The newest General of The Salvation Army will ensure that the Army’s mission will continue to change the world, writes David Goodwin.
When it comes to electing the new leader of a global mission and movement—officially in 128 countries—that provides spiritual support and millions of dollars of welfare assistance to those most in need every year, how do you ensure that you get the right person in the role? For The Salvation Army, it comes down making sure that God’s will is the guiding principle, so how does the Army elect its world leader?
In keeping with its military theme, the leader of The Salvation Army holds the rank of General, and the leaders of its territories throughout the world generally hold the rank of Commissioner. The General’s second in command, called the Chief of the Staff, is also a Commissioner.
As a relatively young movement, of 153 years, The Salvation Army has had to rapidly mature when it came to its process of electing a new leader. Originally, the General could appoint his successor, but as the Army transitioned into spanning the globe it became clear that its methods needed to represent all within its ranks.
Understanding the need for transparency and accountability, so that both Salvationists and those who generously support the Army’s work could be confident in the process, it has been refined over the years. Much of the election procedure is set out in a British Act of Parliament, ensuring that when changes are made they have been carefully considered and a subject of prayer and debate.
It’s also a process that acknowledges the need to remain true to the Army’s historical purpose and mission while setting a direction for the future—providing both continuity and vision.
When a new General is to be elected, a High Council is formed. This body, whose sole purpose is choosing a new leader, is made up of all active Salvation Army commissioners (except the spouse of the serving General), territorial commanders and territorial presidents of women’s ministries. The Chief of the Staff initially forms the High Council, but a President and Vice-President are elected from this body to run proceedings.
Currently, there are more than 100 eligible members, hailing from all over the world, and from a range of different backgrounds and experiences. This mix of nationalities and genders has created a truly representative pool of leadership, and over the years has seen The Salvation Army become one of the few movements of its type to appoint a woman as its global leader—doing so three times.
Over the course of the High Council, delegates spend a great deal of time in careful consideration and prayer. There are several rounds of nominations, giving nominees a chance to accept or decline the nomination, before the list of candidates is decided. The High Council also appoints a committee to formulate a set of questions for candidates to address in their speeches.
SALVATION ARMY WORLD LEADER NOMINEES
The leader of The Salvation Army in Australia, Commissioner Floyd Tidd, was one of those who was nominated at the recent High Council but declined, believing that God still had work for him to do here in Australia.
He spoke about the experience to Others magazine, saying, “It was a surprise to us [he and his wife Commissioner Tracey Tidd]; we were overwhelmingly humbled and honoured that colleagues in the room saw a confidence in us to take on that mantle of leadership. It was a bit overwhelming.
“What I was grateful for is that the nominations came in at the end of the day, so we were given overnight before coming back the next morning to the President of the High Council with our response to that nomination. So, Tracey and I spent some significant time reflecting and praying and really seeking God’s intention. I felt very firmly and very confidently that his intention for us is to remain in Australia and to see this Australia One project through, which we are more than excited to do!”
This desire to see God’s will done was evident through the whole process, with all of those involved aware of the importance of choosing the right leader to take the Army into the future.
“It is a tremendously challenging moment and enormous privilege when the moment comes to write down the name of the leader you are nominating for General,” Colonel Kelvin Alley, an Australian who is leader of The Salvation Army in Papua New Guinea, told Others magazine. “One by one we were asked to move forward, receive a ballot paper, and make our way to a private booth to make our first vote on our choice of General. This comes after much prayer, thought, and even travail, because you really want what God wants.”
At this year’s High Council, the nominations demonstrated the diverse makeup of the worldwide Army. The growth and vibrancy of the Army’s work in Africa was reflected in the nomination of Commissioner Benjamin Mnyampi, a Tanzanian from one of The Salvation Army’s youngest territories, while Commissioner Birgitte Brekke-Clifton was elected as President, the first woman to hold this office.
Once the final list of candidates was decided, and the questions formulated by the committee, the candidates had a chance to speak to the High Council. As outlined in the Orders of Procedure, this was done in respectful silence, with no interruptions and no expressions of approval or dissent following the speeches. After an opportunity for clarifying questions, members of the Council then spent time in prayerful consideration.
After the voting, Commissioner Birgitte Brekke-Clifton announced that the current Chief of the Staff, Commissioner Brian Peddle, had been elected the 21st General of The Salvation Army.
“We are overwhelmed to say the least, but are deeply honoured and feeling somewhat unworthy by the momentous task that lies before us,” the General-Elect said. “We feel very much that we already love the international Salvation Army and it will not be difficult for us to embrace our diversity in our many countries and peoples around the world.”
Commissioner Peddle’s experience as Chief of the Staff means that he is well placed to continue outgoing General André Cox’s vision for the Army and meet the challenges of the future, a fact welcomed by leaders across the Army.
GENERAL-ELECT BRIAN PEDDLE AND COMMISSIONER ROSALIE PEDDLE
“Together with Commissioner Rosalie Peddle they have had extensive international experience and have spent the past few years at the heart of the Army in International Headquarters,” said Commissioners Peter and Jennifer Walker, Australians who lead the Indonesia Territory, speaking to others.org.au after the High Council. “They are very warm and personable leaders, whose love for people is evident. They are fully aware of all the issues that face the international Army today, and we believe that with our new leaders the Army is well positioned to advance in the future.”
While the leader of The Salvation Army will change at midnight on 2 August, the process for electing the new General ensures that what the Army stands for will not. Just like the first General of The Salvation Army, William Booth, the 21st General will continue to lead the worldwide Army in its mission to help those who need it most, fighting injustice wherever it is found and transforming lives through the love of Jesus.