Standing Tall

Commissioner Heidi Bailey talks about the Army’s stand on women and men in ministry, her hopes for the Army regarding gender equity and more. by Jeff McDonald
Commissioner Bailey with women members of IMASIC (International Moral and Social Issues Council) at United Nations on International Women’s Day.

Commissioner Heidi Bailey is the Territorial Leader for Leader Development for the USA Central Territory. Her extensive service in the USA and internationally, along with her husband Commissioner Brad Bailey, Central territorial commander, has given her great appreciation for Salvation Army ministry to women and what it means for men and women to view identity from God’s perspective. Here she talks with Jeff McDonald about the Army’s stand on women and men in ministry, her hopes for the Army regarding gender equity and her passion for seeing everyone as children of the King. 

What gifts and talents has God given you that you have expressed in carrying out the Army’s mission?

I’ve always enjoyed organizational, administrative responsibilities and program planning, which has been very helpful in ministry. I’m also a doer. Helping and serving people from all walks of life has always been a part of me. I attribute that to my parents, Jim and Toni Chandler, who always shared our home with others. I remember as a young salvationist I had the opportunity to live and serve alongside many families in challenging situations, and that developed something in my soul–probably the gift of mercy. The love i have for other cultures and meeting new people has developed a gift of hospitality. The Salvation Army has given me amazing opportunities to use these gifts that God gave me.

What is the Army’s viewpoint on women in ministry?

Since the beginning, The Salvation Army has been theologically clear regarding the inherent value of all people, and the God-given dignity of both male and female. This was evident in its countercultural approach to women ministry in the 1800’s. This has always been important to me, and, as a third-generation Salvationist, I always felt there was a place for me in my church. God’s viewpoint on women in ministry has never changed, which keeps us grounded and pulls us back if we begin to stray. Somewhere along the line, however, you might say that we lost our early gender equity focus. Gratefully, the loud cries from the field for many years now are being heard, and General Brian Peddle and Commissioner Rosalie Peddle are taking significant strides to restore what was painfully lost for women in the Army. Recently, the General formed a gender equity task force, on which I was privileged to serve. The task force was able to forward recommendations to the General and we look forward to updates on this process soon!

What advice do you give women about preparing for leadership?

My appointment is actually for both men and women. While appointments, responsibilities and abilities may differ, it’s more about leadership than gender. I always say, “Love God, love yourself and love others!” Accepting who God has made as daughters of the King is the most valuable preparation one can have because then you are released to Kingdom build. We need to remind ourselves that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, so we don’t need to compare or compete. This is Satan’s strategy to keep us from growing God’s Kingdom, and will only bring about low self-esteem, discouragement, depression and eventually, spiritual death. Jesus was the greatest supporter of women and very countercultural. He realized and recognized that they were the last at the cross and the first to the tomb. We are all equal at the foot of the cross and my hope is that everyone would be considered from that perspective; not valued or judged because of our gender, but because we are children of the King.

Left: Commissioner Bailey leading at Central Territory’s Commissioning. Commissioner Bailey dedicating a quarters in India Southeast Territory.

What have you appreciated about your service as a Salvation Army officer?

I could never have imagined the life that God has given me. I’m so grateful for the large, diverse platform that has been afforded me, on which I have stood for 40 years! I’ve served in the inner cities, suburbs, small and large corps. I’ve served in divisional, territorial and international headquarters, and internationally in Europe and South America as well as the USA. It’s such a blessing because each place has challenged me and rounded off a few of my rough edges. People can change your heart and your ministry perspective, and that has been the biggest blessing in my officership. I’m extremely grateful.

What have you found discouraging?

I think an unwillingness to change and adapt to today’s reality discourages me because this has hindered growth in the Army. Sometimes we believe that change equals compromise. This is not necessarily true. Change happens without our permission. It’s up to the church to respond to that change. We can be relevant without selling our soul. We can find new ways to attract people without losing our identity. As Salvationists we are called to respond to these challenges. Together if we can let go of some sacred cows for the good of the Kingdom, we can regain some footing that we have lost. Changing our mission is compromise, but changing us to fulfill our mission is not.

What example comes to mind of an Army program or initiative that has made a dramatic impact on women?

I’m impacted by any ministry to women that equips, empowers and releases women to be all God has created them to be. Thousands of Salvation Army women’s groups in the U.S. gather weekly for just that. So thank you to our women officers for leading with vision and passion.

I will always remember a gathering in the India Southeast Territory where I stood before 2,000 women celebrating more than 360 Women’s Self-Help Groups in their territory. The majority came from the Dalit Caste, the lowest caste in India. They were invisible, had no voice or even basic rights. Yet today, over 3,000 women now speak with clear, confident voices because through small group communities supervised by the Army, they are self-sufficient and able to independently provide for their children. Individual and group savings allows them to qualify for a bank loan for the first time in their lives. These beautiful women are now happy businesswomen who own small businesses, farms, livestock and tools for their trade. Thanks to the gospel, fellowship and accountability, their lives have been transformed and a newfound confidence has enabled them to stand tall, against all odds!

Commissioner Bailey with some of the women in Nagercoil, India. These women are a part of more than 360 self-help groups that create business opportunities and mutural support. 

What are your hopes for the role of women in the Army in the years ahead?

We are all image bearers of God. My hope is that all officers in our Salvation Army world would be considered for all leadership positions from that perspective. In terms of women officers worldwide, while 53% of our officers are female, the total number of women officers in command appointments is under 10%. Of that number, less than 4% are married. For those percentages to change, all of God’s image-bearers will need to be equipped, considered and validated by Army leaders, through the elimination of traditional default appointments and the upholding of gift appropriate appointments. That’s really what gender equity is; equipping and empowering everyone to be who God has created them to be and providing a platform upon which they can lead, and The Salvation Army is perfectly postured to accomplish this!

What have you found to work best in bringing people into God’s Kingdom? 

Authenticity, transparency and relationships. The first two qualities produce the third. Being yourself is a good start, then making sure that you develop or that you exude an authenticity and a transparency and remember that it’s all about relationships. If you’re authentic and transparent, you will find relationship building easier and more fruitful.

What advice would you give young women about how to find their place in the world?

I want every little girl to know that her voice can change the world. I want every woman to know that she does not need permission to stand tall and be all that God has created her to be. That might not be popular with everyone, but we aren’t called to be popular, we are called to be obedient. I ask women to continue to be encouraging to our sisters in Christ, no matter their journey. We need each other to hold up our 51% of the sky!

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