The Voice of The Salvation Army in Canada and BermudaView RSS Feed
May3TueIs 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
- Filed Under:
NO. The appointment system links us in meaningful ways. It allows us to do things together that we couldn't accomplish separately.
BY MAJOR RAY HARRIS
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.
BY CAPTAIN JUSTIN BRADBURY
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 email@example.com.