The problem persists in the Salvation Army, of today. In which way can we include LGBTQ persons in our fellowship without creating groupings; an A team and a B team? How can the Corps offer (church) membership in the Salvation Army in a positive manner that allows LGBTQ persons to feel valued, appreciated and loved by both the corps fellowship (soldiers/adherents) and also by the God to Whom the fellowship is showing (leading) the way.
Somewhere in this discussion one must remember that the Salvation Army has traditionally been the spokesperson for the marginalised. LGBTQ persons with Christian beliefs are often ‘doubly marginalized’. They are both excluded from the Christian community because of their sexual orientation, but often also excluded from the LGBTQ community due their grounding in the Christian faith.
In the Salvation Army soldiership is in itself problematic; we apply vague/weak and double morality standards concerning the various ‘offenses’ that exclude one from soldiership status. It appears that as it concern this there are several different options from which to choose.
Firstly, we can say that the soldiership is open to all regardless of lifestyle and it is up to each one who enters in to soldiership will to their best ability seek to interpret God’s will and live a pure and holy life. This solution makes it possible for LGBTQ persons to become soldiers and makes civilians membership (adherents) quite unnecessary. This solution (interpretation/ reading) on the other hand, allows for alcoholics, smokers, gamblers, people who abuse pornography, to become soldiers as well. Then it falls on the local pastor (an officer with the gift of pastoring or BOS – Board of Spiritual Care) to guide each one, in good faith, to a whole life (integrity) before God.
Secondly, we insist that the soldiership is a lifestyle choice, (as it’s defined and appears today) one not compatible with LGBTQ persons who choose to live out their sexuality. If one chooses this path one must also ensure that soldiership is also observed in all other respects. Adherent membership is offered today (as an alternative) to others seeking a corps community membership. (But then one should probably review the wording of the description of Adherency, see below)
Thirdly, one can select to remove the soldiership status and instead simply have a membership status where holiness is not a requirement but rather (a fellowship) wherein faith in Jesus is what unites us and binds us together. In common with the first solution this places responsibility on the local pastor who will engage with each member working out what this means individually in every person’s life.
With regard to Adherency membership, (Existing civilian membership) this is already problematic. The (Swedish) leaflet explaining Adherence membership reads; “Civilian membership is full membership in the Salvation Army as a Christian community.” It further states; “Being a member means you are offered corps’ ceremonies (are freely available) such as baby blessings/dedications, confirmations, weddings and funerals.” This means that a LGBTQ person as a civilian member is promised the offer of both a marriage ceremony and baby dedication.
Of course one can argue that according to the SA a marriage not a marriage unless it is between a man and a woman but do we not then do exactly what the SA was accused of in the TV show Cold Facts: come with empty words; everyone is treated equally. This especially given the fact that the marriage ceremony is not instituted explicitly in the Bible but is rather, a tradition we have added to the Bible through methodical exegesis and our normal hetero interpretation of the scriptures
Without any exaggeration it can be said that the Salvation Army is facing a huge assignment regardless of the route one choose to take in the future relative to LGBTQ issues. If we as a denomination want to take a more positive inclusive approach it requires repentance and thorough, in-depth, strategic Bible teaching at all levels.
If we choose to go in the other direction it requires ransacking, repentance and a culling of the current soldiers and officers in order to resolve what we in our Orders and Regulations say that we stand for.
What is clear is that we as a denomination have to initiate a debate and bring this discussion to all levels, both in public and within the corps walls, both on the local level and the cabinet (SA leadership council).
If we as the Salvation Army want to be both open to embrace the oppressed and continue to be a holiness movement, we must engage in lengthy and giving discussions about how we should live in and manage the tension between these concepts.
Translation: Dr. Sven Ljungholm