Friday, November 7, 2008

Banned from the Training College

I found out this week that after 5 years of guest lecturing and tutoring at our Training College I am no longer to take part in any teaching activity. I must say that I find this personally disappointing because, despite the additional time commitments involved on top of my normal appointment, I have generally found these contributions to be highly rewarding.

Before becoming an officer, I spent 10 years working in adult training so I'm comfortable in the classroom environment and enjoy the interaction with students. Teaching across 3 different subjects has helped me to get to know the cadets and it has been good to see their progress between first and second years. I hope that in this time I have been able to challenge and occasionally stretch people's theological imaginations. I have also been pleased to bring some reasonable social service experience and reflection into the College environment, which can tend to be heavily weighted towards Corps Officership. Finally, my experience of teaching has helped to sharpen my own thinking, which was particularly useful during my post-graduate studies in theology.

I can't help but feel that my own experience and qualifications have moulded a perspective which, while not unique, is perhaps rarely articulated and the chance to share that perspective has been beneficial to me - and I hope to others as well.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Jason,
Are you being banned or is it just that you are being replaced, as happens frequently in our organisation? I would be deeply disturbed if you are intentionally being silenced because of your theological view point. I cannot imagine however that this is the case since I have just been appointed as an external lecturer and my theological opinions align very closely with yours.
If this is a matter of censorship then I am truly sorry and hope that you will not become discouraged by it.
May hope guide us!
Sandy

Anonymous said...

Hi Jason,

I do not want to comment on the immediate context...

I simply want to thank you for your work for the college over these past 5 years. Your contribution has been thoughtful and challenging and has caused many students to carefully reflect upon their own understanding. It has been appreciated by many!

Your perspectives come from the gritty reality of service in some of the most difficult places combined with a mind that reflects deeply upon the theological meaning of the daily ministry you have experienced.

Our movement requires a broad and multifaceted understanding of the work of salvation and I thank you for your part in teaching others toward that end.

I am sure you will find other opportunities and I am happy to share a teaching environment with you any time.

Gregory Morgan

Anonymous said...

I am really disappointed that someone who is in such a high position within the organisation as yourself is openly critical in such a public forum.

Not many people jump the rungs as you have and you should remember your position and seek to vent your disappointment in a more mature and appropriate manner.

Remember many impressionable people read your blog and dont fully understand.

GB

JDK said...

GB - Your criticism is acknowledged and has been taken on board. I considered for a few days whether or not to post on this subject and what I would say if I did. I have wondered ever since if I crossed a line - perhaps I did. To be fair, I don't think 'jump the rungs' is called for and neither is your underestimation of my readers.

Greg - Your words are gracious as always and deeply appreciated.

Jack - Hang in there, there is still much hope!

Regards, JDK

Impressionable SAO said...

Dear GB,
I'm not sure whether I am one of those impressionable readers of Jason's blog, but could you please explain what you mean by "jumping the rungs."
Are you referring to the pathway through which Jason became a commissioned Salvation Army Officer, (ie through the SA sanctioned Lieutenancy system and not via the Training College)? If so, aren't you, in your words, using a public forum to vent your apparent disapproval of this process ordained by the General?

JDK said...

Just a quick note to all current and future commenters:

I have received a number of comments that are deteriorating into personal attacks on others. After much consideration and some discussion with people I respect, I've decided not to publish these and to retrospectively delete others. Whilst I genuinely appreciate your support, I'd rather not go down this track - let's stick to the issues.

I guess censorship works both ways - call me a hypocrite if you must ;-)

Regards, JDK

Jack said...

Fair enough with the deleted comments - I did wonder if I was going a bit too far and perhaps causing you some grief for publishing them. But in this case it's a bit hard sticking to the issue when the issue is the specific people. But I will try to be less personal in future - I like the fact that you will at least generally post my comments and reply. Many of the other Salvo bloggers either don't allow comments or are very selective as to what they publish and/or reply to.

JDK said...

Thanks Jack. Your comments were insightful but in retrospect perhaps a little more inflammatory than is helpful to our common cause (possibly incited by my own!). It can be difficult to separate issues from personalities, but I think this is a challenge that we are up to and indeed must face to retain our integrity. Please don't be discouraged from commenting in the future - I appreciate your honesty. You could always e-mail me directly if you wanted to communicate 'off the record'.

Regards, JDK

Anonymous said...

"Food for Thought"

I am a first generation salvationist and the thing that attracted me greatly to the salvaiton army was the very simple nature of the doctrines and gosple message. coming from a background where theogical debate was the norm, I was put off religion at a young age as all that I saw were adults disagreeing about their differing theological viewpoints. These differences caused many to leave the church and caused many hours to be wasted on what I now see to be empty conversations. Whilst I believe we shouldnt live in ignorance I firmly beleive that the devil tries to get us sidetracked in many different ways to take our focus from our main purpose in this world and that is saving people for the kingdom of God and if he has us endlessly debating theological issues then our focus is away from that which we have been called to do and be.

My intentions are not to criticize you for your views or your love for theological debate and differing views, I just feel concerned as I see the Salvation Army going down the same track as the church I grew up in and that would be a terrible shame.

I have since however adopted a simple belief system and I leave the rest in the hands of God becaue none of us will truly know who is right and who is wrong until we all get to heaven and I can wait until then and in the meantime I will keep my focus on Jesus and to helping to bring others into relationship with him.

Blessings

Gwendoline

Anonymous said...

Jason, if your theological point of view can stand on its own merits, then that is sufficient. Expressing personal disapointment publicy is probably almost always a bad move.

Given that your blogging is backed by real experience that is filtered through your well-reasoned and thoughtful presentation, I don't think you'll be in the "bad books" for too long (if, indeed, you are really in such a place).

Harsh words are an opportunity to be seized for character development. It's taken me many years, but I now see more value in negative commentary than positive re-inforcement.

To welcome harshness but only give kindness may be the only real lesson there is.

JDK said...

Thanks Anon - wise words indeed. A lesson I'm continually relearning...

Gwendoline - I appreciate your comment and point of view. I am also a first generation Salvationist and have travelled a journey from atheism to fundamentalism to liberalism and now find myself looking for a fourth path. This blog records that search and hopefully may be of assistance to others in a similar position. I have no love for theological debate but I do find that theological reflection on my experience can be a pathway to growth.

Regards, JDK

Cameron Horsburgh said...

The Army's a funny thing. I had two great Training Principals---one was (comparatively) quite liberal, and the other was more conservative. I probably flourished more under the former, and his approach to the Scripture (and faith in general) was very influential on my belief and praxis ever since.

Yet I still learnt a lot from the second Principal, whom I still respect greatly. I'm a better person for having sat under each of them, even though they were poles apart theologically.

I like the fact that the Army is far broader a church than it purports to be. Yet many within its ranks don't see that, and, well, you know as well as I do what can happen when that fact is missed.

Having said all that, please keep blogging. I appreciate what you have to say, and it's great to read the thoughts of someone who seems to have sorted out the tension between praxis and doctrine so well. The pendulum will swing, and your willingness to push the boundaries intellectually will come back into vogue.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jase,

I liked what Cameron had to say and I was fortunate to have three training principles whilst I was in college. My only comment would be to say that, if I as holder of a progressive/liberal theology understand the idea of hell or salvation differently to my more fundamental conservative colleges, then no matter how loving or compassionate I am, they can say what they like about me and how I should leave the Army, or that I am lost to God and couldn't possibly be a Christian, or that I am a heretic - they can even be so arrogant as to condemn me to hell itself. The problem, as I see it, is that Leadership (as I think you alluded to) won't acknowledge this theological diversity as positive, normal or even allowable, and so no matter how well I love and care for those who are hungry, poor, naked, imprisoned, etc. my integrity as an officer is always under attack or questionable in some way. Officership is hard enough as is without the added pressure of having to watch your back all the time and feeling that in some way you are not acting with integrity.

Just as a little extra, I have been a part of the SA since I was a dot (over 40 years). I love the Army's mission, however it does get distressing when we have leaders who use their power to stifle diversity. If conservative fundamentalism is the only correct way, then God is big enough to prove that to the world, the only problem I have, is that Jesus spent more time challenging the behaviour of the Pharisees (conservative/fundamental/exclusive leadership) than he did others who were progressive and inclusive (woman at the well, Roman soldiers, tax collectors, adulterers etc.)
Sorry but at this point I still don't feel safe enough to reveal my identity.
Shalom

Jack said...

From conversations I have with a few officers regarding my own doubts about my faith, I have been somewhat surprised at how far from fundamentalism they are in private conversation. However I think they believe that they must outwardly support the Army doctrines in full, but inwardly there is much that they do not completely believe or agree with.

How much influence do the training college staff ultimately have in the theological outlook of cadets after their two years? Do we have have a few years of liberals coming out of there, followed by a few years of fundamentalists, all dependent on the dominant position within the college at any given time? I would observe that at the moment there are many young fundamentalists already in or about to enter training college - are they being drawn in because of the leadership in place at present, and if college was seen as a far more liberal place would a very different group of people be going there?

JDK said...

If I were to have a final say on this topic, it would be this: I doubt anyone ever changed their theology radically because they heard one of my lectures. I think our best theology comes from reflection on praxis - if I'm right then it should be practical placements that have the biggest impact upon learning. The difficulty can be that we might not take the opportunity for such reflection or be exposed to a theological framework that can comfortably encompass our experience. This is a challenge that remains before all of us - not just cadets, not even just officers!

The good news for liberals in hiding is that the Army is actually far bigger and more flexible than the fundamentalists would have you believe. Don't let them bluff you into keeping silent.

Thanks again for your support.

Regards, JDK

John Duthie said...

Hi, commissioning was held a few weeks ago in Melbourne, and it was a great time to send off the newly appointed officers. I wish them all the best in their calling. I was a little concerned with some comments on the weekend from various Salvation Army officers, and their opinions are probably not the same as other officers, however I thought I would mention them here for comment. I got the clear message that the future of the army in regards to young people is 'junior soldiers' and 'corps cadets", and I come from a corps that hasn;t had these activities for a while, and its not missed, instead other activities that are contemporary in their approach are working successfully. I hope that newly appointed officers can have the freedom to do what God is calling them to do in terms of evangelism, rather than just do what the army of old did in the past, but IMHO will not work today. I also find it interesting that God is sending officers that have attempted non traditional evangelism techniques to training college next year. Hopefully next commissioning we won't hear about the future being junior soldiers nor corps cadets.