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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Who Is Called?


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.