The next General?

Let me just say at the outset that if my wife were ever elected as General of The Salvation Army I would happily and faithfully fulfil my role as International President of Women’s Ministries.

Today the names have been released out of the High Council of the five nominees as to who will become the next General of The Salvation Army; Commissioner AndrĂ© Cox, Commissioner Kenneth Hodder, Commissioner James Knaggs, Commissioner Dick Krommenhoek and Commissioner Barry Swanson. Almost immediately the news was being shared around social media sites and just as quickly conversations have turned to the gender and ethnicity of this group. All men. All white.

The Salvation Army speaks pridefully about its egalitarian views on the right of women to serve in the same way a men. This goes all the way back to our early days.
"I insist on the equality of women with men.  Every officer and soldier should insist upon the truth that woman is as important, as valuable, as capable and as necessary to the progress and happiness of the world as man.  Unfortunately a large number of people of every tribe, class and nationality think otherwise.  They still believe woman is inferior to man." William Booth
Indeed this quote is used today on an official Salvation Army webpage entitled Women within The Salvation Army. However, as George Orwell originally jibed in his novel Animal Farm, “All men are created equal, but some men are more equal than others.” Unfortunately within The Salvation Army, it is just as true to say that “All Officers are equal, but some officers are more equal than others.”

Nowhere is this more evident than in our dual leadership structures. There is one leadership structure which places the General at the top, assisted by the Chief of the Staff, with Territorial Commanders (TC), Divisional Commanders (DC)and so on, all reporting to that person. Then there is a second leadership structure which has the International President of Women’s Ministries at the top, assisted by the International Secretary of Women’s Ministries, with Territorial Presidents (TPWM), Divisional Directors (DDWM) and so on, all reporting to that person. It is a sad indictment on our movement that this second structure is the place where married officers are appointed when their husbands are appointed to its equivalent in the first structure. For many years this has been the scenario; the husband is appointed as a DC and the wife a DDWM. There are exceptions in recent years, but sadly these exceptions only go to prove the rule. For when there have been instances where the wife has been appointed as the DC I’m yet to hear of a case when the husband has been appointed as the DDWM. The fact that my first paragraph draws a wry smile from people when I say it only confirms this point.

Sadly, whilst I suspect that this dual structure remains in place to emphasise the importance of Women’s Ministries (and I agree that it is important) it only serves to lessen its importance when it is treated as a place to appoint the wife of the DC. The result of this is that rarely do we have a married woman DC, and I’ve never heard of one becoming a TC yet. Given that the High Council will expect any General to have experience as a Territorial Commander, is it any wonder, then, that all of the nominees this year are male? For me, there were no surprises.

A simple solution to this problem is to place second structure within the first; preferably where other similar ministries (Children’s for example) are located; under Corps Program. Then, appoint the right person to the right role. For this to work, though, it needs to exist throughout the entire structure, from the top down. Whilst this is simple, I’m not pretending that it’s easy. I’m certain that an international decision such as this will have international implications that I am not aware of.  Yet, I am praying that the next General will address what is for me a sad situation. 

Furthermore, the issue of ethnic equality is one that also needs addressing. Over the years there have been many instances of white male Officers being appointed as Territorial Commanders and Chief Secretaries in African, Asian and South American Countries. Certainly, within my experience in Australia we've had several TC’s and Chief Secretaries from England and the USA. However, there are yet to be examples, that I am aware of, where Officers from Africa, Asia or South American Countries are appointed into these senior leadership positions in developed countries such as Canada, USA, UK, Australia or in Europe. Is it any surprise that the nominees for General are drawn from those nationalities that tend to be given more leadership training and possibilities throughout the world? For me, there were no surprises here.

Once again, we will not see a married woman General as a result of this High Council. Once again, we will not see a General from Africa or Asia (even though this is where the vast majority of our Army is actually located). If this is EVER going to change, then we need to start developing that future General now. Whoever the first married woman General is going to be needs to be appointed as a Divisional Commander now, and then a Territorial Commander or similar senior leadership role. Similarly, we need to reverse the practice of appointing white males into developing countries as senior leaders. Start appointing officers, male and female, into senior leadership roles in the developed nations as well. 

If something is going to change, then quite frankly, something needs to change.


  1. So Winsome Merrett (DC, EVD) should start planning for London?

  2. "However, there are yet to be examples, that I am aware of, where Officers from Africa, Asia or South American Countries are appointed into these senior leadership positions in developed countries such as Canada, USA, UK, Australia or in Europe."

    I cannot (at the moment) research every TC appointment in the history of the Army in the USA, but I will call to your attention the five-year service of Commissioner David Edwards, originally from Jamaica (relatively close to South America, I would say!) as TC of the USA Western Territory.

    1. Thanks for bringing that to my attention Mark... I knew there would be examples around that I was unaware of.

      It's certainly easier, though, to come up with examples of Officers being appointed in the opposite direction ("developed" to "developing").

    2. I couldn't agree more! Regarding the second structure, my husband Rob has suggested that we develop a department called "Family Ministries" - which would include men, women, children...either sex could receive the appointment. Even so, does it have to be the spouse of the person appointed to the first structure appointment? What if the wife is TC and the husband is a corps officer? Shouldn't that work. Complicated, but not impossible.

      You are right. Training must begin now if we are expecting the future to change.

      One thing I'd like to mention: unmarried male officers also have a low glass ceiling. There aren't as many of them, so we don't speak as often about it.

    3. It is already the case in Switzerland (called Society and Family
      department!)In this departement, you have thw womens groups, mens groups, baby song and space for initiativ.

  3. Kerry Haggar perhaps - she was DC on her own bat while Colin took other positions.

    I, as perhaps the next generation (although you are not much my senior Adam), believe there is a change happening. I think it is rather like turning the Queen Mary 2 and not a small sailboat. It is a slow and steady process. It will happen. Just give it time and keep advocating for change.

  4. OK. So I wanted to provide a serious response Adam (and at a keyboard!). Thanks for articulating what is a concern for many Salvationists. This is not to take away from those who have put up their hand; I am sure all the nominees for General are fine men and many of us will pray for God’s grace in these days.

    I think for things to change TSA structures require something far more radical than you suggest (and Karl’s comment on your FB page points to this).

    In terms of married women - really we are not even thinking about gender in the TSA. Equality is not the same thing. The modern popularist notions of equality stem from deep seeded patriarchal assumptions about humanity and freedom, a la Kant. So equality itself is not neutral nor as universally affirming as we have been led to believe. We need to be thinking seriously about gender and why and how we construct certain parameters around our gender binary.

    In terms of race and ethnicity – again, I think TSA is yet to do some seriously reflecting on the gravity of post-colonial critique. In this critique, to say the ‘we’ need to raise up leaders from outside the west and ‘develop’ them for leadership is to further homogenous the structure. It is white man’s way of teaching coloured bodies how to be white – that is, we are trying to preserve the integrity of a system that we have already identified as the problem. As long as ‘leadership training’ means an enculturation of western (white man) models of leadership (which is what we learn, teach, and demand of up and coming leaders. Even when we think it is radical it is still the latest idea from a powerful white man somewhere) we are still grasping at our systems of power.

    So while I largely agree with you I think if anyone expects to see some change here, something far more radical is needed. Those in power will have to be willing to actually and completely give it up.

    1. Great response Janice. I think the big thing that stuck out from your response for me was culture. Whilst I agree with Adam that it should be different and that we as an SA should be more counter cultural, we also have to acknowledge the massive cultural influences here. For example, Whilst you have many african leaders, male and female, present at the high council the dilemma that a married couple would face within their own marriage, let alone culture would be for many, I would imagine, too insurmountable to make the hardship worth it for a few years at the 'top'. Yes we should be counter cultural and you would be hard-pressed to find a stronger male feminist (at least on this news thread)than me in favour of being led by women, but having worked in a wide range of developing contexts, I would dare say that the bigger influencing factor is actually culture and not Salvation Army sub-culture. And that applies not only to the gender roles, but also to the ethnicity argument too. A single woman leader is acceptable and admired for many of the non-western cultures. But to have a married man as 'subservient' would be seen not only as disrespectful, but in some contexts, even as unscriptural. I would dare say this would be true even for some parts of the southern USA as well as many other pockets of western culture. I hasten to add I disagree with both of these perspectives but believe them to be factual insights based on my experience in those places. Likewise, there is an inherent and largely undeserved respect for 'foreigners' from the west when it comes to leadership as well. It is evident in much bigger and influential things than The Salvation Army, from the way global trade and aid works through to multinational negotiations. Culturally, it is often more polite to defer to the more wealthy or educated in many cultures (including my own)and that inevitably plays a part in the psyche of selection as well. Ultimately cultural norms have a huge part to play despite what we would like to see in our own leadership. And we aren't the only ones - denominationally - what other major global denominational leaders have ever been female? How many female leaders do we see in the leading or developing economies? It is a man's world, unjustly so and to change the Salvation Army's value system we will also have to tackle some pretty major cultural values too. It's not ok, but it's not just us either.

  5. The comment you made, "All officers are equal but some are more equal than others" not only applies to women but even to some white male officers who don't get the opportunities that others get. This is my personal experience taking as someone who came from outside and is a first generation Salvationist. One of the failings of "our Army" from my point of view is that it really matters who your related to. When leaders don't know who you are you tend to be ignored despite having a successful track record in ministry. Perhaps this is also why some exceptionally talented, very capable women get ignored as well. Do our leaders know what they can really do? Thank you God for being on my side and using me despite the Army getting in the way.

    1. I totally agree with you in this respect and feel the only way to change anything in the army is to change the whole stucture of leadership. When you have one person sitting at the top handing out orders and others aspiring to be in that position because of the authority it brings, nothing will ever change.

  6. Dear Bro. Adam, Wonderful and radical articulated, i doubt' you have some kind of revelation to reevaluate the 21st Century Army. until and unless the mind set of the leadership is not changed all our thoughts will pored in to old sacks (new wine in old sacks). there should someone to come and revolutionize the Army structure. no white nor black, no men or women. we are living in a Global village. yes some may not speak nor write the language where the Army takes the decisions. we have to train and develop skills of Officers in developing countries to serve in first world. we have to leave all the prejudices of Africans & Asians. give opportunities so that they will learn. once again i congratulate your though.

    P. John William
    Divisional Commander

  7. Unfortunately, the last time someone did try to revolutionise the Army structure, many territories opted out of some of the more 'radical' reforms and then the majority of the reforms were then rolled back only a few years later.

    And let's be honest those reforms were not on the scale we're looking for today!

    But I believe it is possible for this to happen, but only when senior leadership stop trying to protect the structures that need such a radical overhaul. As has been mentioned elsewhere, the majority of people who rise high enough in within the current system to make a difference are likely to be very conservative when looking at ways of changing them.

    Sounds pessimistic, but I suspect that one of the current nominees would be open to the possibility of radical change! Will the High Council select that person?

  8. Adam - I'm a bit longer in the tooth than you are and have now been an officer (single and female) for almost 50 years. I know that in my own territory - where there are few officers who are non-white, there has been a definite attempt to appoint officers from Africa into Asst Chief Secretary roles. Let us not forget that we have had an African/American Chief of Staff and that in recent years out of the five Zonal International Secretaries three of the five have been from 'ethnic' backgrounds. We should also bear in mind the identity of the one nominee who declined nomination with, I am sure, the best of reasons.
    Having served in supportive roles to senior leadership (including TCs and International Secretaries) from the 5th year of my officership and having today a good number of commissioners (male and female and well-representing our 'rainbow' Army) among my personal friends, I feel that what we all need to concern ourselves about is that the High Council elects the person who is best fitted to lead the Army. Remember too, the words of the prophet Samuel who said 'man looketh on the outward appearance (presumably he meant colour and gender as well as physique)but the Lord looketh on the heart'.

  9. I have read the comments with a lot of interest and strucks me some of the thoughts.

    Such as John´s: "we have to leave all the prejudices of Africans & Asians. give opportunities so that they will learn. once again i congratulate your though."

    I believe that is happenning just one way, as developed nations officers go overseas but not the other way. Gladly many returned with a vision broadened. The world does not works as my home country!!

    But I believe many people from developing nations (I agree on that) need to be trained to understand how to function in a developed nation if they are going to lead there, but that is not true also the other way? I fear however there is no school to prepare anyone on that but life itself.

    I wonder why people still use the term "we and us". There is a cartoon (in spanish though) discusing that and saying about people from other nations, they feel like us, they rejoice like us, they cry like us and then ask at the end of the story and reflects on saying Should not we better say "we do like them, instead?"

    As long as we say "we and them" there is going to remain the spirit of Superiority and inferiority. When we see each other as partners, we will enrich us all.

    South Korea Territory is the best kept secret on spiritual, business and management growth within the Salvation Army.

    I believe our first task is to grow ourselves, were we live for God´s glory. If we do what we do well where we live, the rest will solve by itself and the need of looking everywhere to fill our own needs will diminish.

  10. Interesting and important thoughts in your blog but....
    It is impossible to get a one-size-fits-all when it comes to gender roles and being qualified for leadership. What is cultural accepted varies a lot between countries and sometimes within them. If we shall remain faithful to Jesus' values on world-wide issues it all begins with the small world at home.
    Things are changing where I am - how is it where you and the others are? Do we reach out to young women and men from other cultural backgrounds than our own? Do we lead them to salvation, walk alongside them to discipleship so they know their equal value to God? (Whatever their Culture says.) Do we train them for leadership and coach them to understand God's calling to officership? Do we support Africans and Indians in Europe and Australia to be local officers, senior officers - if so, we might also soon see a married woman or African-Asian as General.
    It doesn't happen well enough where I am so it doesn't happen on the international scene. But I pray and hope to do my part to get there.

  11. When I see the group of men I see a group a 5 Godly people. I don't see that they were white or black or Asian or anything else.

    We have the believe that God is in control and the right leader will be voted for. Sure the Salvation Army is not perfect.

    Look what happened when Australia put in it's 1st Female Prime Minister and the USA put in it's 1st black President it did not work out too well for Australia nor the USA. We should not change just because change looks good.

    We should trust in Our Almighty God and with thousands of Salvationists praying worldwide then the right General will be appointed with God's blessing.

  12. Do you want to be politically correct or do you want to be all one in Christ Jesus? The problem is that you are using political correctness as the criterion of being all one in Christ Jesus.

    1. I flatly refute this argument. I am not using political correctness as the criterion of being all one in Christ Jesus. Frankly, I'm not going to justify this comment with any further response.

    2. With all due respect, the gender and ethnic consciousness that you exhibit in this particular blog reflects the current ethos of secular society. We may, from this point of view, just as well ask when we are going to see the first homosexual elected as General of The Salvation Army.

      Consider, for example, that we do not see Tibetan Buddhists anxious to avoid discrimination in selecting the Dalai Lama. Why? Is it because they own proudly what is their own culture; and so ought Christians in the West. Otherwise it is right for unbelievers to rebuke the bride of Christ. But how can that possibly be?

  13. Hi Adam interesting as always.

    However, there is one point that you have not picked up. It should be noted that there was an African nominated - Commissioner Clive Adams who comes from South Africa, he married a Norweign and so is a norwegian officer now. He declined the nomination. So the Officers were not all white males...

    Having worked in various African Territories as well as my own in Australia, there will need to be a radical shift to change the structure we have regarding women's roles within the Salvation Army. This is impacted by the culture where the Salvation Army works.

    The problem I have is that women is an exuctive role - but why is it more important than youth, social services and men????

    Women's ministries is valid just as youth and children ministries, men's ministries, music ministries etc....we need to have more defined roles of what people are doing when they are excutive and who is on what boards - not just because they are married to a cabinet secretary or DC or TC for that matter.

    This does not mean that a spouse does not have a wide expierence but it should be based on the role and not who they are married to.

    I could go on but being a single officer I find it very interesting what people's expectations are...

    Thanks for the interesting discussions!

  14. Interesting and balanced blog.A factual correction concerning your comments about African or otherwise TCs in the Western world. Commissioner Clive Adams, a South African, is presently the TC in the UK and before that in Norway. One might see this as the exception that proves the rule, but never-the-less, this is an African who is a TC in a western setting.

  15. I understand your concern in wanting the Army to equally consider beyond gender and racial/ethnic bounds. However, I think that it may help to know that there are cultural differences that come into play when appointing leaders as TCs (and DCs and everything else, I suppose). I know two (white, western) men who both served as TCs in Africa for many years. Both men have stated that for whatever reason, the people there (both officers and soldiers) WANT a white man to be the TC. While the Army has tried to appoint nationals to those roles, the people have no respect for a national as a TC and things seem to fall to pieces when this has happened. We can go on to question why this is so and whether it is right or wrong...however, the point is that some of these appointments seem to be out of necessity, even when the Army has tried another way.

    1. I've heard this response a couple of times, but it still doesn't negate movement in the other direction. If we're going to continue to appoint Western leaders to non-Western countries, then why not the other way? There are some examples of it happening (cited in the comments above), but not many.

    2. This blog is fascinating, but all the debating in the world won't alter the fact that TSA is an intransigent organisation which is 'hell-bent' on protecting its hierarchical structure. Believe me, it is impenetrable. Nothing will change at IHQ. I have watched with interest and some frustration the ongoing 'discussion' about the tragedy relating to the Howard Hospital in Zimbabwe which came about because of a power struggle between the hospital's CMO and the hierarchy of Army leaders. The leaders, including the General and the international commissioners, black and white, rounded on the CMO - an internationally acclaimed surgeon - and stripped him of both his officership and his job without any avenue of redress, effectively leaving 270,000 people with no effective surgical care within 48 hours. The subject has been in the international media for over a year, and the Army is sadly saying nothing. An internet blog has run a series on the hospital which has been running for several weeks, and soldiers and officers have pleaded with the Army for a statement or any positive action at all - without success. Each member of the high council was issued personally with a letter outlining the issue and asked to bring it up at the questions session, but people in the know said that they would never raise it. I speak as a member, a soldier, but I feel dirty because of what has been done.
      And there is no way that the Army will even contemplate a challenge to its structure - if they did, it would be open to challenge - as it is, they will just go on their merry way, stuck in the '50s' - General Linda Bond's words, not mine - out of touch with the soldiery, and will make the same bad decisions that they have been making for decades. The Salvation Army is quickly losing relevance in this increasingly secular world - the uniforms are quaint, the music is retro, the soldiers are ageing - and the organisation is fast losing touch with the living God and His message of salvation.
      We need to have God's people in these SA posts, people who will look to Jesus for inspiration, not to the Army's structure and organisation - regardless of colour.


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