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Myth Vs Fact - A Wake Up Call

Much history in the popular domain is a collection of myths to teach a lesson or encourage the members of a group or organisation. Yet, evidenced based history is exciting and becoming more interesting. One example of this was shown when over 100 people attended the recent Salvation Army History Symposium, conducted by The Salvation Army Historical Society, Brisbane Chapter, in July 2016. The theme of the weekend these was “History - Our wake up call?”

The Maroochydore Corps hosted the weekend of historical discussions and myth busting. Ten presenters outlined different areas of Salvation Army history to show how the movement can learn from events of the past, but also that the part must include both the positive and negative elements. The presenters were a mixture of Salvationists and non-Salvationists, academics, professional historians and people with general interest.

Through the papers a number of myths were challenged:

  • The key note address challenged the tendency for Army histories to only include positive elements of the movement.
  • The paper on early foundations of the social work of The Salvation Army challenged the myth that William Booth changed his theology when he wrote In Darkest England and The Way Out.
  • Challenging numerous myths about Commissioner William McKenzie showed how The Army could better engage with the ANZAC narrative was discussed in another paper.
  • The church’s lack of clarity on current sexual debates was challenged through the paper on The Army’s involvement with child prostitution.
  • The myth that care for the environment is a new phenomenon was challenged in the paper on the historical understanding of Salvationists towards the environment.
  • The discussion on displaced persons after World War II questioned the Salvation Army’s response to migrants in the past and present.
  • The paper on the Army’s work at Mizpah faming commune challenged the myth that a person’s individual religious experience had no impact on corporate living.
  • The discussion on the corps history book challenged the idea that this document is unimportant.
  • The evening of song challenged to idea that The Salvation Army should use all tunes.
  • The summation paper challenged many myths which are the bases of corps growth activities.

All of these papers used and referenced sources to base the discussion on facts. They all to some extent unpacked the myths and showed how dangerous it is to continue to hold and repeat these myths.

Other events surrounding the Symposium were, the launch of the book, Darkness and Deliverance; 125 Years of the In Darkest England Scheme, and the historical drive around Queensland’s beautiful Sunshine Coast, which viewed Salvation Army Historical Sites, including many buildings which once housed a Salvation Army Corps.

Learning and investigating the history of The Salvation Army certainly makes the blood run through one’s veins. Evaluating what has happened from the beginning of this great Army and looking at the warning signs leads to a passionate desire to learn from the lessons of the past.

The weekend showed that history is not boring or unimportant, it is not a collection of unmovable myths, it is not a collection of facts about leading officers, but it is a tool which gives all a better understanding of our Army, our present and our future. The weekend helped many realise if we listen to our history, we will understand our current problems and have better understanding on how to solve them. The historical discussions showed that The Army does need to wake up and history can be used as that wake up call.

Garth Hentzschel

President –

Brisbane Chapter – Historical Society

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