A question that’s been on my mind lately has been this; "What is a Salvation Army Officer?” More specifically, what makes a Salvation Army Officer different from anyone else? Indeed, are they different at all (apart from the obvious red epaulettes)? I've observed an emphasis upon the "call to Officership”, accompanied by an attempt to understand the place of ordination within our movement. All of this has led to, I would suggest, an ever increasing divide between Officers and Soldiers.
The problem here has been identified and analysed masterfully by Major Dr Harold Hill in his book Leadership in the Salvation Army: a Case study in Clericalisation. The problem is whether Officership is seen as a function within our movement or does “Ordination” and “Commissioning” somehow place Officers into a different "class" or even "caste". Historically and theologically we would align ourselves with the first option but more and more, at least in practice I suggest, we have begun to act like the second.
Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in the way we speak of the "call to Officership". The “call” is treated with deep reverence within The Salvation Army. Indeed the Officer’s Covenant, which all Officers must sign, starts with the words (in capital letters, no less) "CALLED BY GOD". Those who wish to apply for officership need to demonstrate throughout the application process that they have indeed been called and that this calling is evident in their lives. Cadets are also expected that their calling would be affirmed and confirmed throughout their training.
The problem, as I observe it, is that this calling is frequently viewed as an "add on" to Soldiership. In this way Officers become those people who have received “something extra” from God that others have not (in this case a “calling”). An extreme interpretation of this may even suggest that it is a subtle form of Gnosticism.
Some of the symptoms of this problem include the expectation that it is the Officers who are called to be Evangelists, Preachers, Pastors, Administrators, Leaders, Prophets, Worship Leaders and a myriad of other functions since they are the ones that have been "Called by God ". It is entirely unsustainable for them personally or for us as a movement to rely on one small percentage of our movement. As a result of this we have ended up with under-active Soldiers and over-active Officers.
So what's a possible solution?
A colleague of mine, Major Dr Dean Smith, preached recently on the topic "How do I know God's will for my life?” During what was an outstanding sermon he provided what I think is a different way to conceive of the relationship between Soldiership and Officership. He suggested this;
"We should assume that all Soldiers should be Officers unless they are called to something else."
In this way the calling to officership is viewed as a function of Soldiership not as something added on top of it. Officership, in this understanding of it, is not a status acquired over and above Soldiership, but a specialised form of Soldiership. The “call to Officership” is not an "add-on" for some Christians but a function of the one calling that all Christians share in. This is the calling of Isaiah 43:1 "I have called you by name; you are mine." The calling of some Christians will express itself functionally through Soldiership within The Salvation Army. The calling of some of these Soldiers will also express itself functionally through Officership within The Salvation Army. Indeed some Officers will later function in other specialised ways; teachers, drug and alcohol specialists, business administrators, divisional and territorial leaders. Of course, that does not mean that those who are not Officers are not called at all. Rather, the complete opposite is true. We must assume that all Christians are called but that the calling will functions within different, but no less important, frameworks; be that as school teachers, bakers or candlestick makers... or, indeed, Officers within The Salvation Army.
So, again, we return to the original question "What Is a Salvation Army Officer?" I've come to the conclusion that any answer to this question must be expressed in terms that intrinsically link it to Soldiership. Personally, I'm drawn to the phrase "Strategic Soldiership" for this purpose. This, for me, inseparably links Officership to Soldiership. Officers are, first and foremost, Christians, secondly Soldiers, and thirdly Officers.
If we relate this further to the mission of The Salvation Army we have to be honest and admit that entering into Officership actually requires a candidate to take a step backwards from the mission front. This is not to say that Officers are not involved in the mission, but rather that they have taken on a new strategic role. Importantly, they remain Soldiers themselves but take on the responsibility of leading other Soldiers in the mission. The reality is, though, that Officers are not primarily on the "front line"... Soldiers are.
This strategic role is very important. This is a very necessary task. We need people to be Officers within The Salvation Army. What we don't need, however, are Officers who “think of themselves more highly than they ought” (Romans 12:3). Officers must not see themselves as somehow better, or more important than Soldiers because they are called and Soldiers are not. Soldiers are at the front line of Salvation Army mission. Officers are called to “Strategic Soldiership”, which necessarily remains one step back from that front line. The front line of Salvation Army mission will take place where soldiers engage in vocations in the world; as butchers, writers, child-care workers, doctors, businesspeople, cleaners, and a hundred other possibilities. This calling is, though, the same calling that all Christians share, including the calling that Officers have received. The calling is to God's mission field - for everyone; Officers, Soldiers, Adherents, and all Christians alike. Officers have a strategic role to play in encouraging, supporting and equipping Soldiers to carry out the mission of The Salvation Army wherever they are.
Every now and then I read your blog, and I realise I should do it more often because you always have something relevant, thoughtful and meaningful to say. Thank you for your thoughts here. As someone who used to be an officer, who 'used to be called for a lifetime of ministry' but is now a soldier called for a lifetime of ministry, I want to thank you for the liberating thoughts that you have presented. I have wondered at times what my 'call to lifetime service as an officer' must have meant if I now no longer feel compelled to be an officer. Has it been rescinded? Certainly not! I convenanted with God to 'love an serve him supremely all my days'. My covenant was not with an organistaion, it was with God himself. I give my time, talents, money, my energy, my whole being in my service in my current ministry, and feel that God has certainly placed me here, and has called me to a specific ministry.
I love the notion of a 'strategic soldier'. A soldier who has a particular mandate, a specialty, an area of service that fits with the personality, talents and resources that God have provided, and that fits with the life circumstances that the soldier finds themself in.
The last thing I would want to do is downgrade the meaningful life-changing commitment that officers make when they choose to work 'full time'. Many give up so much for this to happen, and make many sacrifices along the way. But so do many of us soldiers.
There are many people whose life circumstances mean that they are not able to engage in ministries or services that are tangible, or measurable. But there are people out there - single mums giving their life to raise their kids in a way that is God-glorifying; people with long-term illnesses that are giving their life to God in the way they remain faithful to him despite their difficulty and pain; people in financial struggle who would love to be able to give more or do more, but glorify God by their complete dependence on him; people who are recovering from grief, loss, broken relationships, who are honouring God as they find their way through their circumstances. All these people, and so many more in a variety of life circumstances, are also being 'strategic soldiers' as they live for God no matter what.
Thanks Adam for your thoughtful writings. I will determine to read more of them!
Thanks for a great post Adam that I think draws out some of the issues around Officership. While I agree with some of the issues you have identified (the latent gnosticism of Officership is key) however I have to disagree with your conclusions on the way forward.ReplyDelete
First and foremost I disagree with your insistence that officers are not to be primarily on the front line. I see this as a key part of the problem. I would suggest that most officers (outside of 'social' appointments) wouldn't spend significant time with a range of non-Christian people, let alone marginalised people. Any strategy divorced from the reality of the front line is going to be deficient. Perhaps examples of this are the ongoing need for THQs to come up with new evangelism strategies after the previous one hasn't seen a turn around in our conversion rates.
Perhaps a better model is that of a teaching hospital. In the medical profession, professors must do a certain amount of patient contact time & procedures to 'keep their hand in'. I have studied at a theological college where the professor of missiology is engaged in a similar type of mission environment to my own in the next suburb over. How many members of the THQ board have any experience of, let alone understand many of the concepts upon which my local mission amongst marginalised people is based?
I heard the idea of all Salvationists are called to be Officers unless specifically called to something else (the default calling if you will) postulated by Stephen Court in the Southern Territory War Cry when he was still in Australia. I didn't agree with it then and I don't agree with it now. We need to understand that we are all called and Officership exists as one calling within the myriad of missional and service opportunities.
Leading on from that, and linking with the problem of the functionality of Officership vs the separate caste nature of Officership, is the problem of low standards versus high expectations. As you have blogged previously for advancement as an Officer generally you need to be a generalist. In the Southern Territory our TC has a very high priestly understanding of Officership. Actually hearing him articulate his understanding of Officership while the Personnel Secretary at an Officership information night was the single biggest turn off regarding myself and Officership. Having said that I have long understood myself as called to something other than Officership.
If we desire 'high' priest-Officers then we must recruit and train 'high' priest-Officers. (I use high here to refer to theological position). Our training must be more academic and our aptitude standards of admission must be raised as well. It would mean separating the wheat from the chaff within the Officer corps because sadly many of our current Officers do not have the capacity to fulfil this 'high' priest-Officer role, either the vision outline by our TC or the strategic leader vision you outline.
If we desire a 'default calling' position then we must lower our intake aptitude standards, not require academic qualifications and change our understanding of the role of officers. Not all are born leaders (or gifted as leaders if you prefer) and our understanding of Officership, under a 'default calling' position must reflect that.
All of that is to not even touch on the question of 'paid ministry' and whether that is a biblical concept. Or that the renumeration package for Officers is extremely generous, with many Officers receiving a package well above what they would be able to earn in a secular role. Or the fact that our Officers, who are 'called', are remunerated well while our 'uncalled' employees (who do most if not all of the front line work) are amongst the lowest paid in their sectors.
Brilliant discussion, Adam!ReplyDelete
For the last 2 years we have given ourselves to changing our corps from officer-centered to a priesthood of all believers, which in my opinion is really quite passe (or should never have come about at all). However, it is very hard to change culture that has set in concrete over generations - only the Holy Spirit can bring about this change in His usual miraculous way!
Every single believer in Christ is "called" to be and take Jesus to the world. I therefore, cannot understand why we choose to use the word "calling" when some of us decide we want to use the vehicle of Officership to live this out, while others might choose some other way.
Totally agree with what you've said is a common view of the functions of an Officer - this is a recipe for burn-out and/or disappointment.
Thank you so much for this blog, Adam. I actually feel a weight being lifted off my shoulders just reading it!
A few weeks ago I was at a Divisional event and the usual call for officership went out. The DC asked the question, 'Perhaps there are school teachers here who are called to be officers.' My immediate thought was, 'And perhaps there are officers here who are called to be school teachers.'ReplyDelete
I think we need to rethink exactly what we mean by 'the call.' It seems to have several features.
First, it's always for a lifetime. If you told the Candidates Secretary that God was quite clear that you were only to serve for ten years, I doubt you'd get through. You might be allowed to be an Envoy, but it's quite clear that you aren't actually an officer. (And the existence of Envoys brings up a whole new question of what officership actually is. But I digress...)
Second, the call is to whatever the Army decides. You aren't called to a specific sphere of work within the Army. You can certainly request roles in keeping with what you perceive God wants you to be doing, but there are no guarantees.
Third, calls aren't always clear, and sometimes they're wrong. How many people are called to officership but aren't able to convince THQ of the fact?
Fourth, and this follows Liam's comment, only people with a certain level of education and natural ability are called. It seems that God has tightened up on who can be called over the years. Funnily enough, there was a time when God didn't call people with university education. Then Brengle came along, and God's mind was changed.
All of these features seem to have one thing in common. The Army always gets to decide the fact and the parameters of the call. If you don't meet certain guidelines you are ipso facto not called. Once the call has been confirmed, the Army is the final arbiter of what the call means.
I don't want to sound too cynical. However, I think the present system of officership comes dangerously close to asking people to put the Army in the place of God. Coupling that with descriptions of a mystical experience of 'calling' seems (unintentionally, for the most part) manipulative.
I fully agree with Adam and Karen.ReplyDelete
With regard to the concept of 'paid ministry' that was raised.... If we go right back to the Old Testament, we find that the 'priests' were to be given a set portion for their work. They were paid. In the NT, we have the concept that 'a priest should earn their wage'. This was in response to those priests who were simply sitting back, receiving their allotment, and not even doing the very basic. The concept of 'tent-maker ministry' that is popular among so many people is a very large misnomer. It rests on the understanding that the Apostle Paul was a 'tent-maker'. However, what we understand as tent-maker was different to what the passage actually says. Paul actually made 'prayer shoals' which he gave to new converts. In Hebrew, what we refer to as a 'prayer shoal' is referred to as a 'little tent' in reference to the 'tent of meeting'. Not everyone could worship God in the 'tent of meeting', so when they worshipped, they would draw their 'prayer shoal' over their face, creating a 'little tent of meeting for themselves'. Paul was actually given his allotment for his preaching by the churches he preached to (as were the rest of the disciples and early church leaders).
Officership is a functional role - yes. But we must decide what that function is first. I believe it is a teaching/leadership role. And yes, there are many on the Officer ranks who cannot accept that role - they do not have the ability. I believe over time that will change as they retire and new officers are commissioned. There is nothing wrong with a soldier being paid full time to do various work for the rest of their lives for TSA that previously was only done by officers - such as admin, rehab etc. But the role of priest is very specific within the church and does require special religious training.
It will only cease to be a 'high priest' type position if individuals practice humility. Take the view of 'descending into greatness'.
Just my views
Yours in Christ,
Former Officer - Australian East.
All Salvation Army soldiers have a role to play in their Corps. Some are called to be prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and some teachers. Some are called to be officers. Each have different functions; but we are all called to work together in that Corps setting.ReplyDelete
Graeme, I think you will find most Biblical scholars agree that Paul was a literal tent maker. In First Corinthians he is quite at pains to point out that they did not have to support his ministry, like the other apostles who visited, he supported himself. Paul's point is that he didn't owe patronage to the wealthy men of the Corinthian church and could therefore say what he liked without fear or favour. (How many officers can claim to truly speak their mind or follow what is their true calling without fear of being sacked or leaving the safety of their house, car and allowance?)ReplyDelete
If Officership is purely a teaching/leadership role then you have cut out the validity of Officer roles in social programs, Headquarters appointments or heaven forbid the Training College.
Thanks for joining in this discussion. I really appreciate. Lot's of positive and thoughtful comments here.
Liam, I would want to respond to your first comment about higher expectations by saying that I agree with you, and that in fact my "assumption" helps towards this. If we assume that everyone is called to ministry then our application process becomes about determining what ministry you are in fact called to. That is, it's no longer about determining whether or not you are called (because that's assumed), rather it's determining what functional role you will play within this church.
As a result, I would suggest that there should be a very stringent application process (whether you call this a "high" view of officership or not is another question). Certainly, we should be setting the bar high (and keeping it there!).
What about the people who don't mean the stringent application process? Are we not then saying that they are not worthy of being called for service? We get back to a two tiered Gnostic organisation.ReplyDelete
I have a young guy in my community with an intellectual disability. For him stacking shelves at the supermarket would be the perfect use of his capabilities. He is also a great influence at our weekly soccer matches and attends church every week. Unless we are able to accept someone with his skill sets into Officership then we can hardly say that all are called to it.
I totally agree with Cameron, the problem is we have placed a calling to the Salvation Army (specifically Officership) above the 'default Christian calling', which is to mission & vocation. The blue epaulets on my shoulders (when I get around to wearing my uniform)state that I am called to serve God (first)in the context in which I live out my vocation (second) through the vehicle of the Salvation Army (third).
How about this - uniform - regardless of trim - identifies calling. This calling is enacted within TSA. Uniform signifies that you are part of the priesthood of all believers - not trim on the shoulders.ReplyDelete
Red epaulets indicate someone who has done extra training to specifically teach and lead within the context of the church. Someone who has been specifically trained to deepen a person's spiritual connection with God and the spiritual realm. That is Officership. And those Officers who are social Officers, or Admin Officers etc... there is no need that those positions be filled by Officers. Why not put a soldier in those positions? Either employ them as employees or employ them under some kind of Officer conditions.
There is no difference between what I have suggested and what already exists in the soldiers epaulets. You look at soldiers, and one has 'CSM', another has 'HLS', another has the crest of a bandsmen, another has the white stripe of a songster leader etc etc etc.
And Liam - as for 'most scholars believing that Paul was an actual tent maker....' That's not true. Most scholars believe as I have outlined. Also, all Jews understand the ancient texts that way. Remember, it was written by Jews and largely read by them.
Yours in Christ,
Former Officer in Australia East
Graeme, not wanting to get into a competition but I would appreciate if you could point out to me the 'most scholars' that you refer to?ReplyDelete
I have just completed a subject on 1 Corinthians and didn't come across any of the major commentators (like Conzelmann, Fee, Dunn, O'Connor-Murphy, Hays etc.) who held that view. I tend to favour the view that Paul was a member of the tent-makers guild (voluntary association) which was his missionary 'in'. Being a tent maker would have given him face to face access with a wide range of people who would have waited whilst he did the repairs on their tents and other items.
The problem of patronage was a big issue in the Corinthian church, perhaps the major cause of divisions there, hence Paul's need to support his own ministry. His argument in 1 Cor 9:1-18 makes clear that although he had the right to support from the church in Corinth he did not make use of that right.
Liam I am glad you shared your point about the person in your community with an intellectual disability. I worked in the disability sector in Canberra for a short but eye opening 18 months before coming to college. In this time I really learned the value of people with disabilities and with this discussion of calling going on have constantly felt myself coming back to thoughts of their inclusion in our movement as valid and valued contributors to the kingdom. Is this calling we speak of inclusive, or does it breed exclusivity? Does it lead us into a form of Salvationist Gnosticism that doesn't convey the kingdom values that should be conveyed by a group of followers of Christ? These are the questions on my mind at the moment.ReplyDelete
A thought about, but not an answer to these questions involves the perception of Officership that many Salvationists hold. Perhaps over many years in collective Salvationist thought we have seen increases in the esteem Officers are held. Blame it on clericalisation, or on incorrect understanding of the function of Officers, but it has occurred. Many people hold Officers on some kind of higher plane, be it spiritually, academically or in a gamut of other ways. I think we need to be educated, yes all of us, on this priesthood of all believers we speak so much of, and affirmed in our individual callings. For some this calling involves Officership, some Soldiership, some as Adherents and some, for want of a better term, as ‘friends’ of The Salvation Army, yet all of equal importance. The beginning of this education is discussion such as the one in which we are engaging now. However the discussion mustn’t stop with a smattering of words on a blog, but rather be injected into the minds of those in leadership so that they may take action in changing the way we view calling and service in the Army.
I hope that this action and education will see friends, Adherents, Soldiers and Officers of The Salvation Army empowered, encouraged and shown that they are all important and needed contributors in winning the world for Jesus. I now go back to my initial thought, sparked by Liam, about the person with the intellectual disability. I really think that if all functions within the Salvation Army were thought to be, and actually held, in the same esteem, this person and all people could serve and feel validated and fulfil their CALLING with great satisfaction within these functions. How this education is actioned on a wide scale and whether it is even possible is another issue. Simply in regard to our ability to return from how far we have travelled towards clericalisation in our language and attitudes.
I have enjoyed Adam's thoughts and then enjoyed the discussion that follwed by all who've made comments and shared their thoughts - my brain is still processing it all. However, I do have a few comments/thoughts to share and am open to hearing from anyone.ReplyDelete
Firstly, is this conversation about 'calling' happening in other churches or is it unique to the SA?
Secondly, as a soldier in a small country corps I only ever heard 'calling' referred to as Officership. I have often wondered if I would have become an officer, if 'calling' had been referred to as any other ministry (there are some days when I really wish it had). 20 years ago, I never questioned my 'calling' and accepted it was to officership.
Thirdly, Graeme, I am not a social officer. I am an officer who has been appointed to minister within a social setting rather than a corps (field) setting. I enjoy my ministry.
Fourthly, where are the soldiers who want to do my ministry?
Fifthly, and forgive me if my wording is not quite right and therefore the meaning is obscured, if we are serious about this priesthood of all believers then let's encourage our soldiers into 'careers' within the SA and encourage them into ministry within the SA. Aged Care Plus recently awarded some scholarships. It has a lot of merit.
I shall leave it there, except to say that the topic deserves more discussion and I hope to see more of it.
Now to wait for all your responses.
some great thoughts!
1) My wife's family come from the Uniting Church and I have spent a little bit of time there. I have also studied at a Baptist theological college for 9 years alongside Baptist candidates who are exploring their calling. I haven't experienced the same level of 'pressure' as I have at any number of Salvationist events (youth councils, commissionings, etc.) or in general corps life.
2) I suspect many people who became officers before the diversity of 'ministry roles' like the 'old' lieutenantships and current envoy system would ask the same question.
I don't know how many times I have heard a cadet or officer give their testimony and say "I never thought I would be an officer" or "Looking at me growing up you would never have thought I would have the skills to be an officer". Now not to suggest that God doesn't equip those he calls but I do think sometimes we are called to serve within our skills and giftings rather than called to fill a role. Perhaps the pressure to be a 'real christian' that is inherent in the calling theology I have encountered in the Salvation Army has put too many passionate and committed round pegs into square holes.
3) I agree wholeheartedly that we need Salvationists, both officers and soldiers, serving in our social services. My wife, a soldier, has worked in a number of Army social programs using her skills and giftings as a social worker. Another soldier from my community serves as a chaplain for one of the local social programs whilst an officer who soldiers at my community is a chaplain at another. I have worked at a social program under an Officer who managed and administered the program very well. All these are valid examples of Salvationist calling.
5) Totally agree. But we also need to talk of calling to wider vocations. I work part time in a secular setting but understand my work there as an outworking of my calling. I am called first and foremost to my faith community and that has led me to my job working in the same suburb. I am also employed part time by our faith community (we're not a corps) in a leadership role. They are two sides to the same coin of my calling.
It serves me right for not commenting sooner- now there are so many rabbit holes to chase this conversation down, I'm not sure where to start...ReplyDelete
First, Adam, thanks for a thought provoking blog.
Now let's deal with the red herrings: Graeme, I have never come across the prayer shawl idea before. Everything I have read indicates that Paul was a tent maker. He seems to have chosen not to be remunerated for his ministry for ministry reasons. I note that he does not condemn others for being paid. Indeed it seems that, rather than Paul's way was the norm. The question is whether this is normative or mere descriptive.
Back got the main topic: calling. As an officer, the sense of calling I have is important to me. There have been occasions where my sense of calling has helped me through a difficult period. Leanne, I tried to reinterpret my calling as anything else - both within and outside the Army, but finally became convinced that I was called to be an officer. While it has been difficult at times, I am convinced I am doing what God wants of me. At this time I assume it will be officership for a lifetime (though I try not to look that far ahead too often), however, my first loyalty is to God, not an organization or a sense of call.
The problem with the idea of a call is that it has been used far too exclusively. It has been restricted to one form of service to God within the Army - officership. Calling is about following Christ where ever he leads. For some it is officership. For others it is social work. Others still it is volunteering in church/ social programs. However, even this is too narrow. It reflects the false dualism of the sacred and secular. "Secular" employment can also be a calling: teaching, nursing, plumbing... whatever. For that matter employment needn't be a part of calling. The emphasis on one type of calling, officership, can devalue the response of others to God's will. I have no doubt that Liam is pursuing God's call on his life right now (however much I might tease him about officership).
There has been some very interesting discussion on this topic. I believed that we are all called to some form of ministry/service. The difference is in what function we are called to within the church.ReplyDelete
I remember doing an assignment in college on whether officership was a status or a function. I think that there are some within the Army world, both officers and soldiers, who view officership as a status. As a result they feel that they are in some ways better than everyone elseand feel that their worth comes from their rank and their appointment. I remember people who were going through training when the decision was made to go back to being commissioned as Lieutenants saying that they had the 'right' to be commissioned as a captain.
My belief is that Officership is rather a function. Yes I believed that I have been called to Officership, and like Rhys my sense of calling has helped in some difficult times. I also believe that I have been called to fulfill a function of the ministry of The Salvation Army, wherever that takes me. I have been called by God to be a Christian first and formost, secondly a soldier of God, and then an Officer. I believe that in being an Officer I am fulfilling God's will for my life.
I definitely believe in the priesthood of all believers. The soldiers are the ones who remain in a Corps and have to live in the town. The Officer will move on after a certain term. The Officer should be there to offer assistance to the soldiery and to pastorally care for the Corps folk. That's not to say that the Officer shouldn't be interacting with the community and staying out of the front-line mission.
All are called to be Christians and to live out there lives in mission and ministry. I believe that mission is who we are and not what we do. This comes from our relationship with God, and as such we are all called by God.
Adam very kindly makes reference to my sermon and the following quote in itReplyDelete
"We should assume that all Soldiers should be officers unless they are called to something else."
Because someone has made reference to my words in a comment, and what I see as a real and present danger that I might be misintepreted I feel I should respond and clarify.
My comments were really meant to disrupt the "normal" interpretive framework within which the language of officership is generally used. In this normative framework officership is considered as a high calling open to a few specially called individuals. For those not priviledged in this way other "lesser" options are available - or so many believe.
Year after year I hear people speak of the call to officership as if it were a call above and beyond any other call to ministry. We in the Salvation Army have developed our own discource in regard to such matters as can be seen most clearly in the process wherby a candidate is considered for officership. Throughout the pre college and training experience candidates and cadets are challenged to have their calling tested and confirmed. I have had many conversations with officers over the years who have struggled with this mysterious "call". Some may even be concerned that they have slipped into the ranks of officership fraudulently.
Surely if we hold to the reformer's view on the priesthood of all believers then the call surely amounts to "right fit" and not something any more mysterious. If I consider I have the right gifts and talents to be an officer then is this any different to someone else identifying that they have the right gifts and talents to be a teacher or a farmer or whatever. My calling as a Salvation Army officer is no higher than anyone else's calling.
Together as the body of Christ we stand in the place of Christ to bear witness to the world of his love and grace. We, that is, not as individuals but as the corporate body of Christ, exercise a priesly function within our world mediating the grace of Christ to that world.
How I as an individual do that is shaped by my talents and gifts and so is more about fitness of purpose rather that something more mysterious. What is mysterious is that God has called the Church to stand in for him at all. That we are all called and chosen is the mystery. What I do with that calling is not mysterious at all. John Gowans recognised this when he was our Territorial Commander in Australian Eastern Territory. He did not go in for a mysterious calling. He would approach young people and say "Do you have the gifts and talents to be a Salvation Army officer"? If the answer was yes then he would encourage them to become officers. End of story. I have known officers over the years who have said the need is the call and I agree with that.
My statement "We should assume that all Soldiers should be Officers unless they are called to something else" while said somewhat tongue-in-cheek is not meant to be taken as presenting a new truth or principle for consideration. It is in fact meant to be a challenge to the logic of the "priestly" framework that sets officership over and against other ministries. Within an entirely different (priesthood of all believers) framework the idea of all being officers is at least a logical possibility if not a probability given the diversity of gifts and works that God has prepared for us to do.
Within a theological framework which recognises the priesthood of all believers officership is one possibility, one possible call among many. No more or less special. What is special is that we have all been chosen and called by God. In case anyone thinks I am down playing the role of officership I can only repond that I wish us all to see with utter wonderment the priviledge given to us all to answer the call of God to work cooperatively with him for the redemption of the world. Surely we can all respond that we indeed have a high calling.
An interesting post thankyou Adam. An officer recently mentioned being a member of the Salvation Army royal family. Clearly some still feel they are more equal than others.ReplyDelete
I am entering into the Salvation Army not for the purpose of being an officer but as a child of God being called by God to give up my material desires and serve Him. I have seven years of college, owned and managed a large company and I should say at that time in my life was self serving and not God serving. I have been told by others that I have a gift of preaching and teaching and a love for people which can only come from God. I would like, if it is God's will to preach from the pulpit, teach in the classrooms, serve the down trodden and have discovered you need to learn how to serve before you can know how to lead. Because of the strict polices of the Salvation Army which I will serve I cannot become an officer because of my age at 61 and will hold the position as a soldier. Regardless if you are an officer or soldier if you were not called by God for both positions you are impotent for Kingdom. We all are called to make disciples for God, not officers or soldiers. I have seen officers stifle creativity, ideas that would glorify the Lord, only because of the power of the rank, not the power of the Holy Spirit.ReplyDelete