The Salvation Army – Women in Ministry…are we as Progressive as we think?

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Please don’t misunderstand my question.  I don’t mean to incite a riot or start a fight.  It’s a genuine question that continually needs to be re-examined.  

If the question was – “Is The Salvation Army more progressive than most churches?”  The obvious answer would be “YES”.  Absolutely we are progressing more rapidly than most churches, but we aren’t most churches are we?  Our mission is slightly different than most churches.  We adhere to communities of lost, need, poor, broken and we will use any and all available personnel in the trenches.  We are certainly progressive in the utilization of women in ministry.  

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But…

if the question asked – “Is The Salvation Army as progressive as we can be?”  I would have to say “no”.  
Certainly we are absolutely heading in the right direction.  Certainly we have made great strides in the egalitarian department (wait we don’t have that department yet at THQ?…sorry I couldn’t help myself).  

But…

When it comes to leadership and the selection of leaders how progressive are we then?  

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One can make the argument that our last General was a Woman – and I couldn’t argue with that.  One can also make the argument that more female leaders are being appointed to key leadership roles.  However, there are still appointments that occur that make me scratch my head.  Don’t take this the wrong way but sometimes gifts are seen in one of the married couple but the other partner in the marriage is appointed to some odd appointment or a place that they lack any gifting.  

Perhaps it’s not always inequality in the sexes, perhaps its because of specific giftings that are seen in one of the married couples…let me just be frank here – not every female officer wants to be appointed to the women’s ministries department, or the community cares department or another department that didn’t exist until recently.  As I say this it should also be noted that the same can be said of male officers who are appointed because of the giftings of their spouse.  We as an Army are getting better at this but we still have quite a ways to go as well.  

Breaking Old Molds

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Old excuse: “This is the way we’ve always done it
This excuse isn’t exclusive to corps deeply entrenched in traditions but is also evident in certain leadership models.  Others would say it another way – “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it”…but sometimes what that means is if it appears nothing is broken…sometimes we don’t see the fractures that have appeared over maintaining the “status quo”.  Sometimes we gloss over these cracks with fresh enamel of “Salute and go”.  

Officers are still people! 
They have hurts, aspirations, ideas, gifts and abilities.  Sometimes these gifts and abilities compliment the marriage team, and other times it is best to allow them to serve in separate appointments.  Every person regardless of their marital status is unique and can operate in many different appointments.  Their voice should matter in appointment decisions.  I recognize that more than ever Officers are being listened to.  I’m also not a fool in to thinking that Army politics “never” plays a part in some decisions that are made.  But if The Army is truly interested in stopping the attrition rate in its Officership core then intently listening to its officers should be at the top of the list.  

Humbly Serve!

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“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8).
We are, without a doubt, saved to save (and yes saved to serve)!  Humility doesn’t mean that we don’t discuss our gifts.  Humility doesn’t mean that we don’t sometimes disagree with decisions made.  Humility doesn’t mean that we are “happy” all the time.  But it does mean that where THE LORD leads we will go.  That’s why it is imperative that both leadership, department officers, corps officers and other officers appointed else where serve the Lord first, seek His face, pray earnestly, do what He says, and from that right relationship – lead in whatever capacity is appointed to us.  

Thoughts and Questions:
How progressive should we be when it comes appointments and gender? 
Are we there yet? 
What are the indicators that will be present when we have accomplished true egalitarian ministries? 
Does “pigeon-holing” in the appointment process still take place today?  
How can we change this? (Can this be changed?)

Here’s my purpose for writing this today.
Not to cause trouble…that’s not my intention at all.  Not to ruffle feathers – sorry if I did.  
Not to sound militant or rebellious – I will serve as the Lord leads me.  
But…
Jesus had female disciples in a very male dominated world.  He was progressive in ministry and egalitarian in his choice of followers.  Shouldn’t we be as well?  We have made great strides thus far in our Army…let’s not stop now!  

-Just something else to ponder today. 

 

“Perspectives – Day 3” Featuring Sean Wise (Lieutenant) “Transparency”

 

Transparency

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When my grandparents were in their last four years as active Salvation Army officers before retirement, they served as the Social Services chaplains for the Western Michigan/Northern Indiana Division.  This particular appointment gave them a variety of ministries to take part in, including a women's and children's shelter, a living center for teen mothers, and my personal favorite, the Grand Rapids Turning Point.

The Salvation Army Turning Point programs are designed for those coming off of various forms of chemical dependency.  Even as a ten-year-old kid, I loved going to the chapel services my grandparents led there.  The people had such an authenticity to their worship of Jesus as their savior.  I didn't understand it at the time, but I have come to realize that the realness of their worship came from the reality of their vulnerability.

Turning Point and other programs like them have the unique characteristic of causing people to expose their problems and shortcomings.  You don't go there unless you have something that needs fixed.  The masks and defenses that keep people in the bondage of addictions and sin have to come off, or else the program is ineffective because the real issues can't be addressed.  It is a great desire of mine that the Church could have that same effect on people.

One thing my grandma often said to build the comfort level of the men and women at Turning Point was, "We are all recovering from something."  In other words, you're imperfect?  So am I!  Wow, we have so much in common!  Let's work on that together, shall we?

The Apostle James even shared that removing those masks and barriers to each other was vital to healing from sin, bondage, and spiritual illness:

"Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed." - James 5:16a (New International Version)

Unfortunately, there are many factors in this world (and the Church is sadly no exception) that keep people from doing just that.  It's hard to open up to anyone when you know how prevalent gossip is in our culture.  It's hard to open up to someone with a "Holier than thou" complex, as revealing sins and faults to them would only feed into that complex.  It's even hard to open up to a pastor because, well, we're so close to God that we wouldn't know what it's like to have shortcomings, right?  (If any pastor ever actually says that or intentionally tries to make you feel that way, they're lying, and I highly recommend going to a different pastor.  Most pastors that I know of come from some of the lowest points in life, which fuels their passions for wanting to help others find freedom through Christ.)

Honestly, though, I think the hardest one to open up to is God Himself.  It's hard because God doesn't allow for those masks, either.  He already knows everything about us, including the junk that we try to hide.  For many of us, that's quite scary.  However, He also doesn't want us to use His omniscience as a cop-out to not confess our sins and shortcomings to Him - not because He needs us to tell Him what's going on (He already knows), but because we desperately need to be able to open up and let Him in so He can work in and through us, destroying the sins and shortcomings to make us more than we can ever think or imagine.  This is a hard process, and having open, transparent support from others is vitally important, too.

I was sitting in on a recovery group recently, and during his presentation, the leader looked at me and said, "Sean, I don't know if you have a history..." but before he was able to finish, I cut in and said, "We all have a history."  Yes, I am a sinner, too.  Perhaps in personal conversations, I may share more, but dirty laundry isn't for the internet.  I'm also a pastor, and if you'd like for me to be, I can be a friend.  I can't take away your burdens or remove your sins, but here's what I do know.

"There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Immanuel's veins; and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains." - William Cowper, SASB #132

We are all recovering from something.  So let's recover together.

 
Check out Sean's blog at - http://walkwiththeseanwise.blogspot.com/

Wise

An Army Engaged in Battle!

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I was having a conversation with a person the other day about what I do (I’m a pastor/officer with The Salvation Army).  In the midst of our conversation she told me that recently The Salvation Army was featured on a trivia show.  They were the answer to this question:  What is the only Army in the world that has never fought a battle.  This revelation kind of caught me off guard.  Of course I understood the connotation – a physical battle, but I thought to myself in a very real, practical/spiritual sense how wrong they truly were.  The Salvation Army was formed for just the purpose of engaging an enemy that has ravaged this wretched world since the fall of Adam and Eve.  We are at War!!  The public may not know this, but we are engaged in the front lines of spiritual warfare every day.  Sometimes I fear perhaps even some of our Soldiers and (dare I say) Officers don’t know this.   

We must continue to be an Army that is engaged in this battle daily!  Do falter or to fall is not an option!  Ephesians 6:12 says this:  “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

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There is a very real spiritual adversary that holds many sinners captive still today.  Many people are bound by all kinds of addictions, perversions and entanglements that they cannot break.  Who can save them?  We alone certainly do not possess the strength, nor the power to free them, but girded with the full armor of God, this Army of Salvation can still be vital and effective!   We never stand alone in the midst of the fray, we carry the banner of Christ with us and the Holy Spirit is our ammunition and power!  

So how must we begin?  We begin on our knees in penitence before the Almighty!  We seek His power, His guidance, and His direction.  Only when we have been thoroughly equipped through our conversations with the Father can we then get up and fight on.  Without these necessary daily, even moment by moment conversations with the Father we will not continue to stand against the father of lies.  

Dear fellow Christ-followers and Soldiers of the Army, we cannot simply wear the uniform and pretend to be engaged, we must actively fight for the salvation of other lost souls in our communities and even in our own homes!  Without active soldiers and officers who are willing to fight and willing to boldly stand up, this cause will surely falter and fail.  We don’t need casual partakers or bench warmers, but we need active participants who will stand in the gap for the hurting, the tired, the poor, the wretched and the lost!  This battle for the lost is not over!  It certainly did not end when our Founders were promoted to glory, nor will it end when we grow old and one day meet Jesus face to face!  But in the here and now, in our small corners of the world, there is still a battle cry to be heard!  There is still a fight to be waged!  There is still lost souls to be saved!  Who will go?  Who will serve?  Who will fight on and answer the cries of the broken and the shattered?  May we all hear the cries, but more importantly, may we all hear God’s calling for us to take our stands and to reach out a helping hand to poor souls still drowning in the depths of sin.  

I’m reminded of this Battle Song: 

#718 in the Red Song Book –

Fight the good fight with all thy might,

Christ is thy strength, and Christ thy right;

Lay hold on life, and it shall be

Thy joy and crown eternally.

Run the straight race through God’s good grace

 

2.

Run the straight race through God’s good grace,

Lift up thine eyes and seek his face;

Life with its way before us lies,

Christ is the path, and Christ the prize.

Cast care aside, lean on thy guide

 

3.

Cast care aside, lean on thy guide,

His boundless mercy will provide;

Lean, and the trusting soul shall prove

Christ is thy life, and Christ thy love.

Faint not, nor fear, his arms are near

 

4.

Faint not, nor fear, his arms are near,

He changeth not, and thou art dear;

Only believe, and thou shalt see

That Christ is all in all to thee.

John Samuel Bewley Monsell (1811-75)

 

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General Cox: A call to a deeper spiritual life!

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Yesterday at the New Zealand Congress, Salvation Army General Andre’ Cox said “He dreams of a Salvation Army that is ‘vibrant, committed and on its knees before God” He went on to say that  “Deepening the spiritual life of Salvationists is essential to moving forward as an Army, he said. “If we want to see our world change, we ourselves must be changed by God.”

Let me first just say “Amen!”  General Cox is spot on in regards to this continued need for personal and corporate holiness in our Army!  We cannot expect to grow or change the world without first deepening these spiritual waters in our lives.  Without the Holy Spirit’s guidance and direction for His people and His Army, we can find ourselves scattered by the winds of discouragement and discord.

It is encouraging to me that General Cox is picking up where General Bond left off.  We are, as an International Salvation Army, One Army and to build on this One Army we first must make sure our walk with the Lord and our maturation of faith continues.  Without it we cannot and will not remain united.

As reported by IHQ’s web page, the New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga Territory celebrated some fantastic growth of Soldiery and expansion in Corps.  Isn’t that awesome?  It really doesn’t matter which territory you belong you, as an Army we too can celebrate their growth within this Army!  Congratulations!

I believe our Army has much to accomplish in the years to come, but without first checking our hearts, motives and righteous intentions these accomplishments could be for naught…yet I too whole heartedly agree with his call for all Soldiers to deeper their faith.

How is your heart?  How is your walk with the Lord today?  May you continue in your walk with Him!  May you also continue to be a light to all who encounter your love and passion for them through  Jesus Christ our Lord!

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News Source:  http://www.salvationarmy.org/ihq/news/inr260913