Dear Salvation Army, How Accountable Are We Really?

Last year (2016), General Cox set forth an initiative called Journey of Renewal.
This initiative has been created to encourage, grow, and tackle many of the struggles our Army faces today.  In some countries in recent years there have been horrific criminal events that have taken place, and in some regards this is the Army’s response as a preventative measure for the present and future.

I am greatly encouraged by this initiative, and see the possibilities of being truly transparent…but please afford me a small measure of cynicism too.  I am hopeful, yet I am unsure if this can, or will actually work.  (I really, really hope it does!)

I want transparency and accountability for all leadership. salvation army
I believe that this is not only biblical, it is also ethical.
Yet, I am unsure how this will be done from every level, when the accountability of all leadership is not currently in place yet.  Sure, there are the yearly reviews and the audits and so on, but how does one thoroughly weigh the performance of Army personnel from afar?

We must tread carefully as we throw the word accountability around, because, as this initiative states, we must have proof with facts and not just rumors.  Accusations and rumors can destroy leaders from every level if wrongfully accused, this we must be mindful of.  On the same token, our accountability of leadership MUST encompass every level of authority from the top down.  We cannot have true accountability until every rank, position and appointment are held to the same level.  We cannot sweep things under the rug for one and enforce disciplinary measures for another.

We also should recognize that every level of leadership is fallible and is sometimes subject to making mistakes.  A level of grace must be given while these measures of accountability are kept.  Without grace, all of us fall short of the glory of God!

Please allow me to quote a portion of this initiative from General Cox:  
Being open and transparent.
The Accountability Movement encourages people to be more open and transparent. Leaders should not ask ‘why do they need to know?’ but rather enable an open, transparent culture of ‘why shouldn’t people be told?’

Salvation Army leaders at all levels should encourage people to think, discuss and debate how the Army can be more effective, efficient and faithful in doing God’s will in our communities.

Mutual respect and truth.
There must be a culture of mutual respect and truth-telling between Army leaders and those under their command. Developing this culture means that if leaders or followers behave badly there must be consequences. The General has made it clear that everyone needs to be held to account – but fairly.

The practice of complaining secretly or writing anonymous letters has to end. A new accountability culture will require effective processes to address the concerns of whistle-blowers – but allegations must be backed up with facts, not rumours.”

I must tell you the portion that I am most wary of: “complaining of secretly  or writing anonymous letters has to end…”  I understand that there have been many forms of accusation in various places around the Army world, some legitimate while others slanderous and maliciously false.  One of the causes of such a practice in our army (letter writing and secretly complaining) is that there is a very real fear of reprisals or punishment for those who would cry foul, and the fear is this punishment will be handed out by leaders in authority.  Perhaps an officer has complained about leadership, and so without any investigation, that officer is either directly dealt with or sent to a punishment appointment in the hopes that they will then resign and then the “problem” officer is gone.    Our Army is very good at holding our cards tightly to our chest.  We are not very good at transparency, although at times we talk a good game…much improvement needs to take place in order to actually be transparent, and I think General Cox is right in talking about this and starting this initiative.

With that being said though, if transparency is to be fully realized there must be a level playing field for all Officers and soldiers (which I really hope this initiative produces). Some people in our Army do not have any way in which they can safely respond to improper use of authority and maltreatment.  Where does a soldier go to report the misuse of authority by their Corps Officer?  Where does a Corps Officer go to report the misuse of authority by their Divisional Officer?  The list goes on.  Who will really listen to them and actually take them seriously and look into it?  And if something is found, will anything really be done unless it becomes a legal issue?
Please do not misunderstand me, I am not advocating any kind of witch-hunt in our Army by any means, all I am inferring is that everyone who holds a shred of authority from the General on down to the local officer in a corps should be held accountable in the same way.  Yes, the level of responsibility is different, but everyone should be striving for the same goal:  Christ-likeness and Kingdom building.  If another ambition or goal has been improperly submitted, then hold that person accountable and measure the fruit that each produces.

new accountability culture will require effective processes to address the concerns of whistle-blowers

I am very curious to know what “effective processes” actually means?
Dear Salvation Army, if you want to be truly transparent, then these effective processes will be explained in greater detail in the near future.  I am encouraged by this initiative “Journey of Renewal”!  I see great things taking place if this is followed through with.  If we want to see real change and renewal in our Army, we must make the hard decisions; we must confront sin issues and deal with them, but we must also do it with grace and love.  We have to take responsibility for our actions from the top down and the bottom up!  No one is more important than the next, and if we are leaders, we must be servants first.

Please pray for your leaders, the greater the responsibility of leadership one assumes the more temptation there is, and they face a lot more pressure as well.

May we hold each other accountable for no other purpose than to see lives transformed by the renewing power of the Holy Spirit and to witness the lost being found by a mighty, mighty God!

Something more for the Army world to ponder today!
Tell us what you think!  Do you think this new initiative will work?  How can we make it work in our community/ministry?  How are you already doing “accountability” in your appointment, corps, ministry?
Leave your comments, questions and thoughts below.


Disclaimer:  “The thoughts and opinions written here are the writer’s and not necessarily that of The Salvation Army’s, reader discretion is advised.”


8 thoughts on “Dear Salvation Army, How Accountable Are We Really?

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  1. Of course, accountability does not apply to ethical malfeasance or theological straying alone. It also applies when critical decisions are made on behalf of the “followers.” We are in the situation now where some openness and dialogue would be very helpful regarding the appointment… or non-appointment as yet… of a corps officer for us. The silence is causing extreme angst and concern on the part of many who are extremely committed and highly capable leaders themselves. Yet there is no way to try to understand the thinking that has gone into the rather unusual decision.

  2. I agree that the Army needs to display a more transparent accountability. However
    I fear that as long as the army sticks with its autocratic structure there will be no clear accountability.
    I bring my own personal experience to this view. I felt that a past DC was treating me unfairly and several officers agreed with me. I wrote to that DC to outline how I felt, copying various senior people into the communication.
    Two weeks later they wrote back to me stating that they are not going to discuss any of the issues I brought up individually but they wished me Gods blessings on the future.
    Eighteen months later I am still waiting for anyone more senior to be in touch, but then again I am only a soldier.
    Unfortunately God has called me to worship Him and serve him in the Salvation Army, if he hadn’t I would have left months ago.
    I love God and the Salvation Army needs to remember that they are neither above the law or above God!!

  3. I agree.

    ________________________________ De: Pastor’s Ponderings Enviado: lunes, 08 de mayo de 2017 11:33 a.m. Para: Asunto: [New post] Dear Salvation Army, How Accountable Are We Really?

    Pastor’sPonderings posted: “Last year (2016), General Cox set forth an initiative called Journey of Renewal. This initiative has been created to encourage, grow, and tackle many of the struggles our Army faces today. In some countries in recent years there have been horrific crimin”

  4. Perhaps if “the top” would respond to the Linda Bond mystery, it would send the right signal to the whole Army that they are serious. I’ve always felt that they could, without divulging even one iota of personal data, make a statement showing us the ‘category’ used in her case – both when she disappeared from California and officership and when she reappeared with full rank and when she again disappeared into retirement after such a short stint in the generalship. I know of officers in various countries who have been disturbed by the way it was handled (or not handled).
    On another note: it will always be that the whistle-blower or protester of wrong-doing of a leader will have to be willing to face his own consequences. The key to that is (first) protest for the right reason – the glory of God, and (then) accept by faith that any measures taken against him by leadership will only get him to where God wants him, whatever “their” motive may be.
    It all makes me pray more for the Army as the process of accountability takes its toll.

  5. I love what the salvation army stands for and have been army all my life born into it and as an adult became a senior soldier. Issues arose and with past officers I left the army for awhile, then returned only to leave again. In my heart I will always be army, but begin over 65 I do not understand this new army of coffee house type of worship, Sundays officers in pants instead of full uniform. I also witness people begin turned away from food banks, as it was not the right day or time, need is need and does not have a time table. Watching from afar at times is hard but God will place me where He needs me, I have peace with that.

  6. I can relate to this and accountability. Accused of a crime, and expecting leadership to come alongside and support me. Leadership was only concern about the image of the army. No one came along beside me in support. After the investigation there was no crime committed, no apology given. Then told it was about my leadership. If I can’t trust those in leadership, the next best thing is to find ministry elsewhere. I have never been so humiliated in my life.

  7. I suppose I’ve listened to/sat through the kinds of lectures and sermons on accountability most have. But the examples of “doing the right thing” were the times I’ve witnessed leaders quietly going about ministry and business and, not surprisingly, DOING the right thing, or making the hard choices they talked about. “Walking the talk” probably the best way to say it. This article necessarily struck a raw nerve.

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