Drew Zahn is a WND news editor who cut his journalist teeth as a member of the award-winning staff of Leadership, Christianity Today's professional journal for church leaders. A former pastor, he is the editor of seven books, including Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, which sparked his ongoing love affair with film and his weekly WND column, "Popcorn and a (world)view."More ↓Less ↑
After WND reported that the Salvation Army’s International Social Justice Commission published a position paper accepting abortion in the cases of rape, incest or fatal deformity of the child, many members of the group scrambled to re-examine their denomination’s position.
“That statement is not the Salvation Army USA’s position on abortion,” said Jeff Stanger, development director of the Salvation Army, Indiana Division.
Stanger said the commission’s website is connected with the Army’s international headquarters and directed WND to the Salvation Army USA’s position statement instead, which, indeed, makes no exceptions in asserting the sanctity of life.
“When I read [the international group's position] I was stunned,” confirmed Major George Hood, chief communications officer for Salvation Army USA. “It appears that the International Social Justice Commission worked on a position statement through the London office that does not reflect the position we’ve taken in the U.S. on abortion.
“When I saw the language,” Hood continued, “there was smoke coming out of both my ears.”
As WND reported, the international commission’s statement asserts, “The Salvation Army believes that [abortion] can occur only when carrying the pregnancy further seriously threatens the life of the mother; or reliable diagnostic procedures have identified a foetal [sic] abnormality considered incompatible with survival for more than a very brief post natal period.”
It continues, “In addition, rape and incest are brutal acts of dominance violating women physically and emotionally. This situation represents a special case for the consideration of [abortion] as the violation may be compounded by the continuation of the pregnancy.”
The Salvation Army USA’s position statement, however, is very different.
“The Salvation Army believes in the sanctity of all human life and considers each person to be of infinite value and each life a gift from God,” the American branch’s statement asserts. “Therefore, when an unwanted pregnancy occurs, The Salvation Army advises that the situation be accepted and that the pregnancy be carried to term, and offers supportive help and assistance with planning.”
The only reference to rape or incest could be inferred from a following statement that nonetheless does not affirm abortion as an acceptable option: “The Salvation Army recognizes tragic and perplexing circumstances that require difficult decisions regarding a pregnancy. Such decisions should be made only after prayerful and thoughtful consideration, with appropriate involvement of the woman’s family and pastoral, medical and other counsel. A woman in these circumstances needs acceptance, love and compassion.”
What’s The Salvation Army going to do about it?
Officials from The Salvation Army told WND that steps are already being taken to clear up the discrepancy in the statements.
“In a way, you may have done us a favor by calling attention to it,” Stanger told WND. “We were a bit caught off guard.”
Hood told WND that though Salvation Army members in the USA were “blindsided” by the position statement, a mechanism has already been put into place to make sure the Army’s position statement is “even more tight, more anti-abortion.”
“The Salvation Army is structured around multiple territorial organizations that meet in a commissioner’s conference three times a year to coordinate policy,” Hood explained. “With operations in 122 countries, position policies tend to lean toward the culture of the area, but through the commissioner’s conference, we come to consensus on policy issues and statements.
“That body has already been contacted,” Hood said. “There will be correspondence sent objecting to this statement being released in the U.S., because it has no bearing in the U.S.”
Hood explained the next meeting is scheduled for February and the current position statement on abortion is already on the agenda.