Commissioner Helen Clifton was promoted to Glory
Commissioner Helen Clifton was promoted to Glory from St Christopher’s Hospice in South London in the United Kingdom on Tuesday, 14 June 2011. The commissioner, who retired on 1 April 2011, has courageously faced her illness with a strong faith and trust in God.
Helen Ashman was born in the Army’s Mothers’ Hospital in Clapton, London to Betty and Don Ashman, committed Christians who raised her in the faith and gently grounded her in Salvationism.
In the nurturing fellowship of The Salvation Army corps at Edmonton, North London, Helen accepted Jesus as her Saviour with a glad and childlike trust.
Helen excelled academically and athletically at the Latymer School, Edmonton, winning academic and sports prizes year after year. On leaving school, she studied for a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree in English Language and Literature from Westfield College, University of London and a Post-Graduate Certificate of Education from Goldsmiths’ College, University of London, before taking up teaching.
She met Shaw Clifton after his parents were appointed to Edmonton to represent The Salvation Army Assurance Society there. They became childhood sweethearts and married on 15 July 1967 when she was nineteen years of age.
Feeling compelled by the love of God to leave their secular careers to serve others as Officers of The Salvation Army, the Cliftons were commissioned as lieutenants in London in 1973. Helen served selflessly for over thirty-seven years on five continents, winning the love and respect of others wherever she went. Her intelligence, humility, bright smile, articulate speaking and writing, and her accepting heart won her countless friends and admirers. In corps appointments at Burnt Oak, Enfield and Bromley in the United Kingdom, and at the Bulawayo Citadel in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), her natural personal warmth and selfless spirit touched the lives of many.
Thrust by her calling into cultures beyond her own, Helen Clifton taught English to African young men at the Army’s Mazowe Secondary School in Zimbabwe, and coached the headquarters women officers of Pakistan in weekly English classes instigated by her as soon as she arrived in 1997. She had an instinctive, visionary grasp of the vast potential of the Army’s Women’s Ministries work both locally and globally.
Leading the Army’s work, with Commissioner Shaw Clifton, in the United Kingdom and Ireland she pressed for the opening of the Army’s first shelter for trafficked women, taking a close personal interest in every detail of the scheme.
The 2006 High Council elected Commissioner Shaw Clifton to be the 18th General of The Salvation Army, and on Sunday 2 April 2006 Commissioner Helen Clifton became the World President of Women’s Ministries. She travelled across every continent, intensifying and spearheading the Army’s global assault on the evil of human trafficking, encouraging Salvationists everywhere to stand for the downtrodden and victimised. She strategised globally and acted locally, succeeding in securing the removal of pornographic magazines from her local shop, and also the banning of sex industry advertisements from her local newspaper. All of this was achieved with poise, grace, charm, and steely determination. She was a strong leader, who always communicated in a natural, conversational style, often holding the attention of huge crowds with nothing but her Bible to hand. She had that rare gift of expressing profound truths in simple, everyday language.
Commissioner Helen Clifton loved her children – Matt, Jen and John – with an enduring, strong, and tender love. She liberated all three into personal life choices, in accordance with her sacred vows made in each of their Dedication Ceremonies. Helen doted upon her grandchildren – Hannah, Elijah, Amos, Hudson and Lincoln, and offered unconditional love and esteem to those who were to become her children-in-law: Lynne, Marcus and Naomi. All of these precious ones, and many more, featured regularly in her prayer diaries.
General Shaw Clifton and Commissioner Helen Clifton have been enriched by each others love, companionship and unswerving devotion for nearly fifty years, forty-four of these within the sacred bonds of marriage. Together, by God’s grace, they pursued their sacred callings and together they entered retirement recently for what proved to be an unexpectedly short period, but one of intense mutual dependence and intuitive understanding as Helen’s medical condition and ability to communicate rapidly worsened.
Accompanied by General Shaw Clifton (Rtd) and other loved ones, Commissioner Helen Clifton was admitted to St. Christopher’s Hospice on the morning of Thursday, 19 May 2011. With calm and unfailing trust in God, Commissioner Helen Clifton went home peacefully to Heaven on Tuesday, 14 June 2011 at 9.20 pm, with General Shaw Clifton and other family members and officer colleagues at her bedside.
Reflecting on her life as a Salvation Army officer, Commissioner Helen Clifton said at their retirement salute in January 2011:
‘God has been so generous to us through all the years since he called us into sacred service. He has granted us boundless grace, one day at a time. He has gone ahead of us into every appointment and situation. He has blessed us beyond measure.’
We have seen something of the boundless grace of God as General Shaw Clifton and Commissioner Helen Clifton have shown the reality of living by faith during times of adversity and perplexity. Their quiet steady confidence and commitment to God have been enriching to those who have shared these recent difficult days with them.
Please join me in saluting Commissioner Helen Clifton for her sacred calling is now complete.
We pray that General Shaw Clifton and other members of their family and friends will know the reality of the peace and grace of the risen Lord Jesus. Salvationists throughout the world are committed to pray for them in these days.
At the time of writing, details of funeral arrangements are not known.
Barry C. Swanson
CHIEF OF THE STAFF