On September 24th 2022 General Brian Peddle, the international leader of The Salvation Army, gave a keynote opening speech to the international leadership of The Salvation Army, at the International Conference of Leaders (ICL) in Vancouver, Canada.
A report of this speech was released by IHQ Communciations.
We, along with many salvationists, felt compelled to respond.
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The Included Statement: A Call to Live Out Our Missional
Identity as a ‘Whosoever Army’
28 September 2022: A response to comments attributed to General Brian Peddle at the International Conference of Leaders (ICL) in Vancouver, Canada, in September 20221. Written by representatives of the global Salvation Army ‘Included’ team and ‘Salvos for an Inclusive Church’ Facebook group on behalf of the many Salvationists and friends who identify as part of the LGBTIQA+ community – image-bearers and passionate followers of Jesus – and their allies.
We write respectfully not as adversaries but as allies of both The Salvation Army’s worldwide mission and the LGBTIQA+ community, with which many of us also identify. As Salvationists (officers, soldiers, adherents, attenders, employees and volunteers) and other friends (including donors/support partners) of The Salvation Army, we are deeply concerned by the General’s recent inflammatory and unhelpful comments, which follow similar remarks contained in his July 2021 “Pastoral Letter to Salvationists”. These further traumatise and marginalise those who already face significant discrimination and bullying both from within The Salvation Army and the wider community.
General Peddle, we know that your heart is for God’s Kingdom and The Salvation Army’s mission. However, your recent public comments are contributing – intentionally or unintentionally – to the exclusion, pain and marginalisation of those who are gender and sexuality diverse and their family and friends in all parts of the world.
In response to the General’s comments, we voice two significant concerns: one relational and the other ethical. We see both of these as matters of Christian justice.
Our relational concern is for gender and sexuality-diverse people, including those who are part of The Salvation Army but have suffered hurt, exclusion and despair because of the Army’s public statements and private actions. We know from research that around three in every 10 gender and sexuality-diverse people regularly engage in faith-based activities, yet almost one-third do not feel it is safe to disclose their identity to a member of their church. They are also far more likely than the general population to experience bullying, harassment, assault and other harm. For example, 64% of LGBTIQA+ people have experienced some form of abuse or violence first hand, including verbal abuse (92%), physical violence (29%) and sexual violence (17%). Only one in three were able to access the support they needed2.
Safety matters, and The Salvation Army must be a safe place for all people, whether that be for support or for belonging and participation in a faith community.
We must never lose sight that people in communities where The Salvation Army operates around the world are ostracised, abused and even killed purely because of their gender or sexual identity. The Salvation Army is a respected voice that surely has a mandate from God to call out such evil and injustice, just as we call out the evil of human trafficking and the injustice of gender inequity. We have the opportunity to courageously pave the way for physical, emotional and spiritual safety and wellbeing by widening our practices and policies of inclusion in countries where it is safe to do so. Our silence in safe places makes us complicit in the unsafe places as violence is perpetrated against others.
Connected to our pastoral concern for people is an ethical concern that as a Salvation Army we seem comfortable to hide behind an International Mission Statement that promises non-discrimination, yet in practice only extends this to social services and not to churches (corps). This makes full participation and respect impossible for those who are gender or sexuality diverse. This incongruence is hypocritical and leaves people feeling unwanted, sinful and less than whole, despite the fact that they, like all people, are created in the image of God.
We agree with the General’s invitation to “fully explore and experience what it means to become a ‘whosoever’ Army, an Army of Salvation”. This phrase comes from The Salvation Army’s sixth Article of Faith (Doctrine), which says: “We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ has by His suffering and death made atonement for the whole world so that whosever will may be saved.” In contemporary terms, “whosoever” means “everyone” – that anyone who chooses salvation and participation in the Body of Christ can experience this without barriers. This is where our roots as a movement lie, and it is what makes The Salvation Army relevant and meaningful for people seeking Jesus today.
An authentic “Whosoever Army” would be fully inclusive, affirming and equitable at all levels for people who are gender and sexuality diverse. Such an Army would do no harm, its mission force would be stronger in its rich diversity, and it would have a genuinely open door – any door and every door – to all of God’s children.
We remind Salvation Army leadership that sexuality and gender identity are not choices; they are dimensions of the diversity of humanity and proven to be genetic. It is therefore not pastorally or ethically just in the context of our Salvation Army faith community to discriminate against people by reinforcing barriers to participation on the basis of something that is now understood to be unchangeable.
Call to Authentic Dialogue and Change
The General asks Salvation Army leadership to “guide conversations to help our people serve without discrimination”. We ask for more than this. We ask for conversations that not only focus on service but also on belonging and participation within our churches (corps) and at all levels. We call for genuinely open dialogue and collaboration on a way forward to change policies that exclude and harm.
The General is reported as saying, “I confirm our position as unchanged and not under review. I note this is little comfort to those who disagree and to some who have found little grace at the Army when they have needed it most. Our ambivalence, judgements and condemnation have not pointed anyone to Jesus. It cannot be about an endorsement of, but rather a willingness to ‘walk with’.” The General is correct – our ambivalence, judgements and condemnation for gender and sexuality-diverse people have and are pointing people away from Jesus and away from The Salvation Army. Those who bravely remain too often do not experience the Army as a safe or respectful place.
General Peddle is paying lip service to the notion of “conversation” while continuing to signal that the Army’s position won’t change. This is a conversation that will not bear good fruit because it offers nothing other than the status quo. True “walking with” people involves a dialogue of listening without any other prejudice than that same bias for the vulnerable and marginalised demonstrated by Jesus. Such dialogue must be willing to move the hearts of its participants, and therefore the hands, feet and practices of The Salvation Army. Most importantly, such dialogue must include those who are gender or sexuality diverse – people who love and are loved by Jesus, who are called by God to the Army, and who desperately seek to contribute to the sustainability and strength of its mission.
In our hope for and belief in a genuinely inclusive and equitable Salvation Army we, of course, recognise that this will be a longer and more challenging journey in some parts of the world than others. However, as already stated, The Salvation Army has had courage to undertake difficult journeys in the past, and we believe God will honour our faithfulness to God’s gender and sexuality-diverse people around the world today.
Other denominations, including those with international reach, have undertaken this journey. Their experience has shown that here is nothing to fear from a move toward an inclusive, affirming approach in those places where it is a missional imperative to do so. It must not be left to (what is left of) the next generation to do that which we can, and should do now. This is not a gift any of us want to pass on.
We prayerfully call on The Salvation Army’s senior leaders – those who submit to the dynamic and compassionate guidance of the Holy Spirit’s leadership in their lives – to commit to open and inclusive dialogue that leads to changes in Salvation Army policies and practices that currently discriminate against and harm gender and sexuality-diverse people. We know this will require sacrificial courage for some more than others, and so we pledge to uphold you in prayer and stand in the gap for you.
Postscript: You Are Created in the Image of God!
Finally, as a message to those who have read the General’s comments and/or this response, and feel that you are less than whole, unwelcome or unworthy because of your sexual orientation or gender, we want to assure you that you are created in the image of God. You are exactly as you were created to be!
We want you to know that you belong in The Salvation Army, and more importantly in the Kingdom of God. We will continue to fight for you and for the welcoming inclusion, affirmation and equity of all people in God’s “Whosoever Army”.
● For contact or comment: [email protected]
● For information and resources: www.includedpage.com
● For safe community, connection and support: Facebook - Salvos For A More Inclusive Church
 From the IHQ News Report ‘Limitless God: The Best is Yet to Come’, 26/09/2022.
 Source: Snapshot of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Statistics for LGBTIQ+ People (October 2021), published by LGBTIQ+ Health Australia, and https://www.stonewall.org.uk/cy/node/24594