Changs Close Out 37 Years
by Captain Kenneth G. Hodder –
Retirement ceremonies during the Great Victory Congress climaxed the careers of Commissioners Peter and Grace Chang and revealed the steady progress of his administration towards MISSION2000 and People Count! goals.
Based upon figures gathered during the Great Victory Congress, Chang has announced the Western Territory is making enormous progress toward the achievement of growth goals set at the beginning of the decade.
“The Congress demonstrated conclusively that this Territory is in the midst of spectacular growth. More than 8,263 registered delegates came to Long Beach, California, the largest number on record for any Congress in at least 50 years. This, I believe, is indicative of the fact that, by any measure, our movement is among the most vibrant and active parts of the Church.”
Certainly the Army in the Western Territory is growing at a rapid pace. While the Territory had grown from 174 to 204 corps between 1980 and 1989 (an increase of 17 percent), the inauguration of MISSION2000 brought renewed energy and resources to the task, such that the Army has now moved dramatically to a total of 300 corps over the last seven years (an increase of 46.5 percent).
The trend in outposts is no different. At the end of 1990, the Army in the West had 10 outposts, but the most recent reports show that there are now 33 such units, reflecting a growth rate of 203 percent. “It is clear,” said the Commissioner, “that the Army’s witness is far stronger around the West than ever before.”
But the Congress was more than simply a reflection of growth. It was also a part of the process. Based upon the names of enrollees submitted by divisions and commands just prior to the Congress, 1,019 Senior soldiers and 568 Junior soldiers were enrolled by the Army’s international leaders, General Paul A. Rader and Mrs. General Kay F. Rader during the opening rally. On that one occasion, senior rolls in the Territory increased by 6.2 percent and junior rolls by 6.4 percent over final 1996 figures. Compared to the MISSION2000 baselines established in December of 1990, the number of Senior soldiers has since rocketed upwards approximately 20 percent, while Junior soldier rolls have increased by more than 12 percent over the same period.
“The enrollment of so many Senior and Junior soldiers during the Congress was, in many ways, the fulfillment of our three-year People Count! emphasis, which was designed to make the goals of MISSION2000 a matter of personal concern for every officer and soldier,” said Commissioner Chang. “But it was also a beginning. As these new soldiers bring others into the Kingdom of God, the Army has the potential to grow exponentially.”
Between 1985 and 1990, The Salvation Army in the United States posted a five-year membership growth rate of approximately 4.2 percent, which even then stood in stark contrast to downward trends in many Protestant denominations. MISSION2000 and People Count! dramatically accelerated that trend in the West. “It is clear,” said Chang, “that what we are now experiencing is the result of intentional, God-directed efforts at every level to grow an Army for the next millennium.”
Of course, the impact of Army ministry on individual lives is another key element in any analysis of denominational growth. On this point, Lt. Colonels Mervyn and Shirley Morelock, territorial evangelists and officer counselors, have now reported that 4,315 individuals renewed or made first-time decisions for Jesus Christ during the Great Victory Congress.
Again, that figure exceeds previous totals, and it reflects a 54 percent increase in the total number of seekers recorded annually by the Territory between the commencement of MISSION2000 and the end of 1996.
“We recognize that not everyone who accepts the Lord through the Army’s ministry will choose to serve Christ within our ranks,” said Chang. “But we also know that, if we are faithful in proclaiming Christ and in bringing men, women, and children into the Kingdom of God, the Lord will make this part of his Church even more fruitful in the future.”
“The Western Territory is ideally positioned for the next millennium, and my wife and I feel honored to have been part of its development. Most of all, we know that God will give our new territorial leaders, Commissioners David and Doreen Edwards, wisdom and faith for the opportunities yet to come.”