responses to the salvation army conversation

More than a week after my post entitled on why i no longer attend the salvation army, it is still being viewed quite frequently, and comments are still rolling in. It has also been quite interesting to read some of the comments on xanga.com/trends_sa. My Sherlock skills have led me to uncover that this blog is part of an Emerging Trends in Salvation Army Ministry class at Crestmont College for Officer Training, and the students have been asked to read my post and comment on it. The class seems to be comprised of both officers and cadets, and not surprisingly, the responses are distinctly Army in nature. So far I have refrained from commenting, and am I not even sure where I would begin without repeating what I have already said and continue to stand by. Rather than repeat myself and refute assumptions made about my education, the validity of my comments based on my age, my understanding of what it means to follow Christ and other conclusions drawn about me from one blog post, I thought I would post two comments made by friends that sum up beautifully what I am trying to say. I post these because I have a huge amount of respect for both of these men, and right now they are expressing things in a manner far better than I am able to.

From James Pedar [posted on 18January08 @ the xanga site]

Hi all,

Hope it is alright to comment…I am a Canadian Salvo, a friend of Ian, and also someone who is doing research on the issue of retention / attrition of young adults in the SA in Canada and Bermuda.

I am intrigued by some of the reactions you have had to his post, and thought I’d share some things with you.

First: he is not just one individual…well, he is, but the issues he raises are issues that we hear about over and over, from young adults in (or formerly in) the SA in our Territory. So don’t be too quick to dismiss them. I can’t speak for USA West young adults, but there may be some similar issues out there.

Second: the “worldview” comment…I think what Ian means is that he has an expanded understanding of Christianity, based on his experiences with other Christians outside the SA bubble. The SA can be very ‘internally focused’ at times, and we are impoverished for it. Christianity is bigger than the SA; but the problem is some Salvos are more focused on the SA than on the kingdom. This ties into his “arrogance” comment. Ian has experienced this first hand, and so have I, and many others who I’m talking to.

Third: legalism…obviously the official position of the SA is not legalistic, and that is not what he is saying; he’s saying the way he was discipled and the way the SA operates in his experience is legalistic. Don’t discount his experience, because many Salvationists grow up with a legalistic understanding of Christianity. I am amazed at how many Salvationists I talk to were explicitly taught that drinking alcohol is sinful. I wasn’t, but a lot of my friends were. It is an issue as to how we disciple and how we do Soldier training (which, up here, is sometimes simply about getting into the band or songsters).

In our Territory we are making an effort (through the research I’m doing) to reach out and contact young adults who have left the Army, and ask them to tell us their story. That doesn’t mean we should change everything about the SA based on what former members said. But we (up here in Canada) have lost a lot of quality people, people who are passionate, capable, committed believers, and we’re trying to understand what is going on. Hearing criticism is never easy, but we can learn a lot from it, and hopefully we’ll find ways to make our ministry more effective.

If you’re interested in hearing how the research goes, you can contact me on Lotus Notes. We are just getting started, so I don’t have anything to share yet, but I could keep you in the loop. It seems like it may be relevant to your class, from what I’m gathering from this blog.

Grace,

James Pedlar

From Jason Locke [posted on 21January08 on my original post.]

Ian…thanks for you post. I think that it is a pretty big deal to be open enough with your family and friends to be willing to articulate, in love, some of your hang-ups with the church you and I both grew up in.

I agree with you, Ian, that I appreciate Jim’s passion and zeal. I challenge anyone (including Jim) who feels this way to really solidify your beliefs by stepping outside of the circle at some point and look back in and see if you can’t see some of the stuff Ian has been talking about here.

On a personal note, The Salvation Army has been responsible for teaching me untruths, it has demonized certain activities which ought never to have been demonized and it has done it unapologetically. As a result I think it has been irresponsible with the mandate that the Church-universal has to disciple its followers by adhering to the truth of scripture. It has spent a LOT of time on Salvation Army rules and ideologies which are sometimes not even found in scripture at all!

It spends, in my experience, too much time on peripheral issues of specialized moral conduct which, if neglected or questioned, result in public humiliation and estrangement from the community. And if you don’t believe this is true, talk to any solo cornet player who got caught drinking beer as a teen; or talk to any 19-year old songster who got pregnant out of wedlock…or any number of other people who have worked towards the goal of ‘becoming a Salvationist’ only to have it ripped away from them as they were escorted off the platform for the last time.

I am concerned about this because for many people, this has been the end of their relationship with God and the church…they identify their faith with Salvationism and outside of it, Christianity means nothing!

We need to understand this:
The Salvation Army has TWO agendas. One is the agenda of the church – to win lost souls for the Kingdom and advance the Kingdom in the process. The second is the perpetuation of the organization. Unfortunately I believe that often times the second agenda wins out AND as a result we see the Salvation Army willing to make unwise decisions to retain age-old, sometimes silly positions on very important topics.

In conclusion, let me say this:
I pray that the Salvation Army would recognize that it needs to be discipling Christians…not Salvationists.
I pray that it would take a serious look at some of its ‘core-values’ and re-evaluate them once again so that it can come more into alignment with the global church.
And finally, I pray that lay people within the denomination would begin to ask more questions and demand real answers for what they see as serious issues so that everyone who is discontent doesn’t have to leave like I did.

Good night Ian.
Jay Locke

My original post was basically just a cut and paste of the thoughts that I had sent to James for his study. I believe many can resonate with what I have said, and there are those whose stories share many of the same elements. As Jay mentioned, many of the issues raised here have contributed to decisions by some to leave the church and a life of faith. That, to me, is tremendously sad. If dialogue such as this and an expressing of these issues can prevent that in the future, we will all benefit greatly.

I must conclude by a) thanking these two gentlemen for taking the time to comment and adding more voices to what I am trying to say, and b) affirming that there were indeed many good things that sprung out of my Army upbringing, namely friendships with people like James and Jay, friendships that have shaped me and guided me along the way. I am thankful for a loving family [a family that still faithfully attends the Army and who raised me in a loving Christian home]; I am thankful for those Army friends who have helped me along the way to grow in my understanding of what it means to be a Christian [a high percentage of whom no longer attend the Army based on many of the issues I have raised and personal experiences defined by them]. I am equally thankful for the experience of going to Tyndale and having my eyes opened to the world around me, and the many friendships developed there that taught me [and continue to teach me] what true Christiam community is all about; I am thankful that we have found an amazing faith community here in Manitoba that continues to give me glimpses of what church should look like; and I am thankful for my wife who constantly challenges me to grow deeper in love with Christ and his Church.

Thanks to those who have been reading the posts / comments, and feel free to continue the conversation or contact me personally at mclaren.ic@gmail.com.

Have a tremendous Tuesday.

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    • k.s
    • February 24th, 2008

    well said, my 3 friends. james, i will now do your survey.
    k.s

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    • Timothy Forrester
    • June 4th, 2016

    The reason I left was because when I was 16 yrs old I felt the call to become an officer in the Salvation Army, but I ran away cause I felt afraid; afraid of what I really can’t say, but instead of going to officers schooling I just ran and ran? I am now this June 8th I’ll be 64 and for the past 4yrs I’ve felt God calling me back: to what I’m not sure, but it happens to become a Corps Sgt. Major. This time I am heeding his call, I’d like to work or vol, at the Corps in New Albany, In or Louisville, Ky. You can e-mail me at timothyforrester692@yahoo.com

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