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In 1865, William Booth initiated The Salvation Army. Mr. Booth was a wonderful Christian who sacrificially practiced his faith on the streets of London, preaching to modest congregations of pickpockets, prostitutes, gamblers and alcoholics – individuals who otherwise would not have heard of Christ’s love.
Mr. Booth led many of these outcasts to Christ and connected them to churches for continued spiritual instruction. However, many churches were not willing to accept these people into their congregations, so Mr. Booth began training the converts himself, teaching them to return to the streets of London to preach, sing and be living testimonies to the redemptive power of Christ Jesus.
In 1867, Booth had only 10 full-time workers. But within seven years, he counted 1,000 volunteers and 42 evangelists. They served under the name “The Christian Mission,” but were also known as the “Hallelujah Army.” In 1878, he officially changed the name of the organization to “The Salvation Army.”
The Salvation Army made its way to the United States by the work of Lieutenant Eliza Shirley, who held our nation’s first Salvation Army meeting in Philadelphia in 1879.
More than 130 years after its founding, while Mr. Booth’s original vision of evangelization is no longer the centerpiece of the organization, The Salvation Army continues to send Good Samaritans worldwide, helping people in 103 countries.
During the past few days, The Salvation Army has found itself in a high-profile controversy after the leadership of its Western Territory compromised organizational standards – because it lost a lucrative contract with the city of San Francisco – by authorizing benefits for “domestic partners” of employees.
In June 1998, The Salvation Army refused to comply with San Francisco’s domestic partnership law – that requires companies doing business with the city to have domestic-partner policies in place – and ended its contracts with that city. The organization subsequently lost a reported $3.5 million, as a result of refusing to abide by the city’s mandate.
In announcing the compromise on its earlier standards, Salvation Army Colonel Phillip Needham, chief secretary for the Western Conference, said the decision to acquiesce to political pressure “reflects our concern for the health of our employees and those closest to them and is made on the basis of strong ethical and moral reasoning that reflects the dramatic changes in family structure in recent years.”
In other words, the biblical standards on which the Salvation Army was founded are no longer politically expedient. Hungry for the cash, the Western Territory intended to begin offering domestic-partner benefits to employees – including homosexual employees.
However, an internal battle within the Salvation Army ensued and, within days of Colonel Needham’s decision to extend domestic-partner benefits to employees, the Salvation Army’s Commissioners’ Conference announced they were stepping in. They announced a national policy to extend health benefits only to employees’ spouses and dependent children, thereby nullifying the Western Territory plan.
Commissioner Lawrence Moretz, in a memorandum to the organization’s officers, said the Commissioners’ Conference clearly stated that its decision annuls the Western Territory’s policy.
“In rescinding this policy and in the establishment of a national policy on health-care benefit access to spouse and dependent children, we must stand united in the battle that will undoubtedly follow from those who would now challenge our biblical and traditional position,” Mr. Moretz explained. “We will not sign any government contract or any other funding contracts that contain domestic-partner benefit requirements.”
Mr. Moretz said his decision would no doubt be a costly one because the Salvation Army will have to back away from some traditional funding sources, or cut back services in some communities. But the organization’s biblical foundations were more important than its funding, he courageously stated, adding that they would “prayerfully accept the challenge to seek funding and continue our ministry that will not compromise any of our principles.”
Taking a stand
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest homosexual-rights organization, has falsely called the new ruling an “anti-gay” decision and is imploring constituents to urge The Salvation Army to change its mind. This was, of course, not an “anti-gay” decision, but a decision to maintain the Judeo-Christian values under which our nation was formed.
I want to encourage pro-family Americans everywhere to voice their thanks to The Salvation Army for preventing the adoption of a domestic-partner policy. I am convinced that we often find ourselves on the losing side of many cultural and social battles because our side is far less proactive than our adversaries. Please communicate with John Busby, The Salvation Army’s commissioner, through one of the following venues:
Commissioner John Busby
National Commander, The Salvation Army
P.O. Box 269
Alexandria, VA 22313