An interview with the General & Commissioner Cox
General André Cox and Commissioner Silvia Cox, World President of Women’s Ministries, talk about their lives away from the spotlight, their message to Old Orchard Beach (OOB) Camp Meeting delegates, and their perspectives on issues affecting The Salvation Army and the world.
Your constant travels must be a challenge. Do you grow tired from traversing the globe or does it energize you?
General André Cox: We try to live in the moment. Our planes usually fly at night so we can get as much sleep as possible. Often when we arrive, journalists and all sorts of people meet us. We just go with it. But at the end of the day, we see so many positive things. So yes, this lifestyle does give us energy.
Commissioner Sylvia Cox: We count it a privilege to be able to do what we do.
How do the Coxes spend their leisure time?
AC: When we are home, we walk to the office.
SC: As we walk, we talk. This is one way we rest. Another way is to speak to our children via Skype every day.
What is the message you hope to convey at OOB?
AC: We are called to be a worshiping community and a serving community. An army that stays in its barracks is absolutely useless. An army that lacks weaponry is useless. So, it is about being equipped, engaged, and mobilized. In many places, we feel sufficiency, satisfaction, and comfort. Yet, right beyond the doors of every corps in every community is tremendous human need. While we celebrate the many places in the world where we have volunteers, we who wear the uniform should be on the front lines. So, my message is, “be doers of the word” not only “hearers of the word.”
In our diverse Salvation Army world, what are the threads that bind its spiritual fabric?
AC: People say, “With 127 countries, it seems utopic to think that we have ‘One Mission, One Army, One Message,’ ” and yet, it is true! The uniforms are different, the people are different, and the languages are different …
SC: … But you know that you are in an Army meeting!
AC: Every soldier signs the covenant. Our call binds us. Our doctrinal beliefs bind us. Our global Thursday morning prayers bind us. Prior to the Boundless Congress 2015, we had an entire year of “The Whole World Praying” and then “The Whole World Reading.” Those things bind us. Other threads are our flag and our mercy seat, which is the greatest thing God ever gave to The Salvation Army. It’s not magical, but it is a place where people are called to commitment, repentance, and a deeper step with God. During a recent meeting in Papua New Guinea, people stood in the pouring rain for two hours. When the officer called them to pray, they knelt in the mud. Precious moments such as this bind us as an army.
Christian evangelicalism is under attack on multiple fronts. In Russia, new laws threaten to shut down proselytization outside the four walls of state–approved churches. In China, the government destroyed 2,000 Christian crosses. In the U.S., the evangelical movement has seemingly redefined itself as a political block. Given these realities, what is the Army’s role and that of individual Salvationists?
AC: We shouldn’t despair because God has won and will have the final victory over these things. Throughout history, people have tried to eradicate Christianity and the Bible. The more the Church is pressured, the more it is driven to its knees. But we shouldn’t be pessimistic. It’s true there are restrictions in Russia and China, but there are also opportunities in these countries. We must have the wisdom to know when to seize those opportunities. Jesus said we are to work while it is day because the night is coming. So, be vigilant and speak when our rights are infringed. Don’t take your freedoms for granted. The erosion of religious freedom is the thin end of the wedge that pushes away other freedoms. As individuals, we can make a difference. We may want to set the world straight, but the problems of the world begin in communities. Often people in those communities are discriminated against, disenfranchised, and marginalized. The problems come from these situations. We can’t solve the huge issues, but we can make a difference where we are.
What effect has “Brexit” had on the Army world?
AC: So far, Brexit has had a huge impact on the financial market, based on pure speculation. The market recovered fairly quickly, but we are still in uncharted waters. When the UK triggers the Article 50 Brexit Clause, which will start the exit process, we will see what effect it has on the world economy, including The Salvation Army. My greatest concern with Brexit are those politicians who speak to the fears of disgruntled people. This is dangerous rhetoric. The hate speech you hear in the U.S., we hear in the UK and in other parts of Europe. Throughout history, when these voices get louder and hate crimes rise, they become the precursor to armed conflict. Brexit will not solve the UK’s immigration issue. Neither will a far–right agenda. Any extreme is bad news for human rights. So, we need to pray that sanity prevails and world politics becomes centered.
The United States has recently experienced unrest regarding social justice and equality. Tensions tear at the nation’s fabric. What should the Army’s response be?
AC: The Army has to be a strong voice. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will inherit …” We must be peacemakers. If the Army was ever needed as it was in London in 1865, it is today. We need to be agents of change and transformation. But it requires that we be at peace with ourselves and with God. The situation you’re facing in the States is extremely concerning. Unfortunately, you’re not the only place in the world where these things are happening. So, the Army’s engagement in social justice is required more than ever.
Are we making progress against sexual trafficking? Have interfaith coalitions been helpful?
SC: We would like to see this effort more on an international scale. Right now, we hear about territorial initiatives. In America, we hear good things. People are also active in South Africa, the UK, and in some parts of Europe.
AC: We’ve made good connections in the territories where we’ve worked with other organizations and with governments. But the trafficking is going across borders. We need to leverage more from our international network.
SC: We are raising awareness in many places….
AC: … such as the U.N. and with governments. But we could do more as an international team.
You have probably received more feedback than anyone else regarding the Army. What encouraging words have you heard?
AC: The Army’s reputation in every country is stellar. This is something we should be grateful for rather than proud. We also need to protect our reputation at all costs because it can be destroyed in a moment. Before coming to OOB, we met with the vice president of Argentina. We discussed some of the political challenges they face. The vice president said, “We need and appreciate The Salvation Army. We know what you do.” We’re humbled to get such feedback. In many places, people are saying, “we want you to be who you are.” So, we shouldn’t be afraid to step into the world. William Booth met all sorts of people, even royalty. People are saying, “We need you to be out there.”
SC: People are thanking us for what we are doing now as well as for what we did 100 years ago.
AC: The future before us is better than the past we leave. We’ve got to get out there and seize the opportunity.
Thank you, and God bless you, General and Commissioner Cox.
by Warren L. Maye