Friday, February 28, 2014

Where lies the strength?

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 
and ordination?

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

Senior Soldiers”
African Continent- India and Korea

Senior Soldiers:


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


Anonymous said...

Thank you Sven. Your analysis and reasoning is dead on target. Your insight is very helpful and explains the difficulty our leaders are facing in formulating a position when 2/3 of the world's salvationists believe homosexuality is a sin. I'm looking forward to your further deciphering of the issues.

4th generation Soldier, high school teacher USA West

Anonymous said...

It seems to me you have said everything TSA can't say. Thank you for taking the time to research this and share your findings it is very much appreciated. It is just a shame that TSA couldn't publish it for obvious reasons. I hope many will read it here, leaders and lay leaders.

Active UKIT

Anonymous said...

Now that makes sense. Thank you for sharing the way you have. Now I understand why TSA have to remain silent to some extent.

Former Gay UKT

Anonymous said...

Regrettably the SA's silence speaks volumes. Heads in the sand as storm clouds form!

Anonymous said...

Can A person that has attractions to Beastieality,Polygamy,or a Pedophile worship at the Salvation Army? Can I become involved in leadership positions without discrimination? Can I become a clergy?

Kjell Edlund said...

I respect your right to speak up your mind and to remain anonymous.
You stepped way out of every possible kind of respect your self by this posting of yours.
I just was obliged to comment, but your saying is not worth any respons!

Anonymous said...

Might it be time for corps to break loose from HQ control and regulations if they are unable to keep in step with the times?

Officer UK

Anonymous said...

You as an officer should know that there is nothing to break away from as a corps unit. The only option would be to start an independent group and try to take your people with you. Remember, you will have not a single penny in assets, not a chair to sit on or an instrument to play on nor a single sheet of toilet paper to wipe your behind with;);)..........good luck and let me know how you get on should you heed your own advice!

Active corps officer ukti

Anonymous said...

Can A person that has attractions to Beastieality,Polygamy,or a Pedophile worship at the Salvation Army?

The Army is non discriminatory. It would even welcome people that equate bestiality and pedophilia with homosexuality.

John Sullivan said...

The problem could be solved if each THQ were to give Corps some autonomy as to who could or could not be soldiers and local officers.

The Corps Councils could then decide on a person to person basis - with the result of there being "inclusive" Corps, particularly in those North American and European urban areas.


An unusually busy weekend and the blog's on the back burner- been chatting w officers in both Russia and Ukraine seeking my input. The last time there was an uprising of this sort was when Yeltsin deposed Gorbachov and tanks rolled into Moscow while also surrounding Leningrad. The expat Commander had gone fishing in Norway leaving me in charge- God brought us through!

The situation now has Russian tanks rolling up the Crimea Peninsula into Ukraine's populous Yalta and Simferopol areas. The command options are different as there are now many experienced officers in place. But yet, many are seeking my input as their Commander is abroad on holidays. (Perhaps IHQ has ordered his return?)

I will return to the blog late tonight and hope to post it around midnight my time.

Pray for peace in Russia and Ukraine.

Anonymous said...

The person asking about bestiality, polygamy or paedophilia has a valid point - once you allow one group carte blanche to do what they want within the Christian fellowship, you have no argument to exclude others. You have no reason to refuse, do you? If they say they love Jesus, and that the Spirit is working in their lives - they just have this little problem.........Stands to reason - albeit an unpalatable one to the rest of us. I don't think the writer crossed a line at all.
And the person asking about breaking away - what's to stop you leaving TSA, if you don't like it the way it is? One thing is sure - your whole corps will not share your views, so you will have division to start with. There are many denominations to choose from with LGBT sympathies. Just Google them, leave and be happy in your choice. Personally I think TSA has it right - compassion for those who are LGBT, but stopping short of positions of leadership. I know that's not popular with many of those who frequent this blog, but so far - thank God - I'm still entitled to my opinion.
But - as we contemplate world conflict as an ever-approaching reality, surely we can agree that there are far more important considerations than people's sexual preferences. It's still unbelievable to me that a subject which affects such a minority has already taken up 100% of the blog articles this year- almost 17% of the annual time available. Please don't take it as a criticism - it's merely an observation (although I do admit, I'd much rather have been reading articles covering other subjects).

Kjell Edlund said...

Yes Sven. Present time is worrying in both Russia, Crimea, Ucraine and Europe.
I pray for a peaceful solution!

Kjell Edlund said...

OK - it's yore privilege to find the posting about Bestiality etc acceptable.
I think not!
But the ending of your comment reveal your true opinion. And that is also ok, by all means, to me. Feel free to express your self!

But... don't try to make this question of LGBT be of lesser importance, for the reason it's about a minority.
That I would be bold enough to call a ... Sin!
I have been there - not wanting really to hear or talk about the subject, not to mention socialise with the ones in mind. My prayer is that if I did hurt someone doing this way, I would be able to make up for my failure.

Kjell-Erik Edlund

Anonymous said...

I agree with poster # 12 when he said that we can treat LGBT people with love and make them welcomed in our congregations, but stop short of making them leaders. I also agree that if one sin is seen as acceptable in the eyes of the church , then other people involved in other sins will expect the same treatment. We have already seen this with men and women living together and having children out of wedlock; in some corps I have visited, people in that situation have been made key leaders. Then you have a slippery slope! We are all sinners, true, but we are also called to "be holy, as I the Lord, your God,am holy" And I also agreed, enough already on this subject- a horse has been beaten past death!

Anonymous Officer

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Officer USA, so in your opinion we should not examine the SA's position and how we ought to progress? Hoping you are not in a leadership role.

Active UK

Anonymous said...

What is your definition of progress and where is it we need to go? (how far)

Anonymous said...

Sven, save your breath.

Anonymous; where and how far? Watch this space!


Anonymous said...

anonymous Officer USA - the voice of reason!