The Founder on 'former' Salvation Army officers -

The Founder on 'former' Salvation Army officers -

Thursday, October 23, 2014

God is no respecter of persons, nationality and culture...


I’m intrigued with the fresh look, feel and excitement that Pope Francis is bringing, not only to the Vatican, but to the Catholic Church as a whole. In his own inimitable way, he like David is taking on a veritable Goliath: Institutionalism! By example, he’s taking the church back to its roots, its core values. 

Change an institutional hierarchy, millenniums in the making? “Impossible!” “Unattainable!” “Disrupt the status quo? Move the goal posts? Overly ambitious? If God owns the vision, nothing is impossible” (see previous post).

In spiritual terms, leadership is not defined by palaces and power; it's defined by mission and modesty. "Leadership of anything means mission first and your self-interest last," says Michael Useem, director of the Center for Leadership and Change Management at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. "That's the very definition of what it means to lead." Institutionalism is the antithesis of mission.

Two of my favorite quotes say it far better than I ever could (predominantly placed on my website -

“God’s order is not organization and institution (cf. the difference between judges and kings). It is not the same in every time and place. It is not a matter of repetition and habit. On the contrary, it resides in the fact that it constantly posits something new, a new beginning. Our God is a God of beginnings. There is in him no redundancy or circularity. Thus, if his church wants to be faithful to his revelation, it will be completely mobile, fluid, renascent, bubbling, creative, inventive, adventurous, and imaginative. It will never be perennial, and can never be organized or institutionalized. If the gates of death are not going to prevail against it, this is not because is is a good, solid, well organized fortress, but because it is alive; it is Life that is, as mobile, changing and surprising as life. If it becomes a powerful fortified organization, it is because death has prevailed”  (Jacques Ellul, “The Subversion of Christianity).

Institutionalism: Repetition, habit, organized, unchanging, fortified.

Mission: Mobile, fluid, renascent, bubbling, creative, inventive, adventurous, imaginative (changing).

“We never have expected to hit upon that final stable structure. This is important for a church to understand, for when it start to be the church it will be constantly adventuring out into places where there are no tried and trusted ways. If the church in our day has few prophetic voices above the noise of the street, perhaps in large part is is because the pioneering spirit has become foreign to it. It shows little willingness to explore new ways. Where it does it has often been called an experiment. We would say the church of Christ is never an experiment, but where that church is true to its mission it will be experimenting, pioneering, blazing new paths, seeking how to speak the reconciling words of God to its own age. It cannot do this if it is held captive to the structures of another day” (Elizabeth O’Conner, “Call to Commitment).

Institution: Held captive to the structures of another day.

Church: Experimenting, pioneering, blazing new paths, seeking how to speak the reconciling words of God to its own age.

Now change the first paragraph in this post to read:

“I’m intrigued with the fresh look, feel and excitement that the newly elected General is bringing, not only to 101 Queen Victoria Street, but to The Salvation Army as a whole. In his/her own inimitable way, he/she like David is taking on a veritable Goliath: Institutionalism! By example, he’s/she’s taking the army back to its roots, its core values.”

Reread the post in this context. By the way, Salvation Army nominees for General are not limited to members of the High Council. There is potentially another “David” out there somewhere. Now wouldn’t that be creative, inventive, adventurous, imaginative? 

Talk about “A Touch of the Unattainable.” 

Joe Noland, Commissioner (r)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

In Royal Service

Our first SA Moscow offices on our re-entry, following the Salvation Army being banished for almost 70 years, were located in a building that was part of the immense Russian Kremlin complex. It was two doors from the impressive suite of offices that housed the Minister of Social Protection, Madame Ella Pomfilova. She was a regular un-announced drop-in to our office and twice brought a very special visitor, President Boris Yeltsin's wife, Naina. Our discussions centered on the social service needs of the Russian people, partnering with local educational institutions in the training of social service professionals, and establishing a daily feeding program to Moscow's 80,000 elderly, poor population.

The need for volunteers in Moscow was no different than what we experienced in St. Petersburg (the city of Leningrad's name had changed during the course of the preceding 12 months).

Among the many students, government employees and professional social workers who came to our aid was Igor. Igor was a man in his late 30s, one of our first recruits and sworn in as a soldier by General Eva Burrows. He walked with the aid of crutches, wore large, thick-lens spectacles, and often appeared to be teetering, off balance, perhaps due to his rather large head and upper torso. He had though a gentle and endearing manner; he seemed particularly well suited to act as our uniformed volunteer receptionist and telephone operator. His appointment to that position ensured that he would not be required to move about the offices too much, and afforded him a necessary and respected role. 

There was constant traffic in and out of our offices. Visitors included government officials from many nations; Ambassadors, a delegation from the Vatican, and countless NGOs, all seeking information on how best to aid in the distribution of medical equipment, medicine, food and other urgently needed supplies. The country was bankrupt and without even the most basic social services structure.

Igor worked feverishly to answer the telephone and to coordinate the visit of the many who came to us for information. We had become the unofficial representative of the Russian government in disseminating, coordinating, and establishing the necessary roles of many foreign NGOs. However, in Igor's eagerness to serve, a personal area of very real concern presented itself; Igor the soldier. His daunting and ever increasing responsibilities seemed to wear on him. When there was a lull in telephone calls or slowing of traffic entering the offices’ double-doors, Igor would place his large head on the desk and simply doze off. Whenever necessary, a gentle prod brought Igor back to reality, and for the next few minutes he was again wide-awake and active. As the weeks and month wore on, it became clear however, that Igor's strength was waning. But who could possible deny a man of such gracious spirit and dedication his appointed soldier's role?

It was spring, 1993, and Igor was at his desk, putting his head on the desk between telephone calls. This day though was different. The telephone rang, and visitors came calling, but by late morning Igor wasn't responsive. No degree of trying to rouse Igor brought any sign of life. The local medical team, with a clinic in our building, was called and subsequent to examining Igor announced to a stunned group of his colleagues that he was dead. Igor, a recently enrolled soldier had been promoted to glory, in full uniform and seated next to the army banner. How very appropriate we thought...

We later learned that Igor was well aware that his time in this world was limited, and even more so if he took on any strenuous activities. Igor had been warned that the simple act of leaving his apartment might be too strenuous and deemed a health risk.
 Although no one ever alerted us to his delicate medical conditions there were many days when I thought seriously of asking Igor to resign his role as the unpaid, official "SA representative". The daily demands on Igor seemed to be taking its toll on him.

Thinking back I now know why I didn't do so. His appointment to that highly visible position wasn't really made by me, it had been made by a much higher authority.

Igor worked in one of the nation's most respected, historical and honored buildings, not at the direction of his government or me; he was appointed by the King! Igor worked and died in Royal service and now wears the Crown of Life.

"Will there be any stars in that crown I receive when I leave my earthly shroud behind?" (Swedish SA Songbook) Painting by Swedish artist Bengt Engman. The salvationist asks that he be allowed to wear his guernsey as his robes of white are presented. The original painting hangs in the corps hall in Vansbro, Sweden, the home town of the artist and where he was a Junior Soldier.

Sven Ljungholm
Former Officer; Russia

Tuesday, October 21, 2014



The FSAOF membership includes many former officers who've moved into ministry roles in other denominations, and where they've made meaningful and notable contributions.

One such person is Dr John Sullivan who has pastored large congregations in the Church of Canada for more than 5 decades. John has been a regular and much appreciated contributor to the FSAOF blog. 

THE RAISING OF LAZARUS  Part 3 of 3 (from August 2014)

A certain group of the Jews had come to believe that at the last day when the world would come to an end, everybody would be resurrected automatically. They would be raised up and judged, and the good would be sent to the proper place, and the bad to the place where they belonged.

Jesus began to lead Martha into the mystery of life that was not mechanical, but personal. “I am the resurrection.  If you’re looking for life”, he said, “You’ll find it not in some future event; you’ll find it in me and in the quality of my life.”

That was John’s great insight into the meaning of Christ.

What he’s saying is something like this:  when a person gets into the Spirit of Christ and when the Spirit of Christ gets into a person, there is life.
And that life is totally different in quality from every other kind of life he or she may know!

He went on to try to make it clear to them that when people have that kind of life that begins now, they have a life that can never be destroyed. That he said, is eternal life, not something that happens at some distant day in the future, but life that comes when you put yourself into the stream of God’s creative love in Christ, and when that gets into you, you begin to be less selfish, more trusting, more natural and simple in your relationship with God, and more generous in your relationship to others, that is eternal life and nothing in the world can destroy it.

We’re not like Mary and Martha; we’re not, most of us, looking for life in the future; we’re looking for life in the present. But we’re looking for it on a lower level, in the money we make, in the success we achieve, in our own happiness.

What John is trying to tell us is this: You’ll never find life there. You’ll find life only when your life is raised up to another level so that it is immersed in an ongoing life of love. Only in that kind of life will you find anything that ultimately fulfills the deepest desires of your life.

These things, you see, are beyond the realm of speculation; these things we announce to people because we’ve seen them happen.
When people can lose themselves in Christ, they have life, for he is the Resurrection and the Life and whoever lives and believes in him will never die.

Let us pray:
As we open our minds toward these great mysteries, may we also respond with our hearts and wills; that seeing where real life is to be found, we may be drawn up to that higher life in Christ. 

Dr. John Sullivan

Monday, October 20, 2014

Distortions of Christian Leadership 2 (4)


Wellington Theological Consortium Colloquium – 16 Saturday 16 August
Booth College of Mission Wellington NZ

The keynote speakers:
·         Dr Peter Lineham –
·         Major Dr Harold Hill –
·         Bishop Peter Cullinane –

Distortions of Christian Leadership 2  (4)
Major Dr Harold Hill

Now the second quadrant of the quadrilateral; Church Tradition as a source for Leadership discernment, and therefore as susceptible to distortion. We might assume that the test for leadership might be firstly whether or not it has accorded with our particular church tradition – whether episcopacy has been faithfully maintained, or the local congregation has been sufficiently independent, or the Orders and Regulations have been scrupulously adhered to, or whatever our denominational shibboleth might be. Within those parameters we might ask whether leaders’ conduct has or has not deserved censure.    

Are some polities more susceptible to being hi-jacked by the temptations of, for example, money, sex and power? From the quasi-military Salvationist tradition I could illustrate the readiness with which hierarchies become distorted – and indeed such structures offer special opportunities for the abuse of power. Hierarchies, for instance, tend to close ranks against whistle-blowers, as in the recent case of Paul Thistle, a Salvation Army officer doctor in Zimbabwe, who apparently asked too persistently about missing hospital donations and found his commission withdrawn, his job terminated after nearly eighteen years at Howard hospital and he and his family given 48 hours to leave the country, with the acquiescence, even the connivance, of his Canadian home territory.[1] 

Furthermore, institutions are usually uncomfortable with their prophets – Amaziah, the priest who ran Amos out of Bethel, would have appreciated the perfectly reasonable Salvation Army regulation against “stirring up of discontent, resistance or rebellion against The Salvation Army, its principles and discipline and/or its duly appointed leaders”.[2] Of which regulation I am now doubtless in breach…

An early Salvationist saint, George Scott Railton, was ambivalent about the establishment of a hierarchy, particularly the appointment of Divisional Officers (creating episcopal oversight) in 1880. After a year he wrote that he’d been wrong and that the “officers and people evidently love and delight in their Majors!”[3] Bramwell Booth had second thoughts. In 1894 he complained that “the [Divisional Officers] are often much more separate from their [Field Officers] than they ought to be. Class and caste grows with the growth of the military idea. Needs watching.”[4] Thirty years later he was still watching, concerned that Divisional and Territorial leaders “are open to special dangers in that they rise and grow powerful and sink into a kind of opulence…”[5]  Opulence? Perhaps a precedent for Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, the so-called Bishop of Bling. But alas, we even get opulent lieutenants today.

Worse, another ninety years on, the editor of an international blog site for former Salvation Army officers writes that, “Hardly a week goes by when I don’t receive an email detailing the rudeness and disrespect junior … officers and ‘formers’ have experienced at the hands of their superior … officers.”[6] That he taps into a disaffected constituency is an explanation, but not an answer.

Finally on authoritarian leadership, it works best if those making decisions are at least competent. William Booth, the supreme pragmatist, believed that was its chief virtue. “To rise in the Army, a soldier has only to prove himself proportionately good and able… It is really the administration of government by the wisest and best.”[7] If only… Sadly, incompetent, dysfunctional leadership – at any level, but especially the local – has probably inflicted its greatest defeats on Booth’s Army, while the soldiers, as Lenin put it, have “voted with their feet”.

But I don’t want to go there, because there is mud at the bottom of every fox-hole. Some polities seem to give more scope for arbitrary rule and others for the gathering of consensus and exercise of collaborative or participatory government, and these suit particular personality types and management styles. They do not in themselves determine whether or not leadership becomes distorted. Bullying is not the sole prerogative of senior rank: captains and lieutenants and those holding no rank other than that which is self-conferred, are equally adept. At last year’s Religious History Conference Professor Lineham presented a salutary case study from the history of the Brethren Assemblies – whose leaders dispense altogether with the shadow of ranks and orders but nevertheless exercise the substance of power.

I have a friend, once a Salvation Army officer and now in his mid-80s about to retire after 50 years as a minister of the United Church of Canada. Of psycho-pathological leadership he observes that, “In hierarchical structures one might have to deal with middle management and those upward in the scale, [but] those of us who have worked in more congregational polities might also know a number who had weaselled themselves on to Church Boards and Councils.” Believe me; his stories are even more hair-raising than mine!  

All traditions try to structure the exercise of power in such a way as to best facilitate its use while minimising its abuse. The ideal is summed up by Hans-Ruedi Weber: “Jesus transforms the love of power into the power of love”.[8] If the love of power reverses that equation, the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, or in our orders, but in ourselves… 

So, Scripture can be ignored or misinterpreted; Tradition may be hi-jacked or it can ensure that our mistakes become irreversible; so what about Reason?

[2] Orders and Regulations for Salvation Army Officers, amendment 2014/IA/09, Volume 2, Part 7, Chapter 5 – Discipline – Section 3 (Breaches of Discipline) Para 11.
[3] Quoted by Victor Doughty in The Officer (August 1974) 345-6.
[4] W. Bramwell Booth, letter of October 1894, in Catherine Bramwell Booth, Bramwell Booth (London: Rich & Cowan, 1932) 218.
[5] W. Bramwell Booth, letter to his wife, 27 April 1924, in Catherine Bramwell Booth, Bramwell Booth, 437.
[6] Sven Ljungholm on Former Salvation Army Officers’,, 6 June 2014.
[7] Orders and Regulations for Field Officers (London: The Salvation Army, 1886) 163.

[8] Hans-Ruedi Weber, Power, Focus for a Biblical Theology (Geneva: World Council of Churches, 1989) 167.

Major (Dr) Harold Hill

The third quadrant of the quadrilateral; Church Tradition as a source for Leadership discernment will be posted August 22, 2014