Promoted to Glory: Commissioner Philip Needham
Our Heavenly Father called Commissioner Phil Needham to his eternal home in the early morning of August 15th after battling an aggressive brain tumor.
The Lord graced Phil Needham with many gifts that were used effectively throughout his extensive ministry – preacher, writer, teacher, leader, counselor – yet amid the use and development of these gifts, Phil always projected a humble spirit and a heartfelt compassion for the poor and for those in need of a Savior. He was joyfully committed to The Salvation Army’s mission, and was a constant beacon, always pointing The Salvation Army in a correct course.
Converted at a Billy Graham Crusade in Atlanta, Phil grew up in a loving home led by John D. and Florence Needham (later Commissioners). Born in Baltimore, MD, he experienced and participated in The Salvation Army’s mission from an early age. He held a strong reverence for and interest in both family and Salvation Army heritage, joining that with a call to pastoral and literary ministry.
Phil met his beloved Keitha in 1959 while they were pursuing undergraduate studies in Miami, FL. They married in 1963 and proved a highly successful team within The Salvation Army. Their career as Salvation Army clergy is impressive and wide-ranging. They trained at the International Training College in London and soon had local corps appointments in Chattanooga, TN, and in Florida at Ft. Myers and St. Petersburg. They served a total of 12 years at the Evangeline Booth College, including final appointments as principal and director of special services. Phil’s administrative positions included Charlotte, NC (divisional secretary), The Salvation Army Southern Territorial Headquarters (territorial education secretary), and the Georgia Division (divisional commanders). They were then appointed overseas as principals of the International College for Officers in London (UK). Their final appointments were back in the USA, Phil first serving as chief secretary for the Western Territory, and then as territorial commander, USA South. In the midst of his heavy ministry load, Phil also served on The Salvation Army’s International Doctrine Council from 1990 to 1998.
Commissioner Needham was a highly educated scholar, though he never flaunted his achievements. His undergraduate degree was completed at the University of Miami (FL). Following that he completed two degrees at Princeton Theological Seminary – Bachelor of Divinity and Master of Theology. His Doctor of Ministry degree was earned at the Emory School of Theology.
Commissioner Needham was a prolific, insightful author. His books include “Community in Mission”, “He Who Laughed First: Delighting in a Holy God”, “When God Becomes Small”, “Following Rabbi Jesus: The Christian’s Forgotten Calling”, and “Christ at the Door”. Just within the last year he completed four books in a series of meditations focused on the Christian year – “Christmas Breakthrough”, “Lenten Awakening”, “Easter People”, and his final completed book, “Renewals: Refreshing and Restoring Our Lives”.
In addition to their regular duties, the Needhams embraced a wide range of additional ministries. These included providing pastoral care in the Georgia Division, teaching at Brengle Holiness Institutes in several countries (such as Ghana, South Africa, and Brazil), as well as leading marriage enrichment seminars and training other leaders for that vital work.
In retirement, Phil and Keitha have been very active at the Atlanta Temple Corps. There they have led a discipleship group which met at their home, taught the adult Bible study class on Sunday mornings, volunteered in the Corps’ homeless ministry, and participated as members of the songsters. Earlier this year, the Commissioner also delivered an outstanding series of sermons on the Beatitudes.
In addition to his wife, Keitha, Phil is survived by his sister Miriam, Robin Brown-Haithco, brother John and his wife Marty, two daughters – Heather, along with her husband Jack, and Holly Dawn – as well as their three grandsons, Will, Ryan, and Ben. On the Holz side, Keitha’s siblings include three brothers and their wives – Richard and Joanne, Robert and Georgette, and Ronald and Beatrice.
A Celebration of Life service will be held at The Salvation Army Atlanta Temple Corps at 10 a.m. on Saturday, August 26, 2023.