I'm always amazed at how few people know that the Salvation Army is a denomination. People always think of it as a charity, which it is. But it's also a denomination. Internally organized like a military service, the church has a reputation for serving the poor and destitute. And there's the red kettle bell-ringing campaign that is ubiquitous around this time of year. Well, there's a story coming out of Oshkosh about an internal matter with the Salvation Army. The Associated Press had a brief report and the Oshkosh Northwestern had a lengthier one:
Capt. Johnny Harsh, who has led the Oshkosh Salvation Army for more than three years, has been suspended for disobeying orders and could soon be terminated from the agency.
Harsh, whose wife, Capt. Yalanda "Yoley" Harsh, died unexpectedly in June, said he violated a Salvation Army rule that an officer in the agency may only marry another officer of the organization. Harsh is engaged to a woman who is not affiliated with the Salvation Army. He said they plan to marry in June.
The suspension and likely termination did not come as a surprise to Harsh, who along with his wife, came to Oshkosh in June of 2005 to take over the reigns of the local Salvation Army.
"I knew the rule and that this was coming and that I would be let go," he said Wednesday. "But for the Salvation Army to let me go because I will marry outside of the (Salvation) Army, I think is wrong. I pray that people will write letters and call the Salvation Army to change this ruling. It wouldn't be for my benefit, but for future officers."
There's a lot of detail in the story but nowhere do we learn why the Salvation Army has the rule, why Harsh feels the rule is wrong, or even any details about the rule or the fiancee's religious affiliation.
At least the Oshkosh Northwestern has some details that other media outlets have conveniently left out:
Harsh, a spiritual leader for the Oshkosh Salvation Army located on Algoma Boulevard, said another factor that could hasten his dismissal from the agency is warning letters he received from agency officials informing him that his fiancee could not stay at his residence. Harsh said the Salvation Army provides some of his housing expenses.
"I was told she was to stay in a hotel, but she stayed in the guest room in the house. I told them (Salvation Army officials) as long as I live in that house I can have anyone there that I want. In my 14 years with the Salvation Army my wife, Yoley, and I had prostitutes, drug users, homeless people and abused women and their children stay at our house," he said. "However, I signed a covenant to obey my Salvation Army leaders and I have failed to obey my leaders."
This FOX News story, while not mentioning that Harsh has allowed his fiancee to stay at his house, did at least get some quotes from him about why he's pushing the other issue over which he might lose his position:
"[The rules] are not scriptural. They are man-made," Harsh said. "God could care less about the uniform or a position. I am doing this so future officers don't have to go through what I went through."
Perhaps with a bit more reporting, someone can get the full story with all of the information readers could use.