The Ethics of Incarnational Ministry Within The Salvation Army
by Aaron White
Jesus Christ’s incarnation is one of the formational
inspirations for early Salvation Army mission and ministry.
The Salvation Army in its inception emphasised the importance
of its soldiers and officers identifying with the poor, the
oppressed, and other cultures as they ministered amongst them,
and there are still Salvation Army ministries that operate in
the same spirit today. There are however genuine theological
and ethical concerns over the idea of incarnational ministry.
Some theologians argue that it is impossible, unnecessary, or
unwise for humans to imitate Christ’s incarnation. Others
worry about the dangers of cultural appropriation,
gentrification, paternalism and other harmful missional
practices. There are also significant apprehensions about the
inherent physical, emotional, and spiritual risks for
missionaries living in dangerous areas. Advocates of
incarnational ministry argue that these issues can be
addressed by focusing on union with Christ instead of the
imitation of Christ, which leads to an understanding of
holiness and hospitality as participation in the life and
mission of God. When incarnational ministry is thus properly
is consistent with The Salvation Army’s theology, ethics, and
history, and can be a powerfully effective approach to
Salvation Army mission.
The doctrine of Christ’s incarnation
rests upon the idea that “in the person of Jesus Christ the
Divine and human natures are united, so that he is truly and
properly God, and truly and properly man.”
He was sent into the world by the Father, and later prayed to
the Father: “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent
them into the world,” (John 17:18). Advocates of incarnational
ministry see this as a commission for the Church to model
mission after the incarnation of Christ. This means that
believers should imitate the love that entered the world
through Christ to reach those “caught in the snares of
non-love and seduced by injustice, deceit and violence.”
The ecclesial, missional, and ethical activity of Christians
should, in this view, be patterned after Jesus’ humility,
self-sacrifice, and complete identification with humanity.
Just as Christ took on the flesh and experiences of humanity,
so too should the Church take on the cultural, political, and
socio-economical experiences and concerns of the communities
where they minister, particularly amongst the poor and
suffering. Jesus embodied all the pain, temptation, sorrow,
and conflict of humanity, and this should characterise the way
the Church embraces and encounters men and women today.
Incarnational ministers often highlight
the importance of relocating to the abandoned places of world
as the first step towards modeling after Christ’s ministry.
Abandoned places are defined as locations that have “no
attraction for the ‘world of what’s happening now,’ and [are]
therefore left alone by the political, economic and social
powers that be.”
The act of relocation “expresses conversion and commitment,
the decision to resist imperial pressures and the pleasures
and rewards of conformity to the way of all empires: pride,
power, and reduction of all values to the ‘bottom line.’”
The incarnational Church is to imitate Jesus in his rejection
of the glory of this world, in his acceptance of self-denial,
and in his
“divine labor of love’s suffering and risk.”
The Salvation Army, in its inception,
endeavoured to put this suffering, risky, incarnational love
into practice in many “abandoned places”. William Booth was
not interested in disembodied and disengaged Bible
scholarship, but rather wanted to translate Scripture “into
the hearts and conduct of living men and women,” as he
believed “it is of no use making correct translations of words
if we cannot get the
words translated into life.”
The innovation of The
Salvation Army was this “marriage of belief and action, the
holistic union of spiritual and social concern incarnated in
the slums, the pubs, the mines, the street corners, and under
Once Salvationists had the message of the Bible imprinted upon
their hearts, William Booth’s next advice for cross-cultural
missionaries, officers and soldiers was to “Get into their
The idea was to enter as fully as possible into the culture
and conditions of the people one served, in imitation of
Christ’s incarnation for humanity. One notable example of this
incarnational effort is Frederick Booth-Tucker, an English
Salvationist who moved to India, changed his name to Fakir
Singh, adopted Indian dress, and conducted his ministry
barefoot and begging for food. His efforts captured the
imagination of Salvationists around the world, to the point
where he had to set the following conditions for anyone who
wished to join him:
Service will be a matter not merely of
being willing to go anywhere, but of wishing to live and die
for the particular race to which you are sent. You will be
absolutely alone and under close scrutiny. It will be
essential to learn at least one Indian language. You must
leave entirely and forever behind you all your English dress
and habits. Officers will be barefoot. You will avoid the
English quarter, but will always live among natives –
sometimes in a cave, a shady tree, or someone's veranda – or
in a mud hut 16 by 10 feet. You will cook as they do, and wash
your clothes in the stream with them. You have nothing to fear
from the climate. The people are different and intensely
religious. Find out what their thoughts are before you share
yours. And if you are planning to return, don't go. We would
not think of sending anyone out who did not plan to make it a
Incarnation also became a staple of The
Salvation Army’s slum ministry: “No Salvation Army slum post
could do its work…either from the pedestal of patronage or
without the sympathy bred by a personal
twenty-four-hours-a-day experience of slum life.”
The Salvation Army’s continual presence in the slums helped it
to understand the complex problems besetting the people living
there. Regular house-to-house visitation in East London,
Salvationists reported, “brought to light an amount of vice
and misery that we could not have conceived of.”
By 1889, sixty British Salvation Army officers had responded
to the call to move into the slums to minister, and the
program later expanded to America under the name “The Garret,
Dive and Tenement Brigade.” There, the War Cry reported, “in
the midst of the squalor, misery and sin of one of the worst
neighbourhoods of the great city of New York…two officers are
commencing the Saviour-like work of visiting, helping, and
reclaiming the lost,” by moving into the neighbourhood.
Most of the officers who made such a move were women, leading
to the nickname “Slum Sisters” or “Slum Angels.” These
officers regularly scheduled three hours a day for visitation,
sometimes managing thirty visits a day per officer, and
focused on meeting practical needs, minding children while
parents worked, praying with families, and witnessing through
Bible studies and preaching.
It was believed that the Army in the 1890’s “had an almost
unequalled knowledge of the conditions and needs of the lower
classes” because of its “officers’ identification with the
masses in terms of origin and aim as well as continuing
Officers living and working “just where slum conditions are at
their most difficult” provided the Army with both insight and
motivation, and led to the conclusion that “the problem of the
slums can effectively be grappled with only from the inside.
The slum brigades were a deeply practical response to the
desperate urban poverty of the late 19th century,
but they also involved theological reflection, as evidenced in
the statement offered by one high-ranking officer: “God had
one son, and He was a slummer.”
God’s son may have been a “slummer”, but
that does not mean anyone can or should attempt to copy him. A
theological danger of an incarnational model for ministry is
the temptation to minimize the vast gulf between God and his
creation that could only be bridged by Jesus himself. Christ’s
incarnation was unique and unrepeatable, leading some
theologians to reject the idea that it could ever be a model
for Christians to copy.
The best that we can do is point to Christ’s incarnation as a
saving event, something that God did for us, and not something
we can or should try to replicate. It is also debatable
whether it is feasible or appropriate for Christians to
attempt incarnational ministry by means of cultural
However noble the intentions, Christians cannot fully take on
the flesh of another culture in the same way that Jesus
assumed humanity, and there are serious ethical dangers
involved in trying to do so. Billings notes that “missionaries
can find it impossible, practically speaking, to become ‘one’
with the people they are ministering to.”
General Shaw Clifton illustrates this difficulty in his
discussion of cultural differences throughout The Salvation
Army world. Issues ranging from abortion, pre-marital sex, and
bribery, to men holding hands in public or a Western husband
allowing his wife to walk ahead of him in the bazaar are all
culturally-conditioned to such a degree that the best a
foreign missionary might hope to do is “behave well”.
Even the most ardent supporter of incarnational ministry would
likely not advocate injecting drugs in order to “get into the
skin” of an addict, nor committing heinous crimes in order to
authentically share the experiences of a convict.
This boundary stands in some tension with
William Booth’s original instructions to his officers on the
matter of incarnating into other cultures: “I say to my
officer who is going to Holland: ‘Can you be a Dutchman?’ To
the man who is going to Zululand: ‘Can you be a Zulu?’ To the
one going to India: “Can you be an Indian?’ If you cannot, you
must not go at all.”
Booth’s call to “get into their skins” might now be perceived
as a form of cultural appropriation, which involves the use or
adoption of another culture for one’s own purposes. This
typically occurs when a dominant culture attempts to copy the
dress, habits, language and customs of a minority culture.
Frederick Booth-Tucker could be suspected of cultural
assimilation when he, an Englishman, adopted dress, customs
and name from the Indian sub-continent where he was sent to
minister. It is reasonable to question how genuine and
complete this cultural incarnation could have been from the
perspective of the local Indians, irrespective of
Booth-Tucker’s noble and sacrificial intent. It is highly
unlikely that a Salvationist from India could have
“incarnated” into English society in the same way, given the
difference in power dynamics between the two cultures. Though
the purpose of incarnation may be evangelism and
identification, the result could be an unintentional
reinforcing of cultural imperialism. Incarnational ministry
could be characterised as the preserve of the privileged as
they relinquish position and power to communicate with
cultures that are socially and economically less dominant.
This same critique could be leveled at the “Slum Sisters”, and
it is likewise legitimate to question how deeply these
missionaries could identify with families living in
generational poverty and oppression, unless they themselves
came from that socio-economic background. No amount of study
and effort can reproduce lifetimes or generations of cultural
experience, and suggesting that one can fully adopt another
person’s worldview, history, hope and suffering risks
belittling the host culture, or reducing it to leverage in
evangelistic efforts. Additionally, one may ask if the host
cultures have any option to resist this incarnation and
assimilation, or if they are required to be passive recipients
of this downwards social movement.
Gentrification and paternalism are two
other potentially harmful consequences of incarnational
ministry. There has recently been a surge of interest in
young, missional Christians moving back into the city, and
much accompanying work has been done by theologians and
pastors to develop incarnational urban theologies. These
theologies tend to “talk a lot about moving in and
contributing to the flourishing of a city, but say little on
the negative disruption that these moves can make in the
existing community.” New
Christian missions and Church plants can make huge impacts –
and not always positive - on existing Church-life,
neighbourhood dynamics, the price of housing, and the types of
businesses that flourish. Read notes that even when there is a
positive desire to bring transformation to an environment, “so
many schemes of social reform patronize and objectify or pity
the objects of their reform-mindedness; they reduce human
beings to statistics, and predicate the value of their
interventions on a demonstration of their efficiency.”
Incarnational church plants may begin with the desire to get
into the skin of the neighbourhood, but they often default
into an attempt to bring the neighbourhood up to the societal
standards with which they are comfortable.
This is damaging to the social fabric of a neighbourhood, and
can lead to socio-economic displacement of families and
residents who have been there for generations. This approach
may even undermine the already existing local Church
expression, as “the unspoken assumption in the books, sermons,
and conferences targeting missional-minded evangelicals is
that the city—prior to white, hip church planters—is a foreign
mission field, pristine and untouched by the work of the
Nate J. Lee explains,
any kind of language that implies that
God’s work or God’s plan starts when we arrive …
is indicative not only of terrible theology, but of white
Christian exceptionalism, the oppressive belief that the
correct kind salvation and healing can only be facilitated
through us, on our terms with our
methods—and us always happens to be white missionaries,
white pastors, and white churches.
Finally, in addition to the concerns
around cultural assimilation, gentrification, and paternalism,
incarnational ministry exposes missionaries to certain
physical, emotional and spiritual dangers. Jesus warns his
disciples against being of the world even while they are in it
(John 17:14-15) and James advises that true religion includes
keeping oneself unspotted from the world (James 1:26-27). One
of the dangers of incarnational ministry is becoming so
focused on adopting the host culture that you fail to see
aspects within it that must be challenged by the Gospel. This
can lead to compromise or syncretism. When Jesus took on human
flesh he perfectly identify and communed with us, but he also
overcame sin and brought us to redemption.
The humanity that Jesus assumed was “suffering from fear and
distress, conflict with others, anxiety before death, betrayal
and isolation, separation from God—all the qualities of
death-infused, sin-corrupted life that require remedy,” but he
did not surrender his holiness in the face of this challenge.
Human ministers may not be capable of such resiliency. These
qualities of suffering and oppressive humanity, so dangerous
to the spiritual life of the incarnational minister, are also
dangerous to the emotional and physical life of incarnational
minister. Eliza Shirley and another young female officer were
tasked in 1879 to lead a Corps in Bishop Auckland, and after
moving into the neighbourhood were faced with regular verbal
and physical threats, and had to survive by eating the food
that was thrown at them during open-air meetings.
Missionaries who cross cultures or who move into impoverished
urban environments are often subject to higher levels of
loneliness, emotional hardship, and physical hazards, and
these dangers extend to their children as well. For these
reasons, it could be considered unethical to subject Salvation
Army officers, soldiers, and families to the extra
difficulties of incarnational ministry.
For incarnational ministry to be
considered theologically meaningful and ethically responsible,
these various critiques must be addressed. Though Christ’s
unique incarnation is not an action that can be copied or
repeated by the Church, the union between Christ and his
Church can still serve as the basis for incarnational
ministry. 2 Peter 1:4 claims that believers can “become
partakers of the divine nature,” an idea that inspired
Orthodox theologians to depict salvation as the
“transformation of believers into the likeness of God.”
Protestants tend to be nervous about all the implications of
this theology, but have developed similar concepts in their
exploration of holiness and entire sanctification. John Wesley
argued that in Christ we share “all the mind which was in
Christ, enabling us to walk as Christ walked,” and can know “a
renewal of the heart in the whole image of God, enabling us to
walk in the full likeness of Him that created it.”
This is the experience that General William Booth describes as
being “saved to the uttermost! Saved now and every day!” and
that results in “the condition of the perpetual indwelling of
God,” which is essential for a sustained holy life and
In the same spirit, General Clifton describes holiness as the
process by which believers are “changed into Christ’s person.”
All humans, he avers, are made in “the image of God…to which
we owe all honour and love,” but this applies particularly to
Christians “because in them that image of God, marred and
distorted by the Fall, has been renewed and restored by the
Spirit of Christ.”
The Salvation Army Handbook of Doctrine states that “by His
incarnation and atonement Jesus so identified Himself with men
[sic] that He is one with those who receive his saving grace,”
and that the life of holiness means “becoming like Christ who
is the true image of God…Holiness is Christlikeness.”
If Christians can live in this restored likeness of Christ,
having been changed into the very person of Christ through the
uniting of humanity and divinity in his own flesh, then
incarnational ministry may be seen as a divinely-mandated
participation in the life of Christ, rather than a
human-initiated attempt to copy the actions of Christ. As
Yoder puts it, in Christ “we find an utterly precise and
practicable ethical instruction, practicable because in him
the kingdom has actually come within reach. In him the
sovereignty of Jahweh has become human history.”
This takes the onus off the ability of Christians to imitate
Christ, and places it on Christ’s real and active presence in
the midst of his people. The Church, of which The Salvation
Army is a part, can be likened to a sacrament of Christ, a
physical manifestation of the “real, eschatologically
triumphant and irrevocably established presence of Christ in
Volf declares that the one who went to the cross in the power
of the Spirit, now dispenses the same Spirit to empower his
followers to participate in the downward movement of God’s
love which forgives sins and creates a community of joy in the
midst of suffering (John 20:19-23).
This means that as the Church makes itself present in the
pain, poverty and suffering of the world, it is appropriate to
say that Christ is present with his message of temporal and
eternal salvation. This is the work of Christ, the
Missio Dei, in
which the people of God participate but do not seek to imitate
For William Booth, Jesus was an example
of how to live, but even more so he was the saviour who
empowered his people to live. Though Booth increased his
emphasis upon social work in the model of Jesus’ incarnation,
he never allowed “Christ as teacher of ethics, as a model for
men [sic],” to replace “Christ as the way toward salvation.”
In this Booth managed to combine “the theology of the
Atonement with the social conscience of the Incarnation.”
It is therefore in and through Christ’s salvation and
self-giving incarnation into the world that The Salvation Army
may genuinely engage in incarnational ministry.
God cannot be fully grasped, and neither can the painful
and conflicted reality of world, but both may be fully engaged
from within, through the incarnate person of Jesus.
That is, Jesus invites his people both into the life of the
Trinity, and into the life of the broken world, because he
knows both those realities firsthand. This means that The
Salvation Army should seek to find God through prayer,
worship, community, and devotion to the word, but also in the
daily suffering and hope of human existence, an incarnational
attitude that helps The Salvation Army resist the temptations
towards dualism that beset the Church. It does this by
emphasising God’s care for the physical and relational as well
as the spiritual, which is a hallmark of The Salvation Army’s
commitment to social holiness. Read highlights this commitment
as a fundamental motivation for the socio-political scheme
laid out in “The Darkest England Scheme”, and advances it as
justification for adopting a rights-based discourse that
treats human beings as if their whole lives, and not just
their immortal souls, actually matter.
Phil Needham likewise asserts that “while God was fully
incarnate in Jesus Christ, he is also incarnate today. The
ministry of health, healing and wholeness is a ministry
'conducted in his name, in his power, by following his
example, and by recognizing that ... [our] work is in his
This agrees with The Salvation Army’s anti-dualistic doctrines
ten and eleven, which state that “it is the privilege of all
believers to be wholly sanctified, and that their whole spirit
and soul and body may be preserved blameless unto the coming
of our Lord Jesus Christ,” and that in addition to the
immortality of the soul, The Salvation Army believes in “the
resurrection of the body.”
Incarnational ministry, properly pursued, embodies this belief
in God’s concern for the whole human being, and all of human
It is this holistic pursuit of God in
every sphere of life that can safeguard the Salvationist
against syncretism, compromise, and the loss of spiritual
vitality while still living in the world. The early Salvation
Army understood the importance of prayer and worship, but they
also knew that “the wonder-working presence of a real and
loving God is to be found ‘not far from every one of us,’ but,
beyond all question, in the slums.”
If true union with Christ is the foundation of incarnational
ministry, there should be no fear of being contaminated
through immersion in the impure and sinful world; rather,
“there is every reason to bring the sinful, the
death-ridden, the impure, into direct contact with the holy:
that is the very means of their sanctification.”
Christ himself demonstrated this when he touched the bleeding
woman (Luke 8:43-48) and the leprous man (Matthew 8:1-3).
According the Law and custom, this contact should have made
Jesus unclean, but his holiness was such that his cleanness
infected those who were unclean, and not the other way around.
If Salvationists are united with Christ; participating in his
life; obedient to his direction; filled with his holiness; and
empowered by his Spirit, then this should be our expectation
as well. In this way, Salvationists can live out a sacramental
life of holiness. The Salvation Army Handbook of Doctrine
states: “Christ is the one true Sacrament, and sacramental
living – Christ living in us and through us – is at the heart
of Christian holiness and discipleship.”
Needham expands on this, saying that “all of life is a
sacrament of grace, a celebration of grace in the everyday…the
Christian is to live his [sic] holiness in the world, avoid
the dualism of sacred and secular, and seek the presence and
grace of God everywhere.”
It is in this way, Needham states, that “the Lord’s table was
moved from the sanctuary to the streets.”
It is by linking this theology of sacramental holiness to the
ancient Christian practice of giving and receiving hospitality
that the obstacles of assimilation, gentrification,
paternalism, and fear of danger can truly be overcome.
Christ’s instructions to his missionaries in Luke 10:1-23 was
not to begin by preaching, by enacting a justice project, or
even by offering hospitality, but by
hospitality. Just as the incarnate Jesus was received into the
world, in some cases with welcome, in other cases with
hostility, Jesus’ followers are to experience the welcome or
hostility of the world as they carry the presence of Jesus
into cities, towns, neighbourhoods, and cultures. When
Salvationists are welcomed by people of peace they are truly
engaging in the work of incarnational evangelism, because
Jesus promises that “the one who hears you hears me,” (Luke
23:16a). The posture of relying upon the hospitality of one’s
neighbours requires humility, self-emptying, vulnerability,
and gratitude. It is the opposite of the privileged and
paternalistic approach which assumes that God is just waiting
for us to arrive before he begins to work in a culture. It
means that Salvationists must accept the welcome that is
offered by the host culture, and not the welcome they might
find most comfortable (Luke 10:7). It does not automatically
seek to alter the socio-economic relationships of a
neighbourhood or culture, but begins by participating in these
relationships, at the lowest possible level, and causing the
least amount of disruption. This helps to guard against the
dangers of gentrification. All of this puts our neighbours
into the enviable position of being “sheep” who, even
unknowingly, welcome Jesus as they offer hospitality to us,
the least of Jesus’ brothers and sisters (Matthew 25:31-46).
This approach also allows for the possibility of rejection.
When Salvationists face the rejection of the world, they
experience the rejection Christ faced from his own: “the one
who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects
him who sent me,” (Luke 23:16b). Incarnational presence must
not be forced on a culture or community, and Jesus instructs
his followers to either find people of peace, or to shake the
dust off their feet. If there are aspects of the culture that
need to be challenged by the Gospel, this should begin from
within the household and by the authority of those who already
know and embody the culture, and who have accepted and applied
the message of Jesus in their own lives. Applying these
principles to the example of Booth-Tucker, although he could
never truly become Indian, he did display a Christ-like
humility, a desire to listen and learn from the culture, and a
commitment to share the Gospel from a lowly posture. He
participated socio-economically at the lowest level available
to him, and he attempted first to receive hospitality rather
than making assumptions and immediately working for societal
change. The power dynamics inherent in British colonial
imperialism, as well as the natural obstacles of human
finitude and sin, necessarily limited his ability to
incarnate. Nevertheless, the spirit with which Booth-Tucker
approached cross-cultural, incarnational mission is a worthy
model for Salvationists to study today.
Once the Salvationist has learned to
receive hospitality, he or she can practice extending
hospitality to others, and in so doing can learn to encounter
Christ in a new way. Christine Pohl declares that when we open
up our home, our space, our lives to others, we discover that
“Jesus, the most desired guest, comes in the form of the
vulnerable stranger. The possibility that hosts are welcoming
Jesus can overcome resistance and fear.”
There is a great suspicion of neighbour in our world today,
which is one of the reasons Salvation Army officers and
soldiers are often taught to stringently separate their “home”
life from their “ministry” life. The practice of hospitality,
however, allows the Salvationist to find Christ in unexpected
places. As Dr. Aimee Patterson puts it, the virtue of
hospitality requires getting to know the stranger, learning
how they think of themselves and their needs, and decreasing
the “distance between host and guest.”
As the host’s understanding of the Gospel is enriched by the
perspective of the guest, it could be said that “the guest
becomes the host…the stranger becomes the neighbour…and the
neighbour becomes Christ.
This takes seriously the notion that Christ is present in
the guise of the stranger - particularly in the company of the
poor - and recognises that the Lord’s Table is found wherever
the people of God encounter the presence of Christ in the
Our experience of receiving and giving
hospitality as an incarnational Salvation Army community in
Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside bears out this sacramental
belief. Fully getting into the skin of people with vastly
different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds is beyond
us. However, we can be part of forming a community where a
wide variety of people and cultures inform one another, offer
hospitality to one another, and commit to worshipping the Lord
and praying together. As we gather in homes, cafes, treatment
centres, and community halls, we witness the Spirit of God
drawing people together from every tribe, nation, tongue and
background of our neighbourhood. We believe that in this we
are being united to God through Christ, and to one another in
the Spirit of Christ. Being welcomed into the homes of our
neighbours is an act of evangelism, because we know that as
they invite us in they are also in a real way inviting Christ.
Welcoming our neighbours into our homes and lives is likewise
an act of welcoming the image of God into our midst, and
sharing God’s good gifts with one another. There is no
ministry scenario where the safety of the ministers or their
families can be guaranteed, but getting to know our neighbours
well has significantly increased our sense of safety and
community, and helps us to overcome the isolation that many
people experience in our atomistic Western society. People in
our neighbourhood are very protective over our children, and
often warn us when dangerous situations are about to occur. We
accept, however, that there will be some level of danger
around us, because that is the daily reality of our
neighbours, and we believe that Christians – Salvationists in
particular – should be present for people in their moments of
crisis. This allows us to truly rejoice when our neighbours
rejoice, to mourn when they mourn, and to stand alongside
them, lending our voices to theirs as they fight for justice
and dignity, because we are in some measure experiencing the
triumphs and struggles of the neighbourhood first hand. In all
of this, we believe that we are not so much imitating Christ
as being brought up into the life of God, and brought down
into the life of the world, in and through Christ’s
incarnation. The result is that The Salvation Army in the
Downtown Eastside is not simply known as a good social service
provider or Church, but as neighbours who try to live out the
Gospel in the daily life, joy and pain of the community.
When the focus of incarnational ministry
is on receiving and giving hospitality instead of initiating
programs; listening to neighbours instead of telling them what
you think; and looking for where God is already present
instead of assuming that you are beginning the work of the
Kingdom; then concerns around cultural assimilation,
paternalism, gentrification, and safety risks are
significantly mitigated, though they are never entirely
resolved. This allows The Salvation Army to partner with the
people of peace in a neighbourhood, rather than pursuing its
own agenda. This posture helps The Salvation Army to genuinely
recognise the dignity of its neighbours, which is consistent
with its belief that each person, made in the image of God,
possesses “inherent dignity, and that each life is a gift from
God to be cherished, nurtured and redeemed.”
These sacred lives were created by God “for relationships and
for those relationships to be expressed living in community.”
Read reminds us that although every human being is in need of
the redeeming and transforming work of Christ in their lives,
our ministry and mission should also be motivated by “the
simple, utter sacredness of each and every human being,” that
should “make us stand in awe.”
This posture of awe, love, respect and relational community
can be powerfully engendered by a proper understanding of
incarnational ministry, which comes about through the union
and identification of Christ with his children. Incarnational
ministry, which stands faithfully within The Salvation Army’s
history and theology, can help position The Salvation Army to
receive the Spirit’s guidance in behaving well within various
cultures, and in translating supra-cultural truths so that
“the gospel of new life in Jesus is constantly being renewed
and made universally meaningful for all persons in all
cultures in all periods of history.”
Billings, J. Todd. “Incarnational Ministry
and Christology: A Reappropriation of the Way of
Lowliness,” Missiology: An International Review 32:2,
(April 2004). Accessed July 8,
Billings J. Todd. Union
With Christ: Reframing Theolog and Ministry for the Church.
Rapids: Baker Academic, 2011.
Clifton, Shaw. Selected
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