Dialogue on Change
BY COLONEL PHIL NEEDHAM –
Lt. Karlström claims that in the postmodern milieu of the Western world, the Army’s authoritarian structure is increasingly irrelevant to the democratic mentality of those who insist on taking responsibility for their own lives and are unwilling to practice blind obedience to ecclesiastical authority. She states that we have become ‘prisoner to our history,’ clinging to methods and structures that no longer serve our mission well. This maintain-the-status-quo organizational mentality has attracted to our ranks ‘personalities who value structure and conformity’ rather than ‘innovators and original thinkers.’
Do you agree completely with this assessment? Do you agree partly? Or do you think the Lieutenant has missed the mark? What IS your opinion about the Army’s structure? Is it still serving our mission well? Is it your opinion that the military system is still valid and that we simply need to take it seriously again?
The lieutenant also claims that our system of governing creates a culture of mistrust that is strengthened by secrecy, paternalization, and patronizing, with most people feeling that they are at the mercy of their leaders and are powerless with respect to the decisions that affect their lives.
Do you see our situation in the same way? Do you think there needs to be a greater openness in communication and wider participation in the decision-making process — even to the point of negotiation with respect to officer appointments? Or do you think that such approaches would compromise a system of appointments that continues to serve us well.
With respect to learning and skills, the lieutenant says that overall we are not doing well enough in nurturing a learning culture and that persons with specialized training and skills do not find officership attractive because, except for a few areas of traditional and/or urgent need (finance, social service, music), the Army does not recruit prospective officers for specialized work and makes no guarantee that a person’s specialized skills will actually be employed in specific ways.
Do you think we are approaching a time when the Army will recruit officers with specific skill training to utilize that training in officership? Do you also think we need to make a much greater investment in the ongoing training and education of Salvationists, officers and other soldiers, in order to meet the needs of tomorrow’s mission field? Or, on the other hand, do you worry that we will become an Army of well-educated, specialist officers who are out of touch with the people?
Lt. Karlström has challenged our thinking and our way of doing business. Some of our readers may think she has some valid points to which we must give heed, others that she is off track and fails to appreciate the strengths we have and the success our Army system achieves. We invite readers to engage in the dialogue and share their views with our editor. These are the kinds of issues we need to talk about because they touch on crucial matters regarding our future as an effective evangelical movement.
(Send comments to the editor, The Salvation Army – New Frontier, 30840 Hawthorne Blvd, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275 or e-mail to Safrontier@aol.com)