This past Friday was wonderful! It was great! The Supreme Court handed down the decision that allowed all Americans to marry whom they pleased. I saw many of my non-Salvationist friends adopt rainbow profiles. They were LGBT+ people, but also allies. I was also very impressed by those Salvation Army officer who changed their profiles to a rainbow, too. Unfortunately, the vast majority of American officers did not change their profiles. I was disheartened by that. At the same time, I understand. Those who are allies and officers have a very difficult time publicly proclaiming so.
Salvation Army officers are forbidden from going against policy and speaking out against The Salvation Army. In one aspect, this does make sense. We don’t want to be badmouthing our own organisation. On the other hand, we officers have no way of internally addressing theological changes within The Salvation Army. I recently read a public post from a Salvation Army officer, who stated, “Leadership in The Salvation Army will have to decide which side it will come down on because both views [on marriage equality] cannot be correct and stand equally together.”
This view actually saddens me. I have been very much impressed with the idea of “living in the tension.” Is it possible to live with differing views and still call each other a brother or sister in Christ? In The Salvation Army, we do not hold to one view of the end times. We allow for various views: from premillenialism to amillenialsim. Despite these mindsets, we still accept each other as Christians.
The Salvation Army does not practice sacraments (a topic for another post). We do not consider those who do practice sacraments to be sinning. Most of my fellow non-Salvationists still consider me to be a Christian. I might be heterodox because I do not practice what the rest of Christianity considers to be a commandment of our Lord. Granted, there are those Salvationists who believe that people who do practice sacraments hold to a cheap grace. I also know other Christians who believe that Salvationists are sinning by not practicing the sacraments.
Hopefully we are through judging each other.
My biggest regret is that so many officers and soldiers have been hurt by The Salvation Army because they belong to the LGBT community. As a bisexual man, I could marry a woman and no one would be the wiser; however, if I decided to marry a man, I would be dismissed as an officer.
Just recently, our general, André Cox (international leader of The Salvation Army), changed our Handbook of Ceremonies to specifically insert the words that marriage is between one man and one woman. The only reason this was done was, in my opinion, to prevent the possibility of someone stating that we could technically have a wedding ceremony between 2 people of the same gender. General Cox is not allowing for much debate, saying in a recent issue of The Officer, “According to Scripture the institution of marriage was intended to be between one man and one woman.” He is leaving no room for discussion here. Change almost always occurs from our superiors and rarely comes from the soldiery.
In times like this, I wonder what we should do. We have no opportunity to discuss our differences. When we do, we are censured, placed on probation, or dismissed as Salvation Army officers. For those not in The Salvation Army, one should realise that officers receive only a modest allowance and a parsonage. When we are dismissed, often times we are left destitute and having to rely on family and friends to support us. We are homeless with no safety net. In other countries, such as Sweden, The Salvation Army is required by law to have a union for officers. This is unfortunately the exception, not the rule, for the vast majority of officers around the world.
So this is another reason why I must remain anonymous. I love The Salvation Army. I love what we do. I love that we help those in need and show them the love of God. Unfortunately, we refuse to allow practicing members of the LGBT community to be members of our organisation. We allow those who are divorced, gluttons, recovering alcoholics, former prostitutes, etc., to become members, even officers, but God forbid if a gay couple tryto become soldiers in The Salvation Army.
So, on the one hand, I rejoice in the judgment of the Supreme Court, but at the same time I realise that we are far off from equality in The Salvation Army. Most of my more conservative friends who are officers posted articles from such hate groups, like the American Family Association, and issued dire proclamations from Franklin Graham or misquoted Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
Most conservative Salvation Army officers will publicly post anything to disparage anything on a liberal bent. They are never censured. However, officers who are liberally minded are often publicly ridiculed and privately censured. The disparity is terrible.
So, what do I do? I keep on serving God and I serve those in my community. That’s all I can do. I’m trying my best to make my own difference by being the best officer I can be. I will be happy once I’m able to do so publicly as an out and proud bisexual officer.