Gaithers to lead U.S.A.
Commissioner Israel L. Gaither appointed National Commander, Commissioner Eva Gaither appointed National President of Women’s Ministries.
by Henry Gariepy, Colonel –
Commissioners Israel L. and Eva Gaither have been appointed national leaders of the United States.
[In response to a request from New Frontier, Colonel Henry Gariepy has adapted the following from the authorized biography of Israel Gaither he is currently writing, for release October 2006.]
Israel Gaither admits to an unabashed pride in his family background and upbringing. Of his roots, he says, “I had the privilege of being born into a warm Christian environment with godly parents. Our whole family was deeply rooted in God’s Word.”
Israel Gaither’s earliest years of church life were in the Union Baptist church, where his father became ordained and served as associate pastor. “I have a strong love,” says Israel, “for my church heritage and those experiences have helped shape my belief system.”
A boy his age invited Israel to the Army’s youth programs, a small step that ultimately led to his epic journey. In this New Castle, Penn.. corps, and at the divisional camp, his lifelong romance with the Army began. He made the painful separation, leaving the church of his family and youth, to become a Salvation Army soldier, and ultimately an officer in its ranks.
He and Eva Dorothy Shue met as cadets in the same session. Their friendship blossomed into a lifelong romance when they were commissioned to neighboring corps. She has served alongside her husband, effectively carrying major leadership responsibilities.
Gaither’s life story became one of courage and grace in a contentious world of subtle racism. “It was a time when it should not have happened—a black man interested in a white woman in the early ’60s during the Civil Rights era,” admits Gaither of his courting Eva Shue. But they believed that God had brought them together at a time when there were no other interracial couples in Army ranks as officers. The Salvation Army was not immune from the racial divide in the States, beginning with the difficulty of their receiving official approval for engagement and marriage.
Israel Gaither has gone where no African-American in The Salvation Army has gone before. He redefined and raised the bar for leadership opportunities and mobility for non-Anglos in the officer ranks. He became the first African-American to be appointed to the highest offices of divisional and territorial leadership and was three times a nominee for office of the General. He served with distinction in the second highest office in the international Salvation Army, that of Chief of Staff and now as USA National Commander-Designate.
As Israel Gaither moved from corps into divisional and territorial leadership, one leader said of him, “He showed great relational skills, efficiency in administration, and gifts in platform preachment.” Another observed, “No matter where he went or what his appointment, he stood out.” His biography resonates with examples of persons whose lives he touched with compassion and grace amid their hurts and heartaches of life.
Among his associates he became legendary for his early morning arrival at the office and getting a ‘jump start’ on his day’s work. He was known as a tireless worker, meticulous in detail, with sensitivity and integrity, and an innate friendliness that is quickly disarming.
He also became famously remembered for his capers. To the delight of Home League campers he would don a wig and a costume to imitate a TV entertainer. And he was not afraid to laugh at himself.
On January 1, 1999 the spiritual odyssey of Israel Gaither took him and Eva across the seas to South Africa, he becoming the first African-American officer to serve as territorial commander anywhere in the world. There they made a dynamic impact on leadership development and mission effectiveness. “That experience,” says Gaither, “was the most transforming time in our lives, for it opened up in a remarkable way our understanding of other people, cultures and places, and the value of the Army as a gift to the world.”
On August 1, 2002, Gaithers were appointed as leaders of their home territory, the USA East. He galvanized the territory at his welcome with his preaching on “Mission Matters Most.” This theme became his compelling vision and magnificent obsession.
Israel Gaither, in his leadership and ministry is above all, a preacher. He deeply believes in the need for the anointing of the Spirit upon his preaching and ministry. His powerful pulpit proclamations have become The Salvation Army’s ‘gold standard’ for preachment of the Gospel. Wedded to his preaching is his effective leadership of a prayer meeting, serving as a “doorkeeper in the house of the Lord,” inviting hearers to enter and meet the Savior.
With but a short term of a few weeks as territorial leaders, Gaither was asked by General-elect John Larsson to serve as the Army’s Chief of the Staff at IHQ. His immediate reaction was shock. Following a time of struggle and prayer, Gaither responded to this call to be second in command of the global mission of the Army, effective November 13, 2002. The world became the parish of Israel and Eva Gaither as its far-flung frontiers beckoned them on an odyssey of the spirit to numerous countries where they made an enduring impact for God and the Army.
On May 8, 2005 Gaither became “Dr.” Israel Lee Gaither, conferred with an honorary doctorate from Asbury College. College President Paul Rader (General Ret.) stated, “In honoring Commissioner Israel L. Gaither, Asbury College was itself honored in recognizing his outstanding leadership, administrative acumen, unique giftedness in proclaiming the Word of God, and his contribution to the cause of Christ around the world.”
A highly effective lifetime ministry, a resolute champion of the Army’s mission, elevation to top leadership positions, and a legacy of impact upon the movement, secures Gaither’s niche in the annals of Salvation Army history. Such is the man with his mission that The Salvation Army in the United States will be privileged to have as its National Commander on May 1, 2006.