Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Something to Discuss

Major Willis Howell, president/principal of The Salvation Army's Evangeline Booth College (which includes the USA southern territory's officer training college), wrote an interesting article in the latest edition of Journal of Aggressive Christianity. The following excerpts capture his essential point quite well:
As it was in Samuel’s day, there is a growing rumble of dissatisfaction in some Army circles. A subtle shift seems to be taking place. In a way rather reminiscent of the Israelites’ “give-us-a-king” cry of 1 Samuel, some Salvationists want to cast off what makes us distinct in order to adopt more of the style, methods, and “look” of the churches around them....

And to my Salvationist brothers and sisters who may be trying to move the Army in directions of liturgy, greater formality, a more “stained glass” setting, communion, more relaxed standards, or a mega-church mentality, may I lovingly set this idea on the table…? Could it be that the Army just might not be right for you? Please understand I’m not criticizing or condemning! I know full well that we aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. Truth is we’re really more of an “acquired taste.” I’m simply suggesting that perhaps we work together to help find you some church or ministry – complete with the elements, practices, “look,” and “feel” you’re wanting – where you’ll be more comfortable, and not as frustrated....

What say ye? I know what I think, but I'd like to hear from some (lots?) of you before saying anything else.


Dave said...

I have enjoyed Army Corps with more liturgical structure and elements, with multiple prayers (each set with a different purpose) and readings. I am an advocate for doing communion and for the recognition of Jr and Sr enrollments as being theologically the same as what is being said theologically within Methodist baptism services. Major Willis reflects the views of the current TC and General that the Army is not a church but an evangelistic movement, a quassi-parachurch movement.

The problem with such a view is is that parachurch movements support the church. and do not have their own membership that stands apart from the church, and they do not ordain their own clergy.

Instead of making room for diversity of expression there is a move damper diversity. The "go elsewhere message" is being heard by a growing number of people who desire more from the Army's worship services, thoughtful and well presented sermons, and greater liturgical structure....and they are going elsewhere.

Barbara said...

I agree in part with what he says. I agree that no denomination is going to suit every person. That's why there are so many different styles and denominations. I agree with him in that if you want the mega-church, penticostal style, then there's a Church out there for you.

However, I do think that the Salvation Army needs to bend and change with the times. We can't just cater to the older generation of the membership who have their "old Army ways". If you do that, then in 20 years, there will be no one left. It is possible to meet the needs of all the different generations.

In the Toronto area there are some more traditional corps and some contemperary corps. I listen to the traditionalists complain about the contemperaries. I don't understand that. I also don't understand the other way around, nor do I understand why there are officers who would be more than happy to see the traditional army things, like banding, and uniforms, end. We are still the Salvation Army afterall.

Stephen said...

Same old, same old! This is the official position and view point of the top Army personnel. It's a reaction to those who would dismantle anything that makes the Army unique in form and structure. I struggle with those want the Army to look and smell like the church down the road.
I do feel however one of the strengths of the Army of today is the diversity of expression in worship that I have witnessed and experienced here in Canada - a diversity that should be embraced within the unique identity of the Army.
I am comfortable in my Army skin - in our uniqueness - that make us a funny duck within the body of the church.

Evie said...

I think history has shown that the Army is, indeed, an acquired taste rather than a culinary delight that is readily enjoyed by many. As such, it will always have limited appeal as a place of worship. Reasons for this limited appeal include its style (uniforms, non-liturgical services, etc.) and its theology (generally rather conservative when one considers the broad spectrum of Christian belief). These things aren't likely to change dramatically any time soon. Therefore, the Army is just going to have to get used to its small niche in the world of evangelical Christianity. One of the things that entails is that Salvationists stop whining when people either don't come to the Army at all, or leave when they discover that the Army is no longer their "cup of tea."