The Salvation Army, Uniting Church and Boy Scouts Heads (Or: Low Profile Heads)

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Above: Salvation Army World Head, Linda Bond (Image Source: Salvation Army)

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Above: Current Governor-General and Chief Scout of Australia, Quentin Bryce (Image Source: Herald Sun)

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Above: Head of the Uniting Church in Australia, Andrew Dutney (Image Source: Wikipedia)

The head of the Salvation Army has absolute power within that organisation, which is quasi-military and, by its own admission, an autocratic grouping. The current head is “General” Linda Bond (pictured above), a Canadian national. There is only one “general” within the organisation. The founder was William Booth who passed on control of the organisation to his eldest son, Bramwell Booth. Since then, the heads have been elected from within the organisation.

The local organisation within Australia is grouped into area commands, each with its own head who is ultimately responsible to Ms. Bond. As has been argued with the Catholic Church example, it is the formal head of the organisation who should front the Commission in person. Ms. Bond, and no-one lower in ranking, should appear to give the Salvation Army’s defence. Anyone else would be an insult to Australian victims. This should be non-negotiable for the Commission.

In the 1970s, three churches in Australia united to form the Uniting Church of Australia. These were the Congregational, Presbyterian and Methodist churches. The Uniting Church is the third largest Christian denomination in Australia. It has around 2,800 congregations, 51 presbyteries and seven synods. Uniting Church members number 300,000 while 1.3 million Australians claim an association. The Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress is the Aboriginal arm of the church, with 10,000 to 15,000 Aboriginal and Islander people involved.

The current president of the Uniting Church in Australia is Andrew Dutney (pictured above). Obviously he is the responsible person who should appear before the Commission. Given that many victims’ cases go back to before the unification, the new “united” organisation must assume responsibility for its predecessors, in full.

The case of the Boy Scouts (or Scouting Australia) is a little more complex. The founding principles reflect the views of the founder, Lord Baden-Powell. The Australian organisation is independent, as is the U.S. organisation, Boy Scouts of America. Most of the abuse cases, and cover-ups involving secret files, have been located in the U.S. Files from other jurisdictions, including the U.K., Canada, and the U.S., should be available to the Australian enquiry on the basis of “organisational culture”, as defined in management theory.

The Queen’s representatives in Australia, the State Governors and the Governor-General, feature prominently in Scouting Australia’s hierarchy, so this introduces a link to the British Crown, in terms of moral and ethical, if not strictly legal, responsibility. Don’t hold your breath for an apology from Buckingham Palace any time soon.

The Chief Scout of Australia is nominated by the National Executive Committee. Historically, the Chief Scout has been the Governor-General. The current Chief Scout is Quentin-Bryce (pictured above), Governor-General and the Head of State of Australia. The National President is a former Governor-General, Major General (ret.) Michael Jeffery. The State Chief Scouts are the Governors of the relevant state. General Jeffery was previously the Chief Scout of Western Australia, taking his involvement with Scouting Australia to about twenty years.

There may be some constitutional problems with Ms. Bryce fronting the Commission while she holds the position of Governor-General. However, she is due to end her term next year and, since the enquiry will continue to at least 2015, the problem would no longer apply. At the end of her term, Ms. Bryce should be added to the list of people called to give evidence to the Commission on matters pertaining to Scouting Australia. In the meantime, General Jeffery should be the person to defend the organisation.

The purpose of this, and the previous two, postings is to highlight the need to carefully consider exactly who should be called before the Commission. Going by past experiences, organisations will tend to try to have low-ranking officials bear the brunt of the public spotlight. Many will claim their head is far too important, or dignified, to appear personally. This is patently wrong if one accepts that the most important people under the Terms of Reference are past and future victims.

TOMORROW: A matter of faith

[Postscript: Much attention is being given in Australia at present to the Federal Government’s proposed media regulation Bill. Media owners and journalists alike regard it as a tragic attempt to introduce media censorship. A key point is the creation of the position of “Public Interest Media Advocate”. The government might be better, instead, to consider a position of “Public Interest Religion Advocate” which would monitor the behaviour of religious organisations where oversight is much more needed than with the media.]

That’s all I can say

Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)

 

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