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The Salvation Army believes human sexuality to be a gift of God’s grace and its proper expression to be a privilege created, ordained and blessed by God (Genesis 1 & 2). The Salvation Army believes that this expression of sexuality requires self-discipline, restraint and the control of natural desires from single and married persons alike. We believe human sexuality can be properly considered only in the broader context of biblical study.
Recognising the reality of changing lifestyles and values, ongoing scientific and biological discovery, we affirm the following in terms of marriage, the family unit, singleness and homosexuality.
The Salvation Army affirms the New Testament standard of marriage, that is, the voluntary and loving union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others, this union being established by an authorised ceremony. Husbands and wives are called to a co-partnership of equality in difference.
‘Voluntary’ indicates that the parties freely choose or, in some cultures, agree to enter into the marriage. ‘For life’ indicates there can be no such thing as a trial or temporary marriage. ‘One man and one woman’ means that marriage is possible only between members of the opposite sex, and ‘to the exclusion of all others’ stresses the fidelity inherent in the marriage bond.
The Salvation Army recognises that other legal models of marriage exist in Southern Africa and we believe these to be worthy of our respect, acceptance and pastoral care. Salvationists, while highly valuing legal marriage, blessed in a Christian ceremony, are equally concerned for the stability of families not based on Biblically-informed marriage arrangements and extend the services and support of a caring Christian community to all persons in need.
By its nature, marriage rests on a relationship of love and commitment, a reflection of God’s love for the human race. The permanence of the marriage bond provides for security and the development of mutual trust, and is referred to in Scripture as a ‘one flesh’ relationship (Genesis 2:24; Ephesians 5:21-23), which Jesus affirmed: ‘What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder’ (Matthew 19:6). However, marriage is a gift of God, and a calling (to which not all are called) which needs to be worked out with energy, devotion and commitment.
The exclusive nature of marriage leaves no room for sexual infidelity. In sexual intercourse spouses express to one another profound feelings of love, mutual respect, inter-dependence and belonging. Sexual relations outside of marriage will always fall short of this. The assurance of each other’s total loyalty, among other factors, leads to the proper growth of the marriage relationship.
Jesus recognised the possibility of failure in human relationships (Mark 10:2-12; Matthew 19:3-12). Salvationists believe, however, that his attitude to those caught up in marital strife would never be anything but loving and compassionate. We believe such situations require an understanding love, not a rigid legalism, and would offer counsel and practical help to couples.
The Army permits (but does not require) its officers to officiate at a marriage ceremony for a divorced person. However, no officer is permitted to officiate at so-called same-sex marriages /unions.
The Salvation Army remains convinced that the strengthening and encouragement of the institution of marriage is vitally important to the maintenance of secure family life, and that this, in turn, is crucial to stability in society as a whole.
b) THE FAMILY
The primary social unit is the family. It is the foundation on which stability and security for each of its members is built. The family remains the basic source of nurture, of love, of economic and other life supports, of fundamental education and socialisation and of spiritual and moral development.
The Salvation Army works positively for the strengthening of family life. It asserts that, despite many societal changes, the family in which father and mother share equally in the raising of their children provides the ideal environment in which healthy, holistic development should take place.
In Southern Africa there is a growing acceptance of the term ‘family’ as being used to encompass a wide variety of arrangements, including the traditional marriage-based nuclear family, with or without children, single-parent families, child-headed households, the extended and multi-generational family, common law unions, civil unions, and same-sex unions. All of these are perceived in the South African context as providing a framework for that mutuality and community which assure stability and security for the individual.
The Salvation Army seeks to strengthen and enrich the family, to provide an extended family for those in our community who have lost or never enjoyed whole family life, and to resist those forces in society which disrupt family security and integrity.
In view of the fact that singleness is a part of every life, both before and after marriage, The Salvation Army deplores any view that regards singleness as abnormal. It is neither a sign of special blessedness nor of God’s disfavour. Chastity is a requirement of the single life yet should not be seen as a negative state but a positive one.
Various factors may cause people to become or remain single. These include, yet are not limited to, circumstance, personal preference, a sacred vocation, bereavement, and divorce.
The Salvation Army encourages both single and married people to pursue a healthy and balanced social life, affirming and celebrating ways of being human together so that mutual respect, love and trust may grow and abound in the human community.
The Salvation Army holds a positive view of human sexuality. Sexual attraction to the same sex is a matter of profound complexity, and indeed mystery. Whatever the causes may be, attempts to deny its reality or to marginalise those of a same-sex orientation have been damaging and hurtful. Similarly, there is no scriptural support for demeaning or mistreating anyone by reason of his or her sexual orientation. The Salvation Army opposes any such abuse.
While The Salvation Army does not consider same-sex orientation blameworthy in itself, we believe that Scripture forbids sexual intimacy between members of the same sex. Homosexual conduct, like heterosexual conduct, requires individual responsibility and must be guided by the light of scriptural teaching. We believe that grace is available for all persons to live a life pleasing to God.
The Salvation Army believes, therefore, that persons of a homosexual or lesbian sexual orientation are called to celibacy as a way of life. While we appreciate the sense of fidelity and commitment inherent in legal same-sex unions, there is no scriptural support for such unions as equal to, or as an alternative to, heterosexual marriage.