On the Corner

An open letter to our new General

by Robert Docter, Editor-In-Chief – 

January 28, 2006

Dear Commissioner,

Just got the news. We have a General who isn’t taking office tomorrow. What’s this Army coming to? Maybe we should adopt the same practice with other officers—even corps officers.

I like it that you now have time to look at the Army from a slightly different perspective.

You will soon be the General. I see you as perceptive, experienced and prepared to hit the ground running.

I like the private, prayerful, and serious way the High Council went about its process. I like the way they chose to keep the Army world informed of daily activities plus immediate, live comments on the evening of the announcement of your name as General-elect. Having a great website helped.

I like their choice. You!

Congratulations on climaxing a great career with a total and complete willingness to assume the greatest responsibility of your life. I suspect you realize this responsibility must be perceived by you from a different plane. It’s broader, more general, less specific than earlier roles. It demands greater interpersonal skill and less hands-on administrative detailing. It requires thorough understanding of what this Army is, where it’s been, where it is, and where it needs to go.

I watched you at the conclusion of the High Council proceedings—especially the song you picked. I noticed it starts with a question … And is it so? The questioner seems to be in the middle of a conversation with God who must have just finished asking for something from him in a typical God-like manner—unexpected and somewhat broad. My image of the moment flashes on a young man, brilliant, verbal, competent, friendly, open—standing somewhat perplexed, questioning, wondering. The young man seems amazed that God would ask for some kind of gift from him. “Me?”—he seems to ask in reply—“you want something from me?”

The young man seems to want more specifics, but God seems to know that deep down, he already knows. In the later verses of Richard Slater’s memorable poem he discovers what God is after—everything. God wanted all there is of that young man.

I hear the young man speaking to God in the song’s chorus. Here he reveals the dimensions of humility and simplicity that guide his life. No longer does he seem to need specifics. He now knows that he, himself, truly does know what God wants of him—the gift of self in the image of Christ—compassionate yet firm, non-judgmental yet appropriately discriminating, committed to values lived by Jesus yet open enough to accept a multicultural orientation.

I pray that we may see that gift giving young man, now mature and wise, experienced and prepared, generous and humble. I pray he becomes visible to the world in you—in me—and in millions of Salvationists everywhere the flag flies.

I’m certain you are aware of the strong commitment by all of us here in the West to God, the Army, its internationalism, its basic value system, and its work on behalf of the poor, the disenfranchised, the marginalized of this world.

We’re proud of the Army. We’re excited about its public image both nationally and locally. I believe this has been enhanced dramatically in the United States by media attention revealing our response to the Katrina hurricane disaster and the desperate plight of the people of New Orleans. People discovered the Army was a lot more than “image.” There was substance there that pushed us forward. We need to maintain that momentum.

We really don’t get much of a sense of the Army’s public image internationally. Maybe that’s because we have such an understated mission at the United Nations. News coverage of our multiple roles in disaster services in Pakistan, India and Indonesia have been nonexistent in this media market. Who should place those stories?

We’re dedicated to the Army’s unique implementation of its holistic ministry—Wesleyan holiness in action. We’ve got to keep that part of our uniqueness very much alive.

I see the General as the Army’s “spokesperson”—initiator—motivator—inspirer. You have what it takes to be our Captain and our General.

Now you need the means to fulfill your role. A platform in a large hall used to be enough to provide the “pulpit” necessary to communicate to the public what we are about—to tell the story of Jesus. That is no longer the case. That platform will not reach those passing by these 21st century corners. We must present ourselves regularly through all types of electronic and print media. Not doing so means we lose the present age.

I wonder what a piece of an international satellite costs?

Be assured that we are with you, praying for you, holding your arms heavenward.

So—from the West we say, “Vaya con Dios.”


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