Friday, September 29, 2006

tough actions

25 September 2006

Your Territorial Commander’s NameTerritorial Commander

Dear Commissioner,

We received the news of Major Chick Yuill’s resignation with great sadness.

We know that we have been made aware of only one side of what is doubtless a complex matter. However we feel a strong imperative to do something in response to this situation and this is why we write to you.

Our overriding concern is that at the heart of this matter there appears to be a serious, unreconciled dispute between General Shaw Clifton and Major Chick Yuill. We believe unfinished business such as this has the capacity to do great damage to our part of Christ’s church.

How can God use us as an Army of reconciliation in an alienated and divided world if we are divided one against the other? How can we advocate that others rise above their differences in a spirit of reconciliation when we are unable to do so ourselves? We write in the hope that someone can bring our comrades together in a spirit of love and wisdom and encourage them to work through their differences.

With great deference we ask, Commissioner, would you be willing to facilitate such a dialogue?

Please be assured of our continuing prayers for yourself, the General and Commissioner Helen Clifton and Majors Chick and Margaret Yuill.

Yours sincerely
Your Name

I realize that the above letter is just a small thing, but I do believe it to be an important step in all of this. Traditionally, it would be the TC’s who would bring something of this nature to account, and so I think it’s important that we let our TC’s know that this is something we are interested in them doing, and also challenge them to do it.

Prayer is also an important step in all of this. I’ve really been challenged this week (for the millionth time) that stressing over something I haven’t taken to God is a pretty pointless move on my part. I was lying in bed this past weekend, not sleeping, when I decided to pray about all of this. My first prayers were for vindication but, within seconds of beginning, I knew God was telling me that my prayers should be for healing and restoration, not vindication. My pacifist friend Roz would say that I was growing.

Having said all of that, I will say that I’m disappointed at the amount of emails I’ve gotten over this past week by people who have pretty strong feelings on the subject but who are unwilling to post those feelings publicly, or even to send an email to those in leadership, for fear of retribution. God calls us to pray in every situation, but he often calls us to action as well and, in the case of injustice, He always calls us to action. And if Salvationists aren’t going to stand against injustice, then somebody is going to have to go through those soldiership classes with me again, because I thought that was the whole point.

I think the other thing that has really bothered me in all of this is the belief that we should keep our faults hidden. There is something very Vatican about the whole idea of trying to portray our leaders as being without sin. And there is something very naïve (not to mention unbiblical) in believing that, as long as a group of godly men “got together and prayed about it”, that they must have arrived at the right decision. The Bible is full of godly men who just flat out got it wrong and I think it’s very dangerous when we start playing the “let’s keep our faults hidden” game. That’s about the time that God usually comes along and brings a storm of humility. And maybe in a few years we’ll look back and see that that’s what He was doing here.

Debate it on message boards if you will, or speak about it quietly in dark corners, but I implore you to also act. While I believe that the internet has become a very useful tool in holding our leaders accountable (both in and outside of the church), the internet will not, in and of itself, be enough. We must also act. The first step is in encouraging our local leaders (DC’s and TC’s) to do the right thing. What would the next step be?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

tough questions

Well, it’s been so long that Phil (and maybe others) have no doubt struck me from their links list. And that’s ok. I’ve needed to take some time off and, who knows, may need a little more before it’s all through.

It’s been a tough couple of months. For those who have sent emails, thank you. You’ll be glad to know that neither my marriage, nor my ministry are in shambles. I’m also not suicidal or in financial ruins. You won’t be seeing me on the news or reading about me in any Christian publications. I’ve just managed to adopt a rather unhealthy lifestyle and a ministry schedule that has allowed for very little in the way of personal rest and devotion. I’m aware of that now and am trying to take the necessary steps to make those two things, along with marriage and fatherhood, a priority. But once you get started down that path, it’s very hard to reel it back in without disappointing or even offending people. So mostly it comes down to giving myself permission (or finding somebody else to grant me that permission) to say “no”.

So, after more than a month, what might bring me back to the world of online purging? Well, since I last vented, I managed to both walk through dog poo wearing only a pair of flip flops, and to reach into a trash can (rubbish bin) in the middle of the night only to come up with a handful of maggots. Both of these stories are absolutely true and I have not embellished in any way. In fact, I really could write entirely separate posts on both topics and easily fill a page up with my latest plans to rid the planet of big dogs, and of how I find it hard to eat now as most everything reminds me of those maggots. In fact, even as I type the word “maggot” I find myself looking around to see if they’re still on me. I think I need to go wash my hands again.

To be honest with you, I could be perfectly content to continue in silence if it were not for the event that took place last week. Chick Yuill’s resignation. Where do I start and where do I end? And do I even have the strength to engage in this discussion or to weed through the naive comments of “loyal” soldiers that may respond to this post. Or, what’s worse, do I have the strength to continue on should the spirit of fear that currently exists in our church keep people from commenting at all. I don’t know the answer to that question.

People get into ministry for all sorts of reasons. For some it’s power. For others it’s the desire (and gifting) to preach/teach. For others their personality wouldn’t allow them to be happy doing anything else than helping others. And the list goes on and on. Hopefully, for most of them, it also involves a calling.

I got into ministry for several reasons, but the longer I’m in it, and the more I get to know and understand myself and my past, the more I realize that I’m in ministry because of bullies. I look at my ministry and my passions and realize that most things I do revolve around helping people overcome bullies. It’s a personal vendetta. I admit that. When I help somebody else overcome a bully, it’s like I’m overcoming a bully myself. In fact, my rants on this very blog concerning the church are me taking on what I consider to be one of the biggest bullies in the world. And, in this case, a bully that is (I believe) actually keeping people from hearing the true message of the cross. So when I’m confronted with the current story taking place in our church, I find myself at a complete dilemma.

Now, for those of you who are not part of the Salvation Army, I apologize. I apologize because I just don’t have it in me to get into the entire story or to explain all of the ins and outs. If you’re really interested, go to google and type in Chick Yuill resign. It’s that big of a deal. But for those of you in the know, what can I say?

The spirit of fear that exists in our church right now is wrong. In fact, it’s sin. And even as I type this, I’m fearful of the repercussions. In fact, it wouldn’t shock me at all if I’m eventually contacted and asked to delete this very post. In fact, there’s my accountability. If this post is deleted, you’ll know exactly what happened here. People are afraid to say anything about this, at least publicly. And I’ve struggled with my own willingness to stick my neck out here, which is so unlike me. I’ve got a daughter now, and I’m responsible to meet (almost) her every need. But I also don’t want my daughter growing up with a father who is afraid to take a stand against sin. I’ve dealt with similar dilemmas before, but honestly, never to this extreme. I’ve never felt this much tension from both sides before.

What am I supposed to do here? The trend is to put our head down and go about our business, hoping we won’t be the next one to get singled out. Or even to believe that “blind acceptance” is the same as “being faithful”. But for all of you who believe that God ordains all church leaders, or that the decisions of praying, Godly men cannot be questioned, let me encourage you to go back and read your Bible. It is full of men, in high positions in the church, who were not put there by God. And it is even filled with men, put there by God, who went on to make ungodly and unblessed decisions. Saul comes to mind.

One of my first impressions of the Army was that it was a church full of unexplainable arrogance and spiritual pride. I believe those two things to be one of the biggest reasons our church has been in a decline for so long now. And yet here I still am, believing that God wants to do something with us.

And so, as I struggle through this, and wonder how to respond to it all, the following question is never far from my heart and mind; what would true repentance look like?