The Salvation Army is once again battling its own homophobic demons as it swiftly apologises for comments by a senior local spokesperson suggesting the Salvos’ doctrine involves death for non-celibate gay people.
The explosive comments came as Melbourne’s LGTI radio station JOY94.9FM attempted to get some background information about the Christian organisation’s views about gay people, following last week’s questioning of its homophobic history.
Radio hosts Serena Ryan and Pete Dillon were aghast when Major Andrew Craibe – the Salvation Army’s Territorial Media Relations Director for the Southern Territory in Victoria – confirmed that the Salvos agree with New Testament scripture suggesting homosexual acts should be punished with death.
From Romans 1:18-32: “Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error… They know God’s decree, that those who practise such things deserve to die – yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practise them.”
“Well, that’s a part of our belief system,” admitted Craibe when Ryan questioned him about it in a live broadcast on Friday. “You know, we have an alignment to the Scriptures, but that’s our belief.”
He added: “That is part of our Christian doctrine.”
Shouldn’t it be more about love, suggested Ryan? “Well, the love that we would show is about that: consideration for all human beings to come to know salvation,” replied Craibe. Or die? “Well, yes.”
After the interview, Ryan said she ‘felt a bit sick’. “I’m walking away from this feeling terribly sad, because we painted a really clear picture of what their dogma is, and I feel there is no salvation in the Salvation Army if you are of a homosexual persuasion,” she said. “I feel it’s a double standard to ask for money when in fact you fundamentally reject the existence of a good portion of the human race.”
The full audio of the interview is available to hear below.
As word of this interview spreads and further fuels calls for a boycott of the charity, the Salvation Army yesterday issued an apology and clarification in a ‘question and answer’ form.
Signed by Major Bruce Harmer, the Salvos’ Communications and Public Relations Secretary for the states of NSW, ACT and QLD, the response is shown in full below.
Do Salvation Army full members believe, as per the Salvationist Handbook of Doctrine, that practising homosexuals should be put to death? Why, or why not?
Salvation Army members do not believe, and would never endorse, a view that homosexual activity should result in any form of physical punishment. The Salvationist Handbook of Doctrine does not state that practising homosexuals should be put to death and, in fact, urges all Salvationists to act with acceptance, love and respect to all people.
The Salvation Army teaches that every person is of infinite value, and each life a gift from God to be cherished, nurtured and preserved.
Why include in your handbook the Romans text from The Bible, which indicates that God insists that homosexuals deserve to die?
This is a misunderstanding of the text referred to. The Scripture in question, viewed in its broader context, is not referring to physical death, nor is it specifically targeted at homosexual behaviour. The author is arguing that no human being is without sin, all sin leads to spiritual death (separation from God), and all people therefore need a Saviour.
Isn’t this inherently anti-Christian, to believe people should be put to death?
The Salvation Army Australia Eastern Territory acknowledges that the response in the interview has led to a serious misunderstanding of our teaching and that clarification should have been given during the interview.
The Salvation Army believes in the sanctity of all human life and believes it would be inconsistent with Christian teaching to call for anyone to be put to death. We consider every person to be of infinite value, and each life a gift from God to be cherished, nurtured and preserved.
Do you feel you owe an apology or explanation to all those gay and Lesbian volunteers and people your organisation supports?
The Salvation Army sincerely apologises to all members of the GLBT community and to all our clients, employees, volunteers and those who are part of our faith communities for the offence caused by this miscommunication.
The Salvation Army encompasses a diverse community with a wide range of opinions on human sexuality and other subjects.
The leadership of The Salvation Army in the Australia Eastern Territory continues to reflect on Christian and Biblical tradition, and especially on the themes of justice and mercy, to further deepen the understandings of our own members and build a more healthy relationship with the GLBT community.
We pledge to continue to offer services to all Australians and to treat each person with dignity, respect and non-discrimination.