Around 28,000 people slept in a bed last night provided by the Salvation Army. More than likely, some of those people are LGBT. And according to the organization, they are welcome to take advantage of the organization’s services regardless of their gender identity and sexual orientation.
It might not seem that way as the Salvation Army has come under fire in recent years for its lengthy history of anti-LGBT political maneuvering and other incidents.
But members of the organization have been more proactive in telling their story to alter negative perceptions.
Lt. Col Ron Busroe, the Salvation Army’s national secretary for community relations and development, said the organization has been “hammered in social media by misinformation, old stories, people misspeaking including internally. That’s the interesting thing, is that we are criticized on both the left and the right.”
And while he understands they cannot please all the people all of the time, he said “When I came into this position about five years ago, I was observing social media and we were letting other people define us. For years the message was out there and no one was refuting it and then it becomes real to them.”
As Busroe makes an effort to move the organization forward and perhaps change some opinions, he said, “If we are going to be judged by anything, we will be judged by doing the right thing.”
So how does a Christian faith-based organization recover from accusations of LGBT discrimination, true or not?
It starts with “doing a better job of defining who we are as an organization. I don’t want anybody out there from any community to feel unwelcome at the Salvation Army. If people have a need, I wouldn’t want anybody to say I can’t go there because they don’t like me, I’m the wrong color, the wrong sexual orientation or I have problems they don’t want to deal with,” said Busroe, pointing to their mission statement:
“The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.”
Busroe reiterates “Our mission statement has been the same for 150 years – to meet human need without discrimination. When someone discriminates it is inconsistent with who we are as an organization.”
An LGBT statement was issued on the organization’s website in response to “false accusations” claiming that the Salvation Army discriminates against the LGBT community.
A report by the Advocate in December 2015 details – in an interview with Busroe – the ways in which the Salvation Army supports the LGBT community. Read more here.
In an effort to to properly train and educate staff members about the transgender community, for example, Busroe said the Salvation Army will participate in a workshop at the National Social Services Conference next year.
“How do we, a national organization committed to serving people, deal with this segment of society? We are trying to be more understanding,” he said, encouraging local LGBT organizations to reach out to the Salvation Army to offer guidance.
“Come in and sit down with our staff and our social workers who run our homeless shelters. We are learning what to look for and what questions we should or shouldn’t ask. We are much more sensitive to all folks who come to us.”