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Responding to the Officership Report

Recently, New Frontier asked a dozen Western officers to respond to the International Headquarters’ Report of the International Commission on Officership; the officers were guaranteed anonymity and given the choice of responding to four of 10 different recommendations.

They included single and married officers, male and female; four were majors, three were captains, and four were lieutenants. Here is the conclusion to the responses. Click to read part 1.

RECOMMENDATION 4

We recommend that territories incorporate ongoing orientation in cross-cultural ministry into their leadership training and working practices in order to develop culturally sensitive models of leadership.

  • Absolutely. The Army needs to make a commitment to find people who are willing to work with those who minister in these cross-cultural settings. Supporting those who have been called to minister in another culture, and understanding the hows, whys and needs of that culture are just as important…we need to see a “bigger picture” of ministering to the whole person, which may include family and social issues, education, finance, the rules of living in a foreign country, etc.
  • In order to build a strong Army, it is important for all to be knowledgeable of cultures other than their own. The multi-cultural leadership center is inevitable in our territory; the influx of immigrants necessitates the Army’s service to meet their needs as they come to America. Consequently, we become more sensitive to issues when planning corps, divisional and territorial events in areas of evangelism, discipleship and spiritual growth.
  • It will help create in leadership a more patient and sensitive understanding of others who are culturally different. Cross-cultural awareness will help us identify cultural issues and practices that are not in sync with gospel truth and teaching, resulting in developing teaching and training that will help unite us as one body…We must not let our attention to cultural differences supersede the goal of becoming one body in Christ within the framework of Salvation Army service and worship.

RECOMMENDATION 11

We recommend that Orders and Regulation for Officers of The Salvation Army be amended to allow, in exceptional circumstances, and with the recommendation of the officer review board, a married officer to continue in officership when the spouse can no longer remain an officer. The officer review board must ensure that the exceptional circumstances are unrelated to personal gain, personal convenience, or lack of commitment. The recommendations of the officer review board, together with those of the territorial commander, must be forwarded to IHQ for final decision by the Chief of the Staff.

  • I disagree. The system currently allows for the return of one spouse when divorce is involved. I believe that is adequate…no other circumstances need be considered. The demands of officership are such that a spouse being in a different type of work or another ministry would inevitably lead to strong conflict.
  • My immediate reaction is negative. It would seem having one spouse remain in officership would create a great deal of stress in the marriage. An officer needs a spouse to be completely supportive of officership and its emotional involvement, and I’m not sure a non-officer could be completely supportive. In spite of this negative reaction, I’ve experienced having a spouse who was no longer willing to be an officer and I would have given almost anything to continue as an officer alone. It wouldn’t have worked out at all and would have destroyed what was left of our marriage. It would indeed have to be a very exceptional situation.
  • The officer wears many hats during officership. Included is the role of ministry partner. [My wife and I] have the opportunity to work together as co-pastors. This partnership affords us the ability to minister completely to a variety of situations. Dissolving this partnership would damage the effectiveness of, and blur the focus the remaining officer would have on the ministry.
  • It is imperative to serve the Lord as an officer couple until retirement. However, if one spouse falls chronically sick, then the other spouse should be given equal opportunity to finish their service.

RECOMMENDATION 15

We recommend that territories affirm the ministry of women officers by appointing them to positions commensurate with their gifts and experience.

  • I believe this. Too often a woman officer is given appointments based on her husband’s appointment, regardless of her gifts and abilities. I would like to see women being given appointments based on their own abilities, even if it means having a separate appointment away from her husband. Why not allow the woman to be the divisional commander and her husband be appointed to finance or as a corps officer? Why not allow the woman to be finance secretary and her husband the League of Mercy secretary if that is where their skills and calling are?
  • Single women often are placed in extremely difficult appointments, with few people and little money; often regardless of the single woman’s skills and abilities. (They should be placed in) appointments where their skills, abilities and gifts can be best used rather than in a place because they are single, easy to move, and less expensive to have.
  • I applaud this enthusiastically. When God called me to officership, I assumed he wanted to make full use of the gifts and talents he gave me. Though I wanted to marry, I long entertained the idea of remaining single so the Army would use me on the basis of who God made me. A male officer would not need to contemplate such a notion. For too long, the Army has talked out of both sides of its mouth, progressively ordaining women, yet archaically defining the married women by their husband’s strengths. The call on women’s lives is as significant as the call on their husbands’ and the Army is responsible before God to find a way to use each human resource as God intends.

RECOMMENDATION 21

We recommend that the present age restrictions in relation to eligibility for officership be revised, the rank of auxiliary-captain be discontinued, and a flexible training program be developed.

  • YES. A/captains frequently feel like second class citizens. Age restrictions in relation to eligibility for officership should be revised. People are living longer; in general are in better health. If people have a commitment to serve God and the Army, and are in good physical and mental health, they should be considered even if they have only 10 years to give.

RECOMMENDATION 24

We recommend that the Army recognize the benefits of ‘tentmaker’ ministry, and permit such an arrangement at territorial discretion.

  • Wonderful idea–actually bringing back something from the “old” Army tradition that worked! Some appointments or whole divisions are unable to continue funding a full-time officer(s) due to limitations of the appointment; also, some cultural situations require one to work among the people to prove one’s ministry. Stressing the part-time status of employment, often a community needs specialized skills an officer may possess, such as educator, therapist, etc. The Army may benefit from that individual’s training, and the community may recognize the Army has sent that individual into their community for their benefit.
  • In several impoverished territories, officers have for years worked on the side to put food on the table. It’s a fact of life–unfortunately. This has not been done without the knowledge of their territorial leaders, either…A somewhat blind eye has been turned to the lack of corps income, so the officers can continue to serve. Recognizing ‘tent-making’ in these impoverished territories would re-move an unfortunate ethical dilemma for those who serve in these areas.
  • As a corps officer, I cannot see how anyone could have the time to be a corps officer and an employee as well. I can’t get everything done that needs to be done working 60-70 hours a week, plus programming time. Perhaps it might be feasible in a larger corps where there are locals and employees to do everything, but not in a small corps. I see this, at least for the U.S., as an opportunity to do something other than being an officer while still pretending to be one.
  • While this sounds good on the surface, even a cursory study shows it would hurt the overall corps ministry. Corps officers who would be affected are the ones who already have the majority of the work on their shoulders. Outside employment would cause something to give. What part of the officer’s life should take the fall? The family, congregation, business–each brings with it full-time responsibilities. Adding a “tent-maker” element to the mix would bring overload.

RECOMMENDATION 26

We recommend that, at territorial discretion, a system of portable pensions or an equivalent program be implemented.

  • I support this. Many begin their Salvation Army officership with the full intention and commitment to remain until retirement. But “life happens,” such as the unforeseeable illness of a family member, or financial obligations, etc., resulting in the resignation or termination of an officer before retirement. It seems appropriate and deserving that officers receive a pension that they have earned by the number of years given in SA service.
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