Getting to know the 22nd General of The Salvation Army
Commissioner Lyndon Buckingham, currently serving as the Chief of the Staff at International Headquarters, was elected the 22nd General of The Salvation Army May 27 at Sunbury Court near London by members of the 2023 High Council, comprised of some 112 Salvation Army leaders from around the world.
Buckingham will assume office Aug. 3, following the retirement of General Brian Peddle. Here, the General-elect talks to Captain Jo Moir, United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland Territorial Communications Officer, about being elected the next General.
Kia ora! You’ve just been elected as our next General. Are you surprised? Are you shocked? Or are you determined?
Probably there’s a mixture of all those things. Yes, I think nobody comes expecting, but I think we all come with a mindset of making ourselves available to the will of God, ready to do what the Lord wants us to do. So I didn’t come with any endgame in mind. But I did come willing to participate in whichever way was appropriate. And so, I’m feeling a little overwhelmed, but humbled, grateful for the support of the members of the High Council and their endorsement.
Commissioner Yusak Tampai, the High Council chaplain, had the golden bowl of prayers in the chamber. And it was just a visual reminder of the thousands of Salvationists who not only prayed leading up to the High Council week but prayed us all the way through. You know, if I was reflecting on a highlight of the council itself, it would be just the spirit within the chamber, just a beautiful sense of the presence of God.
Although feeling overwhelmed, and all of those things, I also feel that we have allowed the Lord to reveal what he wanted to happen and we’ve participated in that, and I take comfort from that. I’ve had a wonderful endorsement from the members of the High Council, and I receive this as from the Lord. I will serve, and I’m grateful because Bronwyn is right there with me. We will share this ministry together, and we’ll try and serve the Lord and serve The Salvation Army. And yes, actually, I’m a little bit excited about the opportunity.
We know you as a family man—a dad and a granddad and, very recently, a new grandbaby. Have you had time to connect with them? How do they feel about this?
You know, the amazing thing is that my family is 11,185 miles away from this venue. So they’re a long way away, physically. But in a little room off the side of the chamber I could FaceTime with them. So it was the middle of the night for them, but they were all awake and we’ve had an opportunity to share with both my son and daughter-in-law and my daughter and son-in-law, and the grandkids.
I just thank God for them because they have been so positive. I mean, we’ve already been away from our homeland since 2013. So you know, we’ve already done a decade. They have been so supportive of us in fulfilling God’s calling in our lives. And so to be able to see them on the screen, and have them go, ‘Go, mum and dad!’ It’s just been absolutely wonderful.
We were also able to connect with Bronwyn’s parents, lifelong Salvationists, now in their 80s, they were still up in the middle of the night, ready to receive our call. And of course, they were also, you know, overwhelmed and, naturally, very proud.
Tell me a little bit about how you came to faith in Christ and how you were called to officership.
When I was about six or seven years of age, my parents took me to a Salvation Army congress. And at the end of the meeting, somebody from the platform said, ‘If you would like to meet Jesus, come down to the front.’
So, I went down to the front, fully expecting to meet Jesus. I knelt at the mercy seat. After a little while, there was an arm around my shoulder. And I thought, ‘This is Jesus.’ When the person started talking, I said to myself, ‘Sounds like my Uncle Wes…’ So I took a look—and it was my Uncle Wes!
And, although I was only six or seven years of age, I was disappointed, because I’d gone with an expectation that I was going to meet Jesus. And what I got instead was my uncle.
And so it created a little bit of doubt, in a small boy’s mind. And from then on, I was a child who was sort of going through the Army ranks and going through the motions. I became a junior soldier. I even became a senior soldier. But I don’t think I would be able to testify at that point that I had any real experience of my own.
That changed for me on August 12, 1979, as a 17-year-old at a youth council. It was in that meeting that the realization of God’s love for me in the person of Jesus Christ absolutely came alive. I mean, I just burst with this understanding. It was more than just mental. It was in my heart, it was emotional. I was full of repentance, I was full of sorrow, I was full of joy. It was like, ‘It is real! It is for me!’
So I made my way down to the mercy seat. And it’s a strange thing. I was crying and I was laughing. And I had all of these emotions going on at the same time. The love of God burst into my heart. That’s what happened for me.And I came into a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ and, I believe, an experience of the Holy Spirit. And so impactful was it for me that I didn’t wait to be called to be an officer.
Before that meeting was over, I signed a little candidate’s covenant that you tore in half and kept for yourself, and gave the other half to the candidates’ secretary.
I still have that piece of paper in my Bible.
One of the things that will be very important in your role is to be an inspiration and an influence. Who influenced you?
I have had so many influences that it would be difficult for me to name them, but I would say faithful Salvationists who took an interest, who took time to listen, who were honest as I was growing up, local officers that put an arm around and said, ‘Come on, get back into line.’ They were very, very helpful in my upbringing.
My own parents I would have to give testimony to—my officer parents who loved us and trained us in the ways of the Lord. A huge influence. These are people the Lord sends along to help us in our spiritual journey, and our discipleship maturing. They shape us, you know, and I’m grateful.
There have been many, many influences. And I thank God for every one of them.
I asked some of the young people from my corps what they would like to ask the General-elect. This is what they wanted to know: What would your school teachers say if they could see you now?
They would not believe it! I think that, even if my father was still alive, he wouldn’t believe it either. So I think I will have confounded them, because I was not a good student.
By necessity, your speech to the High Council is kept private. It’s not shared with The Salvation Army world. What one thing, though, would you want to share with your Salvation Army family today?
I think one thing that I would feel very confident in sharing—because it’s not confidential—is that I expressed my love for what I call the three big ideas of the movement.
By that I mean, one: We are a people that love to talk about Jesus. We want people to know that God loves them and that Jesus is the ultimate proof of that love.
And so I love the fact that The Salvation Army has always been about recognizing our responsibility to share the good news of the gospel, that God loves them, that Jesus is the proof, and that welcome is available through him.
I would pray that Salvationists all around the world would find it very natural and easy to be able to speak to others about their personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the transformation that he has made in their lives.
That’s a big idea of this movement. We want people to know the good news that there is a life, there is purpose and there is hope and there is eternity, through faith in Jesus Christ. And if we could get excited about that, around the globe, think about the impact of that.
Another big idea of the movement is that we think that practical demonstrations of the values of the kingdom of God are as impactful as talking about them.
And so the sleeves rolled up, the caring for the needy, the helping the vulnerable, the being the voice for the voiceless, the advocating for justice, the going after the things where people are being in some way tortured or separated or rejected. That we as a movement go to those places, we put our sleeves up, and we say, ‘We don’t want to just talk about God’s love. We want to show you guys the soup, soap and salvation that has been our history.’
And I would love it if Salvationists would get this idea that, actually, I can do that. I can knock on a neighbor’s door and say, ‘Is there any way I can help you? Is there any way I can serve you?’
And the third thing that I shared was we are a holiness movement.
We think there is some value in the world to being salt and being light. We value the indwelling Spirit that makes us clean and free and whole and joyful. And I think that when we are walking in the Spirit in such a way that it’s the love of God that’s bearing fruit in our lives, we underestimate the impact and the value of that in the world.
You are our first New Zealander. You’re going to be going around the world making history. What most excites you about the role of General?
I think it’s the privilege of being able to encourage and inspire and facilitate The Salvation Army mission around the world. My own love for the Lord has to be used to communicate to Salvationists around the world. So I think I am very conscious that I’m being afforded a wonderful and privileged opportunity to speak into the lives of Salvationists around the world about our mission and our purpose in the world. And that’s a huge privilege.
What can we be praying for you in these days?
When we were at the Welcome to the High Council and Farewell to General Brian Peddle and Commissioner Rosalie Peddle, we were invited to fill out prayer cards. I wrote on one: Grace, peace, wisdom and courage. If I was asking The Salvation Army world to be in prayer for myself and for Bronwyn, those would be the things. I think it’s probably not inappropriate for me to say that if you could spare a prayer for our family, that would be wonderful.
Find more from the 2023 High Council at sar.my/highcouncil.
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