Dutch Salvation Army Changes Stance on Sexuality
July 21 2022
Recently The Salvation Army in the Netherlands has issued a statement saying they are departing from the International Salvation Army’s stance on sexuality. This move is a part of a wider trend of mixed messages on human sexuality in The Salvation Army. Here’s a link to an article where I document some of these trends. On today’s podcast I discuss this concern.
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Well, now I wanted to highlight something that is distinct today and unfortunately this is something that's coming up for a variety of the denominations in my sphere of influence on my influence.
The denominations where I run and that might be the United Methodist Church.
A variety of Nazarene Wesleyan Free Methodists, and the denomination I come from the Salvation Army.
Is expressing some of these concerns right now and I've addressed them in the past, but again, there's another flashpoint that has come up related to how we serve in a context where the conversation from the sexual revolution is pushing its way into church.
Now let me just start.
By highlighting that this is not something I wanted to do, like I'm not like seeking this out on a regular basis.
Instead, part of the reason it comes up is because people have brought to my attention and there's some things that I'm in a position to be able to address that I want to be able to offer a perspective that comes from the consensual tradition of the church from the what I call the Orthodox.
View of Scripture and I say that because the church has never affirmed.
Things outside of God's boundaries for human sexual relations that they exist out of a one man and one woman for life in the relationship of marriage in the Covenant of Marriage.
And this is connected to to my study of the book of Jude, one of the things that I was struck with by in the book of Jude is that Jude starts off in verse three of his.
Letter there's only one chapter, so you don't say 1323 or whatever, it's just in the third verse.
He says I had intended to write to you about the salvation we share like that's what I wanted to do.
I wanted to talk about these other themes.
But I'm compelled I'm called to call you to contend for the faith.
Faith once for all, delivered to the Saints. Something that happened like there was a group of leaders. The NIV translates it to say who had secretly slipped in and it led Jude to be in a position where he had to do something different.
And that's where I feel like we are in a variety of issues in our culture, particularly as it relates to human sexuality.
Is that we're in a position where this argument is coming our way and argument that confronts the.
I would even think like some major doctrines.
The doctrine of revelation.
How God has revealed himself in space and time.
A doctrine of creation for how God has created the universe and the order that is in.
That universe so.
We're called upon to defend the faith to contend for the faith.
And that's what I want to do here.
Is offer just a subtle Christina settle, a very explicit critique of something that's come from an international movement that I'm a part of.
The Salvation Army now, and when I think about what's happened in in Salvation Army, it's reflected in other demons.
Nations, particularly I think about my friends in the United Methodist Church who are now some of them becoming part of the Global Methodist Church.
So the Salvation Army has had a consistent stance on the nature of human sexuality for all of our existence, and as a result of that we have been incredibly clear.
The leaders of the Salvation Army have been clear.
Every person who is a member of the Salvation Army.
Church or a soldier.
Signs articles of faith that they say they believe the scriptures of the old New Testament are given by inspiration of God, and they only constitute the divine rule of Christian faith.
In practice, they also say they will uphold the sanctity of marriage and family life, so that's a shared foundation.
Like everything, I think for those who are part of that particular denomination is rooted in that now if you're in the United Methodist Church, everything is rooted in the Book of Discipline.
That's the content, the kind of the letter.
Of the law, so to speak, of what it means to be a part of this group.
Now there are opportunities for those things to be challenged through a variety of systems of polity like, that's the way we describe the kind of politics, the functioning, or the what.
William and Catherine Booth called the government of the church.
Now in those steps can be made, but essentially we all enter in in a covenantal way to serve within particular churches with an understanding of what the nature of God revelation is in space and time.
And then we also enter into an understanding of even things like this that are related to marriage and family life.
There are a couple.
Of territories within the Salvation Army that have worked through a few of these issues in diverse ways, and I would say have moved against the Orthodox position of the church at large.
The universal church.
So just recently the Salvation Army in the Netherlands came out with a statement.
Now it's I'm going to read parts of this.
And it is challenging because it's not clear enough to me to understand the full scope of what's going on, but I think the implications are clear.
So the territorial leaders that kind of like bishops, those of you outside of Salvation Army since these are commissioners at Bishop, is an equivalent type of denomination.
Our position that's put in place there are those who can ordain and Commission leaders have come out with a statement in part of that statement.
I'm just going to read part of it, and I admit that I don't know that this translation into English is the best.
So please excuse me if any of that's there, and again if I'm wrong on any of this or I'm misquoting people, I'll gladly come back and offer a corrective and before I read this as well, I just want to state as clearly as I can.
This does not affect our desire to make sure we are offering loving consideration to anybody.
Dealing with any type of sin, and I recognize that.
Calling sin out in any character in any form is a challenge, and we want to be sensitive to those who are experiencing anything that leads them to a place where they struggle with sin on a regular basis, and so that is true with all forms of sexual sin, and so we come to it like with a.
With a recognition that this is a significant and a heavy issue, and certainly one that needs more time than a 20 minute podcast to cover, but one that has been addressed and you can look back on the backlog of some other podcasts where we've addressed these subjects and things that we're willing to cover here too well.
We do cover regular at Wesley Biblical Seminary and something that I want to encourage pastors to think about addressing in a sermon series deal with this issue.
This is a presenting issue that our path we need to have as Julie Slattery says, sexual discipleship.
We need to be able to think about what it means for us to be disciples as sexual beings.
And so I just offer that provisio as I go into this and anyone who knows me I think will know the way that I approach this on regular basis.
But I know that people are watching this podcast who don't.
So here's what the Netherlands Salvation Army has said.
Like they they addressed themselves.
They distinguish themselves from the international movement and Salvation Army.
Say the Dutch.
Legal framework does does have a number of consequences according to Dutch legal framework, the Salvation Army cannot follow some of the guidelines.
And they say this would be a breach of Dutch law, so they're distinguishing themselves from the policy.
The international policy of the Salvation Army.
Let's just think about this like if that is the case.
If we are.
Called upon to do something that moves against our identity as Christians that moves against.
The identity of the movement of the Salvation Army as a whole.
What we have is defined to be truth for the way that we function as like the kind of Christian the rule of Christian faith in practice.
If we're called upon to do something like that.
It might be the fact that we have to acknowledge that religious liberty is in question, so should we exist in that framework and how do we challenge that so so there's right here distinguishing themselves?
And they say we do, however, aim to retain as far as possible the unique internationalism of the Salvation Army.
So it's like here they say they're wanting to be connected.
But they're going to challenge.
Change the international position of the Salvation Army.
I want to highlight a book that is kind of highlights this challenge of a global denomination.
There's not many global denominations by the way.
There's obviously the Roman Catholic Church that is in existence, there are.
There's a global Methodist Church come into existence, but they're not in as many countries as a Salvation Army in over 100.
In 30 countries.
Shaw, Clifton, in his book where he talks about the different ways that Salvationists approached war, calls it the Crown of Glory in the Crown of Thorns.
Now, the way there I didn't quite understand that title until I looked at that book.
The reason he says that is our internationalism as a church is our Crown of glory, but there are times.
When it becomes a crown of thorns, it comes where it becomes a challenge for us to hold together.
The internationalism and this is the challenge, like is there a?
Is there a different truth based upon our cultures?
This is like do we exist in a place where because we are in this particular culture?
Truth is different.
Now there are different modes and different forms that we take to express that truth, but there are truths that are pre political.
We get this and this is kind of based upon the natural.
Law of God's revelation.
Like if there is something that exists like I don't believe that marriage was something that humans created and said this is a pre political idea, something that's a part of the very natural.
So what is marriage in general? This is God's idea and why is it then that governments recognize marriage? Well, I generally think that.
Governments recognize marriage because of children, not because they're endorsing a theological vision or anything like that.
We're not pushing our theology on someone when it comes from a government.
The level, but as a denomination, we have plenty of reason.
As a church that has a theology of marriage and a theology of creation and revelation, this is the foundation with which we move forward.
So there are certainly ways that we have to work through the challenges of our given context, but if we're called upon.
To embrace the truth of God's revelation.
Or and we have to.
It's either that or.
For the laws of our given country, we have to go with the laws that revealed in Scripture.
We have to go with the truth of Scripture.
OK, so then he goes on there or not?
He that actually it's 2 two women who are the leaders of the salvation there, which is I'm thankful for the fact that God has called these women to serve and thankful to that they're in leadership.
I just challenged this.
Understanding that they're pretty presenting forward, they say we recognize and acknowledge that even in the Netherlands there are different viewpoints and interpretations of inclusivity regarding the sexual orientation.
This becomes even clearer when we consider the International Salvation Army with its different cultures and countries, no doubt.
But nevertheless, the foundations for the faith do not change the foundations that we all signed up for.
Who are in our given denominations that scripture is the divine rule of Christian faith and practice.
Do not change, and so.
They move on to the place we say.
Having said that, we as the leaders of the Salvation Army in Netherlands, want to promote the challenge to be inclusive regarding sexual orientation whilst at the same time respectfully understanding that some people may have a different point.
Love you OK great so we, as far as inclusivity, we of course want to welcome all people into the programs and services of the Salvation Army.
That does not mean that we just Chuck discipleship.
That's not that does not mean we just come to a place where we allow sin to perpetuate so.
This is this is of course one of the places we come to when we get into these discussions.
Is that the difference here is that if we are not not just talking about orientation like, somebody might have a leading towards sin instead of just acknowledging.
That is, this is sinful actions, sinful behaviors that we want to critique and to live in a place where we are continually committing those sins.
That's what we're critiquing here, and that's why we can't.
Can't say that this is something that we would change our theology on, or think that Scripture has somehow changed.
So here is the statement that I think.
The Salvation Army in the Netherlands thinks distinguishes themselves from the International Salvation Army, but when you hear it, you might not sense like within this statement, anything that dramatically moves.
Away from a biblical worldview so it says the Salvation Army in the Netherlands has the viewpoint.
It's interesting to use the word viewpoint as a viewpoint that homosexuality is not a sin or has to be disapproved of.
Now I imagine there's some challenges in the translation there from the.
I think it's from Dutch, so as a result of that statement I don't see any particular movement away from what the Salvation Army has already.
Said now some of us might get together and say, well there is a sense that all of our sinful inclinations that move us in a direction of sinning are based in the fall.
But we wouldn't say that they are sins in and of themselves.
So if a sin classically defined.
As a willful transgression to a known law of God, if that's how we define sin, then certainly an orientation or homosexuality is not.
But sinful at the same time, it seems like they are implying more, and this has been the case across well.
Now let's say across in certain sections of the Salvation Army world and in the United Methodist Church and the Nazarene Church and a variety of their places, there are certain segments.
Of communities that are making these type of statements or are saying we are different now we have evolved.
We have another view of Scripture and so we are changing.
And they are saying the Sabbath sermon, Netherlands are saying we are different now from the rest of the Salvation Army, and I think a similar thing has happened in Australia where in the last few months there's been a conference that the aim of the conference was to move the Salvation Army toward a more ELG Qi plus.
Hopefully get them all in there correctly.
We move them in, move the Salvation Army in that territory in Australia to a more affirming position.
And when we say affirming what we're saying is that we take in the LGBTQ agenda, meaning we accept and maybe want to bless same-sex unions, we want to affirm same sex couples who are practicing to be.
In ministry in ordained ministry as Salvation Army officers or at the same everything.
I'm saying the Salvation Army could be applied to a variety of denominations, so here's where we are this statement in and of itself might be passable at the same time.
I think we can say that homosexual behavior is something for the church to disapprove of.
Now, and I think we can even go as far in this this where I might even disagree with some evangelicals that that desire in itself is rooted in the fall, like other sins are.
The point that I want to bring up here is not so much for us to talk through the issues of hermeneutics and how we interpret things.
If you want to hear of approach to hermeneutics, it's based in the text.
I encourage you to check out my five steps to deeper teaching and preaching that you can sign up for a list.
It's a it's a resource available 8 page document, a 45 minute teaching where I talk through these type of issues. So I'm not talking to them here.
What I want to talk about is the issue of polity or governance and this is exactly what's happened in the United Methodist Church.
And the I Methodist Church is primarily in the United States, though it has several other conferences that come under something that is out there, called the Central Conference, which is outside of the various conferences in the United States.
Think those in Salvation Army think territories.
For 40 plus years 50 years now they have had on the books within their Handbook of doctrine known as their discipline.
They have had a biblical statement saying that homosexual behavior is not consistent with scripture and tradition.
OK, so that's what's been in their statement the problem.
Has been it has not been enforced, so there have been whole conferences or jurisdictions even like a wide section of the United Methodist Church in the United States that has moved away.
So much so that they've ordained a practicing lesbian Bishop.
Well, this has been a problem of polity or governance.
And so there are certain people within certain whole groups of people who are disobeying the covenant that they have signed on together to support.
And this is where the Salvation Army is. We can learn from our friends in the United Methodist Church that we're at this point where we can begin to operate in a way where there is discipline where there this is the advantage of an autocratic system, which is what the Salvation Army is. There is 1% of top who can execute.
The rulings and the discipline of the Salvation Army.
Our old statements used to be called doctrine and disciplines of the Salvation Army.
Now, if that's the case.
This is the role of the international leader of Salvation Army general, and in this case it's Brian Petal, and so I'm not looking to say like we need to have an accounting of every e-mail that's been sent out, but there needs to be action taken by the executive.
This is why the Salvation Army exists.
We have a general who can make executive actions happen I'm hearing.
Andy Stanley talk about how.
What we have in place in the CEO is the Chief Executing Officer.
It's the person who gets things done, who looks at the mission, and what the mission is and ensures that that mission is facilitated.
And so I think this is the call that those who see themselves is connected to the Salvation Army.
Rather, that's board members, volunteer supporters, soldiers, officers, territorial commanders, divisional commanders, to make that clear to the international leadership that we need to have action taken here, that if we do not have.
Off accountability what will happen is people will break off.
So let's say that this is there is no accountability here.
And let's say that the Salvation Army territories all around the world end up saying, well, we can just have local options for what we're going to do.
We can all just kind of make up our own rules as it relates to how we interpret Scripture and what it means.
Given our context, it's in that case when we're no longer one Salvation Army.
And maybe maybe we're not there now and that's what's happened in United method.
Church and then when we get to a place where we're not willing to facilitate what we've agreed upon, I think that there will be departures from people like, I think, like if the Salvation Army openly moved against the doctrines that we have supported that have been at the foundation of who we are regarding our first article of faith about Scripture.
Sin salvation heaven hell all of the like the eleven articles of faith I would I would move away that's just like like and I would say.
I'm not the one who changed who's changed.
It's OK that people have changed.
It's OK that people have evolved on this issue in its sense, like in a in a free country in a free world.
Nevertheless, this is opportunity for there to be accountability brought to people who and even whole groups of people who are moving against the discipline.
This is part of what can happen for us.
As we think about the future, and I know that this means like the way that international leaders are elected like their political positions, there's a lot to manage, and so I just encourage people to pray for the international leadership of the Salvation Army.
Pray for those who will in a summer or two.
I don't know how long it will be before there's another general elected.
Those are things to consider, and the same thing goes for the United Methodist Church.
Like I still pray that they can move to a place where their discipline is applied, but that's unfortunately it has not happened.
Accountability has been broken.
Accountability hasn't happened.
The shared covenant has been broken, and that's led to the start.
Of the Global Methodist Church, and I'm thankful that that church has come into existence and we can then agree to disagree in that regard.
But this is not a subject where we can just have simple interpretive differences.
Let me just highlight just a few of those type of arguments that come up.
Occasionally people say, well, you know, we changed the Christianity changed on slavery and women and that type of thing.
Well, just remember that like in Scripture itself there was a trajectory towards greater freedom for women and slaves.
There's like inconsistencies within the text where there was a biblical.
Dialogue with amongst the authors of Scripture as they began to understand what God was wanting to have communicated well.
In this case, there is a biblical monologue about human sexuality. In Jesus's words in Matthew 19 about the distinction between men and women.
And even the very foundation of the fact that.
Jesus was born a male to a female.
This is like a huge issue, like the distinction between men and women.
And if you go back and listen to my podcast with Christopher West, his beautiful explanation of John Paul II's theology of the body, where in my podcast with Tim Tenant, where we think about the reality of what our bodies tell us, This is why.
We think of creation as a foundational understanding for why we think of why we think.
This way that our bodies tell us God story, Christopher West said on my podcast the message of the Bible is God wants to marry you.
The picture of the distinction between men and women is meant to be a picture of Christ in the church, and human sexuality is meant to point us to that eternal reality so.
When we move away from that, we're moving away from these clear pictures that are given as metaphors that are given.
To us from Scripture.
Also, like when we work through some of these issues, simply say, well, you don't obey all the say all the laws from the Old Testament and I just want to like highlight one way to think of that is a difference between moral, ceremonial and civic laws.
So the ceremonial laws or those related to a temple like things that were done in temple in the way the worship the cultic worship.
Would happen for the people of Israel.
The civil laws were the way that that society was ordained and the way it was to function.
And then the moral laws.
Those are the ones that retain their significance all throughout scripture and are later confirmed in the New Testament.
So again, I've talked about this in past podcasts, but these are just some quick ways for us to remember.
This just isn't a matter of interpretive difference or a.
Matter of difference of opinion.
This is comes down to the Doctor of Revelation.
What we think God has revealed through scriptures.
Then secondly a doctrine of creation.
And then finally, I think it's helpful for us to to note the nature of those who move against.
The traditional interpretation of passage on human sexuality.
I have not found somebody who holds a high view of Scripture who still maintains that Christians should evolve in their teaching.
Now what ends up happening is there's a very different view of what the nature of the words of scripture are.
So much so that, like I've the kind of the example I've used in the past podcast, I'll use again here is when Robert Gagnon, who is a New Testament scholar, he now teaches at Houston Baptist University and Bill load load or a New Testament scholar from Australia, had a debate I believe.
Is that the Society of Biblical Literature and bill Loader.
Representing the progressive you said to Robert Gagnon, well, you know Jesus.
I agree with you that Jesus would have been against and was saying here in Matthew 19 and verses like that.
That same-sex activity is outside of what he wanted to see happen was sinful.
Like that, Jesus would see that as a sin.
Well, Robert Gagnon thought he had won the day, but Bill loaders, but Loader said, well, I just disagree with Jesus now.
This is this is kind of the point.
Most liberal interpretations and you can point to other people like David Gushee and others who might.
Think of themselves as evangelical, but wouldn't support.
A view they wouldn't of infallibility or inerrancy of Scripture, and I'm not saying you have to use one or both of those words in at our institution here.
We say the Bible is without error and we don't mean like we're six day creationists with that necessarily, but that the Bible is does not lie to us, and it's consistent and all that it affirms and is.
Errorless, in that that vein.
So if that's the foundation, like, just keep in mind what we're opening the door to.
It ultimately lifts experience our experiences.
It's a very dangerous place for us to be.
Now as we make this move, we also can just remember the church has never taught this never taught this.
And we can rest in the fact that we have the faith once for all delivered to the Saints.
As we confront these challenges, so I felt it was worth addressing this, because the way this affects us in a political way and now I say.
Well, like the policy of a denomination is significant, and it's not just the Salvation Army, the same is true with the way I, I know that in the Nazarene world, so to speak, they're having similar trouble with the way that some of their educational institutions function.
There are Nazarene institutions where people are openly against the doctrines of the Nazarene church.
That's a problem, so there needs to be institutional accountability, and so our desire.
Is to encourage.
Leaders to take their their leadership calling.
I mean I know they take it significantly and they take it sincerely, but this is the opportunity to make sure that the shared covenants of our movements are combined.
Now I'm thankful that so many people have come alongside us here, I'm thankful for the dialogue, and if you wouldn't mind.
Sharing a link to his podcast, if you found it helpful, that would be a blessing to me.
I'm thankful too for opportunity to share your variety of resources with you.
You can find those at andymillerthethird.com. Thanks so much for coming along. God bless you.