Just 30 minutes before going on air on KOGO 600 AM in San Diego to speak on a talk show to the topic of “Is the Salvation Army anti-gay?” I sent out a tweet to remind my followers to tune in. To my surprise, the Salvation Army tweeted back with a statement of the organization’s love and support for its LGBT friends, officers and employees:
— Salvation Army USA (@SalvationArmyUS) December 18, 2013
I was very surprised to see this post and happy that the Salvation Army put this out there in the open for all to see.
The Salvation Army has been subject to heated scrutiny by the LGBT community over the past few years - and rightfully so. The organization has stood as a patriarch of charities and could arguably be associated with a huge piece of the United States’ history with its involvement in charity nationwide, to the military and globally.
Yet with the rise of LGBT equality, gays have refused to be treated as second class – therefore if a charity says that they “serve all,” members of the gay community expect the charity - even a Christian charity - to live up to that promise.
But a recent incident has lead to a flurry of rumor and innuendo that the Salvation Army is desperately trying to renounce, steadily trying to reach out to it’s base of “all people.”
How it all started
Outrage by the LGBT community began about a year ago when Salvation Army spokesperson Andrew Craibe, during a news interview in australia on behalf of the organization, implied that gays should be put to death. This incident literally sent shock waves around the world and needless to say, gay activists were outraged and demanded accountability from the Salvation Army.
To Salvation Army Australia’s credit, the chapter immediately issued an apology that once again received global attention due to the controversy about Craibe’s comment. One might think that the Salvation Army’s apology would be enough for people to understand that this was an isolated incident, but since then several “half truths” have greatly damaged the reputation of the organization within the gay community worldwide.
It’s sad to say that in this fight for equality the gay community has sometimes not stayed ethical in the fight. There is no excuse for losing our integrity in the midst of the battle for equality. It affects the reconciliation of those who do not understand us and to the religious community. That is what some gay “activists” have been doing when it comes to the Salvation Army.
In the digital age many people will believe almost anything they see on the internet and almost a year after Craibe’s comment there has been a barrage of bloggers who have told half the story about the comment from Salvation Army Australia. Instead of doing their due diligence with their research and accusations, an incident in 2012 has turned into a tabloid lie of 2013. There has been massive recirculation’s of blog posts saying things like “The Salvation Army starts war” and other simply ridiculous hyperbole statements that are plain lies.
Is the Salvation Army still anti-gay though?
Whether or not the Salvation Army is anti-gay has a two-fold answer.
Does the Salvation Army have a rough past with LGBT issues? Absolutely. On top of the incident in Australia a transgender woman supposedly died from being kicked out of a Salvation Army shelter in 2008 - from the cold . There also was another incident that occurred almost 20 years ago where the Salvation Army denied service to a gay couple – unless they renounced their relationship.
In the previous hyperlink, there is a list of the many things the Salvation Army has done that directly hurt the LGBT community.
Yes, there is a troublesome history. Thankfully though, the Salvation Army USA has made massive strides only within the past few years to help heal those wounds and make their services 100% LGBT inclusive.
Steps the Salvation Army USA has taken
In recent months and years, the Salvation Army USA has removed the definition of marriage from its website as being between “One man and one woman”. This was after many in the LGBT community called out the organization for stating this on the website.
The Salvation Army USA has also revamped its entire website with a focus on “more inclusion.” On the revamping of their website, though, Truth Wins Out (TWO) reported that the site still listed “ex-gay therapy” organizations as their go-to ministries for “sexual healing.” I commend the Salvation Army, though, for removing the links from their site within one day of the report and issuing a statement of apology for the misunderstanding and took full responsibility for the mistake.
Then, in a stunning move the Salvation Army declared that the organization held the belief that sexual orientation is not a sin . Needless to say, this is very groundbreaking for an organization with strong evangelical roots. In yet another stunning move the organization has created a website for their national audience insisting that LGBT people are their cherished constituents and that they will not discriminate for services based on sexual orientation.
They are still Evangelical, does that make them anti gay?
I think it was valid some years ago to say that the Salvation Army USA was anti-gay. My belief has changed in recent years, and I would now argue that their efforts prove that they have changed.
Imagine going to the Southern Baptist convention and telling the council of overseers “it offends me that you say marriage is between one man and one woman, so I would like you to change that stance.” They would laugh in your face as the Baptist bouncers carry you out the door.
It’s not so with Salvation Army USA. In the evolving culture of LGBT rights, we as gay people have to let people evolve. Should we be silent? Never. Should we simply go along with never challenging the Salvation Army every again? Absolutely not! Yet, this organization has shown that although they do hold the technical definition that traditional marriage is between one man and one woman, they have gone back to the core message of the Gospels which is, “love one another” and serve ALL.
So as long as an Evangelical organization commits to non-discrimination and is willing to work with the LGBT community that is something to be praised and we should be open to working with them in years ahead. I am sure there are still pockets of Salvation Army chapters that are doing anti-gay things but I believe in the position we are in now, the national chapter will nip those things in the bud – as they should.
I said some years ago that to get to reconciliation within the faith community is to give and serve along-side them for a cause of humanity. Well, it looks like in this case the Salvation Army is willing to do what Christ preached more than anything else – serve.