High Council – High Interest

by Colonel Richard Munn

The 20th High Council has been called by the Chief of the Staff, Commissioner Lyndon Buckingham, starting May 18th, and will elect the 22nd General of The Salvation Army.

This is an international event that garners a high level of scrutiny and interest across the Salvationist world, in many ways a specific symbol of our internationalism.  I well recall the young Lieutenant from rural Australia who boisterously greeted me with a specific list of his ‘Top 5’ personal nominees for the General, as a recent High Council was underway.  His volume was full, his opinions were strong, and his rationale was well articulated. The event, it seemed, had implications as far as the outback.

Yes, the eyes of the army world, from Queensland, Australia to Kingston, Jamaica will be watching, waiting, and praying as the daily reports, news and developments of the High Council unfold.

The 2023 High Council consists of 114 members, senior leaders from IHQ and every territory in the world and will meet in Sunbury Court on the outskirts of London, the historic and traditional venue.  Commissioners Bill and Lorraine Bamford will be attending their 2nd High Council from our territory, though all delegates are present in their own rights as attested spiritual leaders, and not as ‘representatives’ of a command or territory.  The sole purpose of the High Council is to elect the next General, is immediately disbanded following that action, and is one of the few army decision-making gatherings that includes voting.

While clinical and precise, both by corporate instruction and by valued social contract attending leaders studiously avoid politicking, campaigning, or posturing.  Far from being an electoral rally, previous attendees reliably and regularly speak of their High Council experience as ‘deeply spiritual’ and ‘a profoundly moving.’  The gathering is consistently marked by prayerfulness, humility and decorum.  Significant amounts of time are created for prayer, worship, devotions and personal reflection.

And yet, this is also a carefully orchestrated and controlled event with legal ramifications and protocols that befit such a significant corporate gathering.  Tried and trusted procedures that have evolved over the course of time must pass careful legal scrutiny and standards.  While the goal is straightforward, the fine print and procedure is copious and complex. Experienced corporate lawyers are ever present, guiding and monitoring.

After the nominees have been officially proposed, and their willingness to stand confirmed (or otherwise), approved questions answered and speeches made, the confidential voting procedure begins, culminating with the election of the new General.  In recent years the moment has been attentively watched around the world via social media, in real-time.  My Twitter and Facebook feed have erupted in the immediate seconds after the announcement of the new General is made public, with posts from around the world always expressing blessing and the promise of prayer.

Indeed, focused praying is already well underway this year with an initiative launched by Commissioner Bronwyn Buckingham, World Secretary for Spiritual Life Development – you can access the information here: https://www.salvationarmy.org/ihq/praying-for-leaders

God bless The Salvation Army!  God bless the High Council!  God bless the General!

For a quite fascinating, detailed and inside account of the High Council, consider reading Inside a High Council,’ by General John Larsson.