Friday, May 31, 2013



"You will witness how God intervenes (and grips) the Salvation Army and how you as an army will achieve things you never thought would be possible."

RUPEBA is one of Scandinavia's most visited Christian blog sites, and is the product of a Salvation Army officer, Lt. Peter Baronowsky. He is a son of the regiment, his parents having served as SA officers until their retirement. Peter and his wife Rut, hence the blog title RU PE BA, served as teachers/administrators at the Army's Jeloy High School in Norway before returning to Sweden and establishing a number of in-house training programs. And concurrently, a SA house church with a steady increase of interested persons joining the fellowship, becoming soldiers and some moving on to officership.

 Both are prolific writers and between them have authored scores of articles, booklets, study guides and many books. 

As they entered into their sixties they felt called to officership, were ordained and commissioned to command the SA work in Latvia. Now retired, since December 2012, their considerable Salvationist influence continues unabated; lecturing, preaching, leading Bible weekends at home and abroad, daily blogging, and added this week, a pod and webcast site. 

RUPEBA and the FSAOF often share blog material. Peter posted the first two of Major Harold Hill's paper, and this morning the below was his feature article.

May God richly bless the Baronowskys as they serve in Jesus' name.


"Will it happen, and if so, when?

Some time ago I published an article  from The War Cry posted roughly ten years ago: "It was a charged moment for the 700 participants who were present at the conference, Challenge 2000, when Gerald Coates, one of the leaders of the New House Movement (renamed - New Church Movement)  and a leader of Churches Pioneer Network, (a neocharismatic group of evangelical churches). asked the 27 Salvation Army delegates to stand up while he spoke prophetic words  to the Salvation Army. "

I also shared the prophecy on another web forum and was asked the following question: 
"A little curious as to how you personally perceive this prophecy? How far has the prophesy been fulfilled, if in fact it’s worth to be taken seriously? And if it has not yet been completely fulfilled, what factors do you believe prevent God's plan for the Salvation Army to come true?  Why would we not want to take such a lovely vision seriously, if we still assumed that it came from God? "

And I would like to respond as follows: Yes, I can well imagine that the fulfillment of the prophecy has begun. One sign of a turnaround for the Salvation Army in Europe is the dramatic increase in the number of people seeking entry into the officers training colleges.

I don’t have access to any official statistics, but my belief is that Sweden has a much larger influx to the Officer Training College than in many years. The same applies to Norway, Denmark and Finland.

Last summer Latvia ordained the largest officer corps ever (I think) eight new lieutenants. (Ed; The author of this paper was at that time the SA Regional Commander in Latvia) . Belgium and France are also seeing a dramatic increase.

And, if I remember correctly, we learned in the Europe Congress in Prague last autumn that new officers are being ordained in Italy. Those officers who were most recently ordained in Italy enter into retirement concurrently!

Globally the Salvation Army is larger today than it has ever been in history.

All this can be a sign that something is occurring in the direction and fulfillment of the prophecy.

The prophecy states: "Because of the humility that is in your hearts, and because of the way God has overwhelmed you, he will answer your prayers. And because of the courage coupled with humility, you will witness how God intervenes (and grips) the Salvation Army and how you as an army will achieve things you never thought would be possible."

It speaks of humility, brokenness and courage. Could it be that the pace of the fulfillment of the prophecy is influenced by our own humility, brokenness and our courage?

In that case, it is we ourselves that affect the rate of the acceleration or retardation of the prophecy fulfillment. It would not be unusual for God to act in such fashion.

Peter Baronowsky
Stockholm, Sweden

(translation: S. E. Ljungholm)

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Vision for the Lost or Lost Vision - PART FIVE

Vision for the Lost or Lost Vision:        Conclusion

… If we want the sort of young people who care more for truth than for privileges and places, we shall have to consider a matter of such vital importance without fear or prejudice.”[1]

With Colonel Baird, I believe we must encourage and nurture our radical thinkers. We need them. I don’t believe that retreating into reaction is a way forward for us. Fundamentalism may seem a refuge from hard questions, and its current surge may offer an apparent highway, but it’s a dead end. I wonder about the latest revision of the Handbook of Doctrine, announced in recent weeks, described as a “correction for clarity”. It appears to retreat from Booth’s position on Scripture, perhaps to accommodate more comfortably our Fundamentalist comrades?[2]  Or perhaps it just leaves more options open. In that case can we please move beyond the totalitarian, sectarian ethos where any opinions expressed are assumed to be representing the Army, and therefore must be vetted for doctrinal soundness?  As Dean Smith has cogently argued, Liberals and Evangelicals may not be singing from the same song sheet, but could “agree to disagree without moral judgement.”[3]            Perhaps what I’m asking for is, in Brian McLaren’s phrase, a “generous orthodoxy”.[4]

If, like that polarity of Word and Deed, the polarity between theological conservatism and innovation is also intrinsic to the myth and vision inherited from our Founders, it is in the tension of such polarities that new vision is generated – as it was in Booth’s day. So:

1. What was Booth’s vision? One of hell, and salvation, here and hereafter.
2. What do we now see? Perhaps not quite the same vision, or with the same clarity of vision.
3. How did that happen? Quite naturally.
4. Can the vision be re-found? Yes! But it will look different.

The alternation of renewal and decline as the context within which we have attempted to place our visionary theme reminds us that entropy and dissolution are not the whole story. In the Salvationist micro-climate, we may occasionally have our equivalent of what in the Catholic Church Karl Rahner called a “winter period”, and we may regret the repetitive pattern of institutionalisation and decline, but we can rejoice also in the reiterated springtime which, God-willing, ensues. May the Holy Spirit give renewed vision for our times.

Remember Gerard Manley Hopkins’ lines:

                  And for all this, nature is never spent;
                     There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
                  And though the last lights off the black West went
                     Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs –
                  Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
                     World broods with warm breast and with ah!
                        bright wings.[5]                          

Major Harold Hill
New Zealan, Fiji and Tonga Territory

The paper was given in response to an invitation to speak at a tri-territorial theological conference (NZ, AUE and AUS) in Sydney last year – the topic was set for the conference, not my choice… For the past 10 or so years the papers given at these have been published by the three territories jointly. This one isn’t out yet – there’s usually about a 12 months process and they’re available by the time of the following conference. Sydney Booth College website usually has the details of publications.


Gerald Arbuckle, From Chaos to Mission. Collegeville MN: The Liturgical Press, 1996.
William Booth, International Staff Council Addresses. London: The Salvation Army, 1904.
William Booth, “The Millennium; or, The Ultimate Triumph of the Salvation Army Principles”, All the World, August 1890, 337-43.
William Booth, Visions. London: The Salvation Army, 1906 [1998].
Callum G. Brown, “What was the religious crisis of the 1960s?” Journal of Religious History  34:4, December 2010, 468-479.
John C. Izzard (edited by Henry Gariepy), in Pen of Flame: the Life and Poetry of Catherine Baird. Alexandria: Crest Book, 2002.
A. M. Nicol, General Booth and The Salvation Army. London: Herbert and Daniel, 1911.
H. Richard Niebuhr, Social Sources of Denominationalism. New York: Meridian, [1929] 1957.
Allan Satterlee, Turning Points: How the Salvation Army Found a Different Path. Alexandria VA: Crest, 2004.
Edward Schillebeeckx, Ministry: A Case for Change, London: SCM, 1981, 3.
Dean Smith, “Are Liberals and Evangelicals singing from the same song sheet?” The Heythrop Journal XLVIII (2010) 1-16.
Francis Thompson (Ed. Wilfred Maynell), Prose Works, London: Burns and Oates, 1913, 3, 57. (Kessinger Publishing 2003).
Max Weber, The Sociology of Religion. Boston: Beacon Press, 1964.
P.W. Wilson, General Evangeline Booth of the Salvation Army. New York: The Salvation Army, [1935] 1948.

[1] Quoted by John C. Izzard (edited by Henry Gariepy), in Pen of Flame: the Life and Poetry of Catherine Baird (Alexandria: Crest Book, 2002) 112.
[2] “On behalf of the General, I am pleased to announce a change of wording for a paragraph found on page 11 of the Handbook of Doctrine (Chapter 1 – ‘For further exploration’ - 1.A.3. - page 11).

“The old wording in question includes:
“The inspiration of the Bible provides a foundation for our understanding of the reliability of the divine revelation in Scripture. It is uniquely inspired in a way that is different from other writings or works of art. However, this does not mean that the Bible is infallible or inerrant, so that it is incapable of misleading and contains no human error. Whereas we believe that the overall message of the Bible is inspired and reliable, each individual passage must be read and interpreted carefully, in context, and with careful reference to the whole of biblical truth.

“Effective immediately, two paragraphs will replace the one above:

“We believe the message of the Bible is inspired and reliable. However, each individual passage must be read and interpreted carefully, in context and with reference to the whole of biblical truth.

“We affirm that we can rely upon the Scriptures for instruction and guidance in matters of divine truth and the Christian life, because in Scripture we meet the Word of God himself, Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit who inspired the writers also illumines those who read its pages and leads them to faith.”
The War Cry (NZ) 11 August 2012, 17.
[3] Dean Smith, “Are Liberals and Evangelicals singing from the same song sheet?” The Heythrop Journal XLVIII (2010) 14.
[4] Brian D. McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006).
[5] From “God’s Grandeur”, by Gerard Manley Hopkins. Gerard Manley Hopkins: A Selection of his Poems and Prose by W. H. Gardner (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1953) 27.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Vision for the Lost or Lost Vision - PART FOUR

It is not my purpose now to draw up lists of what is accidental and what is essential, but we’ve been debating the non-negotiables of Salvationism for years now. Our debate is sometimes framed largely as an exercise in renewal, concerned with the trappings, and which of them we want to retain or discard, rather than focussed on the vision itself. Our nearest approach to a reform of officership some years back managed some comparatively minor changes – most of them subsequently reversed – because we did not go deep enough. But can deep change come about from the top?

Casting a vision is one of the functions of leadership. Admittedly change in hierarchical organisations requires permission from on high, but is that where change is initiated? People can rise to leadership by conforming to the established patterns, and even when they do not, their room for manoeuvre is likely to be limited when they finally arrive at the top.

Permission-giving is important – the classic is Commissioner Harry Read’s liberating order of the day to the British Territory, “Just do something; I give you permission to fail”. But real change begins from the bottom. What alert leadership does is read the signs of the times. Edward Schillebeeckx makes the point that throughout the history of the Church whenever there has been any significant change, “on each occasion official documents sanction a church practice which has grown up from the grass roots.”[1]
The profound change embraced by the Roman Catholic Church after John XXIII had called the Second Vatican Council in 1962 had been fermenting beneath the surface for several generations.

It ferments also beneath the surface of the Salvation Army. As Arbuckle goes on to say, after describing how prophetic movements become human institutions, “When this happens, new prophetic movements within the Church and/or re-founding people arise within existing congregations to challenge them to return to the radical demands of the Beatitudes.”[2] A buzz-word in the evangelical community in recent decades has been the “new Monasticism” – another way of describing an attempt to re-found. We have their representatives within the Army – what else were Alove and 614 and ArmyBarmy and neo-Primitive Salvationism about? It’s significant that such new movements almost invariably propose to serve the poor, and include a focus on social justice. Are they the “new order”  Booth envisaged?

Let’s tease out further what is involved in “refounding.” Arbuckle suggests that the “most powerful myth is the group’s creation story” [3], which in our case is Booth’s vision. Arbuckle says that every founding myth contains within itself polarities, such as the tension between individual rights and the common good in a free, democratic society. Just so, the polarity between individual and social salvation is intrinsic to our Salvationist myth and our vision. It is Booth’s own multifaceted vision that has left us with this theological dilemma between Word and Deed, between “saving” and “serving”. It’s encouraging that Booth’s polarities of personal and social salvation are maintained and perhaps better integrated in today’s emerging Army. Divergent views of what Salvation consists of – and its application to this world or the next – need to be held in tension.

There are related polarities, such as the one encapsulated by Booth’s lament that “I have been trying all my life to stretch out my arms so as to reach with one hand the poor, and at the same time to keep the other in touch with the rich. But my arms are not long enough.”[4] This is an area of both theological and ethical challenge for the Army today, if we are still reluctant to challenge unequivocally the structural greed which divides rich and poor in our societies, divides the rich and poor nations, and threatens the very survival of the biosphere. As Anglican Bishop Peter Selby has written recently in The Tablet, “Our slavery to the principalities and powers represented by what money has been allowed to become has to be broken.”[5] We could be thinking – and speaking – more radically about these things, but would that offend our donors?

But there are other polarities, also likely to be exposed by the shifting world-values around us. What of the challenge offered by the intellectual dislocation of secularisation and post-modernism, the continuing fall-out of what Callum Brown has described as “the pretty comprehensive nature of the collapse of Christian culture in the 1960s”?[6] The Army has been able to respond to some social and economic trends; we have been less ready to comprehend, let alone respond to, the secularisation of society and the loss of fundamental religious identity this has involved. Has our theology equipped us to address this change? Let me fly a kite here. 

Does recovering Booth’s vision for the lost necessarily mean reverting to his theological frame of reference? Indeed, can another polarity, this time between conservative and innovative theology also be discerned even in the Founder himself? Certainly he had no interest in the Higher Criticism of his day but read of his enthusiastic reception of new translations of Scripture – he placed a copy of the Twentieth Century New Testament in the hands of each officer in 1904. He had no truck with the literal verbal inerrancy which came to be identified with fundamentalism – he wrote against it. Or even reflect that as an early adopter of Phoebe Palmer’s new, streamlined theory of holiness, Booth was running ahead of the Wesleyan majority of his time. Or that his radical resolution of the debate on sacramental usages was an attempt to cut through a Gordian knot which still binds the church at large? Or that his commitment to the role of women in ministry was counter-cultural?
Again, has Booth’s own vision left us an inheritance of theological diversity? If so, can we embrace it?

We have not done that well. Like a certain other hierarchical ecclesiastical institution, we have a history of making it difficult for people who think outside the square to remain in our ranks. Nicols resigned in 1910. Fred Brown was forced out in 1970. How many others have simply slipped away unnoticed? Were not Alexander Nicol and Fred Brown, with hearts for the lost as well as questioning minds, also legitimate inheritors of the Founder’s vision, equally with those who were content to parrot the formulae and proof-texts of the Doctrine Book? We can ill afford to lose those who ask the hard questions about our theology. Captain Matthew Clifton recently announced his resignation, explaining that; 'Energising as the covenant was while evangelical belief could be sustained, I have the wrong kind of personality to have foreclosed enquiry by binding myself to religious truth claims.' [7]

That was his choice of course, but do we want to “foreclose enquiry”? Can we afford to? More than half a century ago Colonel Catherine Baird wrote to General Kitching in defence of allegedly “modernist” Salvationists whom she claimed were being “witch-hunted”:

Surely [she wrote] anyone should be ashamed to have, after 30 years, no deeper, clearer understanding of the atonement, holiness, last things, and other great doctrines, than he had at the beginning. And surely, this deeper knowledge does not mean that he has departed from that which he first knew. Given the alphabet, a child can write simple words and little more. In manhood, he may write a sonnet. But that does not mean that he no longer believes that “cat” spells cat.

Major Harold Hill
New Zealan, Fiji and Tonga Territory

The paper was given in response to an invitation to speak at a tri-territorial theological conference (NZ, AUE and AUS) in Sydney last year – the topic was set for the conference, not my choice… For the past 10 or so years the papers given at these have been published by the three territories jointly. This one isn’t out yet – there’s usually about a 12 months process and they’re available by the time of the following conference. Sydney Booth College website usually has the details of publications.

[1] Edward Schillebeeckx, Ministry: A Case for Change (London: SCM, 1981) 3.
[2] Arbuckle, From Chaos to Mission, 12.
[3] Arbuckle, From Chaos to Mission, 66.
[5] Peter Selby, “Wake-up Call”, The Tablet, 4 August 2012. Sourced 5 August 2012.
[6] Callum G. Brown, “What was the religious crisis of the 1960s?” Journal of Religious History  34:4, December 2010, 472.
[7] Former Salvation Army Officers’ blog:, downloaded 11 July 2012.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Vision for the Lost or Lost Vision - PART THREE


Let’s not beat ourselves up. This was a perfectly normal and natural thing to happen. Renewal movements initiated by charismatic leadership, always institutionalise and decline. Sometimes they break out again in renewed vigour. This has happened within the Christian church many times since the original “Jesus movement” which shook the institutionalised religion of first century Judaea. The Montanists, the Monastics, the Mendicant Friars and late medieval movements, the radical Reformers, the Methodists and the Pentecostals all illustrate the seemingly inexorable progression of the seasons of divine inspiration and human endeavour. Radical religious movements tend to arise in eras of rapid change and transition, of cultural liminality, of chaos, to which they are in part a response. Because such periods often involve social and economic dislocation, these movements are also often marked by concern for the poor, or are identified with them. As Johan Metz put it,

[Religious orders/congregations] are a kind of shock therapy… for the Church as a whole. Against the dangerous accommodations and questionable compromises that the Church… can always incline to, they press for the uncompromising nature of the Gospel and the imitation of Christ...[1]

We fit the template. The Salvation Army emerged in the late 19th century as the latest body of Enthusiasts, those Max Weber called the virtuosi,[2] the dazzlingly skilled, the spiritual athletes. The Army was widely recognised as a de facto new religious order within the church. The poet Francis Thompson in an essay on “Catholics In Darkest England” wrote, “Consider what the Salvation Army is. It is not merely a sect, it is virtually a Religious Order…”[3]

But, as Gerald Arbuckle writes of Catholic Orders:

Historically, once these movements cease to be prophetic, though in Church law they may remain religious congregations, they are no longer authentically religious. By sinking to the level of purely human institutions they have lost their reason for being.[4]

The Army fitted this template also. Booth knew it was changing even in his day. Here he is in 1902:

[M]any … officers are trying to do the Salvation Army without salvation – at any rate, with very little; trying to exemplify the principles of the most wonderful religious organisation that the world has ever seen with very little religion. They get into a formal or legal way of doing things and go on doing them without any results or with very little results because the life and heat, and fire and passion are burned out or almost out.[5]

So in 1904 he described another vision, for a new order of officers. He wrote (again, I abbreviate):

I thought … I saw a new body of Officers suddenly start into existence…
… they appeared to manifest extraordinary signs of earnestness, self-denial, and singleness of purpose; indeed … a reckless, daredevil set. …  to welcome privations… to revel in hardships … facing opposition and difficulties with meekness, patience, and love.

…  they had voluntarily embraced the old-fashioned vows of celibacy, poverty, and obedience… vows … only binding upon them for a term of years, with the option of renewal for a further term at the expiration of that period, or of being able at that time to honourably return to the ordinary ranks of Officership.
… they wore a novel kind of uniform … evidently proud of their colours.
… refused to accept any money or gifts … were pledged not to own any goods of any kind… except the clothes they wore.
… great wanderers… on foot, … and speaking to the people in the streets… wherever they had opportunity, about death, judgment, eternity, repentance, Christ, and salvation…
… I saw their number… very, very small at first, gradually increase until they reached quite a multitude. And the educated and well-to-do, charmed with this simple Christ like life, swelled its numbers, coming from the universities and the money­making institutions and other high places.[6]

Booth was describing officers as he had expected them to be twenty five years earlier – and clearly recognised that they were no longer. He didn’t admit that his troops were now too burdened with canvassing for funds, reporting statistics and managing the already-saved, all concomitant with the institutionalising of his vision, but he knew he now needed a new Order. Had he been 50 years younger, he would have founded it himself.

But he didn’t, and his “old” order is now 100 years older. It will be obvious that in this I’m speaking of the Army in the West – of which Australasia is a part.

The present surge of growth the Army enjoys in the “Developing World” may appear to parallel that of the Army’s early days, but that’s another study. It’s the decline of the West with which I’m concerned here.

So how did it happen? Quite naturally and humanly. The reasons are as much sociological as spiritual.

So what now? Can the vision be re-found?

Can the Army of the West be re-founded? Gerald Arbuckle would say not only can but must! Arbuckle is a New Zealand Marist priest who works out of Sydney consulting with Catholic religious congregations (Orders) internationally. He draws a distinction between “renewal”, which is really just tinkering with the existing responses to a situation, and “refounding”, which is about in-depth, radical change in the face of change.  He defines refounding as “a process of returning to the founding experience of an organisation or group in order to rediscover and re-own the vision and driving energy of the pioneers.”[7]

There is a need for such a rediscovery when society enters a renewed period of change and chaos. The mission which responded so aptly to the challenges of an earlier period may now be stuck in the form created to address conditions which no longer obtain. Of course society is always in transition but sometimes change becomes exponential. As a time of rapid change and transition, of cultural liminality and chaos, the last half of the twentieth century has been equal to the era of the Army’s founding.

Arbuckle says that “when people own their powerlessness, they return to the sacred time of the founding of the group. There they can ask fundamental questions about their origins, about what is essential to the founding vision and what is to be kept, and what is accidental and to be allowed to go.”[8]

Major Harold Hill
New Zealan, Fiji and Tonga Territory

The paper was given in response to an invitation to speak at a tri-territorial theological conference (NZ, AUE and AUS) in Sydney last year – the topic was set for the conference, not my choice… For the past 10 or so years the papers given at these have been published by the three territories jointly. This one isn’t out yet – there’s usually about a 12 months process and they’re available by the time of the following conference. Sydney Booth College website usually has the details of publications.

End Part Three

[1] J. Metz, Followers of Christ: The Religious Life and the Church (London: Burns and Oates, 1978) 12. Quoted by Gerald Arbuckle, From Chaos to Mission (Collegeville MN: The Liturgical Press, 1996) 11.
[2]  Max Weber, The Sociology of Religion (Boston: Beacon, 1964) 162-5.
[3] Francis Thompson (Ed. Wilfred Maynell), Prose Works (London: Burns and Oates, 1913) 3, 57. (Kessinger Publishing 2003).
[4] Arbuckle, From Chaos to Mission, 12.
[5] P.W. Wilson, General Evangeline Booth of the Salvation Army (New York: Salvation Army) [1935] 1948, 132-3.
[6] William Booth, International Staff Council Addresses (London: The Salvation Army, 1904) 144-147.
[7] Arbuckle, From Chaos to Mission, 3.
[8] Arbuckle, From Chaos to Mission, 87.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Knowing the Triune God


“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14) not three persons, like Tom, Dick and Harry, but three primary ways of knowing God.

A small girl is looking out the window of her home. 
The sun is setting, she sees in the sky what looks like a ball of fire and she says to her mother, “What’s that”?  Her mother says, “That’s the sun in the sky”.  A few days later she notices a spot that’s brighter and warmer than the rest of the rug.  She asks, “Why is the rug so much warmer in this place?”  Her mother says, “That’s the sun”.  Then a few years later she goes to kindergarten and the teacher brings out two plants.  One is pale, white and puny; the other is strong green and flourishing.  The teacher asks, “Does anyone know what makes the difference?”  No one says anything, so she explains: “One has been in the dark and one in the light, and it’s the one in the light that is green and flourishing.”

Now take a personal relationship between a boy and his father.  He knows his father first as the one who tells him what he can and can’t do, and if he does what he isn’t supposed to do his father will be the one to see that he doesn’t do it again.  Then a few years later his father says, “Let’s go on a little trip by ourselves”.  They do, and the boy sees a different side of his father; he is his friend.  Many years later his father dies.  His mother is still living but the boy has to make the decisions, and he isn’t sure that he makes the right ones.  Then at one particular time his mother says to him, “You know that was your father coming out in you”.  And he says, “Yes, I know it, because at that time I felt my father steadying me.  I felt him with me even though I couldn’t see him.”

There are three things to notice about these experiences.  First, each involved three things, so separate, yet one and the same.  Second, each one learned that the great things in life are not as simple as they seem.  Third, in each case the second stage was the point at which the child started to think about the meaning of the experience.  It was when the girl saw the warm spot on the rug that she began thinking about its relationship to the ball of fire she had seen in the sky.  And it was when the boy spent the day with his father that he began thinking about how this fitted with the father that he had known as the one who laid down the law.

Now we turn to the Christian experience of God.  It began with the primitive awareness that some Power existed before humankind.  Men and women knew that they didn’t make themselves. Once in a while they could see the Maker at work. In the sun and in the storm, both in the beauty and in the fury, they got a glimpse of the Maker.  And they said that is God.  Then a Man in whom both the power and the love of the Maker were unmistakable came into the world.  He didn’t make anyone; he remade them.  He loved them and as they looked at him they thought God is at work in this Man, this must be the Son of God.   And after the Man had come and gone they found themselves doing the things the Man did, and they did them because of him.  It was, they said, his Spirit in us that makes it possible for us to do this. 

There you have it: three primary ways of knowing the One God.

Dr. John Sullivan
Former Officer Canada

PART TWO Vision for the Lost or Lost Vision - PART TWO

Vision for the Lost or Lost Vision: William Booth's Legacy
100 years on (Part Two)

Booth did imagine scenes other than of hell; visions of the millennium, and of heaven. He speculated in 1900 that London could become the New Jerusalem, with Hyde Park roofed over to become “The World’s Great Grand Central Temple”.[1] His vision of the Millennium looked remarkably like a Salvation Army International Congress. And like those grand Congress occasions, the purpose of his sharing this vision was to motivate his followers to greater efforts on behalf of the lost. He visited heaven and interviewed participants in the Acts 2 account of Pentecost in order to bring back a hurry-up message from the Apostles and Saints to shirkers in the ranks. The focus was not the attainment of bliss but the compulsion to rescue people from hell.

But there was a further vision. Although acts of mercy and service were part of Booth’s Wesleyan dna and long featured in the Christian Mission’s agenda, from the late 1880s on Booth was persuaded that the depth of social deprivation the Army encountered made it too difficult for many people to hear and understand the message of Salvation. He had to do something about hell on earth as well as hell hereafter. While the Army was already engaged in social action, Booth came to see the need for more fences at the tops of cliffs as well as more ambulances at the bottom. Sometimes he even tried to do something about the levelling cliffs themselves. He saw that society, as well as the individuals comprising it, needed to be saved.

So he began to describe another, extended vision. Here’s an example, as reported by former Commissioner Alex Nicol:

In one of his most inspired moments he delivered an address to his Staff upon the Salvation Army of the future. He called it a vision. He saw:
Homes for the Detention of Tramps.
Transportation Agencies for Removing Slum Dwellers from one part of the world to another.
Steamers owned and chartered by the Salvation Army for the purpose.

Stupendous factories, splendid stores, colossal workshops, and vast industrial enterprises.
Inebriates' Home for “men and women who drink distilled damnation in the shape of intoxicants.”
Rescue Operations of many orders for the deliverance of fallen women.

Land Colonies evolving into Salvation cities.
Orphanages becoming villages and Reformatories made into veritable paradises.

The working out of my idea for a World’s University for Humanity.

A Salvation Citadel in every village, town, and city.[2]

The post-millennial character of the Army’s vision is evident in this 1895 American article:
When we consider in our times, and appreciate the fact that we are in the very beginning of the glorious Millennium, we have cause to rejoice… It has not been the reconstruction of society and government – the paternal – modelled after Bible times and practised by General Booth in his early Army – I say it has not been these improvements, although they have helped. The great power, as we are all aware, is the fact that people have been saved and cleansed from all sin by the Blood of Jesus. This is the power that has brought about this reign of unselfishness and love among the people of the earth. This is the reason the entire world speaks the same language, and the word “foreigner” is obsolete… It was upon the debris of social ruin that The Salvation Army built up a grander civilization – one that honored [sic] and served God… The Lord was with His Army as He promised (Joel 2:11). In the year 1900 A.D., The Salvation Army numbered 20,000 field officers, in 1925 A.D., 200,000, when every city, village, and hamlet in the entire world had corps. Whole cities had been converted. … In 1950 the world was about conquered and the devil so discouraged that he gave up the fight.[3]

So what was Booth’s vision? A vision of hell. But by late in Booth’s life his vision encompassed not only Salvation from hell in this world for heaven in the next but the Salvation of this world as well.

What do we now see?

Admitting that the 1950 millennial prediction was a tad premature, does what we now see look like Booth’s vision?

To begin with, how about saving people from hell? An early-days Salvationist was an uncomfortable person with whom to share a railway compartment. You would be ear-bashed on the subject. Today, many of us are more anxious to demonstrate our inoffensive normality. The fact that many Salvationists have become less motivated to engage in personal evangelism probably indicates a slackening commitment to the doctrines underlying such activity. A diminished conviction that our neighbour is going to hell renders us less inclined to risk giving offence by trying to save him from it.

But lest we think this only came in with Rob Bell’s book Love Wins, here’s ex-Commissioner Nicol again, a hundred and one years ago. Commenting on the Fifth Doctrine, “We believe that our first parents were created in a state of innocence, but by their disobedience they lost their purity and happiness and that in consequence of their fall all men have become sinners totally depraved and as such are justly exposed to the wrath of God,” Nicol wrote, “The Army is committed for all time to this doctrine and many others equally contentious, and some of which Staff officers no more believe in than they do that Bacon wrote Shakespeare.”[4]

Really? Perhaps Nicol had the integrity to resign because he no longer believed those doctrines. Perhaps many of us have since found ways of re-interpreting them to our satisfaction, just as Anglican clergy once pledged a token adherence to the long-outmoded Thirty-Nine Articles of 1571.

This is not to say that modern Salvationists do not believe, or that sinners are no longer brought to salvation by our witness – they are, thank God – but Booth would probably consider some of us to be people “who do not seem to have any care – that is, any agonising care” – for the lost.

And what of Booth’s other vision, of the salvation of society?

All over the world, battalions of Salvationists and employees are engaged in alleviating social distress. Sometimes they not only attend to the consequences of social evil but also seek to engage with its structural causes. For many years this last was somewhat understated, partly because of the increasing social conservatism of the Army’s constituency and a fear of all things “political”, but in recent years it has been given a more prominent place in our mission. The mission statement of the Army in New Zealand is, “Caring for people, transforming lives, reforming society”.

Any hesitations? Booth’s “Darkest England” scheme of “social salvation” in this life was intended to support, to complement, not to replace, his commitment to “spiritual salvation” for the next life. He feared that service could become an end in itself. Today many of those working for the Army in this field are not Salvationists, and need not be Christians, and may not be particularly in sympathy with that aspect of the Army’s mission. In 2004 some New York employees sued the Army for insisting on it. They claimed that “When the Salvation Army’s religious mission was made mandatory in our work place, it changed the climate in a way that caused us fear and concern about our ability to ethically deliver services.”[5]

Although Salvation Army leaders have always been reluctant to allow donors, government or private, to determine our policies and values, we cannot resist the bait of those assiduously cultivated funds. Booth would take money from the devil himself and wash it in the tears of the widows and orphans – but the devil usually has his terms.[6] I know that there is a strong argument that our mission must be holistic, not confined to “saving souls”, and that even giving a cup of water in Jesus’ name contributes to the salvation of the world, but would Booth have been entirely satisfied that his vision was being embodied in all we do, both Word and Deed? 

So, has the evangelical imperative become diluted? If that’s what we now see, and if it be thought that we have lost the vision,

How did that happen?

We naturally idealise the early Army as a time of exponential growth, but statistically, the Australasian flood tide had peaked by 1900. In barely a generation the initial energy had begun to dissipate, the vision begun to fade. Reinhold Niebuhr echoed Luther in writing that, “By its very nature the sectarian type of organisation is valid for only one generation… Rarely does a second generation hold the convictions it has inherited with a fervour equal to that of its fathers, who fashioned these convictions in the heat of conflict and at the risk of martyrdom.”[7] The children and grandchildren of those who had experienced the miracle of the changing of beer into furniture did not necessarily enjoy the same kind of vital conversion experience of their own. They grew up within the world of the Salvation Army and it was their familiar sub-culture, but they did not necessarily inherit the evangelical imperative. Many found the sub-culture restrictive and they began to slip away.

Major Harold Hill
New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga Territory

[1] William Booth, “The Millennium; or, The Ultimate Triumph of the Salvation Army Principles”, All the World, August 1890, 337-43.
[2] A. M. Nicol, General Booth and The Salvation Army (London: Herbert and Daniel, 1911) 136-137. The speech here summarised by Nicol may be found in William Booth, International Staff Council Addresses (London: Salvation Army, 1904) 47-58.
[3] The War Cry (USA) 12 January 1895, p. 4, quoted in Allan Satterlee, Turning Points: How the Salvation Army Found a Different Path. (Alexandria VA: Crest, 2004) 79.
[4] Nicol, General Booth,  93-5.
[6] See for example an address to the 1921 International Social Conference by Commissioner Adelaide Cox in Social Problems in Solution (London: The Salvation Army, 1921) 39-41;  Clarence Wiseman in “Call to Renewal and Change”, in John Waldron (Ed.) Creed and Deed: Towards a Christian Theology of Social Services in The Salvation Army (Toronto: The Salvation Army, 1986) 280;  Dennis Garland, “The Salvation Army and the State of Welfare: An analysis of Text and Narrative.” MA (Hons) Thesis, University of Western Sydney, 2004, iii.
[7] H. Richard Niebuhr, Social Sources of Denominationalism (New York: Meridian, [1929] 1957) 20.