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


25 June 2013 - 12:56pm
| by Clive Adams

Children at Ireland Division Congress create scratch pictures showing the changes Jesus can make to their lives

    "Do not move an ancient boundary marker that your ancestors set in place."

WHERE this verse in Proverbs (22:28; paraphrased) is specifically speaking about not cheating your neighbour in regard to the extent of your respective properties - and there is a whole spectrum of issues that it could and should apply to in the context of our present situation in terms of social justice, social action and social relief – I’d like to take it out of context to underline the importance of tradition, of corporate values, of heritage, of the foundation upon which we build.

IN our quest to remain relevant in a changing world, to seek to be able to tell “the old, old story” in a fresh and new way so that it is intelligible and, therefore, credible to our context, we always face the danger of throwing the baby out with the bath water, of getting rid of our soul - the essence of our being, our “DNA” - as we seek to rid ourselves of irrelevance.

                       "Do not move an ancient boundary marker..."!

YES - let us shed our Army of the traditionalism which bogs us down and keeps us in a rut, stifling our creativity; let us cast off the “dead faith of the living”, that keeps us stolidly following paths our system and structure have carved out for us; let us bury the “going through the motions” kind of being and doing church; let us grieve if we must, but, grieving, move on to live in the release which awaits on the other side of the grave. I welcome such innovation! I encourage such innovation! I want such innovation, because I want the Army to hold its place in the world as it relevantly, dynamically and effectively is the Church in our time.

More artwork created by children at Ireland Division Congress

BUT - in ensuring that we are Fit for Mission, that we are relevant and dynamic and effective - let us also ensure that we do not move the ancient boundary markers that our ancestors set in place: the “living faith of the dead” which both informs and inspires us, indeed, it identifies us. Let us carry into our version of being Army the very things that shaped and spread this movement, this Church. The Church is what it is, so, let’s not move the boundary markers set by our ancestors – allow it to be what it is by ridding ourselves of that which is not essential, not essence, and holding to our hearts that which is. It’s surprising just how much scope that actually gives us to be the Church in our world in a relevant, dynamic and effective manner!


Submitted by Antony Mugford on

Commissioner, I wonder if I might be so bold as to suggest that the word 'relevant' is part of the problem rather than the solution? Is the search for relevance a little like juggling jelly or pushing water uphill? If we nail our colours to the mast of relevance we need to ask 'to whom are we trying to be relevant?' and face the situation that trying to be relevant to one group we automatically become irrelevant to all the rest. The previous Pope was asked by a journalist on the plane how he was going to make the church relevant? His Holiness replied that it was not his task to make the church relevant but to make is 'accessible.' I like that. In fact I think that accessibility, rather than relevance will enable the Army to be itself - without moving those boundaries - whilst being available to others. We must be a catalyst, a movement that enables change in others without ourselves being changed.

Can I quote Pope Benedict again? "One might say that a church that seeks to be attractive would already be on the wrong path, because the church does not work for itself, does not work to increase its numbers so as to have more power. The church is at the service of Another; it does not serve itself, seeking to be a strong body, but it strives to make the Gospel of Jesus Christ accessible. In this sense the church does not seek to be attractive but rather to make herself transparent for Jesus Christ."

Commissioner, I sense there may be difficult times ahead for the Army - perhaps they are beginning already - and there will be voices that will demand that we change, that we move those boundaries in order to be inclusive, relevant, more open. I pray that we will not listen to those voices but reaffirm where our boundaries lie, be open and transparent about who and what we are, making the Gospel accessible for those who wish to respond to the grace of God.

Submitted by Charles Durman on

If the people arround us see the Church as irrelevant will they want access? Just a thought

Submitted by Graeme Smith on

Good questions to raise once again Commissioner!

Of course, the word relevant is almost certainly something that the Church's central message never fails to be. One dictionary defines relevant as "Having a bearing on or connection with the matter at hand" and of course the Gospel always does.

But we also read that the very message of salvation itself is a stumbling block to humanity; something that I have learnt to understand means that our task is to divest ourselves of anything that can be an additional stumbling block. This is where we must keep what serves the Gospel in the communities we find ourselves in, but shed anything that creates a 'trip hazard' to our primary mission of sharing the message of Jesus with a broken world.

This is one of the reasons why I celebrate the diversity we find in today's 'Army' in the UK & Ireland. No longer can we push a one-style fits all agenda, but instead embrace the wonderful and God-inspired variety that we see.

Submitted by Jon on

The first comment contradicts itself.
To reaffirm the boundaries simply maintains relevance to one particular group thus 'automatically become(ing) irrelevant to all the rest'
Surely the Commissioner's use of the word relevant is intended to mean all-inclusive and universal rather than exclusive and marginalised?

Submitted by Chris Lyons on

But Commissioner, with the greatest of respect, you have said that we mustn't move the ancient boundary markers but haven't said what you consider these ancient boundary markers to be. Everybody can agree with your argument but then can completely disagree as to what must stay the same and what can be moved or changed.

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