “Oh, no, not at all. Where I come from [USA Western territory], this is a Lieutenant’s car. Commissioners drive Cadillacs!”

Then when I went to London in 1970 I noticed that whereas a mere Commissioner drove an Austin 1100, the Chief of the Staff drove an Austin 1800, and the General was driven about in an Austin 3 litre.

Years later in the USA Salvation Army National Archives I read the correspondence between a Territorial Commander and a Lieutenant who was threatened with dismissal and was eventually sacked because he wouldn’t dispose of his Oldsmobile (I think it was), deemed not to be a “Lieutenant’s car”. I kid you not.  (Perhaps there was another back-story.)

They were all signals. What these examples signalled was “hierarchy”. The difficulty I found lay in reconciling those signals with Jesus’ words, “That is the way the VIPs and Celebrities of this earth go on… Don’t be like that!”[1] All this may be juvenile taking of the mickey, but what was signalled was no light matter. My subject, for which I am indebted to Caroline, is Hierarchy and Holiness. I need to talk about each in turn, and then about both together.


Firstly, we’re familiar with the concept of Hierarchy. A pyramid, with the broad base of plebs at the bottom, rises through more restricted levels of middle-management, to the solitary splendour of the occupant of the apex. In his study of Milton’s Paradise Lost, C.S. Lewis explains how pre-modern society was quite unambiguously and unapologetically structured hierarchically. It wasn’t considered just a convenient and effective way of constructing work relationships; it was seen as inherent in nature. Lewis wrote,

Degrees of value are objectively present in the universe. Everything except God has some natural superior. The goodness, happiness and dignity of every being consists in obeying its natural superior and ruling its natural inferiors… Aristotle tells us that to rule and to be ruled are things according to nature. The soul is the natural ruler of the body, the male of the female, reason of passion. Slavery is justified because some men are to other men as souls are to bodies (Politics, 1, 5).[2]

Now I’m not about to argue the anarchist or Leveller converse, that Jack’s as good as his master, but need to remind you that our whole clerical system in the church derives from this hierarchical conception of reality, which we no longer take for granted today.

The early church was relatively egalitarian. It had leaders but no priests. Over its first few centuries, as it institutionalised, it accommodated to traditional religious expectations, to hierarchical society and to the Roman state.[3] The Church took on characteristics incompatible with its founding vision of free and equal citizens in the Kingdom of Heaven (rather like Israel’s earlier ideal of being a nation of kings and priests).[4]

[1] Matthew 20: 25-6.
[2] C. S. Lewis, A Preface to Paradise Lost (London: Oxford University Press, [1942] 1960) 72-3.
[3] A comprehensive account of the process is found in Colin Bulley, The Priesthood of Some Believers: Developments from the General to the Special Priesthood in Christian Literature in the First Three Centuries (Carlisle: Paternoster, 2000).
[4] Exodus 19.6; Revelation 1:6; 5:10.


Harold Hill, Major
Wellington, NZ


We concluded our daily updates on the HH tragedy last week, and the last article we posted had some 40 visitor comments a few days later. This morning an additional 35 comments have been registered. And theirs are but a fraction of the hundreds of comments received from the twenty-six thousand (26,000) visitors who read our 4 week series.

Because of the great interest in the HH - Dr. Thistle debacle we are morally obliged to maintain our focus on this tragedy and will do so by featuring visitor's comments, SA updates and reports directly from Zimbabwe each Monday until…

Dr. Paul Thistle's ministers here


In an Army where negative communication is not encouraged; the soldiery have been searching for answers, because we have been taught the difference between right and wrong, and have sought to implement this teaching through our daily existence. We have found no answers - only a one-sided presentation because of the Army's silence. 

I live in the UK and have been watching the locations of people who have read these articles. There are over 200 different cities/towns to date. I appreciate that some of those are IHQ staff who are tuning in to see what the groundswell of opinion is, but nevertheless the bulk of the rest will be telling their corps comrades - I certainly have.

We have trusted our leaders - deemed them to be highly spiritual people who have the interests of the Kingdom at heart. But this tragic episode has shown us a darker side, which, speaking personally, has destroyed my trust in them. Whatever the political sensitivities, I cannot condone the sudden dismissal of Dr Thistle in such a way. To me it was inhumane and uncaring, and yes, selfish, for not considering the detrimental effects it would have on people who regarded the hospital as a lifeline. I fear TSA will lose more than it gains from this.

So what can we do in the face of such intransigent, arrogant silence? Bear in mind this is a private blog, only read by people who have found this site… And what we found here was a platform that enabled us to be aware of what was happening at a higher level in our name (SA) without our knowledge. We only hear the positive spin so prevalent today, but which should be absent from a church environment, given the concept of 'the priesthood of all believers'.

This sort of 'forum' platform is not available to the common soldiery, who, by the way, fund our movement and its leaders in their comfortable positions, cocooned in their introspective spiritual world with the Army ‘organisation’ at their centre – an organisation to be protected at all costs - just look at the new logo to confirm that. 
'Army' has the biggest arc, then 'mission' and then last of all the 'message' takes up less of the arc any the other two. Subliminal maybe, but I noticed it. And any challenge to the organisation and its practices is obviously not to be tolerated, hence the swift dismissal of the good doctor who epitomised all that was best about our movement.



We can but air our views, but as this subject inevitably draws to a close, TSA can once again sit comfortably in their ivory towers, praying, worshipping, studying the Bible, albeit in sincerity, and encouraging us to do the same (which is as it should be), but at the same time a refusal to put those lessons learned into practical restorative actions, denying other children of God a decent life is inexcusable, and the people of Chiweshe are still suffering because of that.

Some bloggers say that this type of message is melodramatic, but the dictionary definition of 'melodramatic' suggests there is a happy ending.
I'm afraid not.
And life IS drama - some low key, some of higher significance - and this tawdry piece of SA history is high drama to the people it affects - TSA has let them down in a big way. It has also let the soldiery down - almost unanimously on this blog people have called for the Army to do an 'about turn' and restore some of what has been lost for this poor community.

…“but as this subject inevitably draws to a close” as a blog focused issue…

Rest assured, we will feature the HH tragedy each Monday until we are satisfied that TSA has halted its gatekeeping exercise and initiated changes in its philosophy, policy and restored the necessary health care programs.

26,000 blog visitors from primarily western nations, and hundreds of blog commenter’s have followed our focused series on the HH tragedy. We are committed to keeping these concerned friends up to date.
POSTED BY: Dr.Sven Ljungholm (Ethics - Human Values)
Former officer residing in the UK

The False Promise of the Prosperity Gospel

Pastor, blogger and grace addict

The False Promise of the Prosperity Gospel: Why I Called Out Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer
Posted: 08/21/2013 11:37 am

I have been preaching for 20 years. Yesterday I did something that I have never done before in a sermon. I publicly called out false teachers and named them by name. I said:
If you listen to Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer, if you take what they teach seriously, it will not be good for you. It will be detrimental to your long-term growth as a follower of Jesus.
(You can watch my sermon here.)

I used to think that their error was so blatantly obvious that they could just be ignored. I was wrong. They are massively growing in popularity in the evangelical world and are seen as credible and helpful. Before I'm inundated with questioning emails I want to share why I distrust these two and think you should as well. So, don't shoot me -- at least not yet.
When I was a kid I could tell the difference between neighborhood kids who wanted to be my friend from the neighborhood kids who were my friends so that they could play with my toys. Joel and Joyce are the latter. They both teach a twisted form of Christianity that teaches obedience, giving and faith as a way to get things from God. They are both products of what is known as the Prosperity Gospel and The Word of Faith Movement, or the Seed Faith Movement.

Dangers of the Prosperity Gospel
John Piper does a great job of defining what the Prosperity Gospel is and why it is so sinister. Please take a few minutes to watch this before moving on the critiques of Joyce Meyer and Joel Osteen:

Joyce Meyer
When I first heard her tell her story I was deeply moved and impressed. She is an amazing example of overcoming hurts and abuse. She will forever have my admiration and respect in that regard. Furthermore, she gives spectacular advice. If my wife or if one of my daughters went to her in a moment of crisis, I believe they would return with magnificently helpful advice. If they went to her for teaching, they would return with deadly heresy.
False Doctrine
1. She teaches that Jesus literally stopped being the Son of God on the Cross (listen here):
"He could have helped himself up until the point where he said I commend my spirit into your hands, at that point he couldn't do nothing for himself anymore. He had become sin, he was no longer the Son of God. He was sin."
2. She teaches that Jesus went to Hell and became the first-born again man (listen here):

"Do you know something? The minute that blood sacrifice was accepted Jesus was the first human being that was ever born again. Now that was real it happened when he was in hell."

3. She teaches that Jesus paid for our sins in Hell:
"There is no hope of anyone going to heaven unless they believe this truth I am presenting. You cannot go to heaven unless you believe with all your heart that Jesus took your place in hell" -From The Most Important Decision You Will Ever Make
4. She teaches that words have power and you can release the power of Heaven through your words.
5. She teaches that you need special revelation from God to understand what she teaches because it is NOT contained in the Bible (listen here):
"The Bible can't even find any way to explain this. Not really. That's why you've got to get it by revelation. There are no words to explain what I'm telling you. I've got to just trust God that He's putting it into your spirit like He put it into mine." From "What Happened From the Cross to The Throne"
"Now spirits don't have bodies, so we can't see them. Okay? There probably is, I believe there is, and I certainly hope there is several angels up here this morning that are preaching with me. I believe that right before I speak some anointed statement to you, that one of them bends over and says in my ear what I'm supposed to say to you." From "Witchcraft & Related Spirits" (Part 1) - 2 A-27 Audiotape)
6. She teaches that she is no longer a sinner.
Unfortunately I could continue with examples of her utter misuse of scripture, false teaching and blatant heresy. In America, Christians have an embarrassment of riches. We can buy more books, download more podcasts and tune into more helpful teachers than anyone else on the planet. The lies that she teaches are easily lost in the hum of all the great teachers we hear. But this is not the case in the third world.
In many other countries their resources are far fewer. Uneducated pastors, who are doing their very best and uninformed Christians have this garbage pumped into their countries through radio waves and TV broadcasts. Because Joyce Meyer is endorsed here, she is trusted there. And, she can afford to spread her message with the money she makes from American Christians who buy her books, CDs and who attend her conferences. Her influence is severely disrupting the church in the third world. Her teachings are the unfortunate starting point for Christians in the third world and it is birthing even greater heresies.
The devastating reality that we have to come to grips with is that when we support her here, we support the churches she is undoing there.
Financial Concerns
There is nothing wrong with being wealthy. I love it when Christians are rich. That should mean more money to fund the mission. But there is a line to how much money we as leaders should spend on ourselves. I don't know where the line is, but it is somewhere before the ministry purchasing million dollar homes for us and our kids. That line is somewhere before purchasing us a $10 million private jet. The line is somewhere before the ministry spending $261, 498 for 68 pieces of furniture. That equates to $3,845.56 per item. That line is somewhere before spending so egregiously that the U.S. Senate investigates us. Joyce Meyer lands on the other side of that line.
The following link includes audio from Joyce Meyer. Around 5:30 she is asked if people will get more money back to them if they give financially to her ministry.
Not only does she teach giving as a way to leverage more money from God, she is reckless with desperate people. She is not at all concerned if people give to her instead of paying bills. This is intolerable!
Questionable Example and Lack of Accountability
I challenge you to watch a typical message by Joyce Meyer. Here are a few of things you will notice:
She pauses about every five minutes for applause. And if people don't applaud she is likely to say something like, "I'm preaching better than you're acting."
She talks about herself constantly. She is the main character in every story she tells. Even when she talks about herself in a self-deprecating way, some how it comes across in a way that causes people to admire her more.
God talks to her and reveals new information to her... a lot!
Her ministry lacks real accountability. Her family and her close friends are the governing board. This is an organization that receives almost $100 million dollars annually, and with no substantive accountability.
Conclusion for Joyce Meyer
What I wrote and linked in the first section should have been enough to completely remove her from our sphere of trust. Her doctrine is horrific. Her hermeneutics are horrible. She is a woman who seems to have an unrestrained love for money and applause. Her finances are questionable at best. Her example is questionable at best. Her impact on desperate people here, as well as churches and pastors around the globe is wildly destructive.
I lament with you a sense of loss if she was a teacher you trusted. I lament that someone who is so wrong has so much influence with so many. I do not regret, however, pointing to her as a false teacher and as one who should be rejected.
Joel Osteen
Like Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen has some really great things to say. He is encouraging and the man is certainly happy. This should not be held against him.
The man is confused on theology. He has much of the same doctrinal misunderstandings as does Joyce Meyer. They come from the same tradition. His doctrine is difficult to discern for many because he won't talk about doctrine. He won't talk about theology. He quickly back pedals when asked hard questions, as seen here in an interview with Larry King.
In fairness, Joel published a letter of apology after this interview.
While I commend him for his humility and courage to publicly declare that he was wrong, this is just one of too many instances. He frequently misunderstands important matters of faith and doctrine when being interviewed. He repeatedly gets the Gospel wrong. And he does so when talking to millions.
If we take Joel at his word, our only conclusion is that he is either incapable or unwilling to understand and explain how the Gospel intersects with all of life.
We recently hosted Hank Hanegraaff (The Bible Answerman) at SMCC. He has some very helpful insights (here and here) into Joel Osteen's confused views of faith, doctrine and Scripture:
Joel Osteen and Prosperity Gospel
The Prosperity Gospel is much like all other religions in that it uses faith, it uses doing good things to leverage material blessings from God. Essentially, use God to get things from God.
"God has already done everything He's going to do. The ball is now in your court. If you want success, if you want wisdom, if you want to be prosperous and healthy, you're going to have to do more than meditate and believe; you must boldly declare words of faith and victory over yourself and your family" From Your Best Life Now, p.132
"If you are believing for your child to find God, go help somebody else's child to develop a relationship with God. If you're struggling financially, go out and help somebody who has less than you have ... f you want to reap financial blessings, you must sow financial seeds in the lives of others ... If you want to see healing and restoration come to your life, go out and help somebody else get well" From Your Best Life Now, pp. 224, 250-51
This is not the Gospel. This is a false Gospel. Joel teaches that we open ourselves to God to get more from God. He teaches that we use our words to speak into existence a better reality. This straight from the Word of Faith Movement. This is not what is taught throughout the New Testament. Consider what the Apostle Paul wrote. And remember that he wrote this while in prison.
Philippians 4:10-13 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
When I was in seminary, Heather and I were poor. There were seasons in which I worked 70+ hours a week while taking a full-time Master's load. There were times that I had to sleep every other day so that I could get all my work done. This was an extended period of exhausting financial stress.
During this time, I remember reading something from Joel Osteen. He and his wife claimed by faith a new house that they wanted. Joel was unsure, but his wife Victoria was confident. And she lovingly chastised him for his lack of faith. Sometime later, they purchased that house. Still in seminary, my wife and I were walking through our dream neighborhood and that was playing through my mind. As I walked through the neighborhood, looking at all the homes, I wanted so badly for what Joel is teaching to be true. I don't know if you can understand how desperately I wanted it to be true.
I wanted relief and I wanted more. But I knew that it wasn't true. I knew that my exhaustion and desperation made me emotionally vulnerable to this false Gospel. I'm educated and well read. I've haven't just read the Bible, I've translated large chunks of it from the original Hebrew and Greek. I think I understand it. I think I have a relatively significant level of discernment. But for a moment, I was emotionally vulnerable to this false doctrine.
What about the millions of others who are desperate, searching, hoping and vulnerable without the discernment? We owe it to them to not tolerate a false gospel any longer.
If you made it to the end of this blog post, congratulations. This is a thick and heavy subject. Even though I've written much, this only begins to scratch the surface of the repugnant nature of the Prosperity Gospel.

Rick Henderson is a pastor who blogs at This post first appeared on his blog.