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A Canadian to Be the New Leader of the Salvation Army

The Salvation Army has announced that its new world leader and the 19th General will be Canadian-born Commissioner Linda Bond.

Commissioner Linda Bond points towards heaven (Photo by Paul Harmer)

Commissioner Bond becomes the third woman and the fourth Canadian to hold the post of General of The Salvation Army since the international church and charity organization was founded 146 years ago.

The commissioner, who currently heads up the church and registered charity’s work in the Australian Eastern Territory, was elected by The High Council of The Salvation Army made up of senior leaders from around the world who met recently in Sunbury-on-Thames near London.

Commissioner Linda Bond (64) will have the title General-Elect until she succeeds the current world leader General Shaw Clifton, who retires at the beginning of April.

Once in post as General of The Salvation Army, the commissioner will become the head of more than one million Salvationists in 123 countries. The Salvation Army also has more than 100,000 employees who between them communicate in 175 different languages.

In recent days and months, The Salvation Army has been involved in relief work in the aftermath of the Australian floods, the devastating mudslide in Brazil, floods in Sri Lanka, and the New Zealand earthquake.

Commissioner Bond comes to the role of General of The Salvation Army with 42 years’ experience of Christian ministry and leadership.

A Salvation Army band spreads Christmas joy in London

Since 2008 Commissioner Bond has headed up The Salvation Army’s work across Eastern Australia, a huge territory with its headquarters in Sydney. This includes the recently devastated state of Queensland where The Salvation Army continues to be heavily involved in assisting victims of widespread flooding.

Prior to this, the commissioner worked at Salvation Army International Headquarters (IHQ) in London, as the Secretary for Spiritual Life Development and International External Relations. This was her second spell at IHQ where she had previously served as Under Secretary for Personnel in the mid 1990’s.

As a Salvation Army officer (ordained minister of religion and leader) Commissioner Bond has served in local corps (church) ministry, on the staff of Salvation Army national and regional (divisional) headquarters and as part of the training staff for new officers in her home territory of Canada and Bermuda. During those years she also served as a divisional leader and subsequently became chief secretary of The Salvation Army in Canada and Bermuda.

Other appointments have included divisional leadership roles in the Manchester region of the United Kingdom between 1998 and 1999, and as Territorial Leader in the USA Western Territory of The Salvation Army.

The announcement of the new General of The Salvation Army was broadcast live on the worldwide web.

Speaking just after her election Commissioner Bond said: “I love the Lord Jesus Christ and pledge my utmost obedience to Him. I am absolutely committed to a life of praise and thanksgiving to God. We, the Salvation Army, need to be an Army of praise and thanksgiving to God and we must place our trust in God. We need His Holy Spirit to come mightily on The Salvation Army.”

During the past five years under the leadership of General Shaw Clifton, the work of The Salvation Army has expanded into 12 new countries. The Salvation Army is now in 123 countries. During his term General Clifton established the Salvation Army’s International Social Justice Commission, based in New York USA and the Army’s Centre for Spiritual Life Development in London.

The General and Commissioner Helen Clifton have also actively worked to aid the plight of struggling women and children around the world, including mobilizing The Salvation Army in a concerted effort against human trafficking. Increasing the role of women in Salvation Army leadership has been of special concern to General Clifton and he has appointed many more women to senior leadership positions around the world than has occurred previously.

The Salvation Army is an international Christian church and registered charity and is one of the largest providers of social welfare in the world. The General directs Salvation Army operations throughout the world via International Headquarters in the City of London. Programs include accommodation for homeless men, women, children and families; drug rehabilitation centers; schools; hospitals and clinics; HIV/Aids projects, micro-credit schemes, training centers and day-care facilities. Support is also offered through nearly 15,000 local church and community centers.

The Salvation Army across the world increasingly uses the Internet and social media to share its Christian message and news about its mission, so it was appropriate that news from the High Council 2011 was shared in this way.

The webcast of the opening service, the Welcome to the High Council and the Salute to General Shaw Clifton, has to date been accessed by more than 20,000 individual computers, with many more thousands expected to have viewed the service. For the first time social media was used to share information about the progress of the High Council in London, with many thousands of people receiving information through Facebook, Twitter and Flickr and more than 3,000 people receiving email news alerts.

The Salvation Army states that it is “an integral part of the Christian Church”, although “distinctive in government and practice”. The Army’s doctrine follows the mainstream of Christian belief and its articles of faith emphasize God’s saving purposes. Its objects are “the advancement of the Christian religion… of education, the relief of poverty, and other charitable objects beneficial to society or the community of mankind as a whole.”

About its founder, William Booth

William Booth

The Salvation Army website (www.salvationarmy.org) relates the story of its founder, William Booth, who was born in Nottingham in 1829 and began the movement in 1865.

At the age of 13 he was sent to work as an apprentice in a pawnbroker’s shop to help support his mother and sisters. He did not enjoy his job but it made him only too aware of the poverty in which people lived and how they suffered humiliation and degradation because of it. During his teenage years he became a Christian and spent much of his spare time trying to persuade other people to become Christians too.

When his apprenticeship was completed, he moved to London, again to work in the pawn-broking trade. He joined up with the local Methodist Church and later decided to become a minister.

After his marriage to Catherine Mumford in 1855 he spent several years as a Methodist minister, travelling all around the country, preaching and sharing God’s Word to all who would listen. Yet he felt that God wanted more from him; that he should be doing more to reach ordinary people. He returned to London with his family, having resigned his position as a Methodist minister.

One day in 1865 he found himself in the East End of London, preaching to crowds of people in the streets. Outside the Blind Beggar pub some missioners heard him speaking and were so impressed by his powerful preaching that they asked him to lead a series of meetings they were holding in a large tent.

William Booth preaching at a London tent meeting

The tent was situated on an old Quaker burial ground on Mile End waste in Whitechapel. The date for the first meeting was set for July 2, 1865. To the poor and wretched of London’s East End, Booth brought the good news of Jesus Christ and his love for all men. Booth soon realized he had found his destiny. He formed his own movement, which he called “The Christian Mission”.

Slowly the mission began to grow, but the work was hard and Booth would “stumble home night after night haggard with fatigue, often his clothes were torn and bloody bandages swathed his head where a stone had struck”, wrote his wife.

Evening meetings were held in an old warehouse where urchins threw stones and fireworks through the window. Outposts were eventually established and, in time, attracted converts, yet the results remained discouraging, as his was just another of the 500 charitable and religious groups trying to help in the East End.

It was not until 1878 when The Christian Mission changed its name to The Salvation Army that things began to happen. The impetus changed. The idea of an Army fighting sin caught the imagination of the people and the Army began to grow rapidly. Booth’s fiery sermons and sharp imagery drove the message home and more and more people found themselves willing to leave their past behind and start a new life as a soldier in The Salvation Army.

Inevitably, the military spirit of the movement meant that The Salvation Army soon spread abroad. By the time Booth was “promoted to Glory” in 1912 the Army was at work in 58 countries.

He could never had dreamed that it would grow to the size it is today!

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