Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Did we really think we were invulnerable?

Major Glad and I were privileged to visit with Commissioner Harry Read some time ago in Bournemouth. The Commissioner’s God inspired impact and influence on the Salvation Army worldwide continues well into his retirement and we were eager to learn more about this extraordinary SA officer.

He served as 2nd in command in Canada and Commissioner (commander) on two continents, Australia and the UK and Ireland. Seventeen years saw him in leadership positions at the Salvation Army’s training college (seminary) in London, England. And in retirement he gave nine years of continuous and inspired creativity as the Editor of Words of Life, read daily by thousands worldwide. 

You may find it strange to find this edited portion of an interview conducted by Major Stephen Court, Editor of Journal of Aggressive Christianity, as the concluding nexus in the FSAOF blog's Australia abuse series. I thought it fitting as a reminder of the Salvation Army’s mission in this time of crisis and confusion for many, most especially those thousands of ‘Salvos’ with whom the Commissioner served 'down under'. It's a reaffirmation that evil never wins the day. God is already recycling the horror story, the tragedy that beset so many.

One can’t help but wonder why it took so long for us to explore, expose and explicate this abhorrent chapter in the more than a century of committed and admired ministry to Australia’s most vulnerable. It certainly wasn’t from any lack of knowledge. Silence, indifference and sweeping the abuse allegations under the rug made more than one officer and leader complicit. 

A true servant of Jesus Christ is one who is willing to experience martyrdom for the reality of the gospel and the honour of God’s institutions – yet no one came forward…

What we are experiencing is a reflective lashing out by those who expected a higher standard of one of the world's most admired social work providers. Dag Hammarsjold said at Cambridge University half a century ago, the era when the abuses were at their worst, “The human world is today as never before split into two camps, each which understands the other as the embodiment of falsehood and itself as the embodiment of truth”. 

Today, fifty years on, we are in a time when our God reveals again that no evil is beyond His reach. Our camp - our generation of Salvationists need to be God’s couriers of grace in these days of anger, allowing our God to be the one who issues justice and mercy.….
I believe the Commissioner’s responses to Court provide realistic expectations of the SA’s distinctive role, both internal and external, and instructions on how we ought to proceed, and how we'll get through this individually and corporately.

Plato demonstrated his usual wisdom and insight when he said that the only remedy for defamation is a life that proclaims the opposite of what is said. He said: "When people talk bad about you. Live so that no one believes them."   

Dr. Sven Ljungholm
Former Officer
USA, Sweden, Russia, Ukraine, Moldova
Birkenhead Corps, UKIT

Editorial Introduction 
by Major Stephen Court
Welcome to the 83rd issue of Journal of Aggressive Christianity. Thanks to all the contributors and to all of you readers who take time to allow yourself to be influenced by the words and thoughts and teaching and inspiration and challenge toward holiness in the salvation war.

We’ve resurrected an old feature with The JAC Interview.  And we’re blessed to have an exclusive interview with veteran warrior, Commissioner Harry Read.

J.A.C.: What are your dreams for The Salvation Army? 

H.R.: I’d like us to keep our Army distinctives. I have no problems with describing ourselves as part of the Church because that’s what we are but, we are an Army. I think we do the church thing less well than the churches do it, but when we do the Army thing properly, we are without equal.

In today’s western world, I don’t hanker after the scenes from our beginnings that still stir our hearts, because society has changed irreversibly and governments wouldn’t allow us freedom to, for instance, repeat the initiatives that created our social services. But I do long for us to be an Army of faith, with programmes born in prayer, powered by faith and fulfilled in love. 
With the other churches, we have done that terrible thing: we have allowed the most exciting event in all creation to become common place; an irrelevant option; a divine intervention that leaves masses of needy people dismissive of God’s existence, not merely his claims. I thank God for the Army: its existence is one of his great miracles. He has done so much through us. Numerically we are not dramatically strong but we always punch beyond our weight. Our achievements are amazing. People expect so much from us because of our reputation; a reputation that is not due to clever publicity but because we deliver.
My dream is that, perhaps stimulated by the Army, the churches will combine their resources to make a sustained intellectual challenge to the forces of atheism. We need to set up a united council to determine the right approach then do a massive PR job in putting atheism on the back foot where it rightly belongs.

Our voices are muted to the detriment of the Gospel. We need the public at large to hear the strong, reasonableness of our Christian faith in God. Making this happen will cost money, but money is the least of our considerations.  

J.A.C.: Our first General often wrote letters to his soldiers with teaching for daily life and warfare. Would you take this opportunity to offer a millennial message to soldiers around the world?

H.R.: To my fellow soldiers, I believe our name, The Salvation Army, is an inspired designation, born, not of human wisdom but of the Holy Spirit. The armies of the world are massed against us but, though powerful, they will be overcome. Faith, hope and love are the abiding qualities and they are not in the possession of the forces of evil.

I believe also in the timelessness of the divine qualities that built our Army. A changing society means that we have to adapt our programmes and strategies to maintain our effectiveness, but the essence of the Army, those divine qualities that created us, cannot be dismissed or compromised. They are of God. The Army is of God. The style may change but the aims and motives of our Movement are unchanging.

I am proud of all that our relatively small Army has achieved. God has used our greatly gifted people to best advantage and we who are ordinary confess that he has used our ordinariness wonderfully well also. Each one of us has an important part to play in the salvation war.

We have always been an accepting and affirming company of God’s people. We have also been a joyful, praising, cheerfully sacrificial people: that we will remain.

What I hope we will consider and develop is an awareness of those special gifts of the Spirit given to each one of us whether we count ourselves ordinary or unusually able.

I hope that, within our regard for each other – our love for each other –  we will feel a measure of stewardship to-wards each other if we do not already do so, so that we will actively identify and encourage each others gifts. These gifts will flourish in a truly supportive atmosphere and, employed with confidence and wisdom will build up each Corps; build up the Army; help build God’s kingdom. Within the competence of each Corps there are gifts, sometimes unidentified which, when they are known and released, will bring remarkable results.

The need to adapt is self-evident and the best means of adaptation come from our heavenly Father’s hands. He will not fail us. He also happens to love the Army. Has he not chosen us to be his soldiers? Are we not a vital part of his strategy? 

May God richly bless us all. 

Harry Read – your fellow soldier.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Inquiries, restitution and restoration was too late in coming

Commissioner James Condon, a godly leader, has the unenviable task of responding to a massive list of allegations made against the Salvation Army Australia East Territory, dating back decades. The allegations constitute an overwhelming and demoralizing history of despair; abuse suffered by hundreds of boys housed in SA boys homes where a high level of Christian care and concern was expected. The betrayal of trust and mismanagement being uncovered is outrageous on every level. Many point to the below list of leaders insisting that inquiries, restitution and restoration should have been initiated under their watch:

1992 Commissioner John Gowans
 Chief Secretary Colonel Keith Parkinson

1998 Commissioner Hillman Buckingham

2002 Commissioner Brian Morgan
Chief Secretary Colonel Ivan Lang*

2003 Commissioner Les Strong
Chief Secretary  Lt Col Robert Street 01-02

2006 Commissioner Les Strong
Chief Secretary Lt Col Geanette Seymour

2006 - 2008 Commissioner Linda Bond
Chief Secretary Colonel James Condon

2004-06 Commissioner Ivan Lang*
Australia Southern Territory

Source 1- Australia; Name on file

One must realise that Australia East generally has either the TC or the CS as an Australian Officer. Never both Australian, and never both Foreign. That used to cause a lot of difficulties as Australians are fairly xenophobic when it comes to foreign leaders. You would often have the Australian deliberately keeping information from the foreigner, and the Australian would 'shield' the 'Ozzies' from the foreigner - regardless. The belief being that 'Ozzies couldn't possibly do anything wrong'. Also, the Australian TSA is very quick to close ranks - especially when scandal is involved. This is mainly because everyone knows everyone, with many being related to each other – at least by marriage. In one training session, more than 80% of the cadets were related, and everyone is concerned that the scandal might reflect on them through association.

This means too that the 'Officer Secretaries' to the various senior Officers (TC, CS, Personnel Secretary etc), 'Vet' the correspondence, diaries and face-to-face meetings, so that only things on a ‘need to know’ basis gets through. Any information that would have alerted senior management that an investigation was needed or being instigated would have been squashed way down the line - as it was with the Haggars; it never went above DC level. The file on the investigation never left the DHQ, and was eventually ‘destroyed’.  Much of the abuse that was reported, never made it past DC level at the highest, so those in Territorial Leadership positions can actually honestly say that in almost all of the situations, they knew nothing about it.

I don’t believe we should look at the leaders.  Rather, I think we should look at the culture within TSA that has lead to this situation of secrecy etc.

Source 2- Australia; Name on file

Whilst the Army got a well deserved mauling because of what happened in the Homes many feel that it was let off lightly compared to other organisations because of its (our) reputation.  Also there were only a few people named as being responsible for what happened to the victims.  What was not brought out was that the Senior Officers at the time who were responsible for the management of the homes, who must have been aware of what was going on, did nothing to stop it or report it to the appropriate authorities or else covered it up, expecting it would go away.

To me one of the problems that the Army has in this territory is that under the leadership of those chosen to lead this (East) territory over the past 10 to 20 years, leaders have got our officers very involved with a Pentecostal organisation led by an ex officer and we are on the road to hanging on to their coat tails and to me it seems we are forgetting that the Army is or was a Holiness Church doing social work and now becoming more a Social organisation with a Pentecostal leaning church.

 I do not know what the situation is in other countries but in this territory we have what people call  employee-officers  These are people who have gone through (Training) college to become officers , given T H Q or D H Q appointments and do not worship or very rarely attend Salvation Army meetings They take all the benefits that the Army gives its officers but are merely Monday – Friday 98-5 employees wearing officer uniforms. Discipline’s gone walk-about!

My Salvation Army heritage goes back to my ancestors being members of the Christian Mission on my father’s side and my on my mother’s side it goes back to the opening of the Army in the Channel Islands. This is why I have a concern for the future of the Army.   When one reads of the problems with the Howard Hospital in Africa and the problems in India, the questions jumps at me: when is the Army going to clean out the rubbish and become an organisation worthy of its history and Heritage again ?

Edited, Sven Ljungholm

Israel: The Only Place in the Middle East Where Christians Are Safe

While the United Nations has long persecuted Israel, its attempts to blame the Jewish state for war crimes during Operation Protective Edge (while siding with Hamas, who have admitted to war crimes) have been particularly troubling. Now Arutz Sheva reports that one of Israel’s Christian leaders has gone before the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and declared Israel is the only safe place for Christians in the Middle East:
Greek Orthodox priest Father Gabriel Nadaf, a leader of the Aramaean Christian minority in Israel, spoke before the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on Tuesday in a strong show of support for the Jewish state.

Despite speaking before a body that has consistently condemned Israel – recently it appointed a biased committee to investigate claims of “war crimes” against Israel in Gaza, and praised the human rights “achievements” of Hamas and Islamic State (ISIS) supporter Qatar - Nadaf spoke firmly, calling for the world to stand by Israel against terror.

“Across the Middle East, in the last ten years, 100,000 Christians have been murdered each year. That means that every five minutes a Christian is killed because of his faith,” reported Nadaf. “Those who can escape persecution at the hands of Muslim extremists have fled. …Those who remain, exist as second if not third class citizens to their Muslim rulers.”

Nadaf continued “in the Middle East today, there is one country where Christianity is not only not persecuted, but affectionately granted freedom of expression, freedom of worship and security. …It is Israel, the Jewish State. Israel is the only place where Christians in the Middle East are safe.”

Speaking immediately after a panel discussion on the “Human Rights Situation in Palestine and Other Occupied Arab Territories,” Nadaf called “it is time the world woke up to the fact that those who want to destroy the Jewish State are signing the death warrant on the last free Christians in the Holy Land.”

“Leaders of people, seekers of peace, end your witch hunt of the only free country in the region,” said Nadaf, throwing the gauntlet at the feet of the UNHRC.

At Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), we look back on the past year and ahead to the year to come. I am grateful for and humbled by the generosity and kindness shown by The Fellowship’s friends, and ask that God will bless each of you in the coming days.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

"His works do follow him."

On William Booth's memorial stone at the Training College in Melbourne it reads, "His works do follow him." And it is true. In his lifetime William Booth preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ to more people face-to-face than any person who had ever lived, and started an army that transformed the culture of England and sparked national revivals in several countries, and set a social strategy that challenged the foundations of western society.

But his works do follow him. That amazing legacy has been extrapolated such that we are missionally fighting in 126 countries; we are the largest social service provider barring the UN in the world; and we've been overwhelmingly blessed over the years to see many millions of people come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord through repentance and faith. Glory to God!

That plaque concludes by asking, "Will you consecrate all your life as he did for God and souls?" This is a question for each of us to ask ourselves today.   

Meanwhile, holiness remains the solution to every problem. Let's keep that in mind. So, individually, test it. Get sanctified. And then see if the dictum doesn't prove itself in your experience. And then get other people sanctified, and see if it doesn't also work in their lives. And so on.
When we're talking holiness here, it might be necessary to clarify (for those who aren't regulars).

We're not talking about being 'filled with the Spirit' and yet still 'sinning every day'.

We're not talking about so regimenting and regulating our lives such that we are somehow, by discipline and concentration, able to avoid sinning for a time.

We're not talking about legalistic obedience to the law.

We're not talking about being relatively good Christians.
We're talking about repentance/consecration/faith that allows the Holy Spirit to remove all that hinders - including habitual sins, demons, strongholds, footholds, strangleholds, and any other holds... but most importantly, our natural inclination to act selfishly - and replace it all and us all with Himself, spilling love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, and self-control in and through us, and depositing in us a supernatural inclination to please God.

Stephen Court