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The Salvation Army, Racism and the Beautiful Game

10 May

Screenshot 2019-05-11 08.42.47

2019 has seen the spotlight focussed on English football and the ugly fact that racism is still common in the beautiful game. Some players within the national team recently endured monkey chants in Montenegro – not an uncommon occurrence in some parts of Europe. There were uncomfortable images of some Chelsea fans allegedly hurling racist abuse at Raheem Sterling and even a week earlier a Tottenham supporter had thrown a banana skin at Arsenal’s Gabonese star Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Sterling took control of the debate with one post on social media, bypassing traditional routes of debate in order to point out to my home nation that we have a problem – not one confined to faraway eastern European countries.

Well, Sterling’s intervention has not slowed the abuse. Quite the opposite, it seems, given how much racism in football has featured in the news since the turn of the year. The issue is not just a question of racist insults, but also the distinct lack of people of Black and Minority Ethnicities (BME) in coaching positions. This singular matter is now being highlighted.

Why does it matter that in 2018 less than 8% of head coaches in the 92 teams of the EnglishFootball League were BME? Well, for the same reason it matters that no officers of BME are currently in middle or senior leadership positions in UK & Republic of Ireland (UKI) Salvation Army.

It matters, in short, because representation matters. That is to say, you cannot become what you cannot see.

In the UKI Salvation Army the problem is compounded by such a small pool of BME officers in the first place. For example, between 2012-2014 I trained with roughly 90 UKI trainee leaders (cadets) and only one was of BME. A recent 200-strong gathering at a pioneer leaders conference had scarcely a handful of people of BME.

A little research shows the proportion of BME cadets is well below the percentage we might expect for this territory. According to the Home Office 14% of the overall population of England and Wales is BME.[1]That number rises to 20% if we measure just England[2]. Estimates put the BME population of London at between 1/3 (Outer London) and 1/2 (Inner London) of the total population throughout the previous decade [3]

Based on these official demographics, if corps reflected the make-up of their communities, we could expect between 33-50% of cadets from London to be BME. We could expect the sessional intake from England and Wales to be 14% BME.

Clearly God is not in favour of calling one ethnicity over another to positions of church leadership in our country. So, what might be behind the fact that there so few officers of BME in this territory?

Here’s a flavour of what Salvationist friends and colleagues at a recent Salvation Army Inter-Cultural Mission Conference told me (you might be interested to know that well over 50% of attendees were of BME).

  1. “We don’t feel like we ‘own’ The Salvation Army”. Essentially people of BME often still feel like visitors in a broadly white British/Irish Salvation Army.
  2. There is a reluctance to live the relatively less economically advantaged life of an officer when in many cases, grandparents and parents gave up everything to leave their homeland to make a life for their families. “We would do it if God calls us”. But many will train for other things to build a life and officership is just not on people’s radar.
  3. Numbers of Salvationists of BME are attending charismatic and Pentecostal churches where the worship is more spontaneous and services are longer.
  4. Some cultures rely on the extended family staying close together. For example, a new mother in some African cultures would automatically move back to her parents’ house once her baby is born. Being ‘available’ to be sent anywhere in the United Kingdom as an officer doesn’t fit these cultural norms.

So what can we do in response?

One answer to a lack of ownership is to ensure local leadership teams represent groups of BME in the corps so that decisions are significantly more representative. This will lay the ground work for further routes into leadership.

The answer to officership being more ‘on the radar’ for people who have migrated, who dream of ‘making it’ as previously generations sacrificed is not simple. The answer lies somewhere between respecting people’s stories and supporting more people to break through the glass ceiling to become examples and, in one sense, cultural pioneers.

The answer to genuinely creating spaces in our corps for BME expressions of worship is to embrace and do it! And keep doing it. Last year I was leading a worship band at a large Salvation Army gathering. We sang a Shona version of song and suddenly 20 Zimbabweans spontaneously danced their way to the front. It was amusing to see the meeting leader nervously glancing at their watch but the whole congregation came alive – in every way! Time didn’t matter. It was great!

Lastly if some people feel geographically bound to an area or proximity due to cultural and family ties then maybe the ‘availability to go anywhere’ norm might need to be discussed and challenged as an expected given for officers. Our Army has always, historically and traditionally, found pragmatic solutions. Surely, we are not unable to creatively find a solution to this problem.

However, I believe we must look even deeper.

What if there is actually an underlying issuedetected in processes, attitudes, and behaviours which may amount to discrimination?

What if, albeit unwittingly and inadvertently through prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping we are marginalising others? This is what I think some people of BME might be sensing in today’s UKI Army.

So, could we be, albeit accidentally, marginalising others?

I heard a story of a corps officer who accompanied 2 members of their congregation to divisional candidates’ interviews. The first question posed to the white applicant was about their calling. The first question posed to the black applicant was about eligibility to work in this country. That’s unwitting prejudice in action, albeit, I like to think, without any malice aforethought. (Presumably the questions were being asked with good intentions in mind.)

Another corps officer once told me ‘we do the collection at the start of the meeting when the African members of the congregation haven’t arrived yet. We don’t want them to feel bad about not being able to give much’. Well-intentioned but again unwitting prejudice (not to mention seeming ignorance, too, of Jesus’ insight in the story of ‘The widow’s offering’ in Mark 12:41-44).

The Salvation Army’s international positional statement on racism[4]reminds us that racism “is fundamentally incompatible with the Christian conviction that all people are made in the image of God and are equal in value… Racism is not only the result of individual attitudes, but can also be perpetuated by social structures and systems. Sometimes racism is overt and intentional, but often it is not”. The statement goes on to say that the more subtle forms of racism can only be recognised with effort.

So the effort I think we all need to make is this. Every corps and area of The Salvation Army must pause and ask the question ‘Is there anything in the way we operate that doesn’t recognise everyone as equal?’

It goes without saying that blatant racism is unacceptable but my suspicion isthat more subtle forms may have found a foothold in our ranks, perhaps even in my own attitudes and practices.

If they are there, and we can deal with them, can you imagine the unleashed potential for the Kingdom? But more importantly than church or Kingdom growth, this is first and foremost a matter of basic, justice.And justice is the heartbeatof the One who called this Army into being. Paul knew it! He knew we were all one and equal in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28). Awareness of scripture, though, isn’t enough – we must act and embody scriptural principles in every moment of every day for His glory.

Thanks for reading!

Ben Cotterill





Why did the officer, the pioneer leader and envoy write a blog? Because…

30 Sep

Ben and Ryan

By Ben Cotterill and Ryan Wileman featuring Roger Coates (Edited by Stephen Poxon)

Today (30th September 2017) we celebrate the 16 Salvationists who have begun their training to be Salvation Army officers in the UKI Territory. Within our celebrations, though, is the sober recognition of the fact that this low number represents the continuance of a trend decline in the quantity of candidates and cadets. We thank God for those stepping forward, but we also look to God with this concern! As in most strands of Christian life, we hold positives and negatives in live tension.

The question of numerical decline will have implications for The Salvation Army’s missional movement in the future. As the number of officer-retirees from the generation known as baby boomers continues to outweigh the number entering training, it would be easy to see this as a doom and gloom scenario for The Salvation Army. However, as the adage goes, ‘what you look for determines what you see’.

The Salvation Army needs effective spiritual leadership. What is worth bearing in mind, though – and this should encourage us – is that the 16 new cadets are not the only new spiritual leaders emerging this year. In the last 12 months, seven new territorial envoys have been appointed to corps leadership on a three-year renewable basis. These leaders are available to be appointed anywhere in their home territory but in most cases, are appointed to a corps in their home division.

Additionally (also within the last 12 months), 16 colleagues have been appointed as employed pioneer leaders, with 40 more people (officers and lay personnel) passing through the pioneer assessment process in the last 18 months.

Pioneer leaders, by way of explanation, are appointed as spiritual leaders charged with exploring new missional opportunities in areas where The Salvation Army has never worked previously, or to re-birth existing corps in a re-fashioned style. Many of these are employed on salaried, fixed-term contracts with responsibility to explore what it means to live out the Kingdom of God in community. However, some of these projects (or similar) have also been undertaken by officers, so this sphere of leadership is by no means solely the remit of lay leaders.

Correspondingly – and also encouragingly – we may add into that mix, the large number of people employed in local settings as youth workers, children’s workers, family workers, community development workers and an impressive range of people employed in supporting and resourcing mission in their specialist areas at DHQs, Regional Service Centres and THQ. In this light, the landscape of Salvation Army leadership looks somewhat healthier than if we look solely at the number of cadets entering the college.

The fact that there are now numerous paths to leadership within The Salvation Army is to be applauded. The fact each of us who have collaborated on this blog has taken different routes of service speaks for itself.

So, how might three different journeys to leadership within the same Army be so similar, yet different?

Ryan Wileman – Community Mission Co-ordinator, Westfield Pioneer Ministry, Sheffield:

For my wife Kathryn and I, our journey into pioneering has been an unexpected one! It started while I was DYO in Yorkshire and evolved via many conversations over several years, leading us to the conclusion that God was calling us to live and work in the community of Westfield, Sheffield.

However, making this happen was not without its challenges, as at that time, only officers or envoys could lead front line Salvation Army missions. Unfortunately, we couldn’t articulate a calling to either of those roles, leaving us with something of a crisis of legitimacy regarding what we felt was our vocation. We believed God was calling us to a specific community and we were unable, therefore, with any integrity, to sit before an Assessment Conference and say we felt called to be officers or envoys. We have, though, received sufficient understanding from leadership at divisional and territorial level, and this has enabled us to discover a creative and logical solution to the dilemma. We remain grateful to those who offered a sympathetic listening ear and ultimately enabled – and empowered – us to fulfil our calling as pioneer leaders. It is important to note that our calling has been rigorously tested through formal pioneer assessment, training and mentoring.

Lieutenant Ben Cotterill – Keighley Corps:

My journey to officership started as a boy. I pretended to the world I had illusions of being a football player or a doctor, but if I’m honest I always knew where I was going. By nature a reluctant leader, I felt God coaxing me to give all that I was to serve and to lead a corps actionable community life. Officership was my way of doing that, especially as I never felt my calling to be localised. Some say this willingness to go anywhere as part of one’s discipleship is what, in part, defines officership. However, the variety of options within officership and the modern emphasis upon consultation makes this distinction less clear today.

Divisional Envoy Roger Coates – Yorkshire South and Humber Division:

I firmly believe we are all called, whether to full-time ministry or other avenues of service. For me, 30 years of leadership within music ministry was my calling and I found fulfilment through it. When I was invited to become corps sergeant-major, though, the invitation came as a bolt out of the blue as this was not a role I had ever considered, let alone felt capable of doing. Within weeks I was “leading” a large corps with the officers out of action, a situation which lasted for 15 months. I found complete fulfilment in this ministry and God used my experience as a local officer to affirm that full-time ministry was my calling. Personal circumstances, though, make this impossible for the time being.  However, for the immediate future I have the privilege of having a ministry that bridges the gap, as a DE, working around the division supporting corps with meeting leadership where there are short-term gaps, whilst still being in full-time employment. My prayer is that in time I may able to enter into the application and assessment process and into full time ministry as an envoy or officer. For now, though, I believe God is using me where I am, as a DE and local officer and am grateful that present Salvation Army structures enable me to do that.

To apply poetic licence to the words of the late Retired General Gowans who wisely said:

“A corps is a mission team, and the officer/envoy/pioneer leader is a mission team leader.” (Italics ours.)

The emerging possibility of additional routes to leadership is exciting, especially as they create extra opportunities for the fulfilment of General Gowans’ statement.

There is, though, also the reality that, at present, officership remains the dominant mode of leadership within our Movement. We might therefore need to consider the question: How did this happen? If we trace Army history back to its earliest days, we find little distinction between officers and local officers, with the only prominent distinction being that officers were removed from the need for mainstream employment;

“By local Officers are meant those Officers below the rank of Lieutenant who work in connection with a Corps without being separated from regular employment” (O&R for Field Officers 1886:170). 

Indeed, it is true that the Salvation Army has at its very foundations, the theology of the priesthood of all believers; the belief that every disciple of Jesus has a gifting and a role to play in the furthering of the Kingdom of God in the world. However, over a period of time, the development of a Salvationist ecclesiastical elite (officers) began to slowly emerge, largely for practical reasons. Possibly, this structural development has fed into increasing perceptions of The Salvation Army as a church, defined as being a spiritual home for a membership, and therefore in need of recognised clergy. Growing institutionalisation may also have contributed to changes in the organisational status of officership, so that a settled pattern of ministry can be seen partially as a response to increasing bureaucracy. Interestingly much of this bureaucracy is now taken on by lay people.

What we seem to be witnessing is a move back to our historically pragmatic roots of finding the best possible routes to leadership for those who make themselves available.

Bearing this in mind, we must be wise and alert to the consideration of future questions and challenges that will impact our Movement. Questions, such as:

  1. How do we ensure the provision of linked-up theological and missional training for all pathways of leaders (and others with influence) within the Movement?
  2. In light of our history and theology background, do the differences in varying leadership tracks make sense? How are we impacted if only officers can become senior leaders?
  3. With the exception of certain ceremonial functions, which only officers may perform, corps leadership looks almost identical when performed by officers, envoys or pioneers. What, then, is an officer?
  4. What is the difference between the covenantal relationship entered into by officers and the contractual relationship entered into by envoys and employed leaders? If it comes down to a certain way of life, how different are the lives of envoys and pioneers to officers? How significant are the differences?
  5. Does the Army still need an ecclesial elite (officers)?
  6. Should we resolve to celebrate different leadership pathways or do we need to radically re-imagine the entire issue?

This list of questions is far from exhaustive and to consider the answers to even one of them would require a dissertation rather than a blog! Surely, though, these challenges are worth grappling with, if such grappling allows us to empower and release more leaders to bring about the Kingdom of Heaven in as many new and existing places across the territory as is practically possible. We certainly think they are anyway! What do you think?

We also hope that through reading this, others may be empowered to think there’s a route available where they may explore their own calling to leadership through the many and varied routes that are available.

Thanks for reading!

For more details about Salvation Army leadership in the UK and the Republic of Ireland check out:


Salvation Army Officership: Why No One Wants Our Job

6 May

Screenshot 2017-05-06 19.35.23

By Captain John Clifton (Ilford Corps) and Lieutenant Ben Cotterill (Keighley Corps)

People become Salvation Army Officers for different reasons.  For some, it’s because God wrote it for them in the sky.  For others, it’s because they were inspired by other officers, often parents making a difference in the world.  For others again, it’s because something finally gave way after fifteen years of running from the call whilst others took heed of these all too common Jonah-like testimonies and said ‘yes’ in a heartbeat!

But it’s rumoured that this September’s intake of Cadets (trainee Salvation Army Officers) will be particularly low, possibly the lowest ever.

A simple comparison shows that in 1990 there were 1,793 UK active officers, in 2000 there were 1,539 and the most recent stats for 2017 show there are 1,042. The following table shows the rate of decline in cadets being even steeper in proportion to the astonishing decline in our soldiership membership.

Screenshot 2017-05-08 15.44.46

With more people retiring than being commissioned there will of course be implications; officers running multiple corps/centres, retired officers being called on to undertake active appointments, corps/centres un-officered, crucial roles in departments and other jobs led by people who may not even be Salvationists or Christian to name but a few.

How has it come to this?

Salvation Army officers are afforded the wonderful privilege to be released from secular employment to focus on leading the mission of The Salvation Army. However, when officership was instituted in Victorian Britain it was the norm for people to stay in their job for the entirety of their working lives. Today, “job hopping” and having numerous careers[1] in a working life are now the norm although this trend has apparently slowed since the financial crisis[2].

Furthermore, as the membership of the Army increasingly leaves ‘darkest England’[3] well behind and joins the swelling middle-classes, home ownership, often changing jobs and settling down has become the norm. The idea of committing to one vocation and being told where in the world to live does not fit comfortably into this norm. At the same time our multi-cultural diversity has not been reflected in the cadets at training college.

So, is officership out-of-date?

Well, it has rightly become recognised as being one option in a marketplace of vocational choices. Another healthy development is that it no longer receives higher kudos than other vocational choices.  It seems also that there are good numbers of people who are deeply committed to the mission of the Army who are seeking out opportunities as full-time employees, with specialist niche roles, as opposed to generalist ministries.  There is generally a healthy understanding of the ‘priesthood of all believers’ in The Army.  We know about the immediacy of God’s grace and that its not the role of an Officer to administer salvation.  However, sometimes we forget that we still require people to fulfil particular functions in the life of the Church.  We still need people set apart for the task and vocation of leadership.  It’s important to celebrate all avenues of leadership, including Officership.

How we hold these trends in tension with the need to develop leaders of our mission is a challenge.  It is really positive that non-officers are released into pioneering ministries and specialist roles, but not every corps can produce capable local leaders at a given point in time and will need officers.  So, has God stopped calling people? If yes, what does this mean for us?  If not, why are numbers so low?

Are people saying “no” or ignoring their call to serve as officers?  The reasons for this we believe are many: waiting for a spouse to ‘get the call’; being put off by bad officers; confusion over what constitutes ‘calling’; being hurt or seeing others handled badly by the Army; feeling inadequate as a leader; theological and faith issues; a reluctance to lose their autonomy; a sense that the ship is sinking so better to find a new sea worthy ship outside of the Army.  We could go on.

Now we’re not suggesting that every person with a hint of leadership skills, social competence and desire to serve God should necessarily be an officer.  After all, we need local leaders. But we’ve met too many people over the years who are called but don’t take the next step.

Between us, we have nine years experience as Officers.  This is more than some, less than others.  For our generation, that’s quite a long time in any job.  What we have seen tells us that God has more to do with our Army.  We’ve seen families come to know Jesus.  We’ve seen people arrive as refugees from war zones and receive a warm welcome in our churches.  We’ve got to know people on first-name terms, from those sleeping rough on park benches to those sat making laws on parliament benches.  Every day, we get to care for the poor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, love the unlovable, and befriend those who have no friends.

We’d love for every Salvationist (and every Christian?) to ask themselves whether God is calling them to be a Salvation Army Officer. We are convinced if people opened their heart, then more people might make the seemingly outrageous decision to offer themselves.

We want the best leaders, the humblest souls, world-class intellectuals, straightened-out street brawlers, passionate teachers, recovered drunkards, powerful business-people, public servants, white anglo-saxon, recently resettled refugees – people from all walks of life who are deeply resolved to love and serve God all their days – to step up.

Why not you!? Most leaders in The Bible had something wrong with them to start with – murderers, liars, cheats, the mute, the comfortable, the not so special – you name it they’re all in there.

Leading won’t be easy.  That doesn’t get you off the hook, it’s just something you need to expect. The opposition and challenges are inevitable, but they’re never unbeatable.

Tony Blair once wrote that the Labour party created a situation for itself where ‘normal’ people felt inclined to walk away, leaving the manically ambitious and the weird in their stead (now it’s also been said that no-one sane every changed the world!). But it is just so important that this generation brings through obedient, capable and teachable leaders (amongst other things) who continue their adventure in the Army for God’s kingdom.

God has not stopped calling and the need is as greater if not greater than ever before.

So why not you, why not now?

Also published at


[1] Research by Lifelong Learning and Linkedin outline the trend of job hopping. and

[2] An article in the Financial Times suggesting job hopping is slowing down.

[3] William Booth wrote ‘Darkest England and the Way Out’ in 1890, a vision of Booth to transform society.



Trump, Nationalism and The Salvation Army

29 Jan

2016 was an an emotionally historic year, wasn’t it? Brexit, the election of Trump, and the tragedy of Syria – left abandoned to its suffering.

Globalisation has become a slur and nationalism has flourished. The economic interconnectedness of our world post 1945 was supposed to make the new intertwined world stronger, more stable and better off. But amid growing inequality the masses have looked at the establishment – who were marvelling at their own brilliance – and said enough is enough. The neo-liberal global religion of the world now faces a monumental backlash. An unpredictable nationalist and populist wave looks set to convert yet more countries, indeed France, the Netherlands and Philippines are brewing testimonies to that.

As a Salvation Army leader, here is the important question I have been thinking about: How should Christians view nationalism*?

When I read the Bible, I read about a nation chosen to be a light to all nations (who are themselves chosen!). I read about how this one nation went through exile, slavery, occupation and thus at times had to take measures to secure their existence, such as banning inter-marriage (see Ezra 10:10/Nehemiah 13:25).

Then when Jesus comes along, he explains the big story of creation until now, and emphatically re-emphasizes how this news is for all nations not just something confined to one nation. Into that context then the role of nationalism should be views as development within the big story of the Bible.

The big story is that humanity is one, but along the way humankind has been suitably differentiated into nations, which should be orientated to move beyond themselves to realise universal communion with God.

That means that ultimately they need to move beyond those barriers to seek God by pursuing global, national and local justice. It means they need to make sure everyone has enough food and are not browbeaten by those who seek money and power.

As a Salvationist, it is great that we belong to an international movement. Our global membership means that we are larger than many small nation-states which is an interesting thought.

The founder, William Booth, marched ahead of his day by banning the word ‘foreigner’. His son, Bramwell, who took over the running of the exploding international movement followed suit and wrote, “Every land is my fatherland, for all lands are my Father’s”. Of course, he knew there were German Salvationists caught up in the fighting in the Great War.

The Salvation Army’s positional statement on The State brings wisdom to the conversation stating: “While Christians should actively seek opportunities to influence positively and thereby promote the well-being of the State (Jeremiah 29:7), [but] that obligation is subsidiary to a Christian’s primary allegiance to God (Exodus 5:1, Acts 4:18-31)”.

How we work this out is another crucial challenge for our generation.

I do not think God wants us first and foremost to be baptized in boundaries but in an experience of him that transcends the walls that divide us. That understanding should lead to an inner knowing of what the apostle Paul wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

As many spiritually wise things seem to be in the end maybe it is a ‘both/and’ answer. Nationalism can be good but we must not be so loyal that we forget to first seek his Kingdom.

What do you think?

*(I’m thinking primarily about nationalism linked to nation states but this blog does not preclude that of nations that are found within other nations (e.g. Scottish/English), or indeed those that transcend national boundaries, Jewish/Kurdish).

NB These are my views not official views of The Salvation Army.

#Earth to live on

1 Dec

In Genesis 1:26-28 it says that God blessed Adam and Eve and that He told them to fill the earth and subdue it, to govern it.

To subdue the earth – what does that mean?

It means to care for and foremost to be responsible for the earth that God created.

You could think that is a big and heavy responsibility for God to give to mankind.

But you could also look at it as a privilege.

I mean think about it.
God, and let me repeat: God, creates something amazingly beautiful. Yes, he creates the earth the most beautiful and creative way He can do, and then He gives us the privilege to manage this creation and to be responsible for what happens to it.

It is not ours. We cannot claim the earth to belong to us. God created it, so it is His, but he chooses to involve us in it. We get to subdue the earth and govern it. He wants that. God himself wants us to be invited into His creation. He wants us to be managers and co-creators, active in His creation.

That is huge.
I guess that the Earth must mean quite alot to our Father. So for Him to involve us and give us that much responsibility is extraordinary.
I mean, if I want to have a babysitter for my daughter for one night, I don’t ask anyone on the street to do it. No, I ask someone I trust, that I believe will take good care of her while I’m away. Someone that would give her comfort and make her feel safe. Someone as close as I could come to myself to be honest.

That must be how God reasoned when He gave Adam and Eve the instruction to subdue the Earth.
He trusted us to be the best to manage His creation.

Well, there is probably no surprise when I say that we have not taken this responsibility too serious. We misused His trust didn’t we?
Why is that?
A lot of people of today are not living in an active relationship with God. We see human kind, turned away from God, generation after generation.
We see people living for their own sake, doing their own thing, striving for money with little consideration for the environment, the climate, or the creation in any way.

People are living as if they owned the earth, not borrowing it from the Owner.

But even people in an active relationship with the Creator are not taking too much responsibility it seems.
This is my attempt to raise my voice, as a follower of Christ, living in an active relationship with the Creator, to say things needs to change. And I am definitely preaching to my own heart.

We are abusing this earth every day. It is like we are numb and blind to the fact that we are violating this earth that we are supposed to subdue and take care of, every day.
Global warming is a serious fact; we emit too much carbon dioxide the way we live currently.

If all people of this earth would live like we do in Sweden, three earths would be needed. Three.
So the fact that we live on resources we don’t actually have will push someone else to pay.
That is the poorer parts of the world and the most vulnerable and marginalized communities.
That makes it a political and ethical issue, and a justice issue. A human rights issue. This is serious.

This looks very dark, like a dead end.
But you know what?
I’m not writing this to tell you that it’s over, that there is no need to do anything or that we might as well give up and sit down and wait for better days to come.
No, things can change and you know why?
Because we are Salvation Army. We are soldiers in a war of love and hope.
We are foremost Christians. And there is no word in our vocabulary such as hopeless. We don’t believe in hopeless.
We can’t afford that.

William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army once said: “Making heaven on Earth, that is our business”.

And THAT is the truth, that is what we believe in, and what we are in the fight for.

And in heaven, there is no global warming. There are no poor people living in chains and boundaries so that rich people can live irresponsible for their own sake. There are no fossil fuels in heaven. In heaven we do not abuse creation, we don’t live like we don’t care about it. In heaven we subdue the earth, we govern it with respect and humility.
That is what we do in heaven.
So that is what we should do now.
Since, our job is to make heaven on earth now.

It matters how we live here and now.
It’s all about attitude.
We need to be responsible for the way we live as individuals, to be role models, to live like we learn because we believe that we are invited in to someone else’s creation.
And we are humble about that.
So we sort our milk cartons, we turn the light of when we go from home, we don’t buy cheap cotton sweaters or drink bad coffee or bananas because we love this earth and it’s people.
We don’t live passing on the bill to the next generation.
We don’t live like we own the place and couldn’t care less.

That’s not heaven on earth.
That’s not justice at all.
That’s not a humble way of living.
And that won’t give us an earth to live on, and we want that don’t we?

Yes, and at last.
Yesterday started the big climate conference in Paris #cop21
Join me in prayer for climate justice over this beautiful creation.


10 Leadership Lessons: Moyes, Ferguson and The Salvation Army

26 Apr


Alex Ferguson in my opinion was the greatest football manager there has ever been. He was Manchester United manager for 26 years winning 38 trophies including 13 Premier League titles and 2 European Cups. But his successor David Moyes was sacked this week after only 10 months in the job.

As Manchester United search for the new ‘chosen one’ the transition from Ferguson to Moyes has got me thinking about leadership particularly when you follow someone who has done so well.

So I have come up with 10 lessons I think we can learn about leadership.

1)   Succession Planning is vital when a departing leader is successful

Moyes was picked by Alex Ferguson to be his successor and you could see why as he appeared to be almost made in Ferguson’s image!

The Salvation Army has a much greater capacity for succession planning with local leadership positions than with the officers who run corps (churches). This is because officers are normally appointed from service elsewhere in the organisation rather from within a certain corps or department. However, I believe succession planning should be given more consideration when a departing leader has been successful over a long period of time.

2)   Give the successor time

Ferguson’s lengthy tenure as manager was always going to impact the early years of his successors tenure. I respect Manchester United’s leadership succession strategy but wish they had stayed true to their original beliefs and given Moyes more time.

It is the same in The Salvation Army and maybe where you work. Even when people expect results immediately people need time. I have heard time and time again in my training that often it is not until the 4th or 5th year of an appointment that things really start. I appreciate that this might be too long in other spheres of life but remember Alex Ferguson’s first trophy for Manchester United came after 4 years!

3)   Be careful what you change

When taking up leadership Moyes changed some of the key backroom staff. If his previous successor had left after a period of inertia then fair play, change the staff, but because the club had just won the league then maybe he should have kept them on. Why fix what is not broken? Furthermore, the club also lost their Chief Executive at the same time as Alex Ferguson.

If we focus on a successor alone without considering other changes that are taking place within the management team this will provide an incomplete picture of the subsequent effect on the performance of the organisation.

Again there may be reasons for ringing the changes in a workplace, but after a long period of success the philosophy does not need changing. The foundation is there so be careful what you change.

4)   What you do change needs to work and make sense

Moyes only made one signing in his first summer and it was not one that improved the squad in my opinion. He did not get the other star players he wanted.

Knowing what to change when you take over leadership must be a difficult task. I think it all depends on what kind of circumstances you take over from but the things you do change need to make sense.

5)   Responsibility lies with players/members too

While Moyes ultimately takes responsibility for the team, I think the Manchester United team need to also. They did not play well; made far too many individual mistakes and really only their goalkeeper improved his game this season.

I believe The Salvation Army is only as strong as its membership. The Salvation Army is known for many things such as ‘Faith in action’ and ‘Christianity with its sleeves rolled up’. However, we are not known for incisive thinking, academic ability and for developing members and leaders in a strong ‘thinking culture’. I am not suggesting we all become intellectuals and know all the theories but we need a vibrant ‘thinking culture’ across the whole movement so we can engage with God’s word and the challenges in the world. This is not just down to leaders.

6)   The role of luck

I think Moyes has been unlucky with injuries and crucial game changing moments this season. That extra bit of luck might have saved him his job.

Although I do not believe in ‘luck’ per se the successor does need a period without things persistently stopping their leadership momentum. There will be things we can control and things we cannot. Some people believe in fate and many Christians have a strong belief in the providence of God. However, I believe chance is at work in our world but it is not the all that is at work in our world. Maybe I will come back to that topic one day!

7)   The importance of Sabbath or rest

Manchester United and Bayern Munich both had manager changes after successful trophy winning seasons. Bayern Munich not only got a manager who had experience at winning at the highest level but they also got a manager who had just taken a year off resting. He came in fresh and won the league for Bayern in record time.

Salvation Army officers all too often burn as it is not a 9-5 job, it is a lifestyle. Interestingly too, it is compulsory for Methodist ministers to have a 3 month sabbatical every 7 years. Salvation Army officers are allowed to apply for a sabbatical, but it only available once you have served for at least 15 years. Maybe that is something that can be improved.

8)   Vision needs to be clear

Ryan Giggs, the new caretaker manger of Manchester United, has outlined the vision of how he wants the team to play; with passion, speed, courage, imagination, a strong work ethic and to put the smiles back on the fans faces. Incidentally this encapsulates the philosophy of the team from the last 20 years bar this year.

While I think organisations need a vision, my feeling is that values are every bit as important. However, people need to buy into the vision/values and therefore it is crucial that the vision is not chosen merely because it matches the leaders strengths.

9)   Grooming potential leaders

One thing Moyes did do was he appointed two of ‘Fergie’s fledglings’ Ryan Giggs and Phil Neville to the coaching staff. I think it is great that leaders come through the system. Grooming potential leaders is a process that takes years and needs to be planned for.

I think the challenge for The Salvation Army is to bring through leaders in an environment that encourages differences of opinion. Unless we want to develop ‘yes men and women’ we need to give future leadership room to engage with decision-making.

10)  Supporting the leader

The Manchester United fans never stopped supporting their team when they could have turned on them.

Organisations such as The Salvation Army and the leaders within it need all the support they can get. Many people and organisations support us in our work. But internally when the going gets tough people need to rally around their leader although inevitably every situation will have its own merits for how long this is the right thing to do.









The world day of social justice.

1 Mar

Two blogposts in one day! Isn’t that something. Thank you Ben for that post. Gods dream of a better world, yes!!

So what I am about to write has been on my heart for some days now, I just haven’t posted it. But maybe it is the right time and moment to post it now. I feel like it connects with what Ben just wrote in a way.

So, recently I’ve found myself, when on Facebook, not statusupdating so much about me, what I eat, what I do and so on, but rather just sharing things that at I see other people putting on their pages that I agree on. Often it’s something  that I am passionate about. Often it includes the word JUSTICE. You see I love justice.

For example I found a movie that someone shared with the name “a cry for justice”. I shared it and absolutely felt that I stood for the things the movie pointed out. I sometimes also share some important posts that Salvation army s international social justice commission puts out there. Always thoughtful, important messages about justice that I agree on.

Also a dear friend of mine reminded me, that a couple of days ago UN had called it to be the world day on social justice. Important. I should have shared that one if I knew. I didn’t. 

So my friend said, “you know since it is the world day on social justice, you should blog about that”. I think she wants me to blog more frequently and I can’t blame her can I..

I felt I agreed with her, I definitely should blog about this important day. I need to blog about social justice. I am passionate about social justice. Justice is so important. It’s biblical and Jesus was all about justice. 

So when I sat down to write something on this important day, that now is some days ago, I found myself just feeling a bit sick about the whole thing.

Don’t get me wrong- there is nothing wrong about advocacy. We need those shares on FB, we need to cry out what we believe in and hope for, about those important things that breaks our hearts.

So why did I feel sick? Well, it is because it is so easy that it stops right there; with us feeling we need to speak, read, write or talk about these important matters like social justice is. And it is quite easy, isn’t it? To sit in a sofa, sharing important statusupdates and then just keep on going with once life. I’m not saying we all do that. But I want to sound the alarm about that. To myself first of all.

It’s all good with speaking up and to advocate. But it’s very comfortable if that is the end of it. And I think we all need to reflect upon our own lives sometimes so that our words connects well with our actions.

When speaking on social justice- as far as I understand it, social justice is not a comfortable business. It’s not charity (which can be a quite comfortable business) it’s about changing your own lifestyle so that it affects others. It’s about walking and living side by side with others.

It’s about stepping out of your comfort zone and asking yourself, what do I do, how do I live, what choices do I make, what relations do I have- that affect other peoples lives in a way that forces them into injustice? And by that identify patterns in your life that you need to change for the sake of others. That can be uncomfortable and maybe even hard sometimes. It should be easy, but ask yourself those questions and think wisely. We all will find answers we wish we wouldn’t find I think. 

In my heart I felt the importance and urge to start in my own backyard, looking myself in the mirror. And to speak in a blogpost about this. I want to live true and honest and my cry to God tonight is that He would help me to live wholehearted and holy in heart, thoughts and actions. My whole me need to speak the same words.

I believe if I want to be passionate about social justice continuously I need to combine my advocating with my own life choices. Be that change I want to see and see every social injustice as an individual person, knowing that every social injustice has a face.

So I will try and do that, reflect on my life and my choices. Take a good look at my own heart and actions, so that they work well together. And to prevent this post from being only words, my ambition is to follow up this post with yet another one, as an actionplan on what I need to do to be the change I want to see.  

 God bless!