This is the fourth installment of a four–part interview with Commissioner Christine MacMillan, who heads up The Salvation Army’s International Social Justice Commission in New York.
GN!: How does representing the Salvation Army open doors for you?
We are just not a church or an organization or a charity that advocates because we have an office. We are a movement of God’s people all around the world, in 113 countries. We’re doing it and we’ve been doing it for decades.… For me to represent The Salvation Army is an absolute bonus. I feel so rich in this role to be able to say, “I am from The Salvation Army.”
GN!: How does this
appointment compare to others?
Well, it’s pioneering. It’s a global appointment. It’s far–reaching. It requires you to think strategically, with direction, so that the Commission is not the only body doing the work of social justice. Social justice … has to be owned by everyone. It’s as good as the willingness of Salvationists to take this up.
GN!: Beyond your office
staff in New York, how are other Salvationists helping?
Some territories actually have named Social Justice departments. Territorial commanders are in touch with me, and I’m teaching at the International College for Officers every session; there, you have right at your fingertips a classroom of world Salvationist officers.
GN!: What’s the most exciting
opportunity in this appointment?
To have a voice against human suffering and to relieve that suffering through incarnational living, is [like] Jesus walking in the soil of God’s scarred earth. What more would we want than to be involved in His mission, for His cause?
GN!: What do you see as
the greatest challenges?
Well, I think there are two challenges. One is to mobilize The Salvation Army to see that this is not a sideline, but it’s the essence of who we are because it’s who God wants us to be. It’s as important as Sunday morning worship; it’s living out our worship in the context of the world. And second, [we’re challenged] not to be overwhelmed by the darkness.… You don’t always look for results—you like to see the results—but you must be faithful to [being] a prophetic voice [even when it seems dark].
GN!: Would you say human
trafficking is the major issue?
I don’t think there’s a number one issue. When you say the words “human trafficking,” what does that talk about? It talks about poverty; it talks about abuse of women and children. [And] predisposing factors speak into that issue: profiteering, pornography.… Human trafficking speaks to all sorts of other injustices in our society as well.… It could even speak to climate change. For example, if your country was hit [by an environmental crisis] and you needed money, [you might see] human trafficking as an option. Poverty is a misuse of people. So is HIV/AIDS. There could be a new issue tomorrow.… I suggest that if we can educate ourselves on how to look at the world, the issues will arrive …
GN!: How do you walk that fine
line between getting involved in
issues and staying out of politics?
Quite frankly, The Salvation Army’s always been involved in politics. It’s bipartisan politics.… We are certainly resourced by government[s]. Very often, [we’re] the largest provider of social ministries in a country…. So it’s not that we don’t talk to politicians or use the political network to help change society. We do.
Do you know how you walk that fine line? You look at Jesus. That sounds simplistic, but you take the issue and you apply [to it] the values of who we are.… If you’re trying to please a certain expression of political life, then I think you’re going to get into trouble. But if your conviction drives you to speak out on an issue … the Army is well sorted in what it believes and how we then shall live.… We don’t have to be afraid of what other people think if that’s our conviction. It should stand.
GN!: Any other issues
you would like to address?
I think peace is an important issue for us as a commission. We think of Kenya today and we know that Salvationists are caught up in those issues, but we also know that when peace lives in a land, there’s usually a sign of justice. So how do we develop peace in our world? That’s a question we’re going to be asking around the tables of injustice.