Welcome to the blog of Commissioner Clive Adams. Leader of The Salvation Army United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland

Marching On

7 January 2015 - 10:34am
| by Clive Adams

I was interviewed recently by Salvationist magazine’s Captain Andrew Stone about growing up in Cape Town at a time when South African lives were segregated through apartheid, as well as my thinking about The Salvation Army in the UKI Territory.  Below, I share some of those reflections for those who are not readers of the Salvationist magazine. (However, a visit to Salvationist’s web page will provide details of the 3 January 2015 edition which features the interview.)

I was aware of apartheid when I was growing up because there were some places we didn’t visit - certain beaches, swimming pools and parks. But that was the extent of apartheid from my perspective because we had a good life in a tight-knit family.  However, when I went to teacher training college, I began to understand that apartheid is an evil, not just an inconvenience. It was intrinsically evil because of the way it graded people. I began to discover it was an unjust system and that awareness began to affect me as a Christian.

I had thought Christians should be non-violent, non-confrontational and show love regardless. It was easy to behave like that when I was growing up in a little bubble, but when I was exposed to the suffering caused by apartheid, I struggled to reconcile my beliefs with the reality of the South African situation.

As a student in 1976, I became involved in the student uprising, protesting alongside my fellow students.  I wanted The Salvation Army to speak out as other churches were doing, and I was party to meeting the Territorial Commander of the day to do urge him to do so, but to no avail.

To this day, I think we made bad choices as a movement in South Africa. We didn’t do well when it came to speaking up against apartheid – it’s something we must reflect on.  I believe that, even though my experiences happened years ago, they still shape the person I am today and my view of the role of Christians and the Church.  My background makes me aware that you can become complacent; that you can see and yet not see or choose not to see; that we need to think about what we see, observing with insight.  I still feel that The Salvation Army is too quiet as a church - that we are too accommodating.  Too often we don’t challenge authorities about unjust decisions for fear of "rocking the boat".

We also need to address inequalities in our movement.  There is something intrinsically wrong when the Army has the majority of its members in the developing world but the majority of its international leaders are Western. There is nowhere in the West where there is a non-Western leader, whereas there are several non-western territories and commands with western leaders. (People will say that I am a non-westerner in leadership of the UKI, but I have a Western worldview.)

Such an anomalous situation suggests that, either our leadership training is at fault or there is something wrong with the way we choose our leaders.  It needs to be addressed if we want to maintain credibility as a movement concerned with social justice.

After almost two years of leading in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland, I am concerned about our cultural imbalance. We are too white and middle class, which means we have to be intentional about the way we reach out to other cultures. At the moment we have no strategy to reach out to Eastern Europeans, but they are here in their droves. We are not addressing that challenge.  That is not to mention the other ethnic groups who have been here for years without our having any success at reaching out to them.  We need to do much better at this aspect of mission.

That said, our corps (churches) are doing more to reach out and meet the needs of the communities around them. Corps have become focused on local mission and have become needs-based. The need of the community determines the way in which many corps drive mission. There’s a sense of belonging to community and not being separate from it. That’s very encouraging. Community must be at the heart of our mission and our mission must be at the heart of community.

If we are focused on mission, God will bless the Church. That’s what happened in the book of Acts. They were faithful and the Lord added to the Church.  However, I acknowledge that carrying out mission is a challenge and that some challenges can come from within the Army itself and the bureaucracy and administration required by the organisation.

We administer ourselves to death! Often, mission is taking place despite of, rather than because of, the administration.  Our founder, William Booth, would never have got to where he took the Army if he had been as risk-aversive as we are today.  We have to put more focus on faith.  If a mission initiative is started, it must not be seen as a risk, but as taking a step of faith.  We need to reduce the number of processes and the number of protocols that can hinder people who want to get on with mission.  We say our officers are called to carry out ministry, so let’s trust them to do it.

However, it’s not only officers I want to see called and energised to take the gospel into communities and change people’s lives for the good. One of our challenges is for more people to get really involved in the work of our ministry and not just act as ‘pew-warmers’.  Possibly the biggest challenge we have is for individual Salvationists to believe passionately that they exist to bring in the Kingdom.  I support adherency because it gives a place to somebody who may not otherwise have a connection to the Army or to any other church.  However, I also believe that an army needs soldiers.  I want to promote soldiership because I believe it is a radical expression of discipleship.  Soldiership is more than the church requires for you to be a member. To be a member in the universal Church you have to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. But in soldiership we say we want more. Discipleship is radical and we want to demonstrate a radical expression of that discipleship. We want to commit our lives unconditionally. The Army is not just about marching on a Sunday; the Army is about people being deployed where God has placed them and making an impact and a difference where they are.  Soldiers are called to live out what we profess wherever we find ourselves.

With this aim to build an Army of mobilised soldiers, empowered and equipped for mission, I have great hopes for what I would find if, after this appointment, I were to come back and visit the territory. I would hope to find an Army that was still visible.  I want to come back to an Army that understands its role is not to look after itself but exists for people; that we are focused on mission and, because of that, we are growing.


Submitted by Timothy McPherson on

Thank you for a very thoughtful look at leadership in The Salvation Army. I was also quite interested to read what you had to say about apartheid in South Africa. May God bless you as you continue to lead by serving!

Submitted by Heather Elliot on

Thank you for this, its good to hear that officers should be trusted to do so, that hasnt always been my experience. Also, it is encouraging to read of heart for mission and the focus that I believe we havent always got right. Thank you for this encouragement.

Submitted by David Hallam on

Our church (corps) was all about mission, working with people who live in a deprived area of Nottingham. New leadership wanted to go down a different route, now there is no mission, no one being helped. Does the Salvation Army need to relook at the way we serve the community and stop worriying about crossing all the t's and dotting all the i's, let's just follow our hearts.

Submitted by Christine Carpenter on

Had a vision a few years ago of a building at the back of our corp (before it was knocked down) Of Showers Clean clothes. A good Breakfast ; Food Bag for the day .Upstairs Agencies to advise the homeless. Approaching local supermarkets to donate food and that would have looked good for the Army. I came with a drawing and whilst eating lunch xx I mentioned to the then officer about how they could use the building ( this is before the work started) He said people have to have a vision for something like that. The way he said it made me feel awkward if I then said I had a vision and wrote it down and drew a picture ! so that area is knocked down and is a bowling green. Now we have new officers and. I left for a while went to a big community church (that does Christians against poverty; Inside out; and they now have a warehouse. they do help all the community ! they have two duplicate services on a sunday and 300 at each and growing. My heart is at the Army my son is a SA officer and my daughter is the Children and Youth Leader ; my youngest son helps with certain groups and the helps the DYO . So Believing a family that prays together stays together ; I am back in uniform but I still thing this corp only looks after itself . There is Kids Klub and Shocking BUT not many youth so were is the Army of tomorrow here. God Bless You and So agree with all your words it fired me up xx But for what I am waiting xx

Submitted by Meshiel Brown on

A powerful word and one I stand by too. I believe that we as the Salvation Army have at times sold our souls to fit in and meet what's expected of us by Government and funders. I believe God would honor our repentance as a Church if we were to commit ourselves as a whole to owe our mistakes and seek Gods forgiveness. I don't believe God has finished with us, but I feel we are being stripped back, a remnant will bring glory to God.

Submitted by Gary Robb on

Interesting words Commissioner. Thank you. It's surely an encouragement to all.
Can I encourage you to act on it? You are in a position to change the fact of being administered to death. Influence your colleagues and lead them to change the way that DHQ & THQ staff and officers think and act.
Change the focus from internal to external. Enable them to support those that are face to face with the public rather than turning away to deal with internal administration and bureaucracy. That way those who are frontline will know their community and can engage with it, and its needs.
Allow people the opportunity to try new things - give them permission - trust them as you put it.
Support them from HQ, don't hinder.
Divisional Leaders should know their people so that they can be confident with that trust (or can coach to improve). Not distant and dealing with constraints from THQ.
Let the Army's Vision Statement come to life and be the driving force for the organisation. Let the administrators do what needs to be done to meet legislative requirements, but don't make the administrators dictate the Mission.
An Army not focussed on itself, but focussed on Mission: making an impact and a difference. Yes please.

Submitted by Rob Reardon on

Thank you for this! It resonates to the very core of my soul. We must do better!

Submitted by Andrew Whitehouse on

Fascinating read throughout Clive and thank you for the insight into your story. Relevant words about administration and Soldiership. I am particularly hopeful that the new Soldiership material will empower a new generation of radical disciples with a priority for spiritual growth and service.

Your words about uniform stand out as well. The thing is the uniform you speak of already exists and, to an extent, is being worn by many of the congregation, soldiers or not. That said there is a need for an attitude change so that all items bearing the Salvation Army emblem is seen as 'Uniform'. Ask anyone why there is a need for uniform and they will say, witness, visibility, and identification to the Church. So why is it that a t shirt with a red shield on it does this more inadequately than blue serge that quite often has no publicly recognisable emblem of the Salvation Army.

If you would allow me to suggest a couple of things for SP&S.
1. get rid of informal and casual uniform and stick it all under 'uniform'
2. increase the size of the shields on it's polo shirts, t shirts, jumpers, hoodies, etc. make it more visible
3. stop making the 'Bando' t shirts. While they may be seen as an ironic bit of fun is it really the label that we want to reinforce.

Bit of a rant, i have to admit and there is far more important stuff than this in the article but those are a few of my thoughts

Submitted by Stephen Poxon on

I hate to say it, Commissioner, but honesty compels me to say I fear this is just words. I mean no disrespect, but The Salvation Army has been far too quiet for decades now. Minimum wage? Archbishops Welby and Sentamu are vocal in the national press. Salvation Army? Not a whisper. A living wage? The Archbishops are speaking out. Is the Salvation Army? I fear not, though I'd love to be proved wrong. The Pope speaks up on all sorts of issues, bravely and impartially. I can't recall the last time I heard any similar noises emanating from IHQ or THQ. I mean no criticism; in fact, I find it sad and I'd love for things to be radically different. Will we find our voice again on social issues, or will we leave it to the Archbishops and the Pope and every other Justin, John and Francis? I know what I think, but I'm hoping to be proved wrong . . .

Submitted by Jerome Astwood on

Yes Commissioner Adams i appreciate and support you. Blessins to you all and thanks for your comments and views. i love the Army and Gods call upon us to be His Army branch of the Christian Church.......keep waging war! I thank God for the choices He has given us. Now what we do and our convictions are and should be led by the Spirit. I believe that we as soldiers should continue to support and encourage our Corps, DHQ, THQ to speak up on these matters when we get the opportunity. We have missed but we dont miss all. We must continue to be the Army God called us to be, with our sleeves rolled up and our knees worn! There is a new wave of the Spirit, a new generation.........and when you look at the last High Council you will see that there are more and more ethnically diverse Army Leadership. and i believe very soon we will have a General like we have never seen before. And Commissioner i appreciated and welcomed your comments. May we continue to strive by His Spirit to be the Hands and Feet of Jesus, not in our buildings, but in the streets, the fields, the slums, the hospitals, wherever the Lord leads, we must follow! In His Service. Jerome

Submitted by Stephen Poxon on

Having posted previously, expressing my doubts that The Salvation Army would indeed re-find its loud voice, I am delighted to hear rumours of TSA's prominent involvement in one or two areas of social and political concern. I am even more delighted to stand corrected, especially if this means we Salvationists are beginning to speak up once again. The public arena needs to hear what The Salvation Army has to say.

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