How Will 2020 Impact The Salvation Army Of The Next Ten Years
The events of 2020 have brought to the
far above surface issues that have been below surface or just
above surface in The Salvation Army (TSA), at least in the
West, for some time. The answers that are being given and will
be articulated by the coming leaders of
TSA in the next few years will impact the future
evangelistic thrust of the movement in one direction or
another over the next ten years and beyond.
I offer four issues for which further responses will
likely be necessary and which will shape The Army going
Secularization - Charles Taylor, in his book “A Secular Age”,
defines the secularism of our modern age as “a move from a
society where belief in God is unchallenged and indeed,
unproblematic, to one in which it is understood to be one
option among others, and frequently not the easiest to
embrace” (p. 31).
We now live in such a world in the West. The Salvation Army,
however, became prominent and respected when the West was
still culturally Christian.
The public at large had little trouble supporting a
Christian organization that provided charity to all those in
need (although the public was not as enthusiastic about TSA’s
evangelistic methods at times). The last culturally Christian
generation is dying off, while the increasingly secular
subsequent generations are not as supportive of a Christian
has depended on the public support to indirectly fund our
What will we do?
Redirect our spiritual resources towards social
services (that increasingly depend on government contracts
that have become more plentiful during the pandemic)?
Streamline spiritual services so as to be less
expensive (this seems to be the approach advocated by Major
LGBTQ - While secularization has been on the move in the West since
the 17th Century, it really picked up steam from the late
1960’s going forward.
And, it has become associated with sexual libertinism.
This sexual liberation movement has also included those
expressing themselves in other than male/female relationships.
These have come to identify themselves as sexual
minorities that needs their rights protected and who demand
equality in society.
This view is now widely accepted in the West, including
some (many?) among those of the younger generations that
identify as Christian.
However, this view is at odds with TSA requirements for
soldiership and officership, which is guided more by a
traditional sexual morality that understands LGBTQ sexual
behavior as not God’s intent for intimate relationships.
The pressure from the larger secular culture is that
religious groups change their stance that more aligns with
that promoted by LGTBQ advocates or be labeled as “phobic”
towards sexual minorities.
The Salvation Army has faced this, even though TSA does
not discriminate in general hiring practices or in the
delivery of services against those that identify as LGBTQ.
Should TSA, however, also move in the direction of
approving/allowing LGBTQ practicing persons as soldiers and
should we continue with the traditional view?
There will be a price paid either way.
I will observe (as someone that holds to the
traditional view) that those identified as evangelical who
moved away from the traditional view also have tended to move
away from an emphasis on personal sin, salvation and holiness
in their understanding of the Christian faith.
I find it difficult to believe that TSA will be able to
continue with its eleven core doctrines (and an emphasis on
personal evangelism) if there is a move away from the
traditional teaching on sexual morality. What will TSA do with
Racial Equality - Slavery, Jim Crow and systemic injustice are
critically important to understand and acknowledge as part of
the history of the United States.
And, it must be acknowledged that this system of
oppression was interwoven into a supposed Christian culture.
The unrest during the summer of 2020 revealed the
degree to which racism remains unresolved.
This is something that everyone should be able to
observe, but can be especially challenging for old white guys
like myself. I
want to believe that we are further along the path towards
some semblance of racial equality than maybe we really are.
I state this as someone who was engaged in multi-racial
ministry all of my adult life and who pastored a predominantly
African-American congregation for most of my ministry.
I wanted to believe there were ongoing signs of greater
equality, and I believe that there are signs of such, but
clearly more intentional work remains to be done.
I do believe that The Salvation Army in my neck of the
woods had not done enough to develop soldiers and officers,
even though a good percentage of our social services work is
among Black Americans.
I have seen some changes in this area in my years in
TSA but more concerted effort needs to be directed towards
this moving forward.
My main caveat in regards to this is the use of
Critical Race Theory as foundational for future understanding
of racial inequality.
Critical Race Theory (which is subsection of Critical
Theory) tends towards being a totalizing hermeneutic looking
for power imbalance. I know of at least one (albeit liberal)
seminary (Union Theological Seminary in New York City) that
uses this approach for understanding the Bible.
I do not see how seeing everything through the lens of
power imbalance can align with the evangelistic message
outlined in TSA’s eleven core doctrines.
I think that this Theory can be helpful in possibly
pointing out blind spots for old white guys like myself, but I
would want to hold on to personal sin, salvation and holiness
as critical to our evangelistic efforts (while advocating for
greater equality as part of bearing witness to God’s kingdom).
How will TSA move forward on this issue?
Christian Nationalism - A misdirected (in my opinion) response to
secularization has been Christian Nationalism.
This was especially on display recently at the U.S.
Capitol in an extreme form, but it has a larger, less extreme,
presence in the United States.
Christian Nationalism is a wedding of the Christian
faith with a particular country to the point where patriotism
is almost the same as one’s religious faith (or maybe is one’s
For reasons beyond the scope of this little writing,
evangelical Christianity has become identified with Christian
Nationalism in the United States.
I believe this identification is overblown, especially
by those who would want to reject evangelicalism no matter
what, but there is enough truth to demand a response from
those that would want to assert evangelicalism while rejecting
The Salvation Army is an evangelical denomination.
See our Mission Statement.
Also, our eleven core doctrines place us within an
Evangelical Wesleyan Holiness tradition.
To be evangelical is to assert the authority of
scripture, the belief in personal sin, the existence of hell,
the way of salvation is only through Jesus’ death on the
cross, the need for repentance and faith, and the call to holy
living, among other things.
The Salvation Army is about those things. But, we
cannot be Christian Nationalists because we want to win the
world for Jesus (and we are in 130+ countries).
The temptation may be to disavow being evangelical, but
will with that disavowal also come a move away from our eleven
core doctrines (in actual practice if not on paper)? What is
the best approach to affirming that we are in the evangelical
fold while disavowing any affiliation with Christian