Saturday, February 8, 2014

SA BRIDGES WITH THE LESBIAN - GAY COMMUNITIES


Building Bridges With the Gay Community

The marginalization of any group of people should disturb The Salvation Army, since one of our core values is to promote the dignity of all persons.
August 13, 2012 by Major Juan Burry Leave a Comment

Pastor Charles L. Worley is a North Carolina minister who caused an uproar in May when a segment from his sermon was caught on video and posted online. Worley, infuriated by U.S. President Barack Obama’s proclamation that he supported gay marriage, called for the entire homosexual population to be gathered in an electrified enclosure until they perished from lack of reproduction. This was a Christian pastor saying this to his 1,200-member congregation. It’s hard to fathom that the sheer contempt and genocidal intimations that spewed from his mouth occurred in North America or a Christian church.
It’s easy to distance ourselves from this preacher and pretend that because his comments do not echo the feelings of most Christians, that we have no investment in this news story. In fact, when it hit the news, I noticed that my Christian friends and colleagues (who love talking about how the media represents Christianity) were unusually silent. If this pastor had said something similar about women or a specific ethnic group, I can guarantee you there would have been more Christians talking about it—in church, coffee shops and on Facebook. People in the church would be up in arms.
And so they should be. Murder is diametrically opposed to the kind of lifestyle that Jesus preached about. Jesus not only condemned murder, but declared that anyone who expressed hatred and anger against another person, such as Pastor Worley did, sinned against God (see Matthew 5:22). One would think that we should have pounced on this opportunity to speak about the love and kindness of Christ and rectify any misconceptions that Pastor Worley created. From my experience, Salvationists often push to the front of the line to tell people just how friendly our churches are and how we would love to see them come visit us on Sunday. So, why didn’t we in this case?
The Salvation Army prides itself on its service to the poor and marginalized. But what does it mean to be marginalized? We see that word used in Army publications and articles, but who are we talking about when we speak of the “marginalized”? We are talking about people who have been excluded from significant participation in society and have been consigned to the cultural fringes. They are people who walk into the same places as you and me; the only distinction is that they have the nagging feeling that at least some of the people in those places don’t want them there. In my missional context as the executive director of an addictions and rehabilitation centre, I cannot think of a people group more marginalized than those in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
The marginalization of any group of people should disturb The Salvation Army, since one of our core values is to promote the dignity of all persons. 

Marginalizing people inevitably leads to oppression. Did you know that 30 percent of the suicides in Canada are committed by LGBT people, while most estimates figure that LGBT people make up only five percent of the total population? Did you know that LGBT students in this country hear on average 26 slurs each day? Or that more than a quarter of the young people who tell their parents that they are LGBT get kicked out of their homes? Recent studies have demonstrated that the number of youths living on the street in Victoria (where I live) is growing and a disproportionate number of them are LGBT. As the Army’s sheltering representative in this city, what do I have to say to my community about this? More importantly, what can I do? I can provide a temporary roof to put over their heads, but shouldn’t I also be concerned about attacking the fundamental causes of this marginalization and not just the symptoms?
Which brings me back to my original question after the Pastor Worley video went viral. Why don’t we react as swiftly or significantly when marginalization happens to those in the LGBT community as compared to other groups? Is it because many Christians believe, as the Army’s positional statement says, that gay marriage is not something the Bible supports and, therefore, they’re not sure how to bridge that gap? Or maybe that’s a convenient pretext and the fact is that many of us still hold prejudices towards our LGBT neighbours that we don’t want to confess exist. Or maybe I’m wrong and we really are doing our best to provide dignity to all.
But if what I am saying reflects the reality in your own corps or church, I would encourage you to start talking about it. Talk to your corps officer or leadership team. Ask them what can be done. Get the discussion started. Because if The Salvation Army doesn’t extend hope to everyone in our society, then our promises are just words.
Major Juan Burry is the executive director of Victoria’s Addictions and Rehabilitation Centre.

11 comments:

Kjell Edlund said...

How encouraging to read such posting from an SA officer in action.

I guess we all jumped when we heard of what Pastor Worley proposed.
How many of us acted on it?
Shame on us, I'd say.
I am, as the author, executive director of an ecumenical social NGO.
I'm not suggesting that those of us that have our daily activities right in the midst of those on the margin of soceity, have a °greater consciousness ° then others.
In my case. Life it self, combinded with certain studies, has forced me to evaluate my own way of understanding.
Even though I'm not prepared to recognize my self as a follower of the Liberal understandings, I do recognize a need for deeper understanding of the historical context of the Bible and that we must count in the difficulties in interpretation.
This contributes to my strong feelings for LGBT.
They have been bullied for to long by so called Christian preachers like Mr. Worley.

Anonymous said...

perhaps since there is a fair number of LGBT former officers, this site might consider the inclusion of a dating site.....in TSA you often see people you believe to be gay, but there is great difficulty to approach them in a romantic manner..........I'd love to know others thoughts....as for me, a lesbian in my 60's it is very difficult to find a soul mate that can understand my spirituality as well someone that is not already with a partner......

Anonymous said...

To the person who said... perhaps since there is a fair number of LGBT former officers ... now I understand this website's obsession with the subject. (Must be slow to catch on). I do agree with another poster - whenever you take a peek at what articles are current, it is invariably on this subject. In the past it's been a pleasure to read some of the spiritually edifying articles on a variety of topics, and I've received many blessings from them, but this blanket coverage of LGBT is a bit much. It has been said that visitor numbers have increased since this series started - maybe so - people love salacity after all - but the postings if anything have decreased in number. How much more can be said about it? I don't think I'll bother visiting again until March - see what's what then.

FORMER SALVATION ARMY OFFICERS FELLOWSHIP said...

The FSAOF has posted almost 1,800 articles over the course of our seven year history, with less than 5% being LGBT related.

And, with reference to the comment; 'whenever you take a peek at what articles are current, it is invariably on this subject.' Excellent observation! That probably has something to do with our announcement that we're running A SERIES… a continual focus on a specified topic.

Anonymous said...

......we're running A SERIES… a continual focus on a specified topic.......
I realise that - it's quite plain. BUT - on Thursday January 2nd you announced that the series would run Monday - Friday, but this hasn't turned out to be true. This one subject has been covered almost 7 days a week, with no letup on the weekend. Only Saturday 4th, Friday 24th January and Saturday 1st February have been LGBT free. I was looking forward to something different on the weekends, so came to the website in anticipation, but the mono theme was still there. I expected something different on the weekends, as was promised.

Anonymous said...

I had hoped that the series would have had enough steam to run 4 weeks, with weekends and possibly Mondays focusing on very different topics. But we were literally inundated with material from every corner of the world. This confirms that the LGBT issues are of very real concern to Salvationists, other Christians and those seeking enlightenment and wishing to voice their view.

The choice was, extend the series by several weeks or to maintain our series' focus 24/7. We elected the latter.

I'm pleased to share that we have very nearly reached the end; maybe a few more and then an analysis.

Thank you for your keen interest in our blog and for your effort to keep us on target - or should I say 'straight'!? Blessings!

Anonymous said...

'Enlightenment' means something different, whichever end of the divide you're on. It's irritating to read that 'pro straight' indicates that darkness prevails on one's outlook. I'm sure those who are 'conservative' thinkers in this debate regard ourselves as 'enlightened' also. That's what makes this series skewed. It's obvious what you would like us all to think.

FORMER SALVATION ARMY OFFICERS FELLOWSHIP said...

Enlightened means appreciating comic relief and not seek for opportunities to always find fault.

"It's irritating to read that 'pro straight' indicates that darkness prevails on one's outlook." What and where did that come from?

Some of our enlightened visitors for get that the FSAOF is a body of former and active pastors, the majority having served a minimum of 12 years as SA officers, and many with graduate Master's and PhD degrees. With their experience, education and theological training, on which side of the equation would you expect them to be?

"It's obvious what you would like us all to think." And what might that be? Chill - and wait for it. Or write a piece for the blog and tell us how you really feel...

Anonymous said...

I was taken aback at the comment ....the FSAOF is a body of former and active pastors, the majority having served a minimum of 12 years as SA officers, and many with graduate Master's and PhD degrees. With their experience, education and theological training, on which side of the equation would you expect them to be? ....
Just because a person has educational degrees, it doesn't necessarily follow that they are sensible, or that they have the monopoly of correct analytical thought. I have met many people who have multiple degrees and yet have no common sense. Conversely, I have served under SA Officers who have not had the ‘benefit’ of attaining Masters and PhD degrees, and yet this hasn’t prevented them from being spiritually inspirational, or from staying the course they were led to follow.
And just because people have been officers for 12 years or more, this doesn’t necessarily give them the edge on wisdom either.
I found the comment quite condescending, sorry, and insensitive.
Wasn’t it Horace who said ‘Wisdom isn’t wisdom when it is derived from books alone’. Degrees do not make you wise, only educated.
And I believe there are words in the Bible that urge us not to think so highly of ourselves – self praise is really no recommendation.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous wrote "I was taken aback at the comment ....the FSAOF is a body of former and active pastors, the majority having served a minimum of 12 years as SA officers, and many with graduate Master's and PhD degrees. With their experience, education and theological training, on which side of the equation would you expect them to be? …. And your answer is?
You don't answer and instead ramble on about how none of the credentials matter at all.
I'm certain most visitors would be taken aback on learning that the FSAOF represents a total of more that a thousand years of SA experience and spiritual leadership, by my quick estimate.
And your, "Wasn’t it Horace who said ‘Wisdom isn’t wisdom when it is derived from books alone’." It was, and which is the reason why the three point answer wasn't limited to your narrow response.
Did you miss the 12 years SA leadership reference? And that the fellowship numbers in a thousand plus?
Chances are that Salvationists and thousands of others have been led and grown spiritually and psychologically through the reading of the hundreds of articles written by 'formers' and published in War Cry's worldwide, in The Officer dating back several decades, and in their roles as varied as Editor; The Salvationist, The War Cry, All the World, and more than 20 book titles with hundreds of thousands copies sold. I hope you get the picture.

Former DC and FSAOF Member, IUKT
(name on file)

Anonymous said...

To Former DC and FSAOF Member, IUKT -

I didn't say that none of the credentials mattered at all, just that they didn't necessarily go hand in hand. I considered the words had a boastful ring to them, and just pointed out that an educational degree doesn't make a person wise. Don't know why you take exception to that. It makes perfect sense to me.
I agree with you that the high quality of articles by the FSAOF has been spiritually uplifting, and I have enjoyed some lively debates on the many and various topics 'discussed', received much blessing from them, and have learned from some of them. Others I have disagreed with, but that's the nature of interpretation.
I didn't answer the question about which side of the equation I would expect them to be on on this specific topic because there is no definitive answer. Each person would view things differently I hope - regardless of their learned (or not) background.

And no - I didn't miss the reference to the 12 years SA leadership - I made mention of it in my comment - but to my mind it's irrelevant - you could be in leadership for almost all of your adult life and not necessarily be a good leader - or you could be brilliant. Time served has nothing to do with it, as many people would confirm. I've worked with good and bad leaders. Similarly with your thousand-plus members. In many ways the high number is a sad indictment, though I fully accept the failures of TSA in caring for its own, as has been stated in many previous articles, and each person lost to Army officership has acted, understandably, according to their conscience. It's commendable that they've kept in touch despite leaving the work, and have maintained their Christian witness in their new lives.

I'm not sure what triggered your very swift defensive response, but I was only seeking to balance the claim (as I perceived it) that those with no degrees, no higher education, and no theological training are inferior beings incapable of spiritual discernment in the interpretation of these articles, especially the ones on this topic.

And yes, I certainly get the picture of all your activities- but I'm not sure why you felt you needed to state them - and I really don't know how to react, but I'll try. It's all very worthy, I agree, and again, I've read articles in some of the publications you quoted - articles written by people who are fulfilling their spiritual calling. I suppose my point would be that others outside of Army leadership have spiritual callings as well - doctors, nurses, tradesmen, manual workers etc - and are equally as valuable in the Lord's service. We all make the world go round, and are dependent on each other.

In my uneducated, degree-free existence, with only self-motivational theological study to commend me - some words from 1 Corinthians came to me ...'Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become ‘fools’ so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness’; and again, ‘The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.’ So then, no more boasting about human leaders! All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future – all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God'.

Also the words of chapter 12 about the unity and diversity of the body of Christ - we really ARE on the same side.
May God bless you.