General and Commissioner Peddle
As the USA Eastern Territory pursues its plan for a 2020 Vision Congress, international leaders General Brian and Commissioner Rosalie Peddle talk about inspiring situations they’ve seen, avoiding shortsightedness, and how The Salvation Army is laser–focused on mission for the sake of future generations.
What was the main takeaway from your recent visit to the Old Orchard Beach camp meetings in Maine?
The General: We’ve seen the Salvation Army’s flesh and blood—in an engaged, committed, and covenanted relationship with God. The mission of the Army is in their hearts. We stepped away sensing it’s okay; God is here and is using The Salvation Army. God is descending in the form of the Holy Spirit and that’s what is apparent from visits like this. We just know that what we’re hoping for is in fact our reality.
Commissioner Peddle: People’s hearts have been opened to expectation and I think their love for their international leaders is evident. They’ve enjoyed conversation with us, and we enjoyed conversation with them. They are hungry for the things of God.
What would you like to see the Army do to bring its mission to fruition in terms of people, programs, and provisions?
The General: We think that each Army territory, the USA East in particular, has to make its own assessment about that. For instance, International Headquarters doesn’t cast a global vision for how we deal with homelessness, because it is so situational. Peoples’ needs are situational. My expectation would be for territorial and divisional leadership to help officers find what are the strategic priorities for The Salvation Army to make its greatest mark where they live.
In a macro sense, there are common themes from my office at International Headquarters that, in no uncertain terms, are calling us to mission. We’re asking the Army to be engaged with the gospel. I want us to be an army that takes responsibility for the generations to come. So, let’s not be complacent; let’s not be stuck anywhere in the continuum of God revealing Himself to us. These are big things. Territorial leaders here have shown us how they interpret and inculcate their plans and priorities for 2020. Our 2020 Vision Congress will give us a platform to talk more about those kinds of things.
In your travels, what situations or events have influenced your vision for the future?
Commissioner Peddle: As we travel the world, we see Salvationists doing amazing things. They’re taking on the mantle of mission and leadership and love of The Salvation Army.
The General: For me, the strand of thinking would be resilience. I see an incredible resilient expression by Salvationists in the context of people living day by day; no promises for tomorrow, where we have economically desperate countries.
Places such as Indonesia where a whole landmass changed overnight, and hundreds of people died. I did a service of Thanksgiving and 17,000 people gathered. Thousands rushed forward for prayer. Rather than focus on what they didn’t have or what they’d lost or what they’d wished they had, we heard the joy of the Lord.
Commissioner Peddle: That joy was overwhelming because I saw even in the midst of devastation, people singing their praise to God. I saw their dependency upon God still.
The General: We are equally resilient in other parts of the world where the devil uses different but equally severe techniques to attack our Christian framework. He is situational. His techniques are situational. For instance, the secularization of our Western World and our preoccupation with materialism can create a shortsightedness where we can completely miss the significance of eternal values.
So, I think what encourages us is the resilience we’ve seen, whether people have or have not. I’m seeing faith being clearly demonstrated, clearly protected, and clearly shared.
What concerns you about the world today?
I think some of the realities of living in a transparent Salvation Army in many countries where corruption is how people do business is challenging. We work in environments where things are in play that are not compatible with our values. A huge concern is the lack of opportunity for everyone. There are no level playing fields. A Salvation Army soldier in one part of the world versus one in another part of the world; an officer in one part of the world and one in another part of the world. It’s not just about money. It’s about opportunity. How do we close these gaps? How do we get our heads into educating people? We have a million students in schools around the world. But that’s only a flash in the pan compared to the great need.
Is there a crisis in evangelicalism?
I’m not sure I would call it a crisis. I still believe the devil pushes against the Church, but the gates of hell will not prevail.
One third of The Salvation Army is in India and Pakistan. That’s over 350,000 soldiers in two countries where people are not supposed to be Christian. We see this in Africa as well. The Salvation Army preaches the gospel and people come. Soldiers are enrolled. I think the evangelical message is needed more today than ever before.
An interesting thing for us is to watch the slight shift in who the missionaries are, where they’re coming from, and where they’re going. The movement is not from the West to the developing world; I would be bold enough to say that Africa has given more to the western Salvation Army than we would ever be prepared to recognize.
You cannot find corps in the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland where Africans did not show up and lift the spirits of the people. They come and they bring their faith. It is a bold faith; an excellent faith.
The day will come when we will see a more international exchange where we’re not going to ”darkest Africa,” but an Africa that is bringing the Light to the world. Not just from Africa, but from Asia, the Philippines, and Indonesia. This is what I see. This is my global, panoramic sense of the world.
Recently, we were at the ninth corps that was formed by Founder William Booth in The Salvation Army. They were having their 150th anniversary in London. Today the congregation has Africans, Asians, and Koreans. The sergeant major is an African. The singing company reflected several nations in the world. I said, “this is it right here. This is what God is doing.”
What are your takeaways in terms of women’s ministry?
Commissioner Peddle: I’m encouraging women to reimagine their own situations. What more can they do? How can they become stronger? How can they become more involved in social action in their communities? We’re already working against human trafficking and domestic violence. We’re already advocating for equity in leadership roles. We need more education for women.
The General: Women don’t often get the credit they deserve. We’re still stuck in some parts of our world where we think certain cultural norms are biblically defensible. We have to draw lines in the sand and be careful that culture does not captivate The Salvation Army.
Culture and Christianity need to hold hands. We can have a prime minister who is a woman, but cannot have a territorial commander who is a woman? What’s with that? So, Salvation Army culture needs to be emerged and encouraged to move forward.
by Warren L. Maye