1. Conclusion: the Salvation Army – What is the position of the SA on questions of equality, acceptance and inclusivity of LGBT persons/couples with reference to our religious practices, church membership
The story is told of one of the 18th century preacher Jonathan Edwards’ daughters said to have a violent temper. And when a young man who’d fallen in love with her requested her hand in marriage Edward’s response was a firm, no! He was denied the request. When the young man sought an explanation Edwards replied: “She is not worthy of you”! “But,” said the young man, “isn’t she a Christian”? “Yes she is, but the grace of God can live with some people with whom no one else can live”
Over the course of these last several weeks when we looked at the divisive issues surrounding the LGBT inclusivity debates I wonder if Edwards’ indictment isn’t in a sense descriptive of some of our attitudes at times. Sometimes we need to face the brutal honesty that exists between family members who earnestly love each other but who sometimes expresses blunt disapproval. In our case it’s an unwillingness to get alongside and accept a different point of view or interpretation of the Bible. Salvationists in the northern hemisphere reject those in the south and conversely those in the South just can’t accept and live with the views and life choice advice of those in the North. And it isn’t only across borders north and south but also east and west; east coast America to rural central and the south central states.
Instead of reaching across Salvationist borders and cultures and learning from our individual experiences we become too easily frustrated and angered because ‘we know better’. - Love is not easily angered Paul tells us, and we keep no records. I don’t store up in my memory the rubbish opinions tossed out by the good ole boy from Hayseed. Not angered and keeping no mental count? Not much I don’t! I’d give Scrooge a good run in finding and registering mistakes in a ledger-
Predictably we expected a varied outcome in the debates. However, any assumption that there has been a representative posture or a semblance of geographically balanced posts, discussions, or comments by Salvationist officers, soldiers or adherents on these questions would be far from correct. The balance has been largely distorted as comments and articles have come from mostly younger Christians, all living in the Northern hemisphere with a few baby boomers in their midst. Some older respondents, new to the LGBT scene along with most of the rest of us have in their wisdom have been able to recalibrate and adjust their approach to the heady discussions as the times have changed. They seek to influence with grace while reflecting a strong commitment to the Scriptures. They have their preferential position, a strong conservative endorsement of traditional teaching but willing to listen and share in non-judgmental or dismissive tones with anyone.
Fair enough you say, but where then is the imbalance? Well it rests in the fact that SA leaders will not write a ‘new’ Salvationist position statement that seeks to unilaterally impose itself on 1,150,000 soldiers in 126 countries is unlikely because it’s an impossibility. Not only, as some suggest, because of the sheer numbers, different cultures, languages, education and experience. But because the large majority of Salvationists garner their guarded opinions and reasoning from places where we do not; their local provinces, cultures, fundamentalist Bible teaching and government laws, where homosexuality is considered a sin. We have no large middle ground Salvationist population that counts for and represents a more liberal Bible interpretation and support
I shared in an earlier article that seventy five per cent of the world’s population, four billion of us, use social networks regularly and it has overtaken email as the number one activity and the web. Ours (FSAOF) is but one of 200 million blogs posting nearly 1,000,000 blogs announcement and articles per day.
Since the inception of the FSAOF blog six years ago we have posted 1,419 articles and as many as 15,000 visitors per month have viewed more than 335,000 pages and left 9,000+ comments. But just how many in our Salvationist fellowships, those many in fundamental and more conservative communities have taken the time or indeed have access to our discussions on these divisive issue.
While we in the Western world, families, communities and religious fellowship continue our discussions and grow in our understanding of the issues, approximately 60% of our worldwide fellowship or more than 600,000 soldiers know little of our leaders’ grappling with the form of a revised positional statement.
Number of Salvation Army Senior Soldiers World Wide
African Continent- India and Korea
Millions are stuck behind centuries of prejudicial condemnations and blind discrimination. Some of our more fundamentalist and conservative Christian and cultural minorities have been "left behind". Computers and the Internet use by Africans (Salvationists) was carried out in eleven leading commercial cities in African countries: Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Burundi, Zambia, Nigeria, Zambia, Madagascar and Angola by Consumer Insight, a leading research agency in the region.
The most recent, and now 5 year old study established that 74 percent of residents in Nairobi – Kenya have used a computer at least once. The second and third best in computer literacy are Lagos - Nigeria and Kampala - Uganda at 69 and 68 percent, respectively. Lusaka - Zambia was ranked last with 32 percent.
This means that 68 percent of Lusaka residents have not used a computer, compared to only 26 percent of Nairobians. Illiteracy and lack of ready access to and computer instructions were the key negative factors. The study established that browsing the internet was the most common use across countries
Almost all religions practiced across Africa, from Christianity and Islam to traditional African religions, reject same-sex relationships. People living in a homosexual relationship or who campaign for the rights of gays and lesbians may face prison sentences of up to ten years in one country. In almost all other countries, the law foresees prison sentences for same-sex couples indulging in sexual relations although such penalties are rarely imposed.
The negative opinion of homosexuality held by religious groups is also reflected in the population at large. According to opinion polls, up to 90 percent of the population in certain Southern hemisphere countries consider homosexuality to be morally unacceptable.
Against this background, the situation of homosexuals in Africa is unlikely to improve in the foreseeable future. While there can be discussion about human rights, "if almost all members of society do not agree with a certain right, then it should no longer exist." According to Amnesty International, South Africa is so far the only African country in which the rights of homosexuals are laid down in the constitution.
A Catholic leader said that there is no doubt about this topic. "The Church can respect human rights. But if human rights conflict with God's commandments, then a (African) judge will never support them."
Part 2: Are we really expected to sit down with those who represent two thirds of our total membership and whose position appears entrenched?
Sven Ljungholm, Liverpool