Embracing charitable choice
by Lt. Colonel L. Raymond Peacock –
“…We will continually seek to determine the unmet needs in the community. We will identify and access resources-human and material-from within and outside our communities in order to meet such needs.” (Vision 2000 & Beyond – Western Territory)
Two books are currently challenging my thinking. The first is The Ambiguous Embrace -Government and Faith Based Schools and Social Agencies by Charles C. Glenn and the second is What a Time to Be Wesleyan! by David L. McKenna, former president of Asbury Seminary.
Glenn reminds us, “William Booth implanted within The Salvation Army a social conscience that would not rest until all of society was perfected.” McKenna points out that “Wesleyans are a people for whom there is no beauty of personal holiness without the conscience of social holiness.” Later, McKenna explains, “…social holiness had two dimensions: increasing spiritual accountability to the Body of Christ and great social responsibility for the needs of the poor.” Salvationist heritage includes us in the wider circle of Wesleyan theology and practicality.
One more quote from Glenn, “The Army’s vision has always been larger in scope than the limited resources of its members could sustain.” Early in our history we came to rely on financial support of those outside the Army–wealthy benefactors, kettle contributors, mail appeal respondents, and government grants and contracts.
Our territorial Vision 2000 & Beyond commits us to continual, ongoing identification and accessing of resources to meet community needs. Part of implementing our vision is coming to a “new and now” understanding and application of what the vision principles mean in the years ahead. In this vein, the territorial commander has appointed a new committee to revisit government relations (and funding). While only 15 percent of The Salvation Army’s funding nationwide comes from all levels of government, that percentage amounts to approximately 50 million dollars annually in the Western Territory.
Some equate public funding with government interference. What a government funds, it may control. It is right to be concerned, but it is also necessary to know that government supervision and interference occur absent public funding. Furthermore, our Army has a heritage of maintaining the balance between accountability and autonomy. A heritage we intend to maintain going forward.
Our committee will not start at ground zero. We have…
Existing policy to guide us: In May of 1996 the Commissioner’s conference re-issued two previous statements into one policy under the heading Public Relations and Fundraising. This policy statement tells who we are, provides guidelines for relationships between The Salvation Army and other groups and organizations (including government), sets boundaries for joint ventures and contractual relationships, and lists eight criteria for entering into such relationships. There is not room here to list all eight. Be assured they cover consistency with Salvation Army purpose, our ability to satisfy performance requirements, assurance that resources not be diverted from existing activities, safeguards against restrictions on our religious activities or compromises in our policy or position statements, and queries regarding the impact the relationship will make on our autonomy, reputation, credibility, financial and legal obligations, etc.
Legislation that encourages us: In the past five years, Senator John Ashcroft proposed, and Congress approved, what has come to be called the Charitable Choice provision. This provision requires that, if states choose to contract for social services with federal welfare funds, they must allow faith-based organizations to compete on equal terms and may not impose conditions that affect their religious practices.
A recent book to challenge us: The aforementioned Ambiguous Embrace shows that, with appropriate forms of accountability and a strong commitment to a distinctive vision of service, faith based organizations can collaborate safely with government, to their mutual benefit and that of those they serve. The author encourages faith-based organizations to participate in the public arena, for to not do so is to surrender that arena to those with secular agendas. Comparing The Salvation Army with the YMCA and the American Red Cross, he says, “the former stands out as an example of how to accept government support without abandoning religious character.” While complimenting us in several areas, he is equally adept at pointing out areas of vulnerability. He concludes one chapter by noting “the seriousness with which it (the Army) is grappling with how to maintain its distinctive character and mission” in its relationship with government and the contributing public.
A representative, experienced committee and excellent advisors: Space does not permit mention of committee-member names, but I thank God for the wide spectrum of their opinion and the depth and breadth of their experience. Those on the committee are front line officers and employees who will ground us in practice and reality. Additionally, Dr. James Read from our Army Ethics Center in Canada is one among several of our advisors.
A God who will lead us: We believe God is asking us to restate what The Salvation Army should be and do going forward particularly in this area of social responsibility and relationships. I believe we are redefining “core convictions” that could motivate and mobilize our Army for its forward march into 2000 and beyond. Will you pray that as our committee meets end of summer, God will guide us in our task?