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  • May3Tue

    Appointment With Destiny?

    Is the Army's appointment system too restrictive? Should we consider an approach where congregations “call” their own officers? May 3, 2011 by Major Ray Harris and Captain Justin Bradbury
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    NO. The appointment system links us in meaningful ways. It allows us to do things together that we couldn't accomplish separately.


    It was a sultry night in June 1974. I stood with my wife, Cathie, on the stage of Toronto's Massey Hall. General-Elect Clarence Wiseman looked us squarely in the eyes and said, “I appoint you to Drumheller in the Alberta Division.” Drumheller? I knew nothing of the Alberta Badlands, let alone its valleys full of dinosaur bones! But in the presence of fellow Salvationists, we heard our first appointment announced and began the journey of officership. At a time when the desire is expressed for Salvation Army congregations to choose their own officers, I would argue that there is something about our appointment system that is integral to the Army, and can be a prophetic voice within our culture.

    First, it's important to understand that our appointment system is not an end in itself. It functions within a much larger picture that views The Salvation Army in its wholeness and not simply its parts. St. John's Citadel, South Windsor, Berkshire Citadel Community Church and West End Community Church in Bermuda are individual congregations with their own personalities and commitments. But they also belong to each other. They are connected by a shared story, by important doctrines, by a common mission and by an organizational structure. Because of this, they can do things together that they can't accomplish separately, such as responding to an earthquake in Haiti or combating human trafficking. The system of appointing officers is intended to serve the wider Salvation Army. If I can draw on a hockey analogy, its purpose is to strengthen not only individual teams but the league itself. At a time when concussions threaten the future of individual players, it's evident that not only do players and teams have a role to play, but the league itself must act for the good of the game. In principle, officers are appointed for the good of the game, for the good of the Army's mission in the whole territory.

    The practice of appointing officer leaders has its roots in the soil of Methodism. John and Charles Wesley spoke of the separate Methodist Societies as being in “connection” with them and with each other. They appointed Methodist preachers to an itinerant ministry within the movement. This view also has roots in the Early Church. The Apostle Paul, for instance, worked hard with Macedonian churches to raise funds for “the poor” in the Jerusalem church because they were connected. And he appointed leaders to move between the various congregations to help carry out the task. This was a communal expression of “the mind of Christ,” of looking to the interests of others (see Philippians 2:4-5).

    While our appointment system is designed for a Salvationist expression of the Church, I believe it also has relevance within the wider culture. For one thing, it can counter excessive individualism. Our culture places much emphasis on self-fulfilment. Universities market their programs by appealing to the benefits for the students. Jobs are advertised on the basis of what they will do for the applicants. What we also need to ask is how our vocations seek to contribute to the world beyond the fulfilment of the self. While an appointment system is not the only way, it at least indicates to our culture that we look to “something greater.” And because of this we are prepared to seek the greater good. We are prepared to find our life by losing it.

    In arguing for our appointment system, I believe it is also open to change. Appointments in the past have been used to discipline officers, if not punish them. Yet the current model is vastly different from the one that sent Cathie and me to Drumheller for our first appointment. Over the years, some appointments blindsided us, some involved conversations with supervising officers and congregations, and one even included my involvement in a search process for a position at the then William and Catherine Booth College. The model by which we appoint officers is adaptable, and we can make changes. But the underlying principle to which I am committed is that of seeking the greater good of the territory, and not simply any one expression of it.

    If there is a sense in which the appointment system has its restrictions, they are intended to seek the good of the whole Army. While the system concerns individual officers and congregations, it is not individualistic. It requires communal discernment, including both congregations and officers. By working with an appointment system, all Salvationists can contribute to a larger vision of the Church. Through it we can all discover more of God's providential ways.

    Major Ray Harris is a retired Salvation Army officer who enjoys running in Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park.

    YES. Congregations know their own contexts best. Giving them a greater voice in choosing their officers will make our denomination stronger.


    During my ministry as a youth pastor, I often connected with teens by attending their sporting events. I'll never forget Michelle, a gymnastics medal-winner, demonstrating her incredible flexibility by bending over backward and touching the back of her ankles in a competition. I still wonder how her back bone didn't break! Careful training ensured her agility.

    Now apply that image to the officer appointment system. I wonder how flexible it is capable of becoming in the future.

    In a time when the territory is seeking to apply the principles of “appreciative inquiry” to its decision-making processes, it might be helpful to extend those principles even further in the area of officer appointments. Here's why:

    The local congregation knows itself, its community and its mission best. Salvation Army churches are local missionary societies, serving in increasingly diverse contexts all across Canada. We must continue to seek ways of allowing local congregations and church boards to have a greater voice in defining what is best for their immediate and long-term leadership needs because they know their contexts best.

    In my current appointment at Southlands Community Church in Winnipeg, the church board clearly defined the “Kingdom ends” or spiritual goals that they felt God had called their congregation to pursue. Their long-term plan meant that they needed officers who would lead them in a way that complemented their vision. Therefore, it was essential that the board express a defining voice in the appointment of their leaders.

    It will facilitate greater interdependence between the congregation and headquarters. While giving local congregations full autonomy in the selection of their officers is not feasible within The Salvation Army given our international structure, growing in interdependence with respect to the appointment system is.

    When local congregations are given the opportunity to express a defining―and not simply suggestive―voice within our denomination's decision-making processes, the denomination will become stronger. Congregations will experience greater trust from headquarters. In turn, headquarters will realize greater support for its initiatives. This collaborative approach ensures “win-win” outcomes.

    It would clarify and create mutual agreement around the officer's ministry. Where local congregations have a more definitive voice in the selection process of their officers, areas of strength and opportunities for development may be identified earlier in the pastoral appointment. Although our officers are expected to perform a wide range of duties, not all are the pastor's primary area of strength. Identifying this early on can alleviate misunderstanding about how the congregation and the officers perceive the focus of their work. In our case, because Southlands had clearly developed its sense of Kingdom ends, we were able to negotiate with the church board by providing our written interpretation of those ends—an interpretation that the board endorsed without reservation.* Whenever questions arise relative to our performance, the church board can refer to objective data as we pursue our goals together.

    While Salvation Army congregations may never have complete autonomy to “call” their pastors as other denominations do, their voice must become increasingly definitive within the appointment process. Such a transition can empower local leaders and congregations toward greater ownership of the local ministry. And in a time when local congregations must, out of necessity, become less dependant upon headquarters for financial and program resources, it is only natural that they exercise greater stewardship in achieving their mission.

    Captain Justin Bradbury is the corps officer at Southlands Community Church in Winnipeg.

    * The Southlands Community Church board uses a policy governance model, adapted from the approach outlined by John Carver. Within this model, it is the church board's role to govern and define the purpose for the corps, while the corps officer's role is to lead the ministry and help the congregation achieve its ends. For more information, contact Captain Justin Bradbury at


    On Wednesday, May 4, 2011, army comrade said:

    I believe that the Territorial Leadership should be trusted with the responsibility of appointing officers, for they are best placed to know intimately the gifts and qualities that the officers possess and the needs of the appointments. I think it is a this responsibility is sacred and must be seen as a sacred TRUST between the Territorial Leadership, The "Field" and the Officer.I think this trust is based on the hope that the TLeadership has the best intentions for all concerned.

    However, I think this system could be balanced by having the CSM, if not the entire Census/Pastoral Care Board, be an official part of the appraisal process for 'field' officers. I think this would recognize the stewardship of all concerned and their spiritual responsibility to their community and the Army. Additionally, CSMs and LOs are usually faithful and spiritually strong people who, surely, must be able to constructively evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of their appointed officer, and have that appraisal taken seriously!

    Too often, the best intentions of the 'system' are misconstrued because of a lack of communication/respect for the Local officers and soldiers of the corps.

    On Wednesday, May 4, 2011, heather said:

    I am an officer's child of the era of receiving a phone call 6 weeks before moving and that was that. I often hear older officers ask the question where is the aspect of "where He sends me I will go" is anymore.

    Corps do receive the option to display their wants. At North York Temple, our ministry board was met and prayed with after assessing the needs of our corps. After they relayed what we needed, we were given the gift of Maj. Randy Hicks (R). It is up to him if he wishes to renew his contract as a retired officer. He has done, through God's help amazing things for our Corps. We have grown and are now considered a premiere corps of not only the division, but perhaps the territory. We were able to express our needs, and God is blessing us.

    On Wednesday, May 4, 2011, Sherry Potter said:

    Some Officer seem to fit the place they are appointed to, others just don't and no matter how long they stay it will always be an uneasy match. I believe God uses both experiences, not that I have even been comfortable with either. If the Corps (church) is run by and given ownership of the ministry then the Officer needs to be the guess speaker and overseer, but we have too many Corps just waiting to start over with their next Officer.

    On Wednesday, May 4, 2011, sharon white said:

    I don't mind officers being appointed, however The Salvation Army needs to think of the appointment as feasible, affordable and allow the officer to have their say. When my parents were officers, it was seldom that we were in an appointment for more than three years, some appointments were only for one year! One cannot get to know their congregation in one year, let alone move clear across the country and save The Salvation Army money in the move! I am glad that officers get to stay longer than five years in an appointment now. It creates a better bonding for the officers and their congregation as well it saves money. I think officers should get to stay if they wish in an appointment until they retire or until all their children have finished school. And moving an officer from British Columbia all the way to Newfoundland is ridiculous! Moving them within British Columbia is more feasible.

    On Tuesday, May 3, 2011, Arlene Evans said:

    I think the appointment system is good but sometimes the congregation needs to be heard. We have had some wonderful officers in the last 20 years or so and love our current officers. I do believe that in specialty positions the person assigned should be qualified for the job.

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