Our LGBT series has achieved a type of ‘flare up’ status, albeit in the form of a cyber space ‘pamphlet warfare’, and far from private. In our three LGBT series the FSAOF has posted more than 50 articles, hundreds of comments responding to articles from the more than 30,000 FSAOF blog visitors.
Wesley and Whitefield were able to reconcile to a certain extent, and I’m pleased that we can announce similar amiable results up to this point!
So what’s next?
The Salvation Army corrects itself
It is hard to think of a community of people in history that the church (The SA) has not more actively alienated and ostracized than the gay community. In his book UnChristian, the result of a three-year study of what young Americans think about Christianity, David Kinnaman discovered that, 91% of young Americans chose anti-homosexual from a list of 21 positive and negative descriptors as the best word to describe present day Christianity. And this is the target group that most evangelical churches are hoping to reach, but the obvious question is - in what way?
An overwhelming share of America’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adults (92%) say society has become more accepting of them in the past decade and an equal number expect it to grow even more accepting in the decade ahead. They attribute the changes to a variety of factors, from people knowing and interacting with someone who is LGBT, to advocacy on their behalf by high-profile public figures.
Yet, a new nationally representative survey of 1,197 LGBT adults offers testimony to the many ways they feel they have been stigmatized by society. About four-in-ten (39%) say that at some point in their lives they were rejected by a family member or close friend because of their sexual orientation or gender identity; 30% say they have been physically attacked or threatened; 29% say they have been made to feel unwelcome in a place of worship.
As Salvationists we may distance ourselves individually from this description, but we must acknowledge that there is no perception of a collective shift in thinking or any seismic behavioral change as an Army. The preferred default perception of our SA folk should be that the Army is a welcoming, loving family that respects and values all who come through our doors. There is a shift among some, the ‘under 40s’, students, recent graduates and those who’ve entered the cosmopolitan work places in the last decade or so.
They appear to be marching to a different drummer than those clinging tight to tradition.
After a few months of listening to my translators speaking the Russian language, 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, I was soon able to pick up some functional key words, including the word “kompromiss”! The word no doubt exists in every language and can be applied as necessary in many situations… And therein lies our dilemma, at least in large part.
Many in SA uniforms, soldiers, officers, all theologians of a sort, and SA leaders are being challenged to become more open to adjustments, variations, and to compromise our conservative holiness theology to accommodate the secular philosophy, giving in to cultural pressures. It’s a break-through that has some in our ranks wondering if “we may have had it wrong”, and that the liberal theology that has intoxicated so many churches must ‘come roll over us'.
Under the attack and pressure of cultural ethicists we’ve allowed ourselves to side step our individual and corporate responsibilities. IHQ announce two years ago that a new positional statement was a’comin and we became observers asa other denominations moved forward, insolated stand-bys, not needing our thinking caps to combat the intellectual challenges representing the new authority adopted by the modern Christian (church). We’ve watched and waited for our older, more powerful and wiser brothers and sister churches to step up and to speak for and act in the place of those on the fence. Confused, uncertain, weakened, and with no voice in the debate we’ve inherited a ‘brief of compromises’ from some, and a ‘withdrawal order’ by others! We've divorced ourselves from our societies' questions, cultural adaptions and legal wranglings.
A BRIEF RECAP (Compromise -Cultural Driven Ethics - Informed Theological Position?)
It’s now been one decade since same-sex marriage was legalized in the USA. And support for same-sex marriage has jumped 21 percentage points from 2003 when Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage, to 2013. Currently, a majority (53%) of Americans favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally marry, compared to 41% who oppose. By contrast in 2003, less than one-third (32%) of Americans supported allowing gay and lesbian people to legally marry, compared to nearly 6-in-10 (59%) who opposed.
Today roughly equal numbers of Americans say they strongly favor (22%) legalizing same-sex marriage as those who say they strongly oppose it (20%). By contrast, a decade earlier strong opponents (35%) outnumbered strong supporters (9%) by roughly a 4-to-1 ratio.
In 2003, all major religious groups opposed same-sex marriage. Today, there are major religious groups on both sides of the issue. Mainline Protestants (62%), white Catholics (58%), and Hispanic Catholics (56%) all favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry. A majority (83%) of Jewish Americans also favor legalizing same-sex marriage. Hispanic Protestants are divided; 46% favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally marry and 49% oppose. By contrast, nearly 7-in-10 (69%) white evangelical Protestants and nearly 6-in-10 (59%) black Protestants oppose same-sex marriage. Only 27% of white evangelical Protestants and 35% of black Protestants support same-sex marriage.
Today, nearly 7-in-10 (69%) Millennials (ages 18 to 33) favor same-sex marriage, compared to 37% of Americans who are part of the Silent Generation (ages 68 and older).
White evangelical Protestant Millennials are more than twice as likely to favor same- sex marriage as the oldest generation of white evangelical Protestants (43% vs. 19%).
Regular churchgoers (those who attend at least once or twice a month), particularly those who belong to religious groups that are supportive of same-sex marriage, are likely to over- estimate opposition for same-sex marriage in their churches by 20 percentage points or more.
Roughly 6-in-10 (58%) Americans favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to adopt children. Support has increased substantially since 1999, when 38% of Americans favored allowing gays and lesbians to adopt children. The partisan divisions on attitudes toward adoption largely mirror the findings on support for same-sex marriage.
Majorities of Americans perceive three religious groups to be unfriendly to LGBT people: the Catholic Church (58%), the Mormon church (53%), and evangelical Christian churches (51%).
Nearly 6-in-10 (58%) Americans agree that religious groups are alienating young people by being too judgmental on gay and lesbian issues. Seven-in-ten (70%) Millennials believe that religious groups are alienating young adults by being too judgmental on gay and lesbian issues.
Among Millennials who no longer identify with their childhood religion, nearly one-third say that negative teachings about, or treatment of, gay and lesbian people was either a somewhat important (17%) or very important (14%) factor in their disaffiliation from religion.
The current survey, using self-identification, finds 5.1% of the adult population identifies as either gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Notably, Americans overestimate the size of the LGBT population by a factor of 4 (20% median estimate). Only 14% of Americans accurately estimate the gay and lesbian population at 5% or less.
(Contact me for a copy of the entire survey)
MSNBC’s Jane Timm reported two weeks ago that one third of young people who left organized religion did so because of anti-gay teachings or treatment within their churches, according to a new study. While not surprising it’s no secret that younger Americans are more accepting of gay people. A full 31% of young people (ages 18 to 33) who left organized religion said “negative teachings” or “negative treatment” of gay people was a “somewhat important” or “very important” factor in their departure, as surveyed by the Public Religion Research Institute.
A strong majority (58%) of Americans also said religious groups are “alienating” young people by “being too judgmental on gay and lesbian issues.” A full 70% of young people said the same.
Young people seeking a voice in the church accuse traditionalists of “acting like Old Testament heretics”, with some threatening a ‘take-over bid’!
Andrew Strom wrote in his well-received book (2008), ‘Entertaining Ourselves to Death: Crisis in Christian Youth Culture; “It is my belief that in recent years, many of our Christian youth leaders have essentially reacted against the old straight-laced style of Christian (leadership), and have instead gone right over to the other extreme (i.e., they had become over-accommodating and completely anti-authoritarian, wanting to be seen as modern, open-minded, hip, and dynamic. The result of this vacuum of real church leadership and authority is a mindless and rebellious compromise without considering the cost.)
The arrival of gay marriage as a present day, legally accepted norm in our society has ignited the debate across church divides, with some acquiescing to its legal claim of validity. Some of us are re-examining our understanding of sexuality from a biblical perspective with specific regard to homosexuality as an orientation and as a sexual practice. In wanting to hold faithfully to the Bible, the Army is reconsidering our own historical understanding and more directly, determining our own behavior toward the LGBTQ community and their expectations.
Stott asks; “What are the pressures of our culture to which we are forbidden to conform? What are the contemporary trends which threaten to envelop and engulf the church and against which we need to be on guard… there is the challenge of moral relativism: the church is called to be a community of righteousness.”
Are there changes on the horizon for us, the result of the Holy Spirit’s prompting or are we as a 150 year old God inspired movement bowing to modern-day cultural pressures?
It is a testimony to the long established role of religion in our societal structure that many within the gay and lesbian movement seek the blessing of a marriage in our religious institutions. Seeking the approval of such blessings reflects their expectation of both equality with heterosexual married couples but also the inclusivity symbolized in being ‘members of the body of Christ’. Church blessings also embody an immediate inherent approval of issues currently agitating most conservative churches; same-sex genital relationships. And it appears their wishes for a chapel wedding will soon become a reality everywhere. The LGBT’s powerful lobby’s is spreading its massive influences forcing even unwilling governments to enact ‘umbrella’ laws sanctioning both same sex nuptials and in some countries, mandating that churches open their doors to same sex marriages and instructing clergy to officiate and pronounce such blessings or they’ll be closed down!
These are a part of the profound challenges - and opportunities - confronting the worldwide Salvation Army today: ‘a community of righteousness.’
Ed Koch was a popular New York City Mayor with whom the Army worked closely in the late 1980s, when the city started recognizing domestic partners, gay and straight, at the height of the AIDS epidemic. Koch issued an executive order agreed to by the SA Greater NY Division, but quashed by NHQ (reportedly the result of Nat’l. Advisory Board pressure) Koch’s favorite quote, and his opening line on his weekly ‘call in’ show was, “How am I doin’?” And New Yorkers were quick to tell him!
In view of the Army’s back-peddling to correct the embarrassing statements in Australia about homosexuality, and the inconsistent statements on whether homosexuality is a sin or not, and that it’s a ‘condition therapy can correct, if the Army had asked the question, How are we doing a few months back, we’d be red faced and running for cover to avoid embarrassment.
The SA had long labeled homosexuality a sin, and only after the media and LGBT lobbyists challenged the Army was the distinction made between homosexual orientation and acting on his/her same sex preference.
So, how am I doing? Can you spot where this is headed?
“With globalisation, religions are becoming less regional” - and “they are also becoming less hierarchal as lay leadership and initiative flourish. In so doing many are becoming less dogmatic and more practical. “Religious people today are more interested in ethical guidelines and spiritual disciplines than in doctrines.” Harvey Cox, The Future of Faith