Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Talk to me about Old People!


The great Renaissance man Sir Francis Bacon held a caustic opinion of ‘old’ people “who object too much, consult too long, adventure too little and repent too soon.”      

 Wonder what he meant and who he was thinking about when he said that?  I also wonder why he said it, did he have someone in mind?  What was the catalyst for making him say it?  So many questions could be asked about why he said it and there is so much to take from it.  Over recent months ‘Old Age’ has been a concept that has taken me by surprise as a personal field of study.  Everyone always things of themselves as being eternally twenty something and so there is an element even at thirty something of feeling old.  I once asked my daughter when she was about eight about her new teacher and her only response was that she was really old.  How surprised was I when I met her and found that she was about my age.  I had a work colleague at one time who was going to retire and someone said of him “he is due to retire’.  My response was that he was due to retire soon after he left University with his degree in Theology, or whatever it was.

You see ‘old age’ is a moveable feast that depends on so much more than just a linear timeline, as there are so many more factors to take into account.  In this blog I have read of and know Officers who have felt hard done by because they were almost forced to retire and been very resentful about it and if you have your ear to the ground you will know of officers who in response to the question ‘How are you doing?’ ..will respond with how many years, months and days they have to go to retirement.

The real question that we should ask however is not what Francis Bacon was thinking about when he made that statement, but how we respond to it.  I would dare say that how old you are would have something to do with your response.  Now I am not talking about how many years you have been alive or even how many years you served, how many years since you became a former but how old are you in your thinking, in your head, the very core of your being and if you want to stretch it out even further, how old are you in your Soul?

I often wish that this was all as simple as it sounds but I believe that there is an antidote to aging.  You can find with a very quick search on Google for ‘Antidote to Aging’ 246,000 entries all in .2 of a second (isn’t that amazing) but I would hazard a guess that the vast majority of them are all about our actual physical being, which some of us are concerned about but was not what Francis Bacon was talking about.  Now I could spend a great deal of time talking about not allowing our mind to grow old and it revolves around things like listening to your internal wisdom, living in the present, giving up the need for approval, knowing that how you see the world ‘out there’ simply reflects your reality ‘in here’, shedding the burden of judgement, getting and giving forgiveness.  If you are a centred person you will know all this stuff, however there is one quality that I have seen transform people dramatically and that is the ability to be flexible.

I did go to an outdoor ballet presentation once, under sufferance I might add, and because I had to be there early to reserve good seats I was able to see some of the dancers doing their exercises prior to the presentation.  I was amazed and impressed at how they had trained their bodies to be flexible; I am sure this comes at a cost but it was amazing to see the end result.  I believe that we also need to learn flexibility to ward of the old age that Francis Bacon talked about.  It is comparatively easy to lock ourselves into continuing to believe and act how we did when we were seven.  It’s a significant age and if you remember where you were in your spiritual journey at seven it is really easy to remain there.  We have read and discussed at length on this Blog about ‘the Truth and nothing but the Truth’ and the question is where did we learn that truth and is it a truth for seven year olds or are we supposed to grow and mature and have an adult understanding of our Faith.  It was Bishop John Shelby Spong who was one of the most recent teachers who championed the idea of not parking you intelligence at the front door when you go to worship.  For me; I have a need to understand and rationalise what scripture is saying, but far more importantly I need to know what lessons it teaches and what it means for me.  I have love of the Old Testament but if I take it literally I could sell my daughter into slavery (Exodus) with impunity and yet the church and others fought long and hard to ban slavery that is now a heinous activity.  We could drag this out for pages and pages but all I want to do is highlight that to avoid Francis Bacon’s opinion of old people may not one day be applied to me because I am locked in to a theology that is archaic, stagnant and irrelevant. 

Flexibility for me means that I will bend with the harsh winds of life and become old and wise, as opposed to being just old.  The commencement of my former status did not mark the end of my calling, but in learning to be flexible (not a spiritual gift but vital necessary quality) I can continue to grow and develop into whatever the future may hold.  I know more than anyone else that I am not there yet but I am taking time to think about my faith and it is far more significant now than when I sat in the Sunday School at my home Corps.

Tell me who you think Francis Bacon was talking about........


Fletch
Peter Fletcher
Former
Australia

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Plan "B" for Believers...

Conversations continue here with, and focused on, a number of 'plan "B" believers', those who feel strongly called to a ministry of some kind and who, for some reason cannot do it, were not selected, or whatever, regardless of reason.

I'm not interested in the cheesy stuff of people saying 'Yes, but when you look back you will see God's hand at work' etc, or 'You were simply called to something different'. Neither am I interested in the rights and wrongs of selection conferences and whatever - they do their job (and I sometimes feel have saved the church from not nearly enough poor leaders). Rather, my concern here in the trenches of both giving and receiving faith accompaniment, is to understand better how plan B believers can function best in the absense of a sense of calling, or with even more difficulty, in a place where they positively feel they are not doing that which they were called to.

I'm blessed in that my vocation as a sister makes sense to me, adds up in my spiritual life, and is integrated with everything I do, even if it is hard sometimes and sometimes lacks interaction with my denomination. But others don't necessarily have even that, and struggle in a fog of uncertainty. How can God guide them in working in an organisation that for example has nothing at all to do with what they feel positively called to? Is God journeying with them in that for real? Are they getting it wrong? Will God have a plan for their/our lives in that situation? How can God go to plan B or was it plan B all along, in which case he was playing tricks on people giving them a sense of specific calling? In which case how does one ever trust a sense of guidance from God again? It is these dilemmas that people struggle with in spiritual accompaniment with friends or spiritual director.


Cornwall Church Health is an ecumenical ministry which I set up and run day to day, networked into a wider circle of
people who help with workshops, advise and so on.

Warmest blessings
Eleanor Burne-Jones
Sister under private vows
On the rolls of the local SA corps.









Eleanor Burne-Jones trained in church conflict mediation, congregational conflict consulting and training trainers at Bridgebuilders, the London Mennonite Centre, and in neighbour mediation at the Mediation Service, Manchester. Eleanor spent many years living in the orthodox Jewish communities of London and Manchester, where she learned Torah through the kiruv programmes, gave practical instruction in observance, and organised classes for women in Talmud and Shulchan Aruch.

After returning to the church, she trained in Prayer Companionship, sometimes termed spiritual direction, in the Ignatian tradition through Salford Prayer Guides and is part of several Spiritual Director networks. At the same time she went through the novitiate with the Anglican Third Order Society of St Francis before becoming a Sister under private vows.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


SA HALL BUILT IN 1911 BEING AUCTIONED - INCLUDES ADJOINING YP HALL BUILT 1933. SA BUILDING LOCATED SHORT DISTANCE FROM WHERE WILLIAM BOOTH WAS BORN IN NOTTINGHAM, ENGLAND.

THE ALOHA OF HOLINESS




This logo was designed by Rob Noland and is one of my alternative “WARdrobe: Army Apparel” choices while in the islands or any other warm weather climate for that matter.

In Hawaiian tradition, these lei (garlands) were worn by ancient Hawaiians to beautify themselves and distinguish themselves from others. Among other sacred uses, it was used to signify a peace agreement between opposing chiefs.

The Lei greeting, when presented and accepted, has come to signify a mutual feeling of Aloha: welcome, peace, unconditional love. In TSA parlance it signifies holiness, beautifying ourselves with with the Lei of Aloha, thereby distinguishing ourselves as in the world, but separate from it. The Lei, draped over the Crest represents this Aloha of Holiness, a beautiful and meaningful expression, I think.




Joe Noland, Commissioner

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

"And Nothing But the Truth"

“I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God!” We are all familiar with the oath one is required to take in a court of law. For centuries, witnesses have been taking this oath. The requirement of such an oath is based on the premise that criminal justice proceedings cannot be successfully held unless the truth is forthcoming and that truth must be whole and complete. It is so important it must be given with the help of God Himself: or so the oath implies! Of course, in order to state the truth, one must be in possession of the truth!

I would argue that if life is to be lived successfully it, also, must be based upon truth... the whole truth and nothing but the truth! Seeking the truth upon which life is based becomes a never ending pursuit and if you are to truly find it you must seek out the very source of life itself. For Christians, that life is the Creator, God Himself and His truth can only be found in the one book He has given mankind…the Bible. I believe that the Bible not only contains truth but is the very embodiment of all truth! I acknowledge, however, that not everyone would agree.

For some in today’s world, the Bible is an interesting, albeit antiquated, compilation of historical writings: Opinion pieces, if you will, written by men who lived long ago. Some people believe this sacred text is inspiring, even useful if occasionally referenced, but little more.

For others, the Bible is a wonderfully exciting, living work given by God Himself as a handbook for Christian living.
They maintain the Bible is absolute truth communicated to mankind by their Creator. By immersing themselves in its teachings, it will lead to the most intimate relationship possible with God Himself. They believe it is inerrant…that is, without error.

I also subscribe to the latter view! Some see such a position as ‘intellectually shallow’ …so be it!

Seeking out Biblical truth is essential for all Christians who desire to become the best that they can become. Applying these truths to life and then sharing them with others is the essence of successful Christian living. Do you really understand where in Scripture each truth comes from and do you accept the absolute nature of each? You will be the better for having sought out this important knowledge.

When I was a much younger man I wanted very much to share my faith with all who would listen. When the opportunity presented itself, I eagerly told others that God loved them and Jesus died for their sins.

I soon learned, however, that there were many other Bible truths that I was not yet ready to share as I had not fully understood them. Further, I had some difficulty backing up my facts with the Scripture that supported these very important Bible truths.

There are fundamental principles contained in Scripture that all Christians should be aware of. Seeking out these principles will broaden our relationship with God and enable us to share them with others more effectively. Many of these truths relate to issues in our daily lives….divorce, remarriage, promiscuity, sanctification, helping the poor, prayer, fasting, righteous living, our people relationships, healing and on the list goes. These are all principles dealt with in the Scriptures. Of course, we all have our opinion on these and other matters but do our opinions square with what the Bible teaches? Then there is the issue of the Bible itself! Are we settled in our hearts as it regards the truth of what is found there?

Most of us develop a level of awareness that serves to help us in our Christian walk. For example, we know that God is love. We see examples of His love all around us. We know that there are certain standards of behavior that God expects of those who claim His name. Further, we have become aware of specific doctrinal truths, contained in the Bible, that are critical to our understanding of God and His divine plan.

Discovering Bible truth will help all Christians, new and old, to develop a broader knowledge of their faith. It will assist them in understanding the authority upon which these principles rest and it will guide each through the process of discovery, using the Bible, so that each principle can be shared effectively with others.

Another discovery I made as a young Christian was that while I understood the existence of truth I did not always realize that my knowledge was very limited. It is important for all Christians to have an ever expanding knowledge of Scripture. This is so that we can grow spiritually and help others to do the same.

The truth of God’s word, the Holy Bible, is often thought to be for a specific people living in a certain age. In reality, these truths are for all mankind through all ages. The Bible is still relevant today...perhaps more relevant than ever.

Now, truth is as God gives it! God gives it as we seek it! This wonderful journey of discovery will enable us all to be fashioned more in the likeness of our creator.

So, I challenge all to learn and apply the truths of Scripture and to do so continually, every day! If you do, God will reward you with peace, your life will overflow with joy, and your ministry will be blessed beyond measure!


Gary D. Laws
Former
USA Central Territory

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

SWEDISH FSAOF CELEBRATES 74 YEAR ANNIVERSARY





I am pleased to share that the SWEDISH FSAOF has translated and posted the advert that THE SALVATIONIST refused to run, and they've posted it at no cost to us in the magazine published every other month. Each of the 500 + members pay an annual subscription fee. The magazine will soon enter its 75th year in circulation.




The Swedish fellowship is divided into regions that meet several times annually. My 'active' wife Glad and I will represent our fellowship at their Annual Swedish FSAOF Congress International Evening on July 7th in Sweden enroute to serve with the FSAOF Mission Trip, Latvia. Their fellowship includes retired Commissioner Sven Nilsson who will be present.


I expect that many of the Swedish members will be joining with us as a result of the advert and our visit. Please make them welcome as you see their names appear as 'new members'. 

Monday, June 21, 2010

A TRIBUTE ON FATHER'S DAY; Without Guile…

Some three weeks ago I received the hand written notes used by the Commissioner, now retired,  when conducting my father’s Promotion to Glory service, now 30 recent years ago. His tribute was peppered with the words from John 1:4 "Behold, (my father’s name) indeed, in whom there is no guile!" Guile is another word for deceit. It’s what feeds such things as compromise and encourages manipulation of values.
Truly guileless people are rare. They are both refreshing and frustrating at the same time. They are transparent with motives and reactions more pure and kind than commonly found. An absence of guile, like humility, is a by-product of surrender.
My father’s appointment was to THQ and his assignment included negotiating and purchasing equipment for corps’ recreational and social service centers.  


He shared with the family at dinner one night that he’d met earlier in the day with a representative of a major billiard table company to discuss the purchase of 15-20 tables. He shared that the salesman had said; “ I know you have three sons at home, and if you sign with us, I’ll throw in a free table and have it delivered in time for Christmas!” With glee we cheered and suggested “we never use the dining room let’s put it in there…” Then came the dissapointing announcement; “ I thanked the salesman for his time and shared accepting a free table, even if used in SA quarters translated as a compromise of values. Plus, his quote was too high. I bid him farewell and wished him a Happy Thanksgiving”. I took the brochure he'd brought home, went to my bedroom and leafed through the pages realizing what a treasure had slipped through our fingers, and to what end?!










Some five years later a composite territorial youth band was formed, the intent being to conduct a series of concerts in the Midwest USA culminating with a mini concert at the territory’s elite music institute with many SA music notables present, including Eric Ball, I was asked to be the Bandmaster.
Rehearsals were scheduled over a period of several days in Chicago, and on the eve prior to setting out on tour my father invited all 30 of us to our quarters for a pizza party. I was more than a little surprised… one concern was, how would we ever fit into our small home. Of greater concern was, who would pay for the 10 pizzas?!
My father told me to order the pizzas and then handed me a crumpled twenty dollar bill. Those twenty dollars represented almost a week’s SA allowance at the time.  A telephone order to Austin’s Pizzeria was place and 30 minutes later the pizzas and sodas were collected, and 30 minutes later consumed !
I remained dumb founded as to how my father could afford such generosity. He’d retreated to his study, the private world where he devoted long hours every evening committed to doing ‘SA work’. My curiosity piqued, I left the noisy group of teens lounging in the living room, conservatory and dining room and went into the kitchen where my mom was busy cleaning up. “Mom, where did that money come from? Did you win the lottery”, I joked. Her response confirmed what I already knew…
“Do you remember 4 years ago when dad was offered a free pool table if he signed a contract with the ABC Company?” “I sure do mom, in fact I still have the brochure!” Well, the story was told how the salesman had returned just a few days before Christmas. He asked if my father and he could chat. Once behind closed doors the salesman took out his wallet, removed a $20.00 note and gave it to my father with the instructions; “you demonstrated to me a unique value when we met last month. I want you to take this money- and I’m asking that you not give it to the army but to use it for something you deem of value.” My father, sensing the man’s pure sentiment accepted the money, and 4 years later presented it for something he felt was of value! The lesson will remain with me forever. In him there was no guile… not ever a selfish motive.
Our prayer should be as the Psalmists, "Search me, Oh God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way."


Former Officer
USA

(name on file)

Friday, June 18, 2010

"I'm spiritual but not religious." SBNR

Are there dangers in being 'spiritual but not religious'?


It's a trendy phrase people often use to describe their belief that they don't need organized religion to live a life of faith.


But for Jesuit priest James Martin, the phrase also hints at something else: selfishness.


"Being spiritual but not religious can lead to complacency and self-centeredness," says Martin, an editor at America, a national Catholic magazine based in New York City. "If it's just you and God in your room, and a religious community makes no demands on you, why help the poor?"


Religious debates erupt over everything from doctrine to fashion. Martin has jumped into a running debate over the "I'm spiritual but not religious" phrase.


The "I'm spiritual but not religious" community is growing so much that one pastor compared it to a movement. In a 2009 survey by the research firm LifeWay Christian Resources, 72 percent of millennials (18- to 29-year-olds) said they're "more spiritual than religious." The phrase is now so commonplace that it's spawned its own acronym ("I'm SBNR") and Facebook page: SBNR.org.


But what exactly does being "spiritual but not religious" mean, and could there be hidden dangers in living such a life?


Did you choose "Burger King Spirituality"?


Heather Cariou, a New York City-based author who calls herself spiritual instead of religious, doesn't think so. She's adopted a spirituality that blends Buddhism, Judaism and other beliefs. "I don't need to define myself to any community by putting myself in a box labeled Baptist, or Catholic, or Muslim," she says. "When I die, I believe all my accounting will be done to God, and that when I enter the eternal realm, I will not walk though a door with a label on it."


BJ Gallagher, a Huffington Post blogger who writes about spirituality, says she's SBNR because organized religion inevitably degenerates into tussles over power, ego and money.


Gallagher tells a parable to illustrate her point: "God and the devil were walking down a path one day when God spotted something sparkling by the side of the path. He picked it up and held it in the palm of his hand.    "Ah, Truth," he said. "Here, give it to me," the devil said. "I'll organize it."


Gallagher says there's nothing wrong with people blending insights from different faith traditions to create what she calls a "Burger King Spirituality -- have it your way."


She disputes the notion that spiritual people shun being accountable to a community.
"Twelve-step people have a brilliant spiritual community that avoids all the pitfalls of organized religion," says Gallagher, author of "The Best Way Out is Always Through."
"Each recovering addict has a 'god of our own understanding,' and there are no priests or intermediaries between you and your god. It's a spiritual community that works.''


Nazli Ekim, who works in public relations in New York City, says calling herself spiritual instead of religious is her way of taking responsibility for herself. Ekim was born in a Muslim family and raised in Istanbul, Turkey. She prayed to Allah every night, until she was 13 and had to take religion classes in high school.Then one day, she says she had to take charge of her own beliefs. "I had this revelation that I bow to no one, and I've been spiritually a much happier person," says Ekim, who describers herself now as a Taoist, a religious practice from ancient China that emphasizes the unity of humanity and the universe.


"I make my own mistakes and take responsibility for them. I've lied, cheated, hurt people -- sometimes on purpose. Did I ever think I will burn in hell for all eternity? I didn't. Did I feel bad and made up for my mistakes? I certainly did, but not out of fear of God."


Going on a spiritual walkabout


The debate over being spiritual rather than religious is not just about semantics. It's about survival.
Numerous surveys show the number of Americans who do not identify themselves as religious has been increasing and likely will continue to grow.


A 2008 survey conducted by Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, dubbed these Americans who don't identify with any religion as "Nones."


Seminaries, churches, mosques and other institutions will struggle for survival if they don't somehow convince future generations that being religious isn't so bad after all, religion scholars warn.


Jennifer Walters, dean of religious life at Smith College in Massachusetts, says there's a lot of good in old-time religion.


Religious communities excel at caring for members in difficult times, encouraging members to serve others and teaching religious practices that have been tested and wrestled with for centuries, Walters says.


"Hymn-singing, forms of prayer and worship, teachings about social justice and forgiveness -- all these things are valuable elements of religious wisdom," Walters says. "Piecing it together by yourself can be done, but with great difficulty."


Being a spiritual Lone Ranger fits the tenor of our times, says June-Ann Greeley, a theology and philosophy professor. "Religion demands that we accord to human existence some absolutes and eternal truths, and in a post-modern culture, that becomes all but impossible," says Greeley, who teaches at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut.


It's much easier for "spiritual" people to go on "spiritual walkabouts," Greeley says.
"People seem not to have the time nor the energy or interest to delve deeply into any one faith or religious tradition," Greeley says. "So they move through, collecting ideas and practices and tenets that most appeal to the self, but making no connections to groups or communities."


Being spiritual instead of religious may sound sophisticated, but the choice may ultimately come down to pettiness, says Martin, the Jesuit priest, who writes about the phrase in his book, "The Jesuit Guide to (Almost Everything)."

"Religion is hard," he says. "Sometimes it's just too much work. People don't feel like it. I have better things to do with my time. It's plain old laziness."





 Jesuit priest James Martin,

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Cathedral chief criticises selfishness of those who say they are ‘spiritual but not religious’

A senior clergyman has spoken out against the trend for people to describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious”.


The Chancellor of Lincoln Cathedral also criticised the “disdain” expressed by those who maintain “you don’t have to go to church to be a Christian”.


Canon Mark Hocknull said that spirituality should be seen as a gift to a whole community rather than a personality trait.


His comments come after academics identified the rise of the “fuzzy faithful” in Britain – people who have a vague belief in God but do not necessarily belong to a particular denomination or attend services.


Only half of Britons now consider themselves Christian, a recent report showed. The deference shown to traditional religious institutions has declined in recent decades while more and more people, inspired by celebrities, self-help books and therapy sessions, have developed individual beliefs about a divine being.


In the current Chapter Letter to the congregation at Lincoln Cathedral, Dr Hocknull wrote: “Any member of a church community will have heard it hundreds of times: ‘I’m spiritual but not religious,” or ‘You don’t have to go to church to be a Christian’.
“A Google search yields 1,360,000 results for that sentence. The statement is revealing, not just for its implied disdain for the life of religious communities, but also for its reduction of ‘spirituality’ to a personality trait.


“To say that ‘I’ am ‘spiritual’ here is on a par with saying that ‘I’ am patient or thoughtful or generous; it is a description that is all about ‘me’.”


He went on: “In the context of the biblical tradition, spirituality, instead, is a gift poured out by the Holy Spirit.”


Dr Hocknull pointed out that the reading from Romans in the Cathedral repeated the word “we” rather than “I” and added: “Far from being our possession or an individual personality trait, Paul’s ‘spirituality’ is a gift, a gift to the community and a gift that does not exempt believers but plunges them right back into the world’s sufferings and pains, empowered and confident in the future God is bringing about.”

Monday, June 14, 2010


Greetings in the Name of Jesus Christ.

This comes to all Salvationists with my strong, ongoing affection in Christ for you, and with my prayers for your effectiveness in the sacred calling that God, in his supreme wisdom, has placed upon the peoples known as Salvationists.

It has been laid upon my heart that I am to take a step of obedience under God by reaching out to you all through Pastoral Letters written from time to time. I write therefore in order to obey the One who has created us all, and with a longing that what is written will affirm, encourage and inspire you.

The themes for these occasional Pastoral Letters continue to be the themes God reveals. His holy will is made known in many ways. I pledge myself to be mindful that his will is often revealed through interaction with members of the Body and not only or always in the seclusion of the place of prayer.

It is my deep hope that each Pastoral Letter will be read wherever Salvationists are to be found, whether in private or in public settings. The chosen themes may prompt discussion, prayer and – as appropriate – action.
Shaw Clifton
General

PASTORAL LETTER NINETEEN

COUNTING

Dear Fellow Salvationists,
This 19th Pastoral Letter comes to each of you with warmest good wishes and greetings in the Lord Jesus Christ.
As I prepare this letter in an upstairs room in my home in London, England, I look out to see the green and blossoming evidence of late spring. The trees are suddenly abundant in leaf. The sky is lighter and the days grow longer. We discern the hand of God in nature once again and we are filled with gratitude.

Readers in the southern hemisphere are in autumn, waiting for the darker nights and colder temperatures of winter to arrive. The seasons march on with seemingly inexorable pace. We feel our smallness, our creatureliness, and we sense too the overarching mind of the Creator in it all.

Little wonder then that we can burst into song to declare: ‘How great Thou art!’ We offer praise amid the awe. We bring to God our smallness, ready for him to help us rise in Christ to all the fullness of what we can be.

It is God’s plan that each one of us should be all we can be. You matter, you count. Tell yourself out loud: ‘I matter! I count in the eyes of Almighty God!’

Now suddenly my mind is racing off in another direction as I see the word ‘count’ appear in my script. The Bible tells us that even the number of hairs upon our heads has been counted and is known to God in Heaven. This is a powerful reminder of God’s intimate knowledge of us. I find it enormously comforting, but many find the thought menacing. Not everyone wants a Creator God who interacts with us. Instead they seek freedom to wander, licence to please themselves, falsely supposing this to be freedom.

Our God is a counting God. We see this in Jesus who spoke about a flock of sheep numbering 100, but one was lost thus reducing the flock to only 99. The shepherd would not rest until the lost one had been found. That lost one is you. It is also me. We are ‘Sheep Number 100’! How good that we have a God who can count and who searches tirelessly for us when we go missing. This divine attribute is ever before us when we do the sacredly routine work of counting how many folk are in a worship meeting, or how many have used the Mercy Seat, or how many names appear on the soldiers’ roll and other rolls.
If our Creator is by nature a God who counts, then we in turn must expect also to be like him. We can count our blessings, we can count the days he has allotted to us and give thanks for each one of them.

God stands alongside us as we count. He knows how many Army soldiers and junior soldiers there are in the world, and how many there are in your local corps. He knows the number of Army officers in the world and the number of cadets in our training colleges. He loves to see these numbers grow. He knows too that we are at work now in 121 countries of the world. Best of all he knows personally and in detail every individual soldier, junior soldier, officer and cadet. He knows those who are his.

We bask in this knowledge.

Commissioner Helen Clifton joins me in greeting each of you in the precious Name of Jesus.

Please continue to pray for us.

I commend each one of you to the grace of Christ.

Sincerely in him,
Shaw Clifton
General

Monday, June 7, 2010

“I’ll be true.... I’ll be true.........”

In going through some of my old papers which seem to have been travelling with me forever and continuing to challenge me for what the future will be. I guess that we all have been through these emotions and have been variously affected in different ways. These are the actual notes that I wrote on that particular occasion and are offered here as a challenge to me to decide what will the next few years mean for me and my life. What will it mean when that ‘Great Day in the Morning’ arrives? Will there be people who will want to ask me of my ‘exploits for the Kingdom’?

Officers Councils 1982

Melbourne Australia


It was the Afternoon of Officers Councils 1982, we sat in the historic Melbourne City Temple. This was a large, 100 year old auditorium and each year for Congress the largest Blood and Fire Flag in the world was used as a backdrop on the back wall of the platform. During the afternoon session the Field Secretary read out the names of those Officers who had been ‘Promoted to Glory’ in the last 12 months, since we last met in this way.

As the obituaries were read I could ‘see’ those officers so recently ‘Promoted to Glory’, many of whom I knew, being welcomed by the Founder into that most holy estate. I could see Brigadier Ern Callander and Colonel Myrtle Watson and all the others in their shining new garments. Not only was the old General there with his long white beard, but there was a host of the other Army Saints that we read about in the history books; George Scott Railton, Joe the Turk, Happy Elizer, Evangeline Booth and many others as if the Army history books had come to life. I saw these newly commissioned saints eagerly wanting to know the details that our history books left out or only gave small details, to hear firsthand the exciting and significant events that have made up our Army history.

But as I listened to that sanctified discussion it was the Founder and GSR and the others who were even more eager to hear of the exploits of the Erns and Myrtles and the others who had so recently left the fight. In all this excitement and joy the ‘Great Welcome’ was expressed by our Lord Jesus and as he spoke those ultimate words of welcome it seemed that the whole of creation heard and rejoiced; “Well done thou good and faithful servants; enter into the joy of your reward”

The celebration seemed without end with the meetings of loved ones and brothers and sisters in the faith and the hum and buzz of excitement of my new picture.

It seemed that I had been watching this glorious scene for many hours but the voice of the Field Secretary Colonel John McIntyre broke in on my reverie by continuing to read on the list of names and the memories they evoked in those of us who stood in respect, reverence and love for them. As I looked around I saw all the active officers with a variety of service around me there was Captain Frank D., Major Roland H., there were all the other Captains and Lieutenants, the retireds all sitting in the honoured front seats all standing listening to the names of their friends and possible session mates names being read out, and then there were the Cadets listening to the names of whom legends are made.

It was a moment of deep emotion for me as I made up such a small insignificant part of this great gathering on that particular day; but I realized more than ever before that it is we who are making history. It is we today who are taking our place in the fight who we are, by our holy living, making the history of tomorrow. There are many things that I want to ask those old saints about, some of the activities that have fired my imagination for so long, but one day, if I am faithful, there will be someone who will want to ask questions of my life and ministry, about the fight that I am engaged in.

We all took our seats and sang a suitable song but in that very sacred moment my mind sang over and over again..

“I’ll be true.... I’ll be true.........”

Yes; true to the Colours, but not necessarily the Red, Yellow, and Blue but to the colours of Faith and Service that we each covenanted on that day, that at the time was simply for me a step in leaving the ‘Hallowed Walls’ to go out and serve. What will the Saints who welcome me want to know about what I have achieved? What have I done and what I have achieved that will be worth talking about on that ‘Great Day in the Morning’. The time is always ripe for a challenge; these words have reached me and taken on new meaning from nearly 30 years ago.

I trust that this will be a challenge for you also.

Fletch
Peter Fletcher
Former
Australia

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Affirmative Action; the ”catch up” coaches...

In Salvation Army circles these days, the development of women leaders is a hot topic. As one who has long advocated for opportunities for women, both married and single, at first glance I’m encouraged by the attention being given to the subject. Even as I write today, there is a conference going on in London with the goal of preparing women for senior leadership. At first I thought, “Good, it’s about time,” but that reaction was quickly matched by a second – how patronizing to women. Are you telling me that somehow men can figure it out on their own, but women need special conferences in order to ”catch up”? It’s the old affirmative action argument in a skirt.

Writing for The Officer in Spousal Syndrome – Delight or Dilemma, Lt. Colonel Lynda Watt suggests that “when it is time to find the right person to fill a particular leadership position, the officer-wife options often become limited, with few having the necessary exposure or experience.”

Reaction #1: Hogwash! With the exception of the “women officer hostess class,” I had exactly the same training as my husband. By the end of my (our) first corps appointment, I had been involved with business, personnel and program. I had stumbled through a capital campaign and building project, no more or less knowledgeable than my husband.

The Salvation Army women officers I know work as hard as their husbands, are as educated as their husbands, and most share both the pulpit and the parenting. So is it really about exposure or experience? Or is something else at work here?

Reaction #2. Considering that it may be true for some, then why? Might it have anything to do with the fact that in training we were taught to fold napkins and put the jam and jelly in little bowls instead of leaving it in the jars? Might it have anything to do with expectations that the division of labor within the couple will fall along gendered lines?

The Salvation Army has sent its cultural messages to its (married) women officers for years, and continues to do so every time the social security statement comes (in the United States) and every time a disposition of forces is printed (at least where I live).

Is it that women can’t do the work, or that they’re not appointed to the work? At least in my territory, it starts long before senior leadership. Across the board, the husband is the Adult Rehabilitation Center administrator while the wife is the director of program and residential services. The husband is the Kroc Center administrator and wife is the (his?) associate. The husband is the divisional youth secretary and the wife is . . . well, you get my drift.

I recognize that it is a complicated discussion, but I find it hard to believe that out of twenty couples, not one might have gifts that would reverse that designation. But, at least where I sit, it doesn’t happen. Why? Culture. History. Tradition. Theological views that fall closer to the complementarian camp than the egalitarian one. Patriarchy.

So what can be done? First, tell the truth. As Watt suggests, “In the structure of The Salvation Army it may be that to give married women equal opportunity to use their skills and abilities would mean far-reaching and difficult complexities that the organization might be unable to overcome.” Perhaps we’ve become conservative enough both in theology and praxis that we must turn our back on Catherine’s teaching and join the Baptists. If that’s so, admit it and get on with the work of the Kingdom. If (hopefully) that description is not accurate, then let’s find some ways to figure this out.

Second, explore further the concept of single spouse officership around the world. When released from the constraints of marital concerns enmeshed in officership, perhaps women who happen to be married could function in the same way that single women have functioned for years – and that women do in countless other denominations. Is anyone looking at the dynamics of this in the territories where it’s in place, or are we more worried about how to move someone if their spouse has an “outside” job?

Third, talk about the marriage dynamics. Make that a part of a shared consultation. How does the marriage function? What would harm it? What would strengthen it? I’m not sure that we’re talking about the wife being the commanding officer and the husband being the associate – simply that it can be possible to find positions of equivalent responsibility and fulfillment.

Fourth, consider models of truly shared leadership. Can it work? Can two people lead together without a culturally imposed division of labor? My son and his wife just had a baby, and it plays out every day for them. I’m seeing shared leadership a lot from my younger officer friends. It’s happened for years in the corps – why couldn’t divisional leadership be fully shared – in function and in title?

But here’s the rub. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver. Don’t dangle the carrot of equal opportunity for leadership in front of women if it is unlikely to happen. As many people are discovering in these tough economic times, advanced job training doesn’t do any good if there aren’t any jobs available. I’m thinking that women on the ground have done as much as they can – now the doors of opportunity have to swing a bit wider.

Major JoAnn Shade ministers with her husband Larry as the corps officers and Directors of the Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center. She received a B.A. in sociology from S.U.N.Y. at Binghamton, a M.A. in Pastoral Counseling, and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Ashland Theological Seminary in June, 2006. She is a prolific writer, lecturer, and busy counselor and has been a valued contributor to this blog since its inception.

Majors JoAnn and Larry Shade will visit the Hamilton Citadel Corps, Scotland in October, 2010. (pending confirmation). A full day seminar will be conducted where JoAnn will share insight; Women in Church and Organizational Leadership. A limited number of delegate seats (50) will be available to non-Hamilton Corps soldiers. WATCH FOR ANNOUNCEMENTS IN JULY!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

What Can Make a Difference?

THE BELOW IS USED WITH PERMISSION FROM WWW.HAGARSISTER.BLOGSPOT,COM, Major JoAnn Shade's blog site.


I visit and contribute to the former Salvation Army officer fellowship blog (www.fsaof.blogspot.com), and a recent post discussed the need for aftercare for those who leave Salvation Army ministry. While I agree that aftercare is needed, what about "beforecare"? What could have made a difference?

It's a question that runs through broken relationships of all kinds. When the marriage collapses, what could have made a difference? When an employee leaves, especially on bad terms, what could have made a difference? When a faithful believer is no longer in the pew on Sunday morning, what could have made a difference? Do we even have the courage to ask?

We shared in a guided conversation with our staff on Friday surrounding grace, hospitality and wholeness. One of the facilitators put it this way: "I'd rather be in relationship with you than walk away and be right."

Is it possible to create a culture of relationship where concerns can be brought to the table before it's too late? What would that look like? Space for disagreement and dialogue? A sharing of power?

When we're on the leaving end, in our desperation we throw our hat over the wall, and it feels as though the only option left is to climb the wall and retrieve it, thus placing us on the other side of the wall. Often that decision is agonizing, as we stand and look at the wall and all it represents. What if, in those moments, someone could come through a door in the wall with our hat in their hand, helping us discover how to put it back on again without shame?

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, there is nothing we can do to make a difference in the decision of the other and we have to release them to God's protection. Sometimes all we can do is stand on the porch with the light on, watching, waiting, praying. O God, give me the wisdom to know when to retrieve hats and when to watch, wait and pray.

Major JoAnn Shade ministers with her husband Larry as the corps officers and Directors of the Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center. She received a B.A. in sociology from S.U.N.Y. at Binghamton, a M.A. in Pastoral Counseling, and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Ashland Theological Seminary in June, 2006. She is a prolific writer, lecturer, and busy counselor and has been a valued contributor to this blog since its inception.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Is there a role for the FSAOF in turning the tide of losses?


Many of those in the Former Salvation Army Officers Fellowship continue serving in consecrated, ordained roles as pastors , teachers and shepherds, while others live out their calling in other areas of service. No matter where our vocation is lived out, and as we faithfully serve, we are also mindful of a key corporate mission as ‘former’ officers; the reformation of THE SA Officer recruitment, retention and resignation process- to thwart the steady departure of well-qualified, committed officers.

A first and key step in formulating a successful strategy is acknowledging that reform is necessary. One need only take a cursory look at the alarmingly high percentage of officers resigning from active service each year to recognize both the immediate and long-term negative implications. And our concern is shared by many, including active SA officers, and others, as evidenced by the many articles and comments shared through our blog site.

General Shaw Clifton too is concerned as demonstrated by his, “If Crosses Come”.
The Officer, 2009. ‘Each year I receive the global annual statistics for officer resignations and dismissals. Those for the calendar year of 2007 show that fewer colleagues left officership than in 2006. Of approximately 16,500 active officers, 257 or 1.6% left in 2007 (274 or 1.9% in 2006).’

The General's comments reflects a positive position and consequently, one of lesser urgency than those shared regularly in our blog. Assuming the resignations remain at a percentage level of between 1.5 and 2 %, one must also remember that each departing officer often represents a significant number of years of active service; experience and commitment.

The average number of years of service represented in the FSAOF is approximately 14, or a combined 4,620 years (330 members worldwide). Further, at the current rate of departure, this represents a staggering 2,500 experienced and tested officers ‘leaving the work’ every decade. There’s little doubt that the count exceeds the number of those still in active service. FSAOF members share that typically, fewer than 50% of their session mates remain in active service. And, in the UK territory, the number of officers retiring each year from active service now outnumber those being commissioned!

It must certainly cause constant consternation, concern, and contemplation among SA leaders in many territories. And it must grieve God's heart to see the number of steady resignations; scores who promised a lifetime of loyalty to ‘the cross and the colours’ are departing, many resigning to serve elsewhere. While some loss is inevitable, one must question why there is such an alarmingly high and steady departure flow.

The General’s article “If Crosses Come”, details the cause and effect (%) of resignations:

REASONS:
Domestics, marital or family: (25.29 %)
Dissatisfaction, for example, appointment/remuneration: (21.01) %
Misconduct: (19.06) %
Unsuited for further service: (9.7 %)
Transfer to another church: (6.23 %)
Marriage to non-officer: (5.8 %)
Feeling discouraged: (5.4 %)
Health issues: (5.4 %)
Health of spouse: (.4 %)
Doctrinal issues: ( 1.55 %)


The above list of ‘reasons’ suggest that there is no unique or single common motivating factor, the resignations stem from a multitude of factors.

As a spiritual body nearing 350 members, the FSAOF is very concerned about the army’s future, the organization that trained us for the ministry and in the roles where many of us serve today. The spiritual body we represent was grounded and formed in response to a ‘call’ each of us heard, accepting our vocation in accordance with Paul’s description in Ephesians 4:11-12 (NIV) ‘It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up’.

Our concern moved us to conduct a series of surveys among our world-wide fellowship to more accurately determine; (other surveys are planned to be conducted among the 300+ former officers in Sweden)

• The number of years of active service
• The type of appointment(s) held
• The reason for resignation/dismissal
• What type efforts/measures were expended to dissuade resignation
• If efforts were made to recruit ‘formers’ to return to full time service
• The type employment engaged in;
Ministry
Teaching
Church related
Counseling
Health care
Administration
Managerial
Homemaker
Other
• Active in TSA
• Active in another denomination
• Not active in any church
• Would consider a return to TSA without reservation
• Would consider a return to TSA with reservations/conditions
• Would not consider a return to TSA under any condition
• TSA demonstrated Christian concern and provided necessary support during the separation/resignation process
• TSA demonstrated little Christian concern and provided no significant support during the separation/resignation process

The surveys will be conducted via the FSAOF blog site from which we learned in a June 2010 survey that our readership profile make-up represents:.

FORMER OFFICERS (91%)
ACTIVE AND RETIRED OFFICERS (8%)
CADETS (2%)
PERSON WHO ARE SA SOLDIER (25%)
PERSONS WITH NO SA AFFILIATION (10%)
RESIDE IN USA (50%)
RESIDE IN CANADA (4%)
RESIDE IN UK (21%)
RESIDE ELSEWHERE (19%)

We believe wholeheartedly in the soul-saving mission of the army and want to do all possible to advance that divine assignment. However, to serve the present age and to march steadily onward can best be achieved by calling on the resources represented by the FSAOF, that in part brought the advances the army, through God the Holy Spirit, has achieved. The Former Salvation Army Officers Fellowship members represent a formidable earlier resource willing to be used once again in SA service.

Your battle is our battle... Specifically, is there a role for the FSAOF to provide in assisting in turning the tide of losses? Let us hear from you SA!

Dr. Sven Ljungholm
Former SA Officer (USA, SWEDEN, RUSSIA, UKRAINE, MOLDOVA)