A Chance to Dialogue
Last week, The Salvation Army came under fire when one of its media directors in Australia, speaking on a radio show, seemingly agreed with a literal interpretation of a specific Bible passage which lists homosexual acts as one of many illustrations of sin and then relates sin to death. Most Christians understand death in that passage to be a spiritual death, meaning a separation from God, their creator, but in this instance the scripture was, unfortunately, misinterpreted.
I would like to take a minute and set the record straight.
It is, of course, ludicrous to think that The Salvation Army believes or teaches that homosexuals deserve to be put to death. The Army’s leadership worldwide issued public statements to that effect immediately after the news broke. But, the damage was already done.
I don’t know why the officer said what he said nor how the The Salvation Army in Australia will choose to move positively forward. I’ve heard the interview, but I wasn’t there and I have had no conversation with those involved. This is now a local issue for them to handle.
What I do know from experience is how hard it can be in a media interview to explain what we believe about the Bible, as well as a theological system of beliefs.
It has taken me a lifetime of listening, learning, reflection and introspection to understand our earthly relationship to God. And, I don’t know that I will ever have a final word on the matter as I continue to have periodical spiritual failures in my life as I strive to live it in my own faith in Christ.
Unfortunately, words don’t seem to fully capture what The Salvation Army is all about. And, over the last several years I’ve seen that often, words can actually be hurtful and used as weapons, particularly on topics over which people deeply disagree. This certainly is not new. In the early days of The Salvation Army in the United States, our spiritual pioneers took to the streets to preach the plan of salvation and were greeted by heckling audiences who also threw bricks at them.
Regardless of how I or anyone else interprets the Bible, nothing has changed about what The Salvation Army stands for. It is the same thing that committed Salvation Army officers have been preaching and living for almost 150 years – proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ and addressing the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the most marginalized, unloved and forgotten members of our society.
So, I apologize sincerely, on behalf of The Salvation Army in the United States, to those people who are hurt and offended by what they’ve seen or heard.
I also encourage and invite anyone who wishes to have a deeper understanding of The Salvation Army and our position on LGBT issues to visit one of our programs or meet with a local Salvation Army officer.
We are available in every community in the United States and in 125 countries around the globe.
You can find us working to serve people in need every day, regardless of their race, religion, creed or sexual orientation. Nothing will deter us from our long standing mission to “preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and meet human needs in His name without discrimination.”
Major George Hood
National Community Relations Secretary
The Salvation Army National Headquarters
June 28, 2012