Q&A: Major Sue Dunigan
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
Major Sue Dunigan is passionate about many things—Major Bill Dunigan, her husband of 39 years; her three adult children and their spouses; and a granddaughter, Ruby. Dunigan also loves her two golden retrievers, as well as urban farming and hospitality.
The Dunigans, who met at Asbury College, have been Salvation Army officers for 32 years. They’ve shown hospitality while serving in urban ministry and sometimes while living “incarnationally” in Boston, Mass., and Camden, N.J.
Most of all, Dunigan is passionate about Jesus Christ and in sharing His love, grace, and mercy. This is her mission in life.
Recently, she assumed a new role at Territorial Headquarters (THQ) and took a few moments to discuss it with SAconnects (the magazine).
Tell us about your appointment, which I understand specifically addresses social justice issues.
In June, I was appointed as the Territorial Social Justice Secretary. My role is to support the officers and staff through advocacy. I’ll also help further their knowledge, education, and participation in current issues. I’ll help the divisions and support the corps and service centers by implementing programs and ministries pertaining to social justice. I’ll be the voice for people who cannot speak for themselves—and will encourage others to do the same. I’m a member of the Salvation Army’s North American Anti–Trafficking Council and I represent our territory on a national level.
What excites you about this role?
I’m constantly reading and studying and educating myself about the topics that come under the large umbrella of social justice. I’m encouraged by many of the wonderful ministries that our territory uses to combat human trafficking as well as other social justice issues. I’m inspired by the passion I see in many of the young adults I’ve encountered across the territory who desire to stand up and be counted in the arena of social justice. I’m even more impressed by those who wage the battle on their knees and humbly serve in the trenches for the “least of these,” people overlooked by the world.
What kinds of things will you do?
I’ll travel around the territory and visit corps and service centers. I’ll see the types of ministries they have and how I can support them. I’m in the process of planning some regional anti–human trafficking trainings to educate officers, soldiers, and staff. They’ll learn to help and support and minister to victims of human trafficking. I also want to encourage corps officers who are already involved in the fight for social justice. Many of them at mainline corps are doing outreach programs. I want to help mobilize them further to seek justice for people in their community, as the Lord leads them.
In addition to human trafficking, what other issues will you combat?
Under the social justice umbrella are other issues such as hunger, poverty, homelessness, the environment, education, and the current economic crisis, to name a few.
I take my cues from the International Social Justice Commission (ISJC) based in New York City and under the jurisdiction of the Army’s International Headquarters (IHQ) in London. ISJC is the primary international advocate and advisor to the General on social, economic, and political issues that lead to the perpetuation of human injustice in the world. They are the strategic voice to advocate for human dignity and social justice.
What do you bring from past appointments that will help you?
My husband and I have served as corps officers for 33 years. For the past 22, we’ve been on the front lines and involved in incarnational urban mission. We’ve walked alongside marginalized people as their neighbors and friends. We’ve served them as corps officers in a pastoral role. We’ve seen firsthand the many injustices people experience in our nation’s cities. That awareness has motivated us to do what we can to empower communities.
What gives you a heart for social justice issues and to fight human trafficking?
As a young man, Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision, wrote in his Bible, “Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God.” For me, the fight is personal. These “issues” have faces and names. I have friends and family who have been directly affected by human trafficking, as well as by many other social justice issues. I will do whatever it takes to be the voice, the advocate, and the prayer warrior against these heinous injustices. My heart goes out to the men, women, and children impacted—all sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, and sisters. When I see people as people, not just as statistics, it becomes personal. What would you do for a family member? What would be your motivation?
What can soldiers, officers, employees, and others do to help?
Pray! Then ask the Lord what to do. The ISJC has produced a book entitled Go and Do Something. It is a practical guide for Salvationists and other Christians to mobilize and seek justice together on many different issues. There are articles as well as ways people can pray and take action.
Tell us about the LEAD evangelism experience you conducted recently at Old Orchard Beach (OOB) camp meetings.
I was in support of my husband, Major Bill Dunigan, who is the Integrated Mission officer at THQ, as he taught relational evangelism to our class at LEAD. That evening at the OOB Pier ministry, we put into action what the students had learned in class. It was a powerful time of connection for the evangelism boot camp teams. This was the first time many of them felt comfortable in sharing the good news of Jesus Christ to strangers. The students built so many wonderful relationships during the week as people heard of the love of Christ for the first time through them. The Lord was truly glorified by their efforts and we pray that He continues to use them in their home corps and communities.
by Robert Mitchell