General and Commissioner Clifton are remembered for their five years of service.
Like a current of electricity arcing at any given moment between celebration and sadness—such was the atmosphere of the Lancaster London Hotel on Jan. 22, as the 2011 High Council gathered for a retirement salute to The Salvation Army’s current international leaders, General Shaw Clifton and Commissioner Helen Clifton. Their last day in office will be April 1.
Salvationists from every continent witnessed the occasion—along with the 800-strong congregation at the Lancaster—through a live web stream.
From the prayers of Colonel Brian Peddle, chief secretary United Kingdom Territory (UKT) with the Republic of Ireland, and Colonel Rosalie Peddle, territorial secretary for women’s ministries UKT, to those of five international youth, intercession for the High Council and the Cliftons was of paramount importance.
Commissioner William Francis, original High Council President, affirmed the council’s awareness that their strength came from Jesus first and the “prayers of the faithful from around the world.”
Later in the evening, the General confirmed this, urging the council to “enter into this sacred task [of electing the next international leader] with pure hearts and open minds, looking only for the guidance of the Holy Spirit,” and reminding them “that Salvationists around the world are thinking of you, and supporting you in prayer.”
The High Council voiced their compliance with the General’s advice.
Salute to the General
Bandmaster Bill Rollins, U.S.A. Eastern Territory, began the salute portion of the meeting by singing “All There Is of Me.” A “Five Happy Years” photographic odyssey followed, portraying significant moments from the Cliftons’ time in office.
“Shaw Clifton has a strong love of family. He and Helen have a very close, loving relationship. They complement each other. The General also has a genuine concern for officers and their families,” eulogized Chief of the Staff Commissioner Barry C. Swanson.
He continued with: “[the General’s] two most outstanding leadership characteristics are global vision and decisive action. He has a vision for a growing, holy, united Salvation Army and he put many steps in place to help this happen. During the past five years, the Army has commenced ministry in 13 countries—an amazing rate of growth.”
Swanson concluded his tribute by reading Psalm 145, one of the General’s favorite Scripture passages.
Salute to the Commissioner
Commissioner Sue Swanson, world secretary for women’s ministries, then addressed Commissioner Helen Clifton, world president for women’s ministries.
“I am a living letter to you on behalf of women from all over the world who would love to be here saying thank you. Your amazing caring and e-mail communication have been a blessing, helping us to understand that we are truly in ministry together. All the territorial women’s ministries presidents around the world have experienced your love and your care.”
Swanson specifically thanked the Commissioner for her bold cry for justice for struggling women and children through the While Women Weep campaign and thanked her for her “intentional and powerful prayer.”
Commissioner Clifton replied by thanking everyone for their reception and encouragement, making special mention of the support of their children: Matt, Jenny and John.
She continued, “I want to emphasize the special place that God gives to women in the Army. I am proud of our women soldiers, local officers and officers. I am so pleased that more women have come into the High Council. It has been very meaningful to me to support my husband in his determination to promote more and more women officers to senior positions. God bless the women of the Army!”
The General speaks
Gary Rose concluded the retirement salute by singing “All Under God,” accompanied by the International Staff Band and the Enfield and Bromley Corps Songster Brigades. Stephen Pearson compiled the words of the song based on writings of the General.
In reflection, the General shared statistics of miles flown and driven, countries visited, engagements attended and visits to the International College for Officers.
After reading Luke 12:22-34, he declared, “He [God] has it covered—the needs of the High Council, the needs of the smallest corps, of the newest soldier or junior soldier, of the Salvationist bond workers in Pakistan who can’t get out to worship and for the humblest expression of social outreach and concern. We must pray for the Army, but we don’t need to lose any sleep over it…tonight we ask God for new trust and new courage to serve him. We come to the cross together to kneel and find new strength for service.”
In an immediate response, people soon filled the mercy seat.
In conclusion, he said, “We are in the hands of Almighty God whose hands are safe and loving in every circumstance.”
A total of 1,503 computers were linked to the live streaming of the meeting. More than 200 people followed brief tweets from the High Council Twitter site.
The meeting is viewable at www.salvationarmy.org/highcouncil.
From an international news release