International leaders told to “Trust in God”

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Renaissance: to be born again

“TRUST in God.”

by Bill Cochrane, Commissioner –

General Shaw Clifton used these words as he greeted delegates to the 2009 International Conference of Leaders (ICL) held in Heathrow, United Kingdom.

As the largest-ever assembly of Salvation Army leaders gathered for a welcome dinner, presided over by Chief of the Staff Commissioner Robin Dunster, the chief guest was unquestionably “Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and forever.” Every territory and command in the world being represented, except one, the conference reflects a growing global Army.

The World President of Women’s Ministries, Commissioner Helen Clifton, highlighted the significance of the conference venue name: Renaissance Hotel. This was echoed in Commissioner Janet Refstie’s (Brazil Territory) response to the General’s welcome to delegates when she reminded them that even if there is “nothing new under the sun” there is still much for all to learn from God.

By the time Commissioner Marilyn Francis (Canada and Bermuda Territory) led the delegates in prayer, two aspirations for the conference had been achieved: the “Renaissance” had become a place for prayer and the study of God’s word.

Following a time of sharing led by Commissioners Lawrence and Nancy Moretz (USA Eastern Territory), the conference hall resounded to the singing of Evangeline Booth’s “The World for God,” appropriately preparing the conference to hear the General re-emphasize his hopes for the conference.

Commissioners Lalkiamlova and Lahlimpuii (International Headquarters [IHQ]) led delegates in the closing prayers for the day as, again, they placed Christ at the center of the business of the conference while singing the chorus “Christ is All, Yes, All in All.”

“GOD is not going to waste this precious opportunity as his people gather, eagerly but in humility, from every corner of the earth,” said General Shaw Clifton as he rose to deliver his keynote address to delegates on the first full day of the ICL. He added: “The eyes of the Army world are upon us.” The wide-ranging address was framed in a spirit of accountability and included a very detailed description of progress achieved in keeping promises he had made to the High Council, who elected him General of The Salvation Army in 2006.

Social justice
A key commitment had been to address issues of social justice. The General reported on the substantial progress made, including the creation of the International Social Justice Commission based in New York and with representatives working in Geneva, Vienna, Jakarta and Nairobi, all under the direction of Commissioner Christine MacMillan.

With social justice established as the theme for the day, the conference was challenged and moved as MacMillan spoke of the work of the commission and Commissioner Clifton highlighted the diversity of approaches around the Army world in responding to human trafficking. The thought-provoking presentations were followed by a stimulating open forum discussion chaired by Dunster, with the General responding.

The day’s plenary sessions began and ended by setting a standard for the conference: in prayer and the study of God’s word. In the morning, Commissioners Wim and Netty van der Harst (Eastern Europe Territory) focused delegates’ attention on Jesus, the Bread of Life. In “Evening Prayers,” Commissioners M. Y. Emmanuel and T. Regina Chandra Bai (India Central Territory) led delegates to pray that Christ would open their eyes wide to see his will and purposes.

Delegates had time for personal and private reflection in the “Covenanted Silent Hour” before the day ended with small group meetings to begin an exploration of Hebrews 13 and “An Authentic Lifestyle.”

The General encouraged delegates with the knowledge that many people were in prayer for the conference and said, “Salvationists are waiting to hear from us.”

The second full day began with a song, “At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow,” which was appropriate given the theme for the day: Let God’s Army Grow!

Before Dunster led the conference through a comprehensive overview of the present size of the global Army, three presentations highlighted successful strategies and tactics for growing God’s kingdom through The Salvation Army.

The General and Commissioner Dick Krommenhoek (Finland and Estonia Territory) gave details of the new Army openings over the past three years in Burundi, Greece, Namibia, Mali, Kuwait, Mongolia and Nepal. Clifton paid tribute to “brave officers who are undertaking historic, pioneering work at this time of expansion under God!” He also thanked leaders who had accepted responsibility for the financial aspects of new openings.

U.S. National Commander Commissioner Israel L. Gaither introduced a video presentation that spearheads a nationwide campaign to persuade people to “Come, Join Our Army”—a strategy determined to reverse 10 years of numerical decline. The centenary vision of the Korea Territory mirrored this level of intention with Hope Project 2028, introduced by the territory’s leader, Commissioner Chun, Kwang-pyo.

In the afternoon, delegates experienced a presentation of the musical Brengle: My Life’s Ambition by a cast and crew from the USA Southern Territory in the historic Sunbury Court. Written and directed by Lt. Colonel W. Edward Hobgood, and originally presented at that territory’s 2008 Holiness Congress, this special adaptation for the ICL captivated delegates and reminded everyone present of the transforming power of the Holy Spirit to enable sanctified lives to bear fruit for the sake of Christ.

The world today
Delegates assembled on Friday, July 10, to consider a full agenda covering some of the most challenging issues facing The Salvation Army today. “I am the good shepherd,” said Jesus (John 10:14) and Commissioners Gillian and Larry Bosh (IHQ) sought to unpack what this means for the Army as we seek to “serve the present age.”

The presentations of detailed papers were designed and enabled the conference attendees to focus on The World Today.

International Secretary for Business Administration Commissioner Ann Woodall provided a succinct report, “Money – A Global Overview.” The commissioner highlighted some of the “hard choices raised by the global financial crisis” and reminded attendees that “God’s money is not immune from the chaos of the market place and we are required to use all our powers of original thought and financial skill to extend his kingdom and build up his Army around the world.” Commissioner Vinece Chigariro (Zimbabwe) and Commissioner Lawrence R. Moretz (USA Eastern) shared “The Challenges of Funding My Territory” from differing economic and cultural perspectives.

Another set of complex challenges were addressed by Commissioner Basuki Kartodarsono (Indonesia Territory) and the General as they reflected on their experience of “Working and Witnessing in an Islamic Context”—the Commissioner in Indonesia and the General in Pakistan.

Commissioner John Matear (United Kingdom Territory) and Commissioner Linda Bond (Australia East Territory) presented complementary papers on “Post-Modernism”—both raising issues that clearly resonated with delegates as reflected in an open forum led by the General at the conclusion of the morning session and later in the day as the Chief of the Staff presided. Other significant papers were presented, including lively and thought provoking contributions from Commissioner Clifton and Commissioner Hope Mungate (Democratic Republic of Congo Territory) on “Gender.” Commissioner Max Feener (USA Southern) and Commissioner Horst Charlet (Germany and Lithuania Territory) addressed the issues facing “Modern Youth” as well as the challenge facing the Army in reaching out to them, and Colonel Birgitte Brekke (IHQ) gave a “Report on the World Youth Convention” to be held in Sweden in 2010.

Time for prayer followed a comprehensive account of “Ecumenism Today” by Lt. Colonel Richard Munn (IHQ). Commissioner Andrew Kalai (Papua New Guinea Territory) led the conference, once more, to trust in God with the prayer “Lord, I would clasp thy hand in mine,” surely the only way to face the challenges of The World Today.

Today’s children—tomorrow’s leaders
Commissioners Amos and Rosemary Makena (IHQ) began Saturday’s session with prayer and Bible study, and considered the words of Jesus when he said, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). They included a return to the call to trust God for all things and for all time.

General Clifton said the day’s theme, Today’s Children—Tomorrow’s Leaders, had “a cutting edge” as he presented his reflections on the September 2008 meeting of the General’s Consultative Council (GCC) discussion on winning children for Christ. “Today’s topics,” he continued, “hold a special relevance, a divinely ordered timeliness, for the whole Army—both for today and generations to come…It is not by accident that we have linked the themes of children and leaders.” Dunster presented the findings of the deliberations of zonal groups that were set up after the GCC referred to above, stimulating a lively discussion resulting in a number of recommendations that were tabled for future consideration.

The General had presented every delegate, upon their arrival at the conference, with a copy of a small book soon to be on sale entitled Essential Measures. This tiny volume contains a letter sent by William Booth (partially in his own hand) in 1911 to an officer couple stationed in India. The General summarized, “the principles which are essential to success,” spelled out by the Founder. Commissioner Barry Swanson (USA Central Territory) and Commissioner Hezekiel Anzeze (Kenya East Territory) presented their contributions to “Preparing Officers for Senior Roles,” again encouraging delegates to contribute to these crucial matters for the future of the Army.

Commissioners Robin and Shona Forsyth (IHQ) led the conference in evening prayer; at day’s end, delegates joined together in small groups for their last opportunity to study the Scriptures, this time reviewing Hebrews 13:17-25.

The General indicated the significance of the conference’s ending on a Sunday. As the agenda moved to conclusion, leaders keenly anticipated the opportunity to share in a Holiness meeting, to praise God for his faithfulness throughout the conference and to pray together for the Army and the world.

Prayer and Praise
“All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” united delegates to the ICL in praise to God for a week in which he had made himself felt and heard in powerful ways. The conference hall of the Renaissance London Heathrow Hotel had become a sanctuary from the commencement of the proceedings, with a mercy seat and illuminated cross as focal points, and it was there the conference culminated in a holiness meeting led by Dunster.

Prayers in English, Korean and Spanish, a moving testimony from Commissioner William Francis (Canada and Bermuda Territory) and the reading of The Salvation Army’s articles of faith led by Commissioner Makoto Yoshida (Japan Territory) all prepared delegates for a powerful message preached by the General focusing on Hebrews 13. This passage of Scripture, which had been read by Commissioner Eva D. Gaither (USA National), was also the subject of study by delegates on selected evenings during the conference. The delegates’ response at the mercy seat at the conclusion of the General’s message indicated that they had taken the Word of God to heart.

Later in the morning, delegates considered A Spiritual Statement to the Army and prayed for troubled places, people who are as yet unsaved and the families of the world.

Commissioner Lenora Feener (USA Southern) led an afternoon praise and testimony meeting; including a moving message from Commissioner Clifton based on John 11:25—“I am the resurrection and the life.”

Commissioner Bill Cochrane (IHQ), who directed delegates to consider the words of Jesus in John 15 (“I am the true vine”), led evening prayers. The sung prayer, “Bind us Together, Lord,” reflected the deep bond of fellowship nurtured during a remarkable week in the presence of God.

Report by Commissioner Bill Cochrane
International Secretary to the Chief of the Staff, IHQ

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