General-elect Peddle shares his Army vision
Lt. Colonel Brian Venables of International Headquarters interviewed Commissioner and General-elect Brian Peddle shortly after his election as The Salvation Army’s international leader. Following are excerpts from the interview, which appears in its entirety at salvationarmy.org. General-elect Peddle will succeed General Andrè Cox Aug. 3.
BV: We have a very good outline of your history with The Salvation Army, but we want to know a little bit about you. What excites you? What gets you up in the morning? What makes your day?
BP: What gets me up in the morning? Sleep and rest are a necessity but engaging a new day comes easy. I wake with three thoughts… First, I hope the family is OK, then I hope the Army is OK and finally I hope the world is OK – and all before you make the first coffee – through a check on social media. As an international leader I am keenly aware that while I am finishing my day, half the world is just beginning. The idea and thought that The Salvation Army is a 24/7 reality is quite intriguing. As never before, I am aware that the sun never sets on the Salvation Army flag.
What excites me is the ongoing reality that people are engaged in mission, and the vibrant activity of the Army continues … the gospel is being preached, suffering humanity is being served, strategies are being planned, schools opening for children, a mobile clinic rolls into a needy community, or a meal is served. What gets me up in the morning is knowing that the Army has not been sleeping – it’s a living organism and I engage with it as soon as I wake. I find that quite inspiring.
BV: What will be your immediate focus as General-elect? What are your priorities?
BP: With the help of those around me I am already in transition mode! Apparently there are things coming my way that I have to do in advance of 3 August! It seems that already I’m engaged. It does help that I have worked closely with the present General and I am already a part of every dialogue and initiative. Any handover will be easy due to a very positive relationship with General Cox.
The other huge question you ask – what will be my priorities as General? There are agenda items that have been a part of us for the past few years – the Accountability Movement, the focus on child protection, the governance dialogue, with a focus on better systems and infrastructure. We have done that while still taking on the responsibility of winning the world for Jesus and growing the Kingdom.
General Cox has enabled the Army to implement many important initiatives, and I will continue to embed these things, but I don’t think they will require as much of my attention. So, my sense of priority would be to redirect some of those resources that are no longer required to make sure we reinvest those energies in our unique mission focus, engagement with our officers and soldiers while articulating as clearly as possible God’s present call upon the Army. The Army must again live up to its call to be a mission-focused Army. What I mean by that is every soldier, every officer, all of us together accepting our responsibility to be a valued army in the world in which we live.
This means that the two significant aspects of our mission statement – preaching the gospel unashamedly and serving suffering humanity – need to remain connected. I am anxious to share more and in time that will come. I am deeply aware that I need to be the 21st General for the 21st century … by God’s Grace and with the prayers and support of his people.
BV: At this preliminary stage, what is your vision for the Army beyond August 2018?
BP: We come to this role at an excellent time, where the Army is able to work out of a position of great strength. Moving forward and moving from strength to strength is probably what I need to say. I sometimes roll around the phrase in my mind, “Forging a path into the future.”
We stand on the shoulders of many good people and we honor them. They worked with the issues of their day to build a great and much respected Army, but we have to grapple with the issues that are confronting the Army in our day. We cannot be unclear or ambiguous about things that are of concern to our people around the world, yet we must do that within a diverse reality.
We need to remember that while we are an international Christian movement, we cross many cultural boundaries, and we need to understand and respect the cultural context. We live in a rapidly changing world, and Salvationists need to be safe in their belief structure and faithful but not disconnected. All of these things could appear to be in conflict, so as General, for the next five years, I intend to lead One Army, and keep that One Army intricately connected and focused while we honor and deal with the diversity that’s all around. That will be a particular challenge, and to do it in a way in which the movement continues to impact the world in which we live.
BV: As General-elect, what is your view of the current state of affairs in The Salvation Army?
BP: “State of affairs?” That could take a while!
I look to the Army – and confess my knowledge of it is substantial – and I see it warts and all. We are not perfect, nor do we have everything right, but you would have to a very pessimistic person to not see what God is doing.
Being the Chief of the Staff for the past three years, my sense is that the Army is well and it has the ability to move forward and continue to discover and claim our place in the world. We have a number of unifying agenda items that we need to work on, and though they will be difficult, it will be for the good of the cause. We are strengthening a number of support mechanisms – finance and information technology platforms. These improved structures will enable us to do the things that come into view after that.
Financially, the Army is being well managed, and we celebrate that while trying to figure out how we support the international Army in places where resources are not plentiful. That remains a challenge. I think the continuation of all of these will be important.
The Army faces a bittersweet reality in the area of growth and advancement. We have to call for more soldiers, more candidates. In 10 years I want the Army to be a spiritually vibrant, resourced for mission, fit for purpose Army. I want Salvationists to believe that God is doing a new thing among us. I refuse to limit God or consider for even a moment that our best days are behind us.
What I would like to see is every junior soldier, every soldier, every officer engaged in the mission of the Army – winning souls, caring for suffering humanity and knowing that the Kingdom of God is growing.