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:  
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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.” http://accountability.salvationarmy.org/

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?
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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.
Thanks!

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

“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

Attributes: AN ARMY VISION

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In just under a month the High Council will meet, pray, deliberate and finally elect a new General of This Salvation Army. Its message and mission is still relevant. This movement that started with William and Catherine Booth must and will carry on. There is still a war waging in our world. Not a war of flesh and blood, though it is most certainly involved, but a spiritual battle for the very souls of men and women. That is why, we as soldiers of this army, must continue to fight and be proactive in this campaign.

In recent conversations that I’ve had with fellow officers and soldiers of The Salvation Army these thoughts percolated in my mind. We may be modeled after military in form, but we all have an Army voice to one extent or another. So with that being said, I would like to outline what I would desire our next General’s vision and attributes for the global Salvation Army to be. It sounds presumptuous I know…but as soldiers, we all have parts to play and a stake we claim within these army realms. Indulge me if you will:

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VISION:

1. Continuity:

ONE ARMY, ONE MISSION, ONE MESSAGE: It still applies! It is still active, and I feel as if this message, this vision ought to continue and to be built upon! Far too often, I fear that when new leaders take on their new responsibilities so too they cast new visions far too quickly! Sometimes this type of leadership change model can disillusion constituents, making them frustrated and wandering in every which way directionally speaking. This “take control leadership” approach, which produces a new vision while forgetting the old vision, can lead to a polarizing and dysfunctional army. I don’t presume to have any power or say in this at all by any means but I do hope our next General would be sensitive to the path that has already been paved and to walk on its already laid foundation.

2. Relevancy:

Understandably there are many political sociological ‘hot-button’ topics throughout our global army. The continued need of our army leadership to pursue mission and purpose that is consistently relevant to the world in which we serve is of the utmost importance. This should include our perspectives and application of worship, service and all aspects of our holistic ministry.

3. Transparency:

I’ve heard this many times in previous conversations and I believe this is most definitely pertinent to the position of General of The Salvation Army as well as our immediate leaders. If our local officers and soldiery are provided transparency at the local level with message, ministry and finance; ought our territorial, national and international leadership also follow suit as well? Absolutely! Be genuine and transparent to those you lead! We continue to need leadership who will rise up and lead not because they are fearful of repercussions of others but to lead out of conviction and biblical authority.

4. Holiness

I have served under leaders who have been holy leaders. These types of leaders are respected and loved. When you have a leader who leads through holiness you will find a stronger army at the core. Holiness in leadership is crucial, without it they’re just another business administrator/CEO. True leaders are willing to lead with the promptings of the Holy Spirit and who are unafraid to risk and to adapt and change in an ever changing world.

These are just a few attributes I hope and pray our next General possess. We all can surround our High Council in prayer…and we should. And I also acknowledge that the Lord will provide and lead. By faith I believe that He will provide us the right General for just this moment in time. And I also believe that God will continue to rise up our future leaders who can carry on this great mission and propel His Great Commission into every territory in the world!

What would attributes would you like to see within our new General?