On the Corner – “A letter to the General-Elect”
by Robert Docter, Editor-In-Chief
The Salvation Army’s 17th High Council has chosen Commissioner Linda Bond to be The Salvation Army’s 19th General by ballot at Sunbury Court, London.
Selected from among nine nominees, Bond takes office on April 2 with the retirements of General Shaw Clifton and Commissioner Helen Clifton, April 1.
Receipt of this news pleases us greatly.
We are fortunate in this grand old Army to have people like you willing to spend a lifetime in quality service to God and mankind. We know you—the dimension of your commitment, the consistency of your belief system, the sacrificial readiness to put others first, the inspiration of your words, the deftness of your thought, the sanctity of your values. You have what it takes to be a great General.
You assume this important post at a sensitive and dangerous time in world history. What an opportunity is yours.
Instant communication across the globe is yours. The development of the computer, which made the social media possible, speeds communication across continents, oceans and around the world. With it goes culture, and culture carries the norms and mores, the values and beliefs of a society. Culture is always in transition. Everything is confronted with change.
The Army must look within the dramatic cultural shifts we see evident today and determine how they can be used to stimulate both spiritual and social change.
Tensions rise across the globe as God’s children demand recognition of their humanity—of their existence—of their hopes and dreams. Many of them across this tired, wobbly old star express their worship with words different than those we use; have beliefs that seem widely variant from those we hold; express value systems seemingly at odds with ours. These perceptions burst into our consciousness primarily through our fear of cultural difference.
Jesus lived in such a world. Your background of service to others indicates your steadfast awareness of this reality. He modeled a relationship of love and acceptance, of respect and value, of commitment and consistency. He had no fear of difference.
Women change agents—Catherine
It’s fascinating to note that many of the most dynamic change agents in the Army were women. From the very beginning, William’s wife, Catherine, was a vital source of inspiration and ideas. Her eloquence and courage allowed her to play a vital role in the Army’s beginnings. When she died in 1890, William, now in his later years, lost a significant aide in dealing with the far flung issues of an international Army. He also lost the mother of his children, three of whom resigned as officers during the period before his death and Catherine’s. She might have handled matters in much different way.
Restrictive tradition never got in her way. She helped him in every way possible.
The seventh Booth child, Evangeline, born Evelyne Cory Booth, on Christmas Day, l865, was a power house of creativity and leadership. As Roger Green put it: “She reigned as the Army’s National Commander for 30 years”—and then was our fourth General for five more.
I never met her, but over the years I’ve heard enough about her to know that I really like her style. I’m sure some of the reported anecdotes might be labeled apocryphal, but they certainly described a woman unwilling to be stereotyped by the traditional feminine customs.
Unafraid to take risks, she obtained dramatic visibility. Her messages were always pointed, inspirational, challenging. After sensing unfilled needs, she did the unexpected—doughnut girls (and guys) in huts and caves directly behind the front line trenches of World War I—spending an annual budget totally on recovery of the San Francisco earthquake and then raising more than she gave away.
We can learn much from Ballington’s beautiful, energetic wife, Maud—a true woman warrior. In Diane Winston’s terrific book Red-Hot and Righteous, we read how she led the way for her “Women Warriors into dives, brothels and dance halls with refined and angelic demeanor.” Winston adds: “Booth’s words and deeds, her Army persona, challenged the notion that becoming a Salvationist meant an end to a woman’s respectability.”
In 1986 The High Council elected Australian-born Commissioner Eva Burrows to the office of General. She spoke with power and persuasion and revealed strong commitment to matters of universal brotherhood, racial equality and dramatic expansion of the Army’s work. Henry Gariepy notes that “at age 56 she became the youngest elected to the office, the first to have earned a university degree, and the first to have served for many years in the third world (17 years in Africa).
Clearly, she is the kind of Salvationist who wants to “win the world for God.” She demonstrated this by extending the Army’s work in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, East Germany, Latvia and Russia plus significant advances into Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova.” Gariepy describes this as a “thunderclap of freedom.” During her seven year tenure she traveled tirelessly well over a million miles all over the world with a motivational message of servanthood and love for all mankind.
Truly, she carried a dynamic message to fit the Army for service to the present age.
With you at the helm, Linda, we don’t have to be named Booth or Burrows to do something different, to communicate widely, to care for the poor and destitute and to lead people to Christ. Bond will do.
Lead the way. Vaya con Dios.