Letters to the Editor
Comments on October 27 issue
I am a regular contributor to the IHQ web discussion forum. My parents are retired brigadiers and all five of us children are officers of The Salvation Army in the Philippine Territory.
When I read about the Western Territory’s decision to extend benefits to domestic partners of Army employees, I immediately surfed to the New Frontier website to read Colonel Phil Needham’s essay on the issue. I found it to be Biblically sound. It was an honest and faithful expression of the Army’s theological and ethical stand on the issue in question. On the forum, I tried to show the officers and Salvationists how the decision was consistent with the mission and ministry of The Salvation Army. I was very sad that there has been a blindness that covered the perception of many and a homophobic atmosphere that altogether created a hate campaign focused particularly against the GBLT community. Deep within my heart I felt a shame in the way Salvationists had reacted to the treatise. Such, I feel, denies the unconditional love that God has lavishly bestowed to all through the Lord Jesus Christ.
As I read the unkind comments hurled against Col. Needham, I felt what a difficult place he is in because of an honest and brave stand to make the Western Territory’s ministry and mission become more relevant to the call of our generation.
Wilson G. Urbien, Major
Writing in Ancient Prophets, Samuel Logan Brengle makes the following prophecy: The Army is so thoroughly organized and disciplined, so wrought into the life of nations, so fortified with valuable properties, and on such sound financial basis, that it is not likely to perish as an organization, but it will become a spiritually dead thing if love leaks out. (p. 199)
Throughout our history, we have sprung the occasional leak, but have made the necessary repairs and recovered. However, yesterday that love described by Commissioner Brengle did not leak out, it was beaten out of us by James Dobson and company. Their message of bigotry and intolerance, as well as our yielding to that message, leaves me completely at a loss. The compassion, mercy and grace of God, and the unconditional love of Christ, which have been the hallmark of Salvation Army ministry throughout its history, must now be qualified by their standard.
I applaud Commissioner Edwards and territorial administration for having the courage of their convictions, to be willing to do the right thing; the scripturally, doctrinally and historically right thing. I know this was not an easy decision. As for the rest of the national leadership of The Salvation Army, I am shamed and embarrassed for you.
Ted Lowcock, Major
Crestmont College – SFOT
Thank you for your brief and reasoned description (“A variety of Army programs benefit from government dollars” by Gordon Bingham) of what was taking place with regard to the extended benefits policy. I want you to know there are officers and soldiers who supported the leadership the Western Territory was giving to this issue. I am sure there are relational consequences, which pressured the Com-missioners’ Conference to change its position. However, that does not negate the correctness of your logic and the rightness of extending benefits as a policy. It is likely more states will pass the same legislation as did California and more cities, like Chicago, will take a similar position to that of San Francisco. Without significant funding particularly in larger cities we will miss the opportunity to fulfill our mission and be leaders in the area of compassionate service to the poor.
William Harfoot, Lt. Colonel
Training Principal – Central CFOT
In The Salvation Army songbook that belonged to my husband, #527, Burning Love, is circled and underlined. This was his favorite song and the words speak volumes to me in light of the recent reversal of the extended benefits decision. Phrases like these touch my heart: “Souls lost to the good,” “It is not with might to establish the right.” I wonder who is going to help the lost souls? Wouldn’t Christ be rubbing shoulders in the hurting crowds of today?
Perhaps we are having an identity crisis in the “good old Army.” Do we want to do church or do we want to be God’s hands in the world? I think we can be both and I also think that our founders felt that God placed his hand on us for that purpose. I was convinced and at peace with the decision to offer extended benefits. Now I fear that the opportunities to exhibit “burning love” in the lonely and dark places of our communities will be severely limited.
Charleen Bradley, Major