Commission Begins Historic Task
Army Approach To Spiritual Life Examined In LondonGeneral Rader Convenes International Group to Explore a
Wide Range Of Spiritual Issues Including Sacraments
By Warren C. Johnson –
CSM Tustin Ranch Corps
The International Spiritual Life Commission, convened under the direction of the General, met in London July 1-5 at the International College for Officers in the first of its scheduled five to six meetings over the next two years.
Speaking about the commission’s work, General Paul Rader said, “It all involves thinking officially about things we have always assumed and more or less taken for granted. The fact is, the time has come, and is perhaps overdue, for reflecting on these dynamics of our inner life–the springs of our compassion, the engine of our service and mission, the inner resources for sustaining who we are and what we are doing in the world, and the vital connections, to God, to one another, and to the Church Universal, that secure and empower us and render us credible.”
Under the leadership of Commissioner Ian Cutmore, commission chair and principal of the International College for Officers, the commission was established to review the broader issues of the enhancement of the means by which the Army may cultivate and sustain the spiritual life of its people and the inner life of the Movement.
Growing out of the discussion of a variety of issues during the International Conference of Leaders held in Hong Kong in 1995, General Paul Rader has instructed the commission to review the following issues:
The Study of the Word of God–including the teaching ministry of the corps through regular meetings, corps educational programs and small groups; The Prayer Life of the Army–including the manner in which we encourage the enhancement of our prayer life through corporate worship, small groups and private devotional exercises; Public Worship–as a means of grace and spiritual growth; Salvation Army Ceremonies; The Place of the Mercy Seat; The Place of Retreats, Conferences, Special Meetings, Spiritual Direction and Mentoring; The place of other traditional spiritual disciplines, such as fasting, silence, meditation, solitude and simplicity.
The commission will also discuss the Army’s approach to the sacramental dimension of Christian life, including the place of the sacraments and the significance of their absence in traditional form from our worship life. Consideration will be given to the manner in which we approach the swearing in of soldiers as well as the Love Feast, and understanding of the significance of this rite in terms of our Lord’s command, and that as we disciple believers, we also baptize them in his name.
The Commission is comprised of 13 Salvationists, 11 officers and two soldiers. The chair is Commissioner Ian Cutmore. In addition to the writer, members include Lt. Colonel Linda Bond from the Canadian Territory, Lt. Teofilo Chagas, a Brazilian by birth; Commissioner Doreen Edwards from the Americas and Caribbean Zone; Dr. Roger Green, one of two soldiers appointed, he is the professor and chair of Biblical and Theological Studies at Gordon College in Mass.; Major Margaret Hay, a New Zealander; Lt. Colonel Kehs David Lofgren represents Sweden; Colonel Emmanuel Miaglia, France; and Lt. Colonel Phil Needham; USA South.
Major (Dr.) Lyell Rader is from USA East; Captain John Read and Major Robert Street represent the British Territory; Major N.M. Vijayalaskshmi is from India; and the Commission’s secretary is New Zealander Lt. Colonel John Major.
A serious spirituality
The next meeting of the Commission is scheduled for November 4-8, 1996, at the William Booth Memorial Training College in London. Subsequent meetings in 1997 may offer opportunities for the commission to expand their knowledge of Army services around the world with visits centered in other locations. Thus far, it has been critical to our discussions to have a clearer understanding of the Army in other countries, their distinctive culture, their unique expression of worship and service, as well as the impact our discussions will have on their area and philosophy of ministry. At the present time, the commission has been asked to make its report to the General in January 1998.
One of the many issues under consideration is that of the sacramental dimension of our Christian life and that of the Army’s. I would draw your attention to the June 30, 1996 New Frontier article written by Major Deborah Flagg, whose precise examination of the sacraments of communion and baptism and the Army’s historical response offers a tremendous contribution to our discussion at the International Spiritual Life Commission.
The commission’s greatest desire is that of contributions like Major Flagg’s to our deliberations over the next two years. Personal contributions to any of the issues under consideration will be encouraged at a later date.
General Paul Rader and Mrs. General Kay Rader spent the evening of Thursday, July 4, 1996, with the commission. During the three hours we spent together, there was a deep sense that they are more than anxious that we take more seriously issues related to our inner life. “We owe it to our people. It is essential to maintaining the engine of commitment and compassion. Our mission is energized by our spirituality!”
The General acknowledged that there is now, more than ever, a battle by powerful spiritual forces to undermine our daily Christian walk, and that Salvationists need to be armored against the enemy of their souls. The proliferation of false ideologies and religious options, the complexity of moral and ethical issues in these times requires that the Army assume the responsibility to ensure that we are not denying our people necessary means of grace, and that their participation in the life of the Army through their corps affords them every available advantage in living the Christian life, nurturing their children in faith, and passing to them their spiritual values and experience, and in pursuing their own individual calling in Christ.