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Nov4MonAdapted from It Is Written: The Collected Works of Bramwell H. Tillsley. November 4, 2019 by Pamela Richardson
General Bramwell H. Tillsley (Rtd) was promoted to glory on November 2, 2019, from his home at The Salvation Army Meighen Retirement Residence in Toronto, Canada. This excerpt from It Is Written: The Collected Works of Bramwell H. Tillsley (2016) offers a personal look at the General's journey, from his upbringing in a Salvationist family in Kitchener, Ont., to his election as General and his ongoing service in retirement.
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When Tom Tillsley encountered The Salvation Army in Redditch, Worcestershire, England, in the 1880s, he started a legacy for his family that continues to this day.
“My name, Bramwell, would give a clue to my heritage,” smiled General Bramwell H. Tillsley, 14th General of The Salvation Army and Tom’s grandson.
Bramwell was born in Kitchener, Ont., on August 18, 1931, to Salvationists Harold and Doris Tillsley, who had emigrated from England to Canada just a few years before. He accepted Christ at a young age and became actively involved at Kitchener Citadel, including as a junior soldier, corps cadet, bandsman and cornet soloist.
Bramwell received his elementary and secondary schooling in Kitchener, and was involved in sports and music programs. “I played hockey and soccer,” he explained, “and served as president of the high school orchestra and toured with a brass quartet.”
As Bramwell was entering his teen years, Maude Pitcher, a young girl of 12, moved to Kitchener with her family from their home in St. John’s, N.L. As active Salvationists, they quickly became involved in corps life allowing the two young people to become acquainted. “Maude and I sang in the songsters,” Bramwell shared, “and some years later, we developed a relationship that culminated in marriage.”
The Early Years
In 1950, Bramwell felt privileged to be a delegate to the international youth congress held in London, England. “I was the youngest delegate from Canada,” he said. “It proved to be a turning point in my life.” In the closing session, while the International Staff Band played The Light of the World, he knelt in the aisle with hundreds of others, as there was no room at the altar, and dedicated his life fully to God.
“The familiar words, ‘O Jesus I have promised to serve thee to the end,’ were uppermost in my mind,” he said, “and they have been with me ever since.”
Bramwell graduated from the University of Western Ontario in 1951 with a bachelor of arts in philosophy and then furthered his studies at Wycliffe College in Toronto. In 1953, Maude became a registered nurse through her studies at The Salvation Army’s Toronto and St. John’s Grace Hospitals. Maude returned to Kitchener and worked at St. Mary’s Hospital while Bramwell worked with the Children’s Aid Society. “Both provided an excellent background for our ministry as Salvation Army officers,” he shared.
Maude and Bramwell were married in 1953, and welcomed their first child, Barbara, the following year. Experiencing a definite call to officership, the couple entered the Sword Bearers Session at the Toronto College for Officer Training (CFOT) in 1955. “During training days, our daughter lived with my parents in Kitchener,” Bramwell said. “The training experience was very positive for both Maude and me, except for missing our daughter.”
In God’s Service
Following their commissioning and ordination in 1956, the new lieutenants took up their first appointment as corps officers in Windsor, N.S., where they welcomed their second child, Mark, before moving to Oakville, Ont., in 1958. The soon-to-be captains were appointed to the Toronto CFOT in 1959 where he served as the men’s field training officer and then education officer. It was here that their youngest son, John, was born.
Their appointment as divisional youth officers in Saskatchewan in 1965 preceded a return to corps work when they assumed leadership of North Toronto Citadel in 1966. In 1969, they returned to the Toronto CFOT where Bramwell was the secretary for education. Promoted to the rank of major in 1970, he served as the training principal at the St. John’s CFOT (1971-74) and in the U.S.A. Eastern Territory (1974-77).
“A highlight of our career was the two appointments we experienced in Newfoundland and Labrador, Maude’s place of birth,” Bramwell shared, first as the training principal and then as the provincial commander (1977-79), the latter which he assumed with the rank of lt-colonel. “I wish every officer in the Canada and Bermuda Territory would have the privilege of serving there.”
In 1979, Bramwell began a two-year term as the divisional commander of the Metro Toronto Division. His promotion to the rank of colonel in 1981 coincided with Bramwell’s appointment to serve as the principal of the Army’s international training college in London, England. “It was my privilege to serve for 18 years in training college appointments,” he said. Concluding his service at the international college in 1984, Bramwell was appointed to International Headquarters in London as the co-ordinator for The Salvation Army’s international youth year and congress. In 1985, he transferred to the U.S.A. Southern Territory where he served as the chief secretary until 1989, when he was promoted to the rank of commissioner and appointed as the territorial commander of the Australia Southern Territory.
The Road to General
In 1991, Bramwell was appointed Chief of the Staff, the second-highest position in The Salvation Army, by General Eva Burrows, the Army’s 13th international leader. On April 22, 1993, 50 leaders from every area of the Army world convened at Sunbury Court, England, to elect a new General from among them in succession to General Burrows, who was scheduled to retire July 8, 1993. Six members of the High Council were nominated for the office of General, including Commissioner Bramwell Tillsley.
As part of the election process, each candidate was required to answer a series of questions on such topics as theology and Army policy, and to address the High Council before the voting began.
“The third Canadian General of The Salvation Army was elected when Commissioner Bramwell Tillsley, Chief of the Staff, obtained the requisite majority on the fourth ballot,” reported Commissioner Wesley Harris, then territorial commander for the Canada and Bermuda Territory, in that territory’s War Cry on May 23, 1993.
On July 9, 1993, Bramwell became the 14th General of The Salvation Army and Mrs. General Maude Tillsley became the World President of Women’s Organizations. During his tenure as the General, Bramwell travelled throughout the Army world, encouraging Salvationists in their faith and meeting with government leaders, such as then Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, to highlight the work of The Salvation Army.
Highly regarded as a student of God’s Word, the General’s spiritual influence was most evident when he preached and shared from his heart. It was estimated that nearly 50,000 people heard him speak when the international leaders visited India. In one of his messages, delivered in a holiness meeting in Trivandrum attended by 7,000 Salvationists, “General Tillsley exhorted the people to stir up the gift of God within them. Even as he spoke, and in response to an appeal at the close of the meeting, seekers moved forward to the mercy seat” (The War Cry, April 9, 1994).
It was regrettable that less than one year after taking leadership of the international Salvation Army, serious health concerns made it necessary for the General to enter honourable retirement on May 18, 1994.
Bramwell and Maude returned to Canada, settled in Toronto and once again attended North Toronto Citadel. This afforded them the opportunity to spend time with their children and eight grandchildren. Their daughter, The Rev. Dr. Barbara Robinson, served with her husband, Major Malcolm Robinson, as an officer with The Salvation Army and more recently as a minister in the Anglican Church. Commissioner Mark Tillsley is currently the international secretary for the Americas and Caribbean Zone, alongside his wife, Commissioner Sharon Tillsley, who is the zonal secretary for women’s ministries for the Americas and Caribbean Zone. Their youngest son, John Tillsley, retired from the Toronto Police Service and the owner of Tillsley Contracting, is married to Margaret, an office administrator of a thriving surburban church. John and Margaret attend the Army’s Northridge Community Church in Newmarket, Ont.
Highly regarded for their preaching and teaching abilities, in retirement Bramwell and Maude conducted countless Sunday services, retreats, conferences and so much more, sharing God’s Word and the message of salvation.
It was with sadness that Salvationists around the world learned of the death of Mrs. General Maude Tillsley, on February 19, 2014. “After 60 years of marriage, my partner in ministry was promoted to glory,” shared Bramwell. Maude is remembered for her infectious warmth, pastoral sensitivity and empowering leadership abilities.
“I have always maintained that as officers, we are soldiers first and officers second,” said Bramwell. “I am now attempting to fulfil that role.” While he had not played the cornet for many years, he was a member of the band at North Toronto Community Church in retirement.
“We had the distinction of having every officer rank, with the exception of brigadier, as a member of the band. Are there any volunteer brigadiers available?” he asked with a smile.
“Officership has been a real adventure,” Bramwell said, “but as Robert McChene once wrote: ‘My people’s greatest need is my personal holiness.’ I believe that is still true in retirement. My journey is not over, and I live with the anticipation of the coming again of our Lord.”
Click here to learn more about It Is Written and purchase your copy.