The Voice of The Salvation Army in Canada and BermudaView RSS Feed
Oct2FriIt’s time to address gender equity so that every individual can fully participate in God's mission. October 2, 2020 by Captain Kristen Jackson-Dockeray
The Salvation Army is known for its rich history of gender equity. In fact, “one of the leading principles upon which the Army is based is the right of women to have the right to an equal share with men in the work of publishing salvation to the world … [women are] eligible for any office” (Orders and Regulations for Officers, 1895). We continue to espouse an egalitarian theology, and yet, the challenge of consistently acting in accordance with our history and proclaimed theology is increasingly evident.
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The importance of exploring gender equity can be highlighted by the inequitable appointment of women to senior leadership roles, particularly the lack of married women officers in positions classified as reserved appointments (such as divisional commander). Throughout my time in The Salvation Army, I have heard both men and women officers lament our lived organizational reality of inequality for women officers.
Clearly, I was not the only one hearing from men and women about the experience of gender inequality in the Army. A few months ago, I received a phone call from our territorial leaders, Commissioners Floyd and Tracey Tidd, giving me the opportunity to further explore the experience of gender within The Salvation Army as a gender equity advocate.
“It is time to work together to identify and address systemic issues, so that every individual can develop to their fullest potential and serve to their greatest impact, regardless of gender,” as Commissioner Tracey wrote when announcing the creation of this new appointment.
This role will seek to ensure that the leading principle of equality, which is foundational to our history, is realized in Canada and Bermuda. Specifically, the advocate for gender equity will ensure that all people, regardless of gender, are given the opportunity to fully participate in the mission to which God is calling us, both individually and corporately.
Women of Influence
My priority in these first weeks is to listen with both intentionality and curiosity. It is my goal to hear from many different voices, including leaders and those who are serving on the front line, those with the lived experience of working within our organization and those who have been thinking about gender equity for a long time. If you are reading this, and you have a story to share (hint: you definitely have a story to share), I would love to speak with you.
This is a new position for The Salvation Army in our territory. It is a needed position; one I am passionate about and was unknowingly being prepared for by God. The most important preparation I have had for this role are the many women who influenced me as I grew up and began my leadership journey within The Salvation Army. Women who have loved me well, who have discipled me intentionally, who have celebrated with me and who are dreamers of incredible dreams.
Can you imagine this world-changing, powerful, God-sized vision with me?
God has prepared me by surrounding me with people who have spoken into this journey in my life, and he has given me a vision of what a future of flourishing for The Salvation Army might look like. This vision can be found in our beginning, not just in the history of our denomination, but in the beginning of the story of humanity. In Genesis 1:27, we learn that we were created in the image of God, both male and female. This is the hope of God. A radical hope that confronts the apathy and despair of our culture—both the culture of the world and the culture of the church. It is here, in Genesis, where we are reminded that women are not above or below men in any realm or position, but beside them. All are equal because God created us that way and because of our relationship with Christ.
The Salvation Army must live this theology and reflect its truth. The Genesis narrative is an energizing vision of hope and possibility, where every officer, soldier and member is invited to take their place in the mission to which God is calling them. It is here that every person takes responsibility for gender equity as they experience the transformational power of the Spirit of God in their thinking.
I imagine entirely new ways of being God’s people, of men and women using their God-given gifts to share the love of Jesus, meet human needs and be a transforming influence in their communities. In this vision, The Salvation Army returns to its rootedness in gender equity, in which both men and women are utilized in the advancement of the kingdom of God.
Our territorial leaders embrace this vision. “I want to see every individual developed to their fullest potential and to provide avenues of service to maximize the mission,” says Commissioner Tracey Tidd.
I see The Salvation Army claiming its place in the big story of redemption, reconciliation and renewal that God is knitting together. Can you imagine this world-changing, powerful, God-sized vision with me? I really hope you can see it. If you can’t see it yet, that’s OK. But I invite you to pray against the temptation of despair and hopelessness and pray for a new vision from the God who is able to do more than we could ever dream, ask or imagine.
Because this hope becoming reality is my expectation.
Captain Kristen Jackson-Dockeray is the advocate for gender equity in the Canada and Bermuda Territory.