Capt. Johnny Harsh, a leader for the Oshkosh Salvation Army in Wisconisn, was suspended this week for violating a rule that requires officers to marry only from within The Salvation Army.
The suspension and expected termination did not come as a surprise to Harsh as he was aware of the rule when he joined the Christian aid agency. But he still feels it is unfair.
"I knew the rule and that this was coming and that I would be let go," said Harsh, according to The Northwestern. "But for The Salvation Army to let me go because I will marry outside of the 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."
The marriage rule has been in place almost since the founding of The Salvation Army in 1865 by Methodist minister William Booth. Booth and his wife, Catherine, determined in those early years that married couples who function together in The Salvation Army are far more effective than having one spouse who was committed to the ministry while the other was committed elsewhere, according to Major George Hood, national community relations secretary for The Salvation Army.
The requirement, still in place today, is that both the man and the woman be ordained ministers within the organization, Hood explained.
"The rationality is that it's a joint ministry ... a team ministry. And both the husband and wife work together in all their assignments," said Hood, whose wife works alongside him in Alexandria, Va.
"For us, it has always been a policy and anyone who applies to be trained and ordained knows this up front," he added, noting that the policy is extremely effective and strengthens the mission of the ministry.
There have been marriages in The Salvation Army that failed, Hood acknowledged. Those who divorce are forced to resign from their positions. If, however, there is clear indication of a non-guilty party, that party is allowed to continue in the ministry.
The marriage policy is unique to The Salvation Army, Hood commented. But no one is taken by surprise by it, he added.
Hood declined commenting on Harsh's case, saying it is a personal matter between the family and the administration.
Harsh had been married to Capt. Yalanda "Yoley" Harsh but she died unexpectedly of complications from a heart attack in June.
"Yoley's death was completely unforeseen," he said, according to The Northwestern. "It's been hard on my daughters, myself and our Salvation Army family."
A final decision on Harsh's position is expected next week at a Salvation Army Territorial Officers Board meeting.