Salvation Army apologises for 1986 anti-reform campaign

by • May 21, 2012 • Features, Home Page, Home Page Slider, PeopleComments (10)422

The Salvation Army and Rainbow Wellington have reached a rapprochement 26 years after The Salvation Army had a hand in the (ultimately unsuccessful) to homosexual law reform.

The Salvation Army has been known to many in the GLBT community as the group that gave the anti-reform campaign legs by asking New Zealanders to sign a  petition against reform.

The Salvation Army and GLBT advocacy and lobby group Rainbow Wellington have met to discuss a coming together of the two group, and both sides agreed to release a joint statement as a sign of solidarity.

Tony Simpson, chair of Rainbow Wellington says, “This initially arose because our board was discussing the role of The Salvation Army in the context of the 25th anniversary of the 1986 decriminalisation of homosexual acts.

“Someone asked the obvious but rarely raised question – ‘What was the Army’s view of this issue at the end of the first decade of the 21st century? And more particularly, how had that view developed over the succeeding two decades and a half?’

“A great deal has changed in our society over the same period, including the enactment of the Human Rights and Civil Union Acts. So we made contact with the Army and asked them for their views – not, I must say, without considerable discussion and some misgivings. We were therefore greatly encouraged to receive a highly positive response which initiated further discussions.”

As a result, both bodies have been able to arrive at statements which they can endorse.

Both organisations agree it is important to build on what the groups share, rather than fixating on past disagreements. The pursuit of social justice for all New Zealanders has long been central to the concerns of The Salvation Army, and both the Salvation Army and Rainbow Wellington endorse the proposition that tolerant and free communities are much more likely to be the product of a just society.

Rainbow Wellington’s statement
Rainbow Wellington’s statement acknowledges the “anger and frustration” felt by those who saw the Salvation army take a public opposition to proposed legislation.

Tony Simpson says, “These reactions were entirely understandable in their context, and are still keenly felt by some of those who were participants in obtaining equal treatment under the law for our community members”.

Tony also says, “Many of those in the GLBT community have come to adulthood in a world in which their human and civil rights are much more widely respected than was the situation in 1986, and to whom the events of that time are history rather than personal experience. That is not to say that they should be forgotten; on the contrary it is important that we should all be aware of or recall a time when we were a persecuted minority.

“Nor is this a matter of forgiveness. Some of our members and friends, we are sure, will continue, as is their right, to feel strongly about the events of those years. But we have further battles before us before we are acknowledged as equals in our society with full equality of rights, and in those battles we need friends and allies as we have needed them in the past. The time has come, therefore, to look forward rather than backwards, and to move on.”

The Salvation Army’s statement

The Salvation Army says it “remembers with sorrow the time leading up to the passing of the Homosexual Law Reform Bill”. The organisation says it was a time “when judgemental and prejudiced words were spoken on both sides of the debate”.

The Army’s Major Campbell Roberts says, “Although The Salvation Army did not initiate the petition opposing law change in 1986, a few senior Salvation Army leaders did offer the Army’s assistance in coordinating the petition. In doing so they identified the total movement of The Salvation Army in New Zealand with this action.

“While some Salvationists were clearly opposed to the law change, others were uncomfortable, to varying degrees, with the Army’s stated position and took no part in its public campaign. A small group initiated a counter-petition to the one officially sanctioned by the organisation. Regardless of where they placed themselves on the issues involved, many Salvationists were deeply opposed to, and embarrassed by, the intemperate manner in which views were expressed during the debate.

“Since the events of law reform in 1986 The Salvation Army has reflected deeply on its actions and the hurtful way some members publicly expressed their view on this legislative change. We now understand that The Salvation Army’s official opposition to the Reform Bill was deeply hurtful to many, and are distressed that ill-feeling still troubles our relationship with some members of the glbti community.

“Then, as now, The Salvation Army encompasses a diverse community with a wide range of opinions on this and other subjects. The leadership of The Salvation Army continue to reflect on Christian and biblical tradition, and especially on the themes of justice and mercy, in an effort to further deepen the understandings of our own members and build a more healthy relationship with the GLBT community.

“We regret and apologise for any hurt that may remain from that turbulent time, and our present hope is to rebuild bridges of understanding and dialogue between our movement and the glbti community.  We may not agree in the future on all issues, but we can respect and care for one another despite this.”



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10 Responses to Salvation Army apologises for 1986 anti-reform campaign

  1. Jacquie Grant says:

    I can never forgive them and all I can read in this story is weasel words on both sides.

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    • Robin Hood says:

      The Salvation Army should not have apologised. Please be assured the majority of SA members support what we did in the 80′s, a shame our leadership have gone soft!

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  2. Bill Logan says:

    ‎”Prejudiced words were spoken on both sides in the debate” says the Salvation Army. But it is NOT that simple. The prejudice words spoken by the Salvation Army KILLED our people.

    They might make a START by publicly honouring any of its members who fought against its leaders’ murderous bigotry in 1985-86.

    And Rainbow Wellington would be wise to refrain from a statement such as this without wide consultation. Through this statement it becomes clear that Rainbow Labour represents very little.

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  3. Gabriel says:

    Please excuse the use of a nom-de-plume

    As a gay man who has in the past been an officer of The Salvation Army, though not in New Zealand, I am still unconvinced by this “apology”. The official view of The Salvation Army on homosexuality is in line with the conservative evangelical movement i.e. you can be gay but you must be celibate.

    I believe that The Salvation Army will be a little more discreet in their opposition to gay marriage but opposed they will be.

    I know Jacquie and many others cannot forgive the Army for its stance and that is understandable. There were the heroic members of the Army who did stand up and oppose the official view which is something that is not done lightly given the consequences in many cases.

    Can the queer community work with the sallies in future. I guess that is the basis for the statements. The Salvation Army social work practices are founded very strongly in the Victorian era where the founder spoke of “soup, soap and salvation”. Whether it is wrapped up in words like social justice and addressing the underlying cause of poverty, the belief is the same. To be raised from poverty you deal with the outward symptoms but the aim is to change a person from inside i.e. through salvation of the soul.

    However one looks at it, the basic beliefs have not changed, just how they are expressed. The commitment to diversity goes only so far. I am saddened that like so many other conservative evangelical churches, the Army has not been prepared to examine the scriptural origins of the very few texts which purportedly oppose homosexuality.

    This apology and rapprochement with Rainbow Wellington will do nothing to change the underlying culture of the Army.

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  4. Stuart Baanstra says:

    Rainbow Wellington has lost its colours and may well need salvation after its unholy alliance.

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  5. The Sen.Pastor of OMCSydney, Rev.Shane Andersen, decided to attend the Sunday morning service of the Parramatta Salvation Army,Sunday 4th December 2011. Because of his Salvation Army upbringing, as a young child attending the Bath Citadel in Somerset England, before moving to Australia in 1959.

    He then through his teens, went to the Nundah (Brisbane) Salvation Army corps for many years, and prior to doing some of his SA Officer Training as a Cadet, at the the Fortitude Valley corps, and before ‘coming out’ as a Gay individual, to his Divisional Commander, at the Brisbane Salvation Army Head Quarters. You can read about this in his free PDF Booklet “My Life In Stages – my spiritual journey as a Gay Christian”.

    Anyway, Pastor Shane mentioned that he enjoyed the service in Parramatta, until, at the end when he introduced himself to the Salvation Army Corps Officer. The officer (Minister) said, “Oh, I believe I have heard of you”. Then when Shane held out his hand to shake officers hand, that officer held his hand behind his back so as not to shake the hand of a known ‘Gay Pastor’.

    This response didn’t surprise Shane, but reminded him of what happened the previous year when Shane visited the Salvation Army in Wellington, New Zealand, when he met the NZ Divisional Commander, and a similar response was forth coming. In fact at that time, the Salvation Army Commander greete Pastor Shane with a smile, shook his hand, and said “What church are you from?” when Shane told him, the commanders face changed instantly from a welcoming smile to a fast drop of his jaw, loosing his smile in an instant.

    Shane mentioned…”As I walked out of that Wellington Salvation Army Hall, the smile that the Divisional Commander dropped, I picked up and walked away with on my face, though also at the same time, very sad & knowing that much more work still had to be done to get the message across to that church that God loves all of God’s creation (including Black & White, Gay & Straight) even though the Salvation Army doesn’t”.

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  6. Geraint Scott says:

    What a pathetic response from the Sallies. A whole lot of excuses, ‘some of us did, others didn’t, it was just some people, some others didn’t like it’ that’s not the point! If you were really sorry, you would cut the crap and just say it straight up, without trying to qualify it with excuses. Explaining is losing.

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  7. miriam says:

    Attitudes within the Salvation Army are slowly changing, very slowly. I work for them, I go to one of their local churches, they know I’m gay and I’m accepted. However, I cannot become a ‘soldier’ and I cannot have a marriage/civil union within the Salvation Army. I love and respect the people I work with, but those exclusions still make me feel like a second-rate human being. Campbell Roberts is now retired, we’ll just have to see what the attitude and beliefs of the next spokesperson are…..

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  8. Stuart Baanstra says:

    Salies who refuse to shake hands with us need a good f..k up the b.m!

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  9. Stuart Baanstra says:

    If anyone has any lingering doubts about the Salvos, linger no more. The Australian Salvos dish it out. For more on their hate, visit “Gay News Network” and click “News”.

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