The Salvation Army in Australia has apologised after one of its officers appeared to suggest that gay and bisexual people deserve to die. The organisation insisted that he did not represent the views of the Salvation Army.
The apology was reportedly issued after the comments were published by Truth Wins Out, an NGO that campaigns against religious homophobia.
Salvation Army Major Andrew Craibe made the remarks in an interview for the radio show Salt and Pepper. An interviewer asked Craibe if he interpreted Romans 1:18-32 to mean that homosexuals deserve death. He is reported to have replied in the affirmative.
The passage has long been used by opponents of same-sex relationships to justify their position. Biblical scholars and many other Christians point out that it makes no mention of loving same-sex relationships and appears to be about wide issues of immorality, hypocrisy and sexual abuse.
In response to the radio interview, Major Bruce Harmer, Salvation Army Communications and Public Relations Secretary for the Eastern Territory, issued a statement saying that Craibe’s comments were a "miscommunication" that resulted in a misrepresentation of the group’s official teaching.
Harmer insisted, "The Salvation Army sincerely apologises to all members of the GLBT community and to all our clients, employees, volunteers and those who are part of our faith communities for the offence caused by this miscommunication”.
He added that the Salvation Army is committed to building "a more healthy relationship with the GLBT community”.
John Becker of Truth Wins Out welcomed the statement. He said, “The Salvation Army was wise to distance itself from Major Craibe’s disturbing remarks and apologise promptly for them”.
But he added, “However, it’s clear from Major Harmer’s statement that the group still believes ‘homosexual behaviour’ is sinful. The Salvation Army and the LGBT community cannot possibly have a healthy relationship while these offensive beliefs remain in place.”