Major Andrew Craibe, The Salvation Army’s Territorial Media Relations Director for the Southern Territory in Victoria Australia, went on an Australian radio show recently to push back against a boycott movement. Instead, he likely galvanized it.
Darren Hayes, former lead singer of the Australian pop group Savage Garden, is openly gay. He’s also deeply offended by what he sees as The Salvation Army’s anti-gay beliefs and opposition to gay marriage. He’s channeled his anger into a boycott movement to encourage people not to give to The Salvation Army and, instead, give to more accepting organizations working in the community.
As the boycott movement garnered publicity, Major Craibe appeared on Serena Ryan and Pete Dillon’s radio show, Salt and Pepper, to discuss The Salvation Army’s official position on homosexuality and whether it’s evolved over time. Ryan and Dillon are openly members of the LGBT community.
Unfortunately for The Salvation Army, Major Craibe was woefully unprepared for the interview. Here’s one brief exchange:
Ryan: According to The Salvation Army, [gay people] deserve death. How do you respond to that, as part of your doctrine?
Craibe: Well, that’s a part of our belief system.
Ryan: So we should die?
Craibe: You know, we have an alignment to the Scriptures, but that’s our belief.
Ryan: Wow. So we should die.”
You can listen to the full interview and read the take that The Atlantic took on the story by going HERE.
Recognizing that Craibe blew it big time, The Salvation Army in the Australian Eastern Territory issued a statement, an unbelievably awkward one to have to issue, assuring the public that the organization does not believe that members of the LGBT community should be put to death:
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.”
The official statement included the following apology:
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.”
Within days of the radio interview, the controversy it created found its way to the United States. On June 25, The Salvation Army USA issued the following statement:
The Salvation Army in the United States fully and emphatically rejects the statements made by the media director of The Salvation Army Australia Southern Territory regarding the LGBT community. The Salvation Army opposes any discrimination, marginalization or persecution of any person. There is no scriptural support for demeaning or mistreating anyone for any reason including his or her sexual orientation. We stand firmly upon our mission to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.
The Salvation Army in Australia has also rejected the opinions stated and provided additional information which you can view here.
We deeply apologize for the hurt that these statements have caused.”
While The Salvation Army USA’s statement strikes all the right notes, it did not quite sync with the follow-up statement coming out of Australia. The Australian statement also said that “all sin leads to spiritual death (separation from God).” This was in the context of explaining the inclusion in the organization’s handbook of text from Romans 1:18-32. The passage from Romans outlines a number of sinful behaviors, including homosexuality, and states, “Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death…”
Ok. I thought I understood The Salvation Army’s position: Members of the LGBT community should not be put to death. However, they are spiritually dead until they repent and seek forgiveness for their sins.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t convinced that that was so much better than the position that Craibe originally shared. And, I wasn’t sure where The Salvation Army USA stood on that fine point. So, I asked.