The Heartbeat of the Army"Our Christian faith is the heartbeat of this organization..."
The red shield of the Salvation Army is instantly recognizable to millions of people around the world, but have you ever wondered about who is responsible for this organization and what it actually does?
The international leader responsible for The Salvation Army is currently General Lyndon Buckingham. This interview with the General took place while he was visiting Uganda, one of the 134 countries in which The Salvation Army serves. The General is the only elected position in The Salvation Army.
General Buckingham explains, “First and foremost, we run churches! Wherever the Salvation Army flag is flying, you will find a congregation of people worshipping. One of our driving ambitions is to meet human need without discrimination, and that human need varies depending on where we are in the world. We provide shelter for the homeless, feeding programs, schools, hospitals, drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs, counselling services and prison ministry and services for children and families who are in need.
Our International Social Justice Commission, based in New York, speaks to the United Nations on global social justice issues. The Salvation Army is currently making a compassionate contribution to the care of people affected by the war between Russia and Ukraine. We do what we can, where we can, to support those in need based on our ability to respond. I am grateful to everyone who helps us make a difference.”
OVERSIGHT OF THE SALVATION ARMY GLOBALLY
Since August 2023, the General has had responsibility for the oversight of The Salvation Army globally (including its 1.5 million members worldwide). Although based at the International Headquarters in London, the General travels extensively in support of overseas territories. He said, “The office of the General is responsible for the spiritual life and well-being of the movement, but also has policy and direction responsibilities which are delegated and shared between the General’s Council and the Salvation Army’s International Trustee Company. This is the office that acts as the glue that holds together the international Salvation Army and its mission around the world.”
He continued, “The senior leaders within the Salvation Army are ordained ministers who, through a series of appointments, have been entrusted with greater responsibility based on their character, skill set and performance. This is a combination of time, experience, skill and affirmation from peers. International appointments are then made by the International Appointments Board as a result of recommendations from peers.”
MILITARY MOTIF AND METAPHOR
The Salvation Army was founded in 1865 with a quasi-military structure, but the question sometimes arises concerning how appropriate this approach is today. General Buckingham said, “As we mature and develop, we are recognizing both the strengths and perhaps some of the weaknesses of our military motif and metaphor. We are managing the tension between our desire to be collaborative in leadership style, while using the motif to its best advantage. We are probably less militaristic today and we’re trying to find a win-win way of using the motifs in a modern context.”
With the impact of Covid still very real across the globe, and a cost-of-living crisis biting in many countries, can charities still rely on the general public for support? General Buckingham said, “We recognize the challenge for any one organization, whether it’s a government or an NGO to do it all.” Collaboration and cooperation between government agencies and NGOs is a healthy response to the needs of the world.’
He continued, “I think that people are right to be discerning about how they support various global NGOs. We are incredibly grateful for the level of support that people around the world are able to give to The Salvation Army and we continue to endeavor to be good stewards of whatever resources are entrusted into our care. This enables us to do very good work for those less fortunate. Wherever The Salvation Army makes a positive contribution to well-being, or to enabling others to make a positive contribution, that’s worth celebrating!”
A FAITH THAT EXPRESSES ITSELF IN ACTS OF LOVING KINDNESS
“Our Christian faith is the heartbeat of this organization and what we are endeavoring to do around the globe comes from that place. I think if anything, that should give people confidence that our good motivation comes from a faith that expresses itself in acts of loving kindness. This is the driving force behind this movement. The motivating force behind this movement is God’s love for us and our desire to express that towards our neighbor.”