Raders Prepare for Active Retirement

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(Ed. note: This article draws on several interviews and stories by journalists, from an interview with the New Frontier editor, and from an interview by Major Peter Farthing, Lt. Colonel Peter Dalziel and Captain Bill Cochrane reported in the April, 1999 issue of The Officer.)

“I have always been committed to the mission field. It has always been in my thoughts as a destination of service to God. Some of my early heroes were those who gave their lives in service to God and humanity in work as missionaries. As a young teenager, I knew I wanted to do the same.”

So spoke Paul A. Rader, fifteenth General of The Salvation Army, a branch of the Christian church committed to impact the world with an operational belief in the tenets of Christianity. For the past five years, he and his wife, Commissioner Kay F. Rader, have led the organization as “partners” in an integrated ministry to individuals, communities, nations, and the world.

Truly, they are “World for God People”

The past five years have brought them face to face with the peoples of 72 different countries on every continent of the globe. His policies have stimulated Army responses in any area of the world where war or poverty or natural disaster present challenges to human life on a broad scale. Response teams have worked closely with other agencies and government sources in responding to this human need whether or not an Army presence had existed prior to the need.

RUSSIA–Commissioner Paul Rader meets a young patient at an orthopedic hospital in St. Petersburg.

His passion, nonetheless, has been for souls. One of the world’s great evangelists, his term of service has brought him before countless thousands to whom he has faithfully presented the claims of Christ.

This July the Raders complete 39 years of active service and take up residence in Kentucky, close to their alma mater, Asbury College, and to Asbury Theological Seminary, where Rader will teach. Twenty-two of those years were spent working with the people of Korea and for five years they served as territorial leaders in the USA Western Territory. Rader studied at the internationally renowned Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., as a young captain and earned his doctorate in Missiology.


It was during the period of the Raders’ leadership in the West that Salvationists of this region came to sense their dynamism, their value of diversity, their commitment to internationalism, their passion for church growth, their appreciation of history in parallel with their interest in innovation, their willingness to risk prayerfully, and most of all, their concern for people.

Rader motivated the territory to work toward growth with the development of the MISSION2000 campaign, designed to double the number of corps and those in regular attendance during the decade of the ’90s prior to the millennium.

The kind of motivation released in the territory through MISSION2000 did not diminish with the elevation of the Raders to international leadership. Each territorial commander following Rader built on that campaign. Commissioner Peter Chang’s work in People Count! recognized the need for skilled discipleship in the growth period, and Commissioner David Edwards’ awareness that our need for growth won’t stop as the bell tolls on the year 2000 inspired a strategic plan which has resulted in the VISION2000 program.

Another kind of poverty

Rader’s commitment to a worldwide mission in no way has excluded those parts of the globe which embrace western culture. In a Los Angeles Times interview with Larry B Stammer, the journalist noted: “In his five years as the worldwide leader of the Salvation Army, General Paul A. Rader has seen the horrors of wars in the Balkans and abject poverty in Africa and South America.”

“But as he nears the end of his term as the first (native born) American to lead the 134-year old Christian evangelical organization, Rader said the most profound impoverishment is to be found in the wealthy countries of the West–“a great emptiness and longing for meaning and purpose.”

Rader stated: “In terms of spirituality, we are by comparison impoverished people in the West, and that impoverishment is deepening as we enrich ourselves to almost unseemly levels in view of the countries of the world that live in abject poverty.”

Dealing with identity issues.

On assuming responsibility as international leader of the Army, Rader stated one of his major priorities was to “clarify our identity–to be seen as an evangelical part of the universal Christian church.” Rader noted that he had grown up as an American Salvationist in an era when charitable giving was accomplished in a federated way through such organizations as the United Way. “In that setting,” Rader said, “the Army felt a responsibility to maintain a rather low profile for our spiritual ministries. The assumption was that the public was willing to support our community but was not particularly interested in our spiritual motivation.”

“That picture has now changed,” Rader stated. “We are now far more forthcoming about who we are and what motivates us, about the holistic nature of our ministry to people.” Rader went on to note that faith based charities in the United States now receive a measure of protection through national legislation, and that the Army, over the past five years, has been the number one charity in America. “We have begun to come to terms with our ecclesial function–that we are the church home of upwards of two million people in the world.” His point was clear. Making our Christian motivation evident to people has not lessened their support of our programs. It has only increased that support.

Rader said that when he was commissioned, the word “church” was not in common usage when referring to the Army. “That has changed,” he stated. “Now we are in a significant period where we are coming to terms with these kinds of issues.”

Rader saw this change as benefiting the Army as we see our place more clearly within the universal church of Christ as participants “in the task of world evangelization. We are part of God’s strategy for mission in the life of the world.”

Rader then cautioned: “I’m not looking for the day when we are increasingly less Army and more church. I think we need to maintain certain distinctives of our identity and our mission and our way of doing mission in the world.”

Being a partner with others

During his tenure of service Rader has encouraged and witnessed a change in the Army’s willingness to move from an exclusive orientation to that of increased partnership with other churches and groups seeking to achieve common goals. “We have nothing to lose in interacting with other people,” he said. He went on to identify materials, ideas, and programs which we have adopted for use in the Army rather than continuing in our traditional orientation of going it alone. He sees this as a maturing process. We now allow other churches to use our music. We work with them in various community endeavors. The Army’s work in some of the disaster areas of the world would not be possible were it not for our relationship with another denomination. This is true in Bosnia-Herzogovina–in Kosovo and Albania as well as the way we function in assisting people as they try to put their lives back together following a natural disaster.

RWANDA–Commissioner Kay Rader enjoys new friends at The Salvation Army’s refugee camp.

Rader also noted the Army’s active participation in such international groups as the World Council of Churches and the Lausanne Conference.

Another type of partnership.

Right from the beginning of their careers, the Raders have been a team. It is a partnership in mission, and Kay Rader’s contributions to that partnership have been extensive. Both were highly concerned with the reality that the 1994 High Council which elected Rader to Army leadership had participation from only two women. That changed significantly in 1999 as women commissioners joined their husbands in the balloting. They saw the need together and they acted together to establish policies and procedures which recognize the rightful place of women officers in the Army. Some of that work has yet to achieve full fruition, but the international personnel commission, assigned responsibility for developing policies in this and other areas, is expected to offer its report soon.

Kay Rader has always presented a clear focus on goals –a clarity of vision for God’s work in the world. She is a first generation Salvationist who met the Army through her future husband while they were both attending Asbury College. She has an intimate yet instructive style with audiences of all sizes and has completely shared platforms and meeting responsibilities with her husband in their travels around the world. Additionally, she has accepted a number of engagements on her own which have advanced the work of God and the Army throughout the world. Fluent in Korean, along with Paul, she has provided translation for a number of events involving Korean speakers and Korean audiences.

Recognizing that it was her husband who was elected General, she maintained her existing rank in her own right and became the first spouse of a General with the rank of Commissioner. She has studied issues pertaining to women’s roles in society and in the Army and has facilitated increased awareness within the Army of the importance of these matters to the Army’s future.


The creation of the International Youth Forum provided extensive communication with youth and a number of highly important recommendations on which Rader has acted. He makes highly positive comments about the expansion of the Youth Forum idea within a large number of territories throughout the world. He recognizes the importance of the continuing issue of officer recruitment, but also knows well the “different perspectives on commitment” among young people today.

“We have to accept the validity of their view of commitment in terms of their cultural circumstances,” he said. “We need to make use of their tremendous capacity to give themselves heroically and sacrificially to mission. Take, for example, the concept of mission teams, which are very highly disciplined, extremely demanding, and call for a high level of personal sacrifice. I believe they are part of what’s emerging in the life of the Army that is going to revitalize us. Therefore, they need to be cherished. We don’t need to see these things as threatening. It may be difficult to control them, to put them in a category and to say who is in charge and to whom they report. But I think we ought to be open to these movements of revitalization that have the capacity to quicken all of us to a sense of greater commitment to the things that matter for eternity.

“We have incredible vehicles for service and for making a difference in the world. Helping young people to see that and relate to that in a positive way is one of the important things before us.”

The future

It seems clear that neither Rader intends to perceive retirement as synonymous with relaxed inactivity. “I have no fear about retirement,” Rader stated. “We have tried to prepare our hearts and minds for it.” Rader then recounted how his own father, Lt. Colonel Lyell Rader, O.F., dealt with retirement. He noted his father’s statement hanging on his wall. It read:

Keep your priorities straight.

Power your projects with passion and prayer.

Lift up Jesus high over all.

Forget who gets the credit as long as King Jesus gets the glory.

“That’s it, you see,” Rader said. ” … because the focus of his whole life was the ministry to people, when he retired he didn’t lose anything. The next day he was doing the same thing he was doing the day before — winning people for Jesus.

“There are still things to do … so we will move off the scene with gratitude to God for the privileges that have been ours.”

A Pasage, Not an Ending

A Pasage, Not an Ending

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