The 2017 International Conference of Leaders (ICL) – held in Los Angeles, California – concluded with a meeting in which Commissioner Silvia Cox (World President of Women's Ministries) invited everyone to rejoice. This followed a week attended by Salvation Army leaders from around the world which began with the Chief of the Staff (Commissioner Brian Peddle) querying: "Are you listening?" and concluded with General André Cox asking: "What are you hearing?"

At the welcome dinner for delegates that opened the ICL, the Chief of the Staff brought words of welcome on behalf of General Cox, and Commissioner Kenneth G. Hodder (territorial commander, U.S.A. Western) delivered words of greeting in each of the main languages represented by the delegates.

In a time of welcome and devotion, Commissioner Rosalie Peddle (World Secretary for Women's Ministries) declared that God's Spirit "is here" – a thought reiterated in the prayer of Colonel Debbie Horwood (Brazil Territory) who asked that the Lord would speak through his Spirit – a spirit of wisdom and love.

Before delivering his keynote address, in which he outlined the main themes of the agenda, the General said he hoped in the coming week that delegates would allow themselves some space to be in the presence of God and to listen to what he is saying to each person.

In the early part of the week facilitators trained in Faith-based Facilitation, drawn from the International Moral and Social Issues Council and the International Theological Council, helped delegates in conversations about issues that differ across the world. This led the leaders to a greater appreciation of one another’s cultural perspectives – necessary to guard the moral authority and doctrinal integrity of the international Army – when framing Orders and Regulations. There was also an introduction to the format of the long-awaited rewrite of Chosen to be a Soldier (Orders and Regulations for Soldiers). Feedback on this was positive but reflected the many ways people now get information, especially young people, and the need for a multi-format response.

One of the emerging challenges confronting the Army is where national laws restrict the role of ex-patriot personnel or the way in which The Salvation Army is registered to legally work within a country. To help delegates understand the constitution of The Salvation Army – framed in British law – and its impact on how the leaders operate within their own territories and commands, a comprehensive outline of the Army’s legal framework was presented by Richard Clark. Having worked for the Army’s legal advisers in London for more than 30 years, he was well placed to speak and answer questions on this subject. In a later session, delegates explored the importance of developing leadership for the years ahead, so consideration was given to succession planning and capacity building.

Friday morning gave leaders an opportunity to celebrate recent accomplishments. Progress was noted in finance, governance, The Whole World Mobilising initiative, child protection and women in leadership. The celebration was followed by a concert of prayer led by Commissioner Rosalie Peddle.

After a week in conversation the General posed the question: "What are you hearing?" Leaders agreed that they need to create space and freedom for people to explore a range of relevant issues within their territories and commands.

"We have become more acutely aware that the contexts in which we live and work are not the same," said the General, "and one solution to an issue will not apply across all contexts ... We must also guard the fact we are one body, and each part matters."

Finally, while no formal recommendations came from the conference it was apparent that there was much for which to thank God. It was apt, then, that the final worship session was themed "rejoice" and the General’s message centred on hope.

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