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 André 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.