The Founder on 'former' Salvation Army officers -

The Founder on 'former' Salvation Army officers -

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

Saturday, October 18, 2014

We'll break with Tradition; We'll not begin with the Bible reading

This sermon is about tradition.

We'll not begin with the Bible reading as we usually do, but with a hypothetical situation.

Suppose you can't play the piano. You're willing to learn. You know that it won't be easy.

You can proceed in one of two ways. You can say: I'm going to do this by myself. So you sit down at the piano and look at the keyboard. You begin to see that some of the keys are white and some are black.

Then you strike a note, then another. You hear the difference in the sound
between the white notes and the black ones.

You see that as you move up the keyboard, the sound gets higher and higher.
As you go down, the sound gets lower and lower.

You may see that the way you strike a note makes a difference in the way it sounds. If you strike it like a piece of wood, it will sound harsh. If you press it, and let the weight come from your shoulder, it will make a better sound.

And you can also hear that two or three notes played together make a pleasing sound, while two or three other notes make an unbearable sound. Then, you may read a book about music for the piano.

You'll find an explanation of the two staves - one for the right hand and one for the left; something about a clef, something about the key.

You'll learn that there are flats, sharps and naturals, and that the notes have names. They're simply ABCDEFG, the first seven letters of the alphabet.

That's one way to learn how to play the piano.

The other way is quite different.

You would say to yourself, I want to learn to play the piano, and I'm going to find the best teacher there is. She will sit down at the keyboard with you; she will put your finger on a key and say, That's middle C.

She will stretch your hand to the note, eight notes above it, and say, that's an octave. 

Then she will show you a sheet of music and tell you that the 2 staves are for the 2 hands.

She will tell you about the five lines and the spaces in between, about the bars, those perpendicular lines that you see; about the notes, why some are solid black, some are open circles, some have stems and some don't,
and some of the stems have one wing, some two, and some three!

She will tell you what someone had once told her. In other words, she will pass on to you the tradition of music.

Later on, you might outgrow many of the things that she taught you.
You might change your entire style of playing, and the kind of music she liked you might not like.

You might look back at your teacher with gentle amusement, but with great appreciation. You might go miles beyond her, but you would say, I’m glad that I began with a teacher, and she passed on to me the tradition that someone had passed on to her.

At some point in the learning - you would say, I see! I hear! I feel!
This would be the point at which the tradition came alive, and if it never happened, the tradition would have failed.

Now we move to another situation, but more closely related to our principle concern.

You would like to be a Christian. You've never been one, but you know a person, whose life has somehow been changed for the better, and when you asked how this happened, the person said that it was due to his or her Christian faith.

You then said if Christian faith can do that for a person, I want it.

You too, may want to do this on your own. You don't want to get mixed up with the churches and all their institutional machinery.

But you have to use the church much the way you would use a library,
because that's where the source materials are.

The Bible is the book, so you take it out and read it. You don't know what to make of it. There are lines of exquisite beauty, but the book as a whole leaves you mystified.

The first book is the Book of Genesis, in which you are told how the world began, and the last is the Book of Revelation, which tells you how the world will end. Both seem utterly fantastic.
One of them says, that God made the world in six days; and the other pictures the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, with the end of the world following in their heels.
You don't get very far with the Bible, so you look at the creed - and as you read it, you're puzzled.
In the longer version, the Nicene Creed, you read that God once came down to earth.

In the shorter Jesus went down to hell, then up to heaven, and will sometime come back to earth.
When?  Why?  How?
No answer not the slightest indication.

Then you look around at the people. A few radiate something and you can see it at once; but most of them look pretty much like everybody else, and that's about as far as most people can expect to get when they rely solely on their own resources.

The other way is to get to another Christian, and say to him or her, I want to be a Christian. Now, if I were the person to whom you came -
I would say to you what I said before.

You begin with what is given, and there are three things given.

First a community, we call it the church. I would tell you, don't expect all of us to be perfect. If we were, we wouldn't be here.  Every Sunday we confess
that we've failed in one way or another. But I would go on and say, you can't be a Christian by yourself, you can do it only as a member of the Community.

You can be good and decent by yourself, but that's not necessarily being a Christian.

The second is a Book, the Bible. It's the richest book in the world, and I must say at the same time, the most dangerous.

If a person without any help tries to read the Book of Genesis, heaven only knows where one might be led!

And if one tries to read the Book of Revelation by oneself, one can be led into a labyrinth of nonsense.

It needs interpretation, the interpretation of the community.

The third thing that is given is a Person. The Person is Jesus of Nazareth.
He's like no other person; he’s not easy to know, first because the material we have about him was written almost entirely by people who adored him.

And he's not easy to follow, and less easy to believe. He was put to death, but his spirit is still alive. He's a man through and through but in him you'll find what God is like.

These are the three things given. 

Take them I would say, do what I tell you - the way any good piano teacher would say, Watch me while I play this difficult passage.

Then I would say, when the time comes you'll go your own way, but now you begin with the tradition.

Those two situations make three things plain about tradition which I  you see even without my mentioning them. But to be sure I'll state them briefly.

The first, tradition is the accumulated experience of those who have gone before us.

When Paul wrote his second letter to the church in Thessalonica he said in the fifteenth verse of the second chapter: "Stand firm and hold on to those truths which we taught you."
Paul didn't put together the Christian religion, he neither discovered or invented it; he was given the tradition.

The second is that tradition is a living thing.

It’s something like a garden, and sometimes it gets overgrown. It needs constantly to be thinned out and must often be weeded. The Christian community is always thinning out the garden of tradition.
The four gospels are exactly that.
There were other gospels, but the early Church thinned them out,
and they said, These four represent the truth as we received it.

We continue to do it with the liturgy and hymnody. We let go some of the traditions that we've long since outgrown, they may once have been good and valuable, but they are no longer. Others we clarify as we hold on to them.

And the last thing is that you begin with the tradition, but you don't stop with it.

The genius is the one who dares to break the tradition. The one I know best is William Shakespeare.

Where did he get blank verse? He didn't invent it. He got it from Christopher Marlowe, and then went miles beyond him and made it greater!

The great mistake some people make is that they drop the tradition before they know what it is.

Listen to these words of Gilbert Murray, the English critic: "Every person who possesses real vitality can be seen as the resultant of two forces. That person is first the child of a particular age, society, convention, of what we may call in one word tradition.

The person is secondly, in one degree or another, a rebel against that tradition.

And the best traditions make the best rebels."

Let us pray:
O God, keep our minds and hearts open.
Without distrusting our own talents,
let us listen carefully to those who have gone before us.
Then as we move forward help us to appreciate in ourselves the things that others have known and seen; and to go far beyond anything they ever dreamed of. 

Dr. John Sullivan
Former SA officer, Canada