Delegates from around the Salvation Army world gathered in Orlando, Florida, for the Global Conversation, an international event held in partnership with the USA National Social Services Conference and hosted by the USA Southern Territory. The Global Conversation was a time of reflective listening, meaningful conversation and enriching appreciation for the internationalism of The Salvation Army. The significance of the event was punctuated with the presence and participation of General André Cox and Commissioner Silvia Cox who not only attended but also actively participated in round-table discussions with delegates.

A total of 275 people attended the Global Conversation in Orlando either as a participant or observer, with a further 419 people engaged in conversation via the Internet. Online participants spent an average of almost 90 minutes engaged in interactive dialogue.

Commissioner Gerrit Marseille, International Secretary for Programme Resources at International Headquarters (IHQ), recounted the purpose of the Global Conversation at the plenary session on Friday morning and encouraged delegates to keep the conversation going upon their return home. He also offered a prayer of thanksgiving for all that was accomplished. Major Dean Pallant (Under Secretary for Programme Resources), who was the Global Conversation coordinator, asked the question: "So what now?" He elaborated by asking delegates what God had been saying to each person during these days. He also asked delegates: "What have you learned?" This thoughtful probing formed the starting point for a 500-word theological reflection which each delegate is required to submit to the IHQ Programme Resources Department upon their return home.

Commissioner Silvia Cox (centre) participates in round-table discussions at the Global Conversation Commissioner Silvia Cox (centre) participates in round-table discussions at the Global Conversation

In his keynote address, the General told delegates that God had brought each one of them to the conference for a purpose. He also encouraged his listeners to keep the conversation going. He was frank in his presentation, telling Global Conversation delegates that this is a watershed moment in the history of The Salvation Army and that, as an organization, "we are going to have to up our game if we are going to significantly continue to impact community in the days and years ahead."

The General continued, saying that The Salvation Army is "a force for positive change – however, the hallmark of our movement needs to be grounded in transparency and accountability." He spoke about the need to ensure that corruption is banished and, in a realistic nod to the challenges facing the Army today, he acknowledged that good and evil are present in The Salvation Army but reminded delegates that "no one is above the law!" The General also suggested to delegates that a culture of change is needed in The Salvation Army which will bring it back to its founding roots.

The Global Conversation was a significant event in the history of The Salvation Army. Not only was it a time of deep reflection and an intentional review of strategic questions, it has helped to shape the global Salvation Army landscape and deepened the understanding and need for theological reflection and discussion while creating an appreciation for transparency and accountability in all that takes place.

The General and Commissioner Cox concluded their time in Florida by leading Sunday worship at Clearwater Citadel, which coincided with The Salvation Army's International Day of Prayer for Children. During the morning meeting, the General enrolled five junior soldiers, six senior soldiers and three adherent members. The international leaders were supported by USA Southern territorial leaders Commissioners Donald and Debora Bell, along with officers, soldiers and friends from the territory.


On Thursday, July 23, 2015, wangatya david said:

Transparency&Açountability is néeded auditors from Ihq should go down to social centres ,divisions to see is money sent through banks or on mobile money how will that officer make his accounts in books without bank statement. How will Tsa help the high ranking officers who sit Thq and do whatever they want.Officers who are under them have no say no freedom of speech.

On Wednesday, May 14, 2014, A salvaationist said:

I was also a delegate at the symposium at Jackson's Point.. It's sad when the Army spends so much money to bring Salvationists together to discuss matters pertaining to the Army in our territory, trying to make things better for us and nothing is done to accomplish that. I have heard many who have attended symposiums in the -past make the same comments. Why bother to have them if we do not fulfill the recommendations made or at least try them.
As for officers and lay people in the Army, we have many lay people across our territory who are very intelligent and have been through the ropes. They know what works and what doesn't work, but when they make suggestions they are ignored. Many times I think common sense should come into play if indeed it still exists. The Army has lost many salvationists to other churches because they have been frustrated by what is going on and it is not only the young people but seniors as well.
A few years ago, I along with many other people told the TC what would happen as a result of a decision made then and it did happen. Today the Army in Canada is suffering as a result of making that decision.
Lorna mentioned allowing freedom of speech =be careful here - and certainly with Speak Your Mind. I know someone who spoke their mind years ago and it came back to haunt them by their corps officer.who did not agree with the comments that were made. So much for freedom of speech!

On Saturday, May 10, 2014, Howard Sercombe said:

Not only does TSA not need "fancy titles" but such titles may well put off the very people we would like to attract. Namely, the un-churched public. Reducing the number of ranks has been an idea for decades within TSA, and some ranks were removed from use. Maybe the removal of a couple more ranks would lead to the equality and transparency needed.

On Monday, May 5, 2014, shirley watkinson said:

interesting comments from Lorna. she writes very well. I agree with her....officers should perhaps listen more to their congregants and others. the SA must learn to respect people under their authority, not just patronize them.
I would love to see all officers with the rank of Captain. this would give a simple pastoral designation. I don't think that we need fancy titles for our leaders.

On Friday, April 25, 2014, Lorna Simard said:

Sounds good - it's the right talk from top leadership at IHQ, but frankly ironic when one considers how lacking in transparency and accountability IHQ is. The whole hierarchical structure of the Army and systemic culture of leadership does not lend itself to these values.

No matter what Andre Cox says, the lack of transparency and accountability is part of the Army's culture, ingrained in generation after generation of cadets in the Training College, and then taken out into the field by newly commissioned officers who are happy to obey and be loyal, until perhaps somewhere along the line they discover it isn’t working for them.

The call for transparency and accountability is not new in TSA. Several years ago I was invited to attend a Symposium at Jackson's Point which included officer and lay soldiers from across the territory. This was when Christine MacMillan and Glen Shepherd were the Com and CS.for the territory. Among the recommendations from that Symposium was a strong and clear call for transparency and accountability, along with practical suggestions for change to bring this about. In the intervening years obviously there was no will to make this happen, because no significant change occurred to bring this about. The lack of change is confirmed as we see Andre Cox in 2014 calling for the same thing.

Two other things, although I have not yet laid eyes on the book, I am told Major Harold Hill, who writes about leadership in TSA, has a book out about it published in 2006, and Colonel Janet Munn, I am told is working on her Ph.D. dissertation on the Abuse and Use of Power in TSA . . . so there are people thinking and writing about these topics . Transparency and Accountability are huge leadership issues in an organization accustomed to operating as opaquely as mud.

I am told Hill quotes Captain John Wordsworth speaking in a leadership conference saying these words: “All systemic privilege and power must be removed. If one officer gets a free TV license and Koru club card, all officers should have equal opportunity. And further the class system between officers and, just as committed, lay staff must be removed. The thorny issue of who reviews the reviewers must be courageously addressed. And the systemic barriers to constructive communication must be carefully dismantled”.

"Systemic barriers to constructive communication" - could that mean dismantling censorship of communications in TSA and allowing freedom of speech in the interests of values like transparency and accountability? Hmmm . . .

These values are certainly something that some Salvationists hope and pray for, but ultimately actions speak louder than words.

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