Daily devotions


The Cross is Central - part 7

Sven Ljungholm writes about Christianity in Sweden - Part 7
The Cross of Christ is Central to every Scandinavian's Identity !

From one of Sweden’s leading newspapers this week; ‘In our time the hunt takes on Christianity’s increasingly ridiculous twists and there seems to be a touch of horror on all that is called Christianity…Some, however, see the hunt as abating just a bit. Sweden continues to seemingly flip flop in accepting, and the next day rejecting, the significance of Christianity in the history of the country. However, the populous’ allegiance appears to have weakened with clear signs that the struggle is wavering.

Madleine Fredell, a Dominican Sister, (General Secretary of the Commission for Justice and Peace, Catholic Diocese of Stockholm) said at a lecture in Oslo recently that; "it is rather atheism showing convulsive death throes and, therefore, makes fierce attack on the mainly Christian faith.

There is no question but that in serendipitous times one might easily forget and perhaps even dismiss its cause; God’s plan and effect. God’s presence isn’t quite so notable nor necessary when things are ‘bright and gay’.With smooth sailing we go where the fairwinds lead...

While stationed in Östersund, in northern Sweden’s beautiful fell country I was able to convince the local city government that TSA was the organization that could best take over the administration of the city’s failing homeless shelter and half-way house. It became one of the corps’ key mission efforts, taking us back to basics, and the income fully covered all corps expenses; self-supporting for the first time in decades. And the blessings ? Priceless !

One of our ‘regulars’ was Bengt, a professional exterior house painter whose need for drink often caused him to sip from the alcohol used in his work. He had worked for years alongside his father, and their expertise lay in refinishing church steeples. I joked with him that they were ‘God’s co-workers.’ And I suggested to him that the steeples were their Garden of Eden, "to work it and take care of it" (Genesis 2:15).

Three blocks from the corps stands one of Sweden’s largest cathedrals, and I asked Bengt if he’d ever painted the steeple that crowned one of Östersund's landmarks ?He quickly responded, “Yes, of course I have- 150 meters at the top with a gold gilded cross… the ascent is tiring and we do it in stages, especially if we’re downloaded with paint, brushes and other equipment.” I pressed him further, ‘what if you get all the way to the top and begin to paint and a storm begins to roar do you then seek shelter?’ “Well, not usually, we simply move to the cross- there’s one on every steeple, and we hold on tight till the clouds pass…”

A favorite modern day philosophy professor of mine is Jacob Needleman. His, The Heart of Philosophy speaks about “remembering”, those unique spiritual moments in our past that cause us to reflect on God and His ‘sometime’ presence. In our comfort, and when all is bliss, the ‘remembering’ is infrequent. But when the storms come, and for most this occurs when the children are gone and their visits to the family home are less often. They are the years when we become church-goers at a more frequent rate; weddings, Christenings, child baptisms, but perhaps when the ‘remembering’ is most needed is when attending the ever increasing number of funerals or reading of friends’ passings.

As God’s stewards we’re entrusted with the responsibility of caring for His children, often proud, dismissive, rude, self-agrandizement. As God’s worker-stewards we are mandated to cultivate the ministry opportunities God places before us. Could it be that in the noise and drama taking place in debating God’s historical impact has caused His heart enough grief, and that He now steps in again, a gentle small voice, His holy spirit speaking to warring hearts, now ‘remembering’- reminded to seeking the Truth. Have I, have you, naively sought to win a verbal battle in our own despairing weakness? I believe that in those moments when both sides stop to rearm and take a breather, God speaks and reminds us all; “Be still and know that I am God; The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” (Exod 14:14.

John Gowans told us to “find out what the Holy Spirit is doing and join in.”
Perhaps we, who seek ‘to be like Jesus’, need to re-analyze our mind set when we speak for God’s intent. It will take some specific choices on our part to be obedient to the Holy Spirit’s expectations, “forgetting what lies behind..." We must focus on the future with Christ, and let him lead us away from the disappointments and indifferences of our past. "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ( Jeremiah 29:11)

Another well-known internationally respected leader is Commissioner Joe Noland, whose recent blog entry included:
"Salvationism is a two part word: Salvation + ism. The salvation part is never changing – the same, yesterday, today, forever (The conservative part). Ism, by its proper definition is “a movement” – always changing: “Mobile, fluid, robust, pulsating, progressive, maturing – Genesis in motion.” In other words, our methodology needs to stay relevant, inclusive and flexible in order to reach the last, the lost and least (The liberal part)." God supplies us with the creation— the raw materials— and invites us to cultivate it and care for it (Genesis 1:28, 2:15). We manage, preserve and sustain it on God’s behalf.

Not surprisingly the stewardship motif emerges on the pages of the New Testament. According to Jesus, his disciples are to participate together with God in the task of sustaining and preserving the created order. On several occasions, Christ describes his followers in his parables as stewards and house-holders enlisted by him (Matthew 24:45-51; parallels Psalm 104: 27). Our work can be seen as an act of cooperation with God.

Unfortunately, God’s "cultural mandate" is frequently neglected by Christians today. In his book, Living by the Gospel, Regent College professor Klaus Bockmuehl writes, "The ethics of sustainment and preservation are necessarily part of Christian ethics. This fact must be upheld against those among us who confess to knowing only Christ’s Great Commission, Matthew 28: 18-20, and neglect God’s cultural mandate, Genesis 1:28 and Genesis 2:15....God’s creation and man’s commission in it must not be disregarded or disdained. Christians will have to find the proper balance between the two tasks assigned to them— on the one hand, in the preservation of creation; on the other hand, in the realm of salvation."

In this Lenten season we recall the build-up for what were your and mine most crucial sermons- built on the centrality of the Cross of Christ. And leading up to it was His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Jesus chose a donkey to serve as His royal transport. His disciples were instructed to say, “The Lord has need of it” (Mark 11:3). Alexander MacLaren commented on this: “Christ comes to us in like fashion, and brushes aside all our convenient excuses. He says, ‘I want you, and that is enough.’ ”

There will never be a greater request made of you or me! The Creator of the universe needs us to fill a unique role in His eternal design! Though all-powerful He has chosen us to help in carrying out His plans.

Someone once asked Francis of Assisi how he was able to accomplish so much. He replied, “This may be why: The Lord looked down from heaven and said, ‘Where can I find the weakest, littlest man on earth?’ Then He saw me and said, ‘I’ve found him. I will work through him, and he won’t be proud of it. He’ll see that I am only using him because of his insignificance.’

Yours is a mission you alone can fill,
 Whether it be to build or teach or till;
 Your goal may still be hidden from your view,
 But somewhere God has urgent need of you. —Thayer


For Such A Time As This, Listen to Paul ! Sweden 6B

Sven Ljungholm fortsätter serien om Frälsningsarmén i Sverige:

Are some more EQUAL than others? The benchmarks of Paul speak against such notions...

EPHESIANS 1:1 “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the Saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus.”

Around 33-34 AD, Paul, a contemporary of Jesus Christ meets the risen Lord, a key characteristic in being appointed as an apostle according to John H.W. Stott. In addition, Stott specifies that an apostle has to be appointed by God and begin his apostolic mission in Jerusalem.

Within the New Testament, Paul's conversion experience is detailed in both Paul's own letters and in the words of his close friend Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles. In both instances, the conversion experience is described to be miraculous or revelatory in nature. It’s worth noting that Luke, a physician, known to be scrupulous in researching for more than two years, in Mary’s domiciled geographical area, prior to beginning the writing of his own epistle. And, he is the only Gentile who contributed to the New Testament and describes Paul’s conversion in Acts 9 as a third-person narrative: “As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"
"Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked.

"I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he replied. "Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do."

According to both sources, Paul was a persecutor of the early Christians and although Paul refers to himself as an "Apostle" of Jesus, it is clear that Paul was not one of "The Twelve" (1 Cor 9:1-2).


Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians 9:1 “But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man (Paul) is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name."

And in, Corinthians 15:3-8 “Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?” Interestingly, Paul uses his alternative name “Paul” in this letter, his Roman name; his father was a freed slave, as we know from Paul’s belonging to the Freedman’s Temple. “Saul” means “Asked of God” while Paul simply means “Little.” Some commentators suggest Paul chooses the name that minimizes his own significance.

P.W. Barnett states that ‘apostle’ simply means “messenger There are numerous papyri collections in which the substantive apostolos is used in a secular context to mean a “commissioned agent.” In this context, the apostolos would be much more than simply a messenger. Taking this as the primary source for the term “apostle” as used in the New Testament, it is easy to understand it as, “one sent to act authoritatively in the name of another.” Paul could well be described as an officer of, and commissioned by the [heavenly] court.”

Messengers in the ancient Near East were not mere couriers. They were the official representatives of the sender of the message. Barnett says, “The royal messenger stood in the court of the Great King, participated in the deliberative processes of the court, received the declaration of the king’s wishes from the kings own mouth, and then carried the tablet or sealed role of papyrus to its destination This is why Jeremiah writes,

“But which of them has stood in the council of the LORD
to see or to hear his word?
Who has listened and heard his word?”

“I did not send these prophets,
yet they have run with their message;
I did not speak to them,
yet they have prophesied.

PAUL was an apostle “of Jesus Christ,” not simply an apostle, but by the will of God. That is not to say, however, that Paul saw his role as something more significant than other people’s part in God’s plan. Rather, as C. Leslie Milton writes, “Nothing is clearer in Paul’s writings than his awareness that both his conversion to Christ (2 C. 5:18) and his commissioning as a missionary (Rom. 1:1; 1 C. 15:10) were ‘all God’s doing.’”

Almost every revolt, rebirth and revival of Christian religion in the past has involved a reaction against priestly authority. And it often demanded lay power and activity. The most God honoring successes I have witnessed in TSA were initiated by lay-persons answering mission needs: local hands-on programs answering perceived needs. Not, where leadership appropriated to itself a dominant role and assumed some regulatory status. In my own experience tacit approval came from DCs, TCs and even 2 Generals. They all deemed 'our' initiatives as being Spirit led and ‘shaped in the pattern of early William Booth’, and this in our appointments in 5 different countries! And the very first were the brainchild of one SA recruit, two newly enrolled soldiers, and 2 Supply Officers- none trained in ministry or ordained or yet commissioned. (GED program NY) The 2nd; SA take-over of city mission and rehab center; 2 Auxiliary Captains, Opening Fire in 3 countries – Led by officers who never attended training college, and local SA soldier recruits)

(Booth) “You cannot say you are not ordained. You were ordained when you signed Articles of War, under the blessed Flag. If not, I ordain every man, woman and child here present that has received the new life… I tell you what your true business in the world is, and in the name of the living God I authorise you to go and do it. Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature!”

More from the Founder
Here we find an essential ambivalence as far as clericalism is concerned – and as far as being a church is concerned. The pragmatic origins of ministry and polity have meant that the Army has championed the concept of the priesthood of all believers and rejected the clerical role, while at the same time it has claimed ministerial status for its officers whenever that has seemed advantageous.

William Booth wanted to disabuse his officers of the notion that there is any “exclusive order of preachers”, Harold Ivor Winston Hill in his A Case Study in Clericalisation, Victoria University of Wellington, 2004. Gordon Cotterill, an officer stationed at William Booth College in London, posted the following on his blog: “Although we have referred to the trend for officers to become clergy and soldiers to think of themselves as laity, there has always been a counter-movement, a consistent tradition of soldier initiative and participation in the Army’s work.

If one accepts Paul’s commissioning and appointment as one equal to a lay ministry position; bandsman, YPSM, HL Sgt., Literary Sgt., and that indeed all Christians are “lay”, in the sense that all belong to the people of God, without distinction of status, ought we not follow the commissioning/ appointment model from Acts 6? In the very first commissioning ceremony in the church, recorded in Acts 6, the brothers choose seven men and appointed them to a particular ministry, and the apostles put their hands on them and prayed. That is all. There is no promise of a new status in the church, no hint that they are now priests and different to the people they are appointed to serve.

Booth in fact made it clear on more than one occasion that this was his theoretical position; his theology required it.

“I have lived, thank God, to witness the separation between layman and cleric become more and more obscured, and to see Jesus Christ’s idea of changing in a moment ignorant fishermen into fishers of men nearer and nearer realization.
Booth maintained egalitarianism from early on; “I honour the Order of Preachers; I belong to it myself… but as to his possessing any particular grace because of his having gone through any form of Ordination, or any other ceremonial whatever, I think that idea is a great mistake…Not only were officers not “clergy” but soldiers in effect were". Booth in 1898 hoped that soldiers would not shirk their duty “by any talk of not being an officer.” Booth's edict applies well; a growing late twentieth century trend has been the employment of soldiers and non-salvationist Christians in ministry roles – as youth workers, pastoral workers and Music and Social Services secretaries, corps leaders, as well as in PR professionals and administrative roles. This has been particularly the case in western countries with declining officer strength; Australia, Canada, the USA and Western Europe. And, it has led to constructive debate about the respective roles and status of officers and soldiers.

Often, with onset of decline, some renewal movement strikes out upon a new trajectory of growth and we have witnessed that there has sprung up pockets of dissent, at issue with decline, expressing Ecclesia rights and responsibility. God has and continues to bless their universal readiness to serve.

Today’s army is following the egalitarian form as we witness soldiers, adherents and friends become involved and take greater control in their local mission. It’s a mission expression and reality endorsed by THQ, in Sweden. (examples follow in the next and concluding article) "...forgetting what lies behind..." (Philippians 3:13) We must focus on the future with Christ, and let him lead us away from the burden of our past. "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ( Jeremiah 29:11)

Sven Ljungholm (http://www.fsaof.blogspot.com/)


Hitting "The Wall" Sweden 6A

Sven Ljungholm writes (http://www.fsaof.blogspot.com/):
"While I can run, I'll run; while I can walk, I'll walk; when I can only crawl, I'll crawl. But by the grace of God, I'll always be moving forward…" - Cavett Robert

“The Wall” evades easy definition. Dick Beardsley defines hitting the wall as; "It felt like an elephant had jumped out of a tree onto my shoulders and was making me carry it the rest of the way “ at the second marathon of his career, the City of Lakes Marathon.

To borrow from my daughter Kaari’s description, shortly after completing her first triathlon. and at the time a mother of 6; “You know it when you hit it! Months of pumped up psychobabble goes out the window, and self-doubt casts a deep shadow over your entire being… but determination and giving it your utmost brings you across the finish line and the claim: I finished !” Most modern day marathons report that some 20-70% of entrants fail to complete the course. And many tell of hitting the wall and becoming dizzy to the point of losing focus...The key words in any race is: I finished !! To give anything less than one’s best is to sacrifice both the gift and all the training committed to develop it.

The name Marathon comes from the legend of Pheidippides, a Greek messenger. The legend states that he was sent from the battlefield of Marathon to Athens to announce that the Persians had been defeated in the Battle of Marathon, in which he had just fought, in 490 BC. It is said that he ran the entire 25 mile distance without stopping and burst into the assembly, exclaiming, 'We have won,’ before collapsing and dying.

There were other Persian revolts during the same period. Esther got a message from her cousin Mordecai when living in Susa, one of four capitals in the great Persian Empire. It was 15 years following the famous first marathon run.

A hundred years previously, the Jewish people had been overrun by the Chaldeans and had been taken into exile in Babylon. Fifty years later, Babylon was conquered by the Persians, and the Jews were allowed to return home. But some Jews chose to stay where they were. They had discovered that God did not just live in the land of Israel. Assured that God was here too, Mordecai and Esther were among those Jews who remained.

Strange as it may seem, prayer is never specifically mentioned in this book, nor is the name of God. Yet, but we can be sure that there is a purpose for God’s presence and Divine appointments. “And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” (Esther. 4:13, 14).

We Christians thrive as a minority, and we too live for such a time as this, to finish the race and earn the victor’s crown. And like the loneliness of a long-distance runner we too can experience “hitting the wall”. However, perhaps in Sweden and elsewhere where the goal seems unattainable we perhaps need reminding that we are never alone, and that the victory is sure; “thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. (II Corinthians 2:14 NIV)

That is God’s purpose “for such a time as this.” He has something specific for TSA to accomplish in our present situation and condition.

We believers should be living with confidence as people of destiny. God will be honored when we claim His grace to be what He wants us to be and do what He wants us to do in our present circumstances.

God is at work in the life of TSA although our circumstances may not always reflect it, nor is it all we would like it to be. But we can thank God for them anyway. There are many areas of growth in TSA in Sweden (and Latvia) where He continues to demonstrate His sovereign love and care, and they provide us with an opportunity to glorify Him. Let us believe that He will work those circumstances together for good, as we look for ways to serve Him in them. The number of Christians world-wide have never been as numerous as now and they continue to grow!

Carl-Erik Sahlberg, associate professor of church history Uppsala University, and Tuve Skånberg, visiting professor of church history Fuller
Fellows at Clapham Institute.

º Almost 100 000 people every day, the world over, make a decision to personally accept Christ.

º An estimated 3 000 Christian churches are founded every week.

º In 2000, approximately 33.0 percent of the world's population had been baptized in the name of Jesus. That figure is projected to increase to 33.4 percent in 2025 and about 35 percent in 2050.

º Christianity is growing faster than the world population... We live in Mission history's greatest period of growth.

"God is on the march!" Even in Europe.


A visionary leadership seeks to unite people from different backgrounds to work towards the same goal. And Commissioner Vic Poke, Territorial Commander, is seeking to do just that. In spite of diminishing effectiveness in certain SA quarter, TSA is marching steadily onward with a new focus and vision.

Deuteronomy 31:6 
Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.

Commissioner Vic Poke, said while visiting SA centers on a fact-finding mission; “I see, hear and have a strong feeling that we are bound by a spirit of fear in this territory. It is not wrong to be afraid sometimes, but when fear becomes a fetter to stop us moving forward, it is wrong. God wants to bless us. Do not be afraid!We will do our best to explain what our situation looks like. Let us all pray for God's strength to move on and go forward; we must cut the tapes of fear that bind and inspire us to do great things again.

Commissioner Vic Poke shared his findings revealed through research over the course of the last eighteen months saying, “I can not over-emphasize how important the first fact finding days have been for my thinking.
The huge budget deficits in recent years result from three factors;
- Support to the corps
- Support to Latvia
- Operation Costs of Territorial Headquarters.

The theme 'Find the best (most logical) cities and concentrate - collaborate, ....'that is more important now than ever. We (HQ) have exercised too much control and now need to place more responsibility for local services on ‘locals’. We need to trust each other in this, "continued Poke;

We have gone through some difficult months and a difficult time back. I trust the future and that God will lead us forward. In Romans 5:3 it reads that” suffering creates endurance.” And, we must become very good at communicating, in order that everyone knows about the changes. Nothing may be more important in the coming weeks prior to the change.


Sweden is the area where we have to prove the future of Christianity in Europe - Part 5

By Sven Ljungholm
Regular visitors to this site may have decided that I am making too much of the dire state of religion and the church's waning influence on Sweden's culture and society in general. A clear reading and understanding of the crisis The Salvation Army and all religious groups in Sweden face should serve as a red flag warning of what will follow. Two decades ago Father Peter Hornung, one of the great Jesuits in Sweden said, "Sweden is the area where we have to prove the future of Christianity in Europe. If we can remain a living church in Sweden, then we can do it in all of Europe. If not, then in 5, 10 or 20 years, all of the traditionally Catholic parts of Europe will be without the Catholic religion, too.” No doubt this alarming impending doom, and its impact elsewhere, is what caused almost a doubling in the number of daily blog visitors and the unusually high retention rate.

Today the Catholic Church is the biggest free church of Sweden with nearly 100,000 Catholics, and if you add in the immigrants who were never entered into the registries, the number perhaps doubles that. Nearly every year we are building new parishes and churches.

During their first three or five years in Sweden, immigrants (the group that represents the largest growth factor) feel at home in the Catholic Church; but then, when they are established and know the language, two-thirds of these Catholics disappear into the normal Swedish population.

What do you mean by “disappear”?

"In Sweden, we have a very small number of active Christians. The latest European Value Studies report says about 9 percent of the population can be called Christians—that is, they believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God, life after death, the triune God—traditional dogma. About 3 percent of the population participates in services every Sunday.

In Swedish society, religion is viewed as superstitious, old-fashioned, uninteresting, nonscientific, and fanatical. The Catholic Church has the stamp of being fanatical and fundamentalist because of its stances on abortion, homosexuality, homosexual marriage and the role of women in the church. The evangelical churches are thought too small, too controlling and also too fundamentalist—they quote the Bible all the time, and they do not take on philosophical or theological arguments. The Church of Sweden has a wonderful framework, but the content is uninteresting.

They’re not interested in religion and they’re not interested in God, either. You ask them and they’ll say they don’t need it. They’re not aggressive, they don’t debate, they don’t want to have conflicts. They just tell you they don’t feel the need."

Does Christianity have a future in Sweden?

The European Value Study showed Sweden on the top in the development toward individualism. Each person has his or her own patchwork of individual convictions in theological and ethical questions. Every new generation, then, must be won for God and for the church one by one. And we have to inform our Catholics again and again that you have to swim against the stream at every point.

On the other hand, even besides the refugees, the number of Catholics is steadily increasing. Every year about 100 Swedes convert to the church; the Jesuit review Signum is the most respected national religious newspaper; and our Bishop Anders Arborelius is perhaps the best accepted Christian leader in Sweden. Therefore we look with confidence and optimism to the future.

(Klaus Dietz, S.J. a German who is one of 17 Jesuits working there, has been serving in parish ministry in Sweden for 37 years. Jim McDermott, S.J. an associate editor of America, spoke to Father Dietz in December 2007, about Christianity and secularization in Sweden.)

Thirty years ago there were approximately 5,000 practicing Catholics in Sweden. Today they have increased by twenty fold. SA statistics were shared in an earlier post)

As shared in an earlier article, the church’s’ voice was becoming silent: “the traditional free churches have lost their voice. Missing entirely are the colorful and influential leaders in the Missionary Church, The Salvation Army, the Evangelical Free Church, the Alliance Mission, and Baptist Union… We've been silent, marginalized, unknown in the wider society…And is that not the term for the traditional Free Church collapsing?”

“The list of the ten people who influenced Swedish Christian unity (the last decade) includes 4 Pentecostalists, 3 members of the Swedish Lutheran church, an atheist, Ulf Ekman and Bishop Arborelius. (Catholic)” We've been silent, marginalized, unknown in the wider society…And is that not the term for the traditional Free Church collapsing?

Where was our voice?

Anyone who has taken the time to observe how the army ‘moved’ its leadership in Sweden during the 20 year period 1986 -2006 might well ask why so many and so often? Clearly all were well groomed for leadership roles, with two eventually nominated to be the army’s international leader, and four serving at IHQ as IS, Europe. General John Larsson, born in Sweden, was well known on the army’s stage as a skillful communicator and inspiring and creative corporate executive. Few doubt that had he remained in Sweden for an extended period his voice would have been one of those speaking for all free churches, but he like others was summoned to London!

During the period when TSA experienced its greatest loss in the number of Officers and soldiers, Evangelistic efficiency saw a change of territorial commanders no less than 7 times in that two decade span, and that translates as a new Commissioner every 3 years with some serving less than 2 years and one a mere 14 months before being appointed abroad

Effective leadership in global organizations, according to several Harvard Business School professors, requires a collaborate management style across international borders with English the mandated common language, this to ensure minimum miscommunication and to aid in avoiding culture clash:the costs and benefits of homogeneity.

Of the most recent seven Commissioners, one was from the other side of the army world, and one from a neighboring country. One Commissioner and spouse spoke no Swedish. Communication was further hampered in that their immediate THQ assistant was less than fluent in English. For three TCs and there was the adapting to a new culture. Although Swedish by birth, two had not worked in or been a part of the Swedish SA or country’s culture for several decades.

Each leader contributed positively, but one wonders how much can be achieved in the space of only a year or two with diminishing resources. And, there must have been the question too on which programs needed prioritizing and the cost to sustain them? And with each leader comes initiatives; "which of my initiatives should be prioritized asnd will they be supported and maintained if I move in 12, 18 or 24 months? These are the common concerns faced by every visionary, motivated and fully committed officer.

With the promotion of the CS, American educated and trained Commissioner Birgitta K. Nilsson there was a period of streamlining administrative directives and also adopting creative corps leadership initiatives. Many suggest however, that it was too little to late. The time had come when the limited financial and personnel began to impact negatively causing an ever-smaller band of faithful officers, soldiers and supporters. Much 2nd, 3rd, and 4th generation Salvationist felt excluded and uninformed. Not only was the army’s voice not heard by the country’s political leaders and the general public, those loyal to the army and its mission witnessed a consolidation of leadership strength and saw it as a ‘drawing down of the troops,’ retrenchment rather than rearming.



By Sven Ljungholm (http://www.fsaof.blogspot.com/)
"Beginners and outsiders are open to possibilities and don’t make assumptions. By extension, they’re often better at finding solutions the experts have stopped seeing."
~Michael McMillan

SWEDEN THE NEW MISSION FIELD… TSA, Sweden has historically been a main source in providing missionary officers.

Tentmaking, in general, refers to the activities of any Christian who, while functioning as a minister, receives little or no pay for his or her church work, and supports him or herself by additional, unrelated work. Specifically, tentmaking can also refer to a method of international Christian evangelism in which missionaries support themselves by working full time in the marketplace with their skills and education, instead of receiving financial support from a church.

Sweden population - 9,059,651 (2009)

9,600,000 mobile phones (in excess of total population; highest per capita in the world)

8,085,500 Internet users as of Sept/09, 89.2% penetration. Scandinavia has highest per capita internet users in the world)

English is taught in schools from the first grade. Most people in Sweden speak fluent intermediate to advanced level English.

Swedes enjoy partaking in intellectual conversations; debates on social and cultural matters from a Swedish perspective, including religion.

Moves To Curb Influence Of Religion In Schools
At the end of 2008, 72,9% of Swedes belong to the Church of Sweden, a number that is decreasing by about one per cent every year, and Church of Sweden services are sparsely attended (hovering in the single digit percentages of the population). The reason for the large number of inactive members is partly that until 1996, children became members automatically at birth if at least one of their parents were a member.

In 2009, nearly 72,000 Swedes left the Church of Sweden, considerably more than in 2008 when 50,504 Swedes left the Church of Sweden.

Some 275,000 Swedes are today members of various free churches (TSA is a free church) where congregation attendance is much higher, and, in addition, immigration has meant that there are now some 92,000 Roman Catholics and 100,000 Eastern Orthodox Christians living in Sweden.

Due to immigration, Sweden also has a significant Muslim population. As many as 500,000 are Muslims by tradition and between 80,000 - 400,000 of these are practicing Muslims.

The constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice.


• 23% of Swedish citizens responded that "they believe there is a God".
• 53% answered that "they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force".
• 23% answered that "they do not believe there is any sort of spirit, God, or life force".
• Atheism rates in Sweden run to 85%
[ Phil Zuckerman, an Associate Professor of Sociology at Pitzer College]
An article on Sweden's official website asserts that that just three out of 10 Swedes state that they have confidence in the church. The same article lists the following facts about religion in Sweden.

• 8 out of 10 Swedes are members of the Church of Sweden. (7 million)
• Membership does not connote attendance (3-4%).
• Only 1 in 10 Swedes thinks religion is important in daily life.
• 7 out of 10 children (70%) are christened in the Church of Sweden and thereby registered in the church as members.
• Just over 5 out of 10 weddings take place in church. Sweden has one of the lowest marriage rates in the world at less than 60 per cent.
• 9 out of 10 Swedes have Christian burials.

Sweden ranks aside with France, South Korea, Japan, Czech Republic and the Netherlands on having a large minority or even majority of its citizens who have no religion.


Sweden has one of the lowest marriage rates in the world at less than 60 per cent. Fifty years ago the figure was 91 per cent for Sweden. Instead of marriage, cohabitation is common in Sweden. About 32 per cent of all couples in Sweden are cohabiting. A number of factors contribute to the high rate of cohabitation in Sweden. Religion is weak, and the moral and cultural taboos against partners living together have disappeared. In addition, government benefits are given to individuals regardless of their relationships or family arrangements. Spousal benefits in such matters as health care simply do not exist. And all income tax is individual.

For its part the United States stands out for having the world's highest divorce rate. The divorce rate is less than 40 per cent in Sweden. Swedish cohabiting couples do, however, break up in large numbers. It is estimated that the risk of breakup for cohabiting couples in Sweden, even those with children, is several times higher than for married couples.
Religious education covering all major world religions is compulsory in public schools. Parents may send their children to independent religious schools, all of which receive government subsidies, provided they adhere to government guidelines on core academic curriculum.

Sweden wants to curb the influence of religion in private religious schools in a move to prevent the spread of fundamentalism and creationism in science, government officials said on Monday.
The new rules being drafted by the centre-right government would ban religious elements being taught in subjects other than Religious Education lessons. Education Minister Jan Bjorklund told Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter: “Students must be protected from every form of fundamentalism. A student shouldn't be able to pass a natural science test by answering that God created the world. We don't think that's OK. Teaching in school must have a scientific basis.” The schools would also be required to report financial donations to the authorities, he said.
His comments came after a legal dispute involving efforts by the Exclusive Brethren to start a school
in southern Sweden.

The Exclusive Brethren Christian Fellowship, which dismisses the theory of evolution, was granted permission by a county administrative court to start the school after it promised to follow the Swedish school plan and to welcome all students. It wasn’t clear how a cult with the word “exclusive” in its name could be open to non-cult members. The decision to permit the school was widely criticised. The group is regarded as isolationist, imposing heavy restrictions on its membership, including those on children at school.

There are 67 elementary schools and six high schools with a religious character in Sweden, mostly Christian. They are outside the public school system, but are governed by Sweden's law on education. The government claims the law is not clear on how much religious influence is allowed in the curriculum. The new rules, which need parliamentary approval, would be introduced in 2009, Bjorklund's spokeswoman Anna Neuman said.

The Council of Europe this month voted to urge European schools to strongly oppose teaching creationism and intelligent design in science classes, saying attacks on the theory of evolution were rooted in religious extremism.
It would also propose to parliament that it enable authorities to swiftly issue fines or, in especially serious cases, close schools that failed to adhere to the new rules. 

"Beginners and outsiders are open to possibilities and don’t make assumptions. By extension, they’re often better at finding solutions the experts have stopped seeing."
~Michael McMillan

Given the above facts, what are the most effective means to attract and engage SWEDES in our battle against religious apathy and secularization ? Tomorrow's post will share some thoughts to which we ask you to add yours. ALL comments will be forwarded to THQ, Stockholm, Sweden.

MARGINALIZE: “to relegate to an unimportant position within a society ” Part 3

By Sven jungholm (fsaof.blogspot.com)
"I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else."
- C. S. Lewis –

Stefan Sward, Pastor of one of Sweden’s largest fellowships, in mid-town Stockholm, suggests that Swedish churches have become marginalized, a word first used in 1970. MARGINALIZE: “to relegate to an unimportant or powerless position within a society or group.”

Sward has two reflections on why the churchs’ voice is becoming silent. He suggests that the traditional free churches have lost their voice. “I think the newspaper ‘Today’ is right in their analysis.” Missing entirely are the colorful and influential leaders in the Missionary Church, The Salvation Army, the Evangelical Free Church, the Alliance Mission, and Baptist Union… We've been silent, marginalized, unknown in the wider society…And is that not the term for the traditional Free Church collapsing?”

A (Baptist) church that once had 3,000 members, today has 266 members, and a majority of 28 members can vote through a binding decision, such as has never been taken by a Christian church in Sweden, and nowhere in the world by a Baptist community.

As I read the changes taking place in Sweden and beyond I see less of a search for truth than I do as dismissing Christ from its history and culture. I would point to two obvious influences; the comfort and quality of life enjoyed and which provides a false sense of security. One might term it intellectual laziness. The second reason would be Sweden’s too prevalent submission to foreign and alien voices demanding an equal voice. Swedes in their pride to remain ultra neutral and honorable go overboard to the point of bankrupting a 900 year tradition of Christian faith. Christianity today varies significantly, not only from denomination to denomination, in Sweden, but from country to country.

In a recent television interview, Charlie Rose questioned Frank McCourt, best-selling author of Angela's Ashes, about his spirituality. McCourt likened all of the world's religions to a smorgasbord or buffet before him,and he takes a little of this from here and a bit of that from there-whatever pleases him and works for the present.

Christianity and the church continue to be tainted by modern culture and influences. The history of both Christianity and Judaism repeatedly demonstrates how religions are influenced by and adapt to surrounding cultures - sometimes in acquiescence to those cultures, however, increasingly in rebellion against them. Wherever the willingness to rethink has been squelched and buried under convention and complacency, the Christian faith in all its forms is in trouble. While some denominations claim to be growing the world in general is indifferent. What is often called “secularism” in Sweden and the rest of Europe is most often a rejection of Christianity, especially on the part some elites and opinion makers. The church is marginalized both within and without and it is relinquishing its tenuous grip on historical Christian authority. Members are jumping ship and the Swedish Lutheran Church has halved its worshipers during the past 20 years.

It isn't a case of people arguing for or against God's existence, it's a case of God, and his Son not having a substantive role in modern day life. Those who actively argue against the church and our faith and values, often do so because there is little left on which to take issue. It's an intellectual exercise where the value is in the arguing per se, not in the issues on which the verbal fencing is grounded. In Sweden I see less of a search for truth than I do a dismissal of Christ’s role in its history, present and future.

In large part this indifference has opened cracks allowing heretical teaching and races and ethnic groups far removed from northern climes to gain a foothold. Their fervor doesn't require anything beyond a casual attempt to exploit and overcome a nine-hundred year old tradition. The same holds true across borders. A USA editorial stated: "The biggest threat to Britain isn’t plague or terrorism-it has survived both before. It is the loss of the faith that shaped it. That’s something that should really frighten our British brethren-and serve as a warning to us on this side of the Atlantic. For in recent history, what has happened there soon spreads to us."

In his new book, The Future of Faith, Harvey Cox makes a helpful distinction between belief and faith.
He writes: “We can believe something to be true without it making much difference to us, but we place our faith only in something that is vital for the way we live.” If faith doesn’t seem essential for living why should I take time to examine it? We can believe without it making a difference.

“Many people are guided by today’s culture driven values and even accept a ‘God’, and that Jesus died on the cross for their sins, but that belief makes no difference in their lives. They possess mere belief but lack faith. The church in many places has begun to placate people to draw them into worship by echoing the ‘right answer’, baiting people, not with Christ, but with heaven. “

It’s a watered down message that people find ‘works for me’, because it costs me nothing and asks nothing of me. The promise of heaven with no strings attached ! Bonhoeffer’s ‘cheap grace’?

God’s plan for man is rather simple to grasp- Faith is is centered in His plan of salvation; the belief that Jesus dies for the sins of the world and His resurrection. The provision of promises and instructions on leading a moral life follow after. We, the church, must be prepared for our mission, if we want to disturb the status quo to secularists, to pray and seek a renewed equipping by the Holy Spirit, and impervious and unreceptive to all the social changes pressing around us. We are not obligated to give equal voice to those attempting to distort Christian truths for 
political gain or to present a hypocritical solution in falsely representing neutrality.

Stanley Sjoberg a leading Christian figure and spokesperson in Sweden shared in his blog; ‘We believe in spiritual freedom, freedom of thought and respect between different philosophies.’ He was speaking specifically to a TV debate in which it was suggested that Christianity be deleted from Swedish history teaching in Swedish public schools.

The Education Minister Jan Björklund and the Left Party are represented by Jonas Gardell who contrast the Christian argument by ridiculing, distorting and describing God as mentally ill. Stefan Gustavsson, Secretary General of the Evangelical Alliance urges his website visitors to listen to the School Board debate and in which he stressed repeatedly that the shift of Christianity's role in the curriculum is not acceptable. Another opponent, Lars Ohly, stated that School Board's proposal was excellent, that it is pursuing the path to SECULARIZE Sweden and that people should avoid being influenced by religion.

“- Human dignity has evolved in a unique and powerful way in the West who have been influenced by Christianity. The idea that every human being has a sacred value goes back to the Christian faith that human beings are created in God's image… Western culture, with its music, literature, science and law, is marked by Christianity, "says Gustavsson. It is a fact whether you believe Christian faith is a good thing or not. “

“There are between three and four thousand churches in Sweden. To suggest that it is not important to know what the Church stands for than to know the various gods in Hinduism is plain nonsense. Christianity has a special status in Sweden. Approximately seven million Swedes are members of a Christian church. Not to recognize that Christianity has a special position is mendacious to reality. “ Lt. Peter Baronowsky SA Regional Commander Latvia

For the Greeks, the ultimate goal was knowledge. "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." For Paul it was; "I know whom I have believed." Salvationists worldwide share this witness;

I know thee who thou art,
And what thy healing name;
For when my fainting heart
The burden nigh o'ercame,
I saw thy footprints on my road
Where lately passed the Son of God.

Thy name is joined with mine
By every human tie,
And my new name is thine,
A child of God am I;
And never more alone, since thou
Art on the road beside me now.

Beside thee as I walk,
I will delight in thee
In sweet communion talk
Of all thou art to me;
The beauty of thy face behold
And know thy mercies manifold.

Let nothing draw me back
Or turn my heart from thee,
But by the Calvary track
Bring me at last to see
The courts of God, that city fair,
And find my name is written there.

The Salvation Army Songbook - No. 59 - Albert Orsborn


The Clericalising of The SA

Gordon Cotterill, an officer stationed at William Booth College in London, recently posted the following on his blog:

The Language of Ordination: The Clericalising of The Salvation Army

It seems interesting to me that within TSA we are keen to maintain a certain line that causes frequent periodic debate when it comes to our non-sacramental stand …
I’m not sure if I have come across the same rigour of debate with similar issues. … it is interesting that the whole emphasis of ordination of officers doesn’t receive the same intensity of attention.
Recently as I watched the Commissioning of the latest session I was struck by how far our language has moved. It seems to me that the euphemistic use of ordination to explain commissioning has made quite some journey where now a given Territorial Commander declares to each cadet “I commission and ordain you…” (or words to that effect). It seems interesting to me that a choice of language to protect the kudos of officership with our ecclesiastical cousins has become so mainstream as to now even infer a supposed ‘higher calling’ of officership.But no debate, no walk outs, no resignations, no battle lines, no edicts from International Headquarters, no articles, no letters looking at such an impact on SA views on the ‘priesthood of all believers’ . Nothing to question the language of ordination as it, like a cuckoo, surreptitiously kicks out the centrality of dedication….
So why the lack of debate in one area and intensity in another?

Clericalism, according to Webster, is “A policy of maintaining or increasing the power of a religious hierarchy”. Clericalisation is the process by which that happens. The Salvation Army’s adoption of the language of ordination was just one milestone in a clericalising journey as long as its history. What I shall attempt to do now is to place the Salvation Army’s story in this context, by describing, firstly, clericalisation as a sociological phenomenon, and secondly, how it has affected the Salvation Army.

Clericalisation is a sociological, historical phenomenon.

Clericalisation is simply religious specialisation. As George Bernard Shaw wrote in The Doctor’s Dilemma, “Every profession is a conspiracy against the laity”. Those in the know, plumbers and IT specialists alike, have superseded theologians in having the rest of us over a barrel. They can give us hell today rather than threatening it in the hereafter. That’s specialisation. It’s about the use of power.

Robert Michels suggested five factors leading to centralisation of power in organisations.

These are:

(1) the felt inadequacy of ordinary members, leading to limited participation and apathy;

(2) the experience of leadership enhancing leaders’ knowledge, expertise and indispensability;

(3) the tendency of leaders to use their power to retain rewards of office;

(4) the tendency of organizations to become co-dependent with leadership, providing resources for their continued monopoly of power;

(5) the way in which tenure of leadership establishes a customary right to office. These factors constituted an “iron law of oligarchy”.

Michels was writing about politics but it’s a transferable concept. In religious groups we call it clericalisation. Various writers have shone different lights on the process:

• Role theory suggests how clergy come to be seen and to see themselves as a caste distinct from laity. Theodore Sarbin says the roles people play and narratives they tell serve to construct their sense of identity. Thornton and Nardi write that “the role is internalised and assimilated so that in a sense the person and the role become inseparable.” (”I don’t know who I am if I’m not the Corps Officer.”)
• Thomas O’Dea talked about “mixed motivation” as key to the clericalising process. Leadership in its earliest stages is characterised by single-mindedness but later for other motivations creep in - the desire for prestige or power, need for security within a professional structure. This bureaucracy comes to impose its agenda, not always identical or even compatible with founding vision, on its religious community as whole.
• Andrew Abbott sees clericalism as an example of professionalisation, a profession defending its jurisdiction in a permanent state of turf war with the laity. Professions claim sole possession and control over training, qualifications and skills required for the exercise of their role. What began as a functional role seeks to establish a claim to spiritually legitimated status.
• David Horrell says that clericalisation can be seen as struggle for power, associated with social conservatism, even in the early church. The “household code” material in the Pastoral Epistles and other sub-apostolic writings reveals an early shift from itinerant to local leadership. This legitimated the role of local male leadership in the house church structure. There’s a quantum leap from “the church at Chloe’s place” to “a bishop must be the husband of one wife”.
• Richard Schoenherr says that all religions have two opposite things going on. One derives from need for authoritative structures to safeguard the original vision, and leads to elaboration of priestly hierarchies. The other emphasises the individual’s personal relationship God so that mediating role of structures is questioned. We can see both those tendencies in the Army and the tension between them casts a helpful light on our history.

In sum: new movements tend to be egalitarian because most adherents are likely to be involved in the mission. As the movement matures and enters its second and third generations, there are usually more nominal members and fewer activists, whose energies are increasingly committed to maintenance and preservation of structures as well as, or even rather than, mission. Clericalisation is a by-product of institutionalisation; organisations clericalise as they institutionalise. The life-cycles of organisations follow a wave-like swell from movement to monument. They also tend to run out of puff, plateau, and decline - they may or may not recover. Often, with onset of decline, some renewal movement strikes out upon a new trajectory of growth before eventually repeating the same pattern.

The early church was egalitarian. It had leaders but no priests. As it institutionalised over its first few centuries, it accommodated to traditional religious expectations, to hierarchical society and the Roman state. Eventually the hierarchical papacy replaced the hierarchical empire. It took on characteristics incompatible with its founding vision of free and equal citizens in the Kingdom of Heaven (like the old Israel’s nation of kings and priests). That vision nevertheless remained, in David Martin’s terms, “a store of explosive materials capable of fissionable contact with social fragmentation” so that “schism is inevitable and rooted in the nature of Christianity itself as well as in the nature of society.” Thus renewal in the Church often coincides with ferment or major disruption in society as whole, or dissatisfaction of marginalised groups. (Both the Christian Mission and the 614 movement started in the slums.) In the Catholic Church, some renewal movements became “orders” while others remained on the heretical fringes. In Protestantism, itself such a movement in origin, sectarian groups have flourished.

Nearly all sectarian movements from and including the early church on - monasticism, the mendicant orders of friars, the Waldensians, the reformation churches and sects, the Methodists, the Pentecostals, have begun as “lay” movements, acknowledging little distinction of status between leaders and led, and nearly all have ended up controlled by priestly hierarchies, whether so called or not. The more institutionalised the body becomes, the greater degree of clericalisation. Thus the waves of renewal are in their turn absorbed and new orthodoxies and hegemonies become established.

Bryan Wilson sums up:

What does appear is that the dissenting movements of Protestantism, which were lay movements, or movements which gave greater place to laymen than the traditional churches had ever conceded, pass, over the course of time, under the control of full-time religious specialists… Over time, movements which rebel against religious specialization, against clerical privilege and control, gradually come again under the control of a clerical class… Professionalism is a part of the wider social process of secular society, and so even in anti-clerical movements professionals re-emerge. Their real power, when they do re-emerge, however, is in their administrative control and the fact of their full-time involvement, and not in their liturgical functions, although these will be regarded as the activity for which their authority is legitimated.
Adherents of religions usually claim some “spiritual” rationale for their human behaviour. In the church there is a tradition that ordination indelibly and irreversibly changes a person’s essential, ontological character, just as baptism is believed to do. The second Vatican council stood in a tradition stretching back to Augustine of Hippo when it asserted that …

The common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial priesthood… differ essentially and not only in degree.
Others deny that. Emil Brunner says that …

All minister, and nowhere is to be perceived a separation or even merely a distinction between those who do and those who do not minister… There exists in the Ecclesia a universal duty and right of service, a universal readiness to serve and at the same time the greatest possible differentiation of functions.
Nevertheless, whether we hold that clergy are essentially different from lesser mortals or we claim to believe in equality, the end result is often the same. Miroslav Volf notes that even in the contemporary unstructured house church movement:

“A strongly hierarchical, informal system of paternal relations often develops between the congregation and the charismatic delegates from the ascended Christ.”

Whether in the Exclusive Brethren or the “Shepherding” movement, you know who the boss is. Having clerics does not necessarily involve clericalism. Not having clerics does not necessarily mean clericalism can be avoided. Office itself, formal or informal, inevitably confers power and power offers at least possibility of those who exercise it “tyrannising over those allotted to [their] care”. Power, like steroids taken by an athlete, may enhance performance but exact a long-term cost.

In Walter Brueggemann’s Prophetic Imagination, the alternative, prophetic community of Moses is contrasted with the “royal consciousness” of Egyptian Empire. Within 250 years of the Exodus from Egypt, the establishment of Solomon’s Empire represented the rejection of that free association of Israelites and a return to structures of oppression. In the same way, the process of institutionalisation and clericalisation in the church can be seen as a successful reconquest of the new community by the old structures of domination and power. These may in turn subverted in due course by renewed egalitarianism.

Any human society needs some form of order to avoid falling into either anarchy or tyranny. A society called into being around some founding vision requires some means of maintaining what in the church is called “apostolicity” - authenticity derived from faithfulness to a founding vision. The danger with leadership, however, is that rather than being merely a means of maintaining authenticity, it can come to identify itself as central to it, the means becoming the end. That is clericalisation.

My argument is that the Salvation Army’s own development conforms to this general outline; I invite you to look at our history through this lens.

Clericalisation and the Salvation Army.

It’s a commonplace that Booth did not intend to form a Church/sect/denomination. “From the first, I was strongly opposed to forming any separate organisation…” As late as 1950s, General Albert Orsborn still denied emphatically that Salvation Army was a “church”, preferring “a permanent mission to the unconverted”. But if Salvation Army was not a “church”, were officers “ministers”? At first no one cared; only later it became an issue.

The Salvation Army inherited Methodism’s ambiguity about ministry - its officers were “lay”, but like Wesley’s lay-preachers they increasingly adopted clerical roles and identity. The Clerical class is associated with specific functions - administration of sacraments, pastoring, preaching/teaching (magisterial office) and government. Officers did these things. In practice they became “clergy”. With the appointment of Divisional Officers from 1880, and then Territorial Commanders, the Army had a quasi-Episcopal structure as well as a quasi-military persona.

The Founders maintained an ambivalence about clericalism, as they did about being a church. Its origins and theology meant that the Army has championed the concept of priesthood of all believers and rejected clerical status. At same time it has claimed ministerial equivalency for officers.

On the one hand, William Booth wrote:

I have lived, thank God, to witness the separation between layman and cleric become more and more obscured, and to see Jesus Christ’s idea of changing in a moment ignorant fishermen into fishers of men nearer and nearer realization.

[There is]…no “exclusive order of preachers” nor ministry confined to a particular class of individuals who constitute a sacred order specially raised up and qualified… on the ground of their ancestors having been specially set apart for it, and authorised to communicate the same power to their successors, who are, they again contend, empowered to pass on some special virtues to those who listen to their teaching… I deny the existence of any order exclusively possessing the right to publish the salvation of God… I honour the Order of Preachers; I belong to it myself… but as to his possessing any particular grace because of his having gone through any form of Ordination, or any other ceremonial whatever, I think that idea is a great mistake.
And I want to say here, once and for all, that no such notion is taught in any authorised statement of Salvation Army doctrine or affirmed by any responsible officer in the organisation… As Soldiers of Christ, the same duty places us all on one level.

Not only were officers not “clergy” but soldiers in effect were. Booth in 1898 hoped that soldiers would not shirk their duty “by any talk of not being an officer.

“You cannot say you are not ordained. You were ordained when you signed Articles of War, under the blessed Flag. If not, I ordain every man, woman and child here present that has received the new life. I ordain you now. I cannot get at you to lay my hands upon you. I ordain you with the breath of my mouth. I tell you what your true business in the world is, and in the name of the living God I authorise you to go and do it. Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature!
But at the same time as such statements that Salvation Army was a lay movement, we find a growing emphasis on the distinctive role - or indeed status - of officers. Booth wrote in 1900:

Indeed, the fact is ever before us - like Priest, like People; like Captain, like Corps.

And in 1903:

More and more as I have wrestled with the [new] regulations this week, it has been borne in upon me that it is the Officer upon whom all depends. It has always been so. If Moses had not made a priesthood, there would have been no Jewish nation. It was the priesthood of the Levites which kept them alive, saved them from their inherent rottenness… and perpetuated the law which made them.

The fact is that Booth’s own views changing. St. John Ervine comments:

This was a far different note from any that he had hitherto sounded. Priests had never previously been much esteemed by him who was more ready to admire prophets than priests… The Soldier-Prophet was about to leave his command to a Lawyer-Priest. A younger William Booth would have known that this was dangerous, but Booth was old and solitary and tired, and old men want priests more than they want warriors.”

Roland Robertson attributes this change to Booth’s anticipation of a possible leadership crisis after his death.

“Further, he came to the conclusion that the priesthood of all believers, although already effectively dropped in practice, had to be attenuated as an ideal.”

Bramwell Booth wrote in 1925:

In this, we humbly but firmly claim that we are in no way inferior, either to the saints who have gone before, or - though remaining separate from them, even as one branch in the vine is separate from another - to the saints of the present. We, no less than they, are called and chosen to sanctification of the Spirit and to the inheritance of eternal life. And our officers are, equally with them, ministers in the church of God…
So, there was ambiguity over the status of officers, partly inherited from Methodist theological roots and partly because traditional church distinctions were of little interest or relevance to Salvationists. The Army, attempting to maintain a sectarian equality of believers, resisted the idea that its officers were clergy.

At same time, partly because of the autocratic temperament of Founder, it adopted a military, hierarchical structure which expedited the process of clericalisation. Conditions of officers’ service would constitute their professional milieu in way that not true of non-officer, volunteer Salvationists.

The mystique of the Call to officership, the spiritually intensive nature of officer-formation in training and sessional group bonding, the extent of personal commitment involved in the Covenant and Undertakings, the ranking system, the appointment system, the distinctive functions/roles of officers and the intensity of all-absorbing work, together with a sense of corporate identity and esprit de corps, gave officership a character which was clerical compared with that of rank and file.

Salvationists were unique; they didn’t need to dress up in anyone else’s vestments. Rather than taking historic pattern of church as model they fought against it as repugnant to their view of ministerial role of Christians in general. But they could not avoid bringing with them from their church background ways of thinking about how the church should function. Pragmatic decisions beget principles - do whatever seems best at the time and you can end up with a straightjacket of precedents. They ended up with a similar model of clergy and laity and an episcopal system of government under different names. Within a few years it was difficult in practice, leaving aside distinctions of legitimacy and apostolic provenance, to distinguish officership from clerical status in any other church. And this development coincided with the institutionalisation of the Movement.

Sociologists refer to a period of “routinisation”, during which initially radical sectarian movements accommodate to world around them, and “denominationalise”. Robertson considered that The Salvation Army had resisted this process and therefore dubbed it an “established sect”. But the Army in the western world has conformed to type in this respect. Features of this transition are:
• “Redemption and lift” (the miracle of the changing of beer into furniture, and then the gentrifying of later generations).
• A change in mindset from “mission to maintenance”.
• The softening of the Army’s opposition to “the world”.
• The Army ceased to be the all-embracing social world of Salvationists.
The end result: the Army became another “mainline” denomination, its officers were regarded, and regarded themselves, as clergy, and the soldiers thought of themselves as laity. Despite a strong tradition of soldier-participation, officers became a professional religious class.

Thomas O’Dea wrote:

there comes into existence a body of men for whom the clerical life offers not simply the “religious” satisfactions of the earlier charismatic period, but also prestige and respectability, power and influence… and satisfactions derived from the use of personal talents in teaching, leadership, etc. Moreover, the maintenance of the situation in which these rewards are forthcoming tends to become an element in the motivation of the group.

The Army inherited and carried forward the ecclesiological contradictions of Methodism (and of every other sect). It has recapitulated, in its brief life, the history of the church as a whole. This denominationalising tendency consolidated throughout the 20th century, even though the Army’s official rhetoric long remained sectarian, for example, in its distinctive language and its social conservatism. The usual pattern of such movements in their life-cycle is that a period of consolidation and reflection ensues in its second century. The Movement becomes more self-conscious; it begins to clarify and rationalise, adjusting to operating in different world from that of its origins. So there came about a debate, in two phases:
• From the 1960s, a debate over whether officership was simply a functional role or enjoyed a higher status.
• From the 1980s, a debate over “ordination”.

The same ambiguity or polarisation became apparent in this debate as we have seen in the writings of the Founders. We came down firmly on both sides of the argument. Sample some views:

Commissioner Hubert Scotney:

The distinction made today between clergy and laity does not exist in the New Testament… The terms layman and laity (in the current usage of those words) are completely out of character in a Salvation Army context… It is foreign to the entire concept of Salvationism to imagine two levels of involvement. Any distinction between officers and soldiers is one of function rather than status.

Against that, Colonel William Clark (IHQ):

a direct call from God into the ranks of Salvation Army officership, we have been given particular spiritual authority… Whatever our role …happens to be for the time being… we are primarily spiritual leaders…Our spiritual authority lies not only or chiefly in what we do, but in what we are… Our calling is to be a certain kind of person and not … to do a certain kind of job… The “ordained” ministry of the Church - to which body we belong by virtue of our calling, response, training and commissioning - is a distinctive ministry within the body of the whole people of God, different from that “general” ministry of the Church which is defined in the New Testament as “the priesthood of all believers”.

In 1978 General Arnold Brown introduced “ordain” into commissioning, eventually provoking a new round of discussion.

Captain Chick Yuill, 1985:

May I suggest that we need to re-emphasise the truth that there is no real distinction between officers and soldiers, that the difference is simply of function… If that little word ‘ordain’ has crept in because of a subconscious desire that other Christians should realise that we are as ‘important’ as the clergy of other denominations, … in the end it matters not a jot where we stand in the estimation of any who would compile a league table of ecclesiastical importance.

Against that, try Brigadier Bramwell Darbyshire (R):

In spite of all the stuff about the priesthood of all believers, ordained and commissioned officers are different from non-officer Salvationists. They are not cleverer, wiser, more loved of God than their fellows, but they are special, set apart for Jesus in a way that involves sacrifice and often great inconvenience to their families… No one is more grateful for the Army’s dedicated lay staff than this old warrior; but let’s get it right. They may be as much involved as officers, but there is for an officer a sacramental dimension and if we lose sight of this the Army is finished.
Or Lt. Colonel Evelyn Haggett: basing her argument on God’s gift of priesthood to Aaron (Numbers 18:7), she saw officership as a “gift of ordination to a sacramental life…”; she found it “awesome to be called by God to the priesthood.” Officers, she claimed, were “of the cloth” like clergy and priests. There was a whole range of views between these extremes. Some rejected a spurious status equivalent to priestly character for officership, but felt a simply functional description could not justify a separate officer role. They therefore looked for an internal, Salvation Army validation, a combination of an officer’s own personal sense of calling and the objective fact that Salvation Army officer ministry was an existing reality.

Major Cecil Waters:

We will go on looking for a definition of officership unless and until we recognise that officership exists firstly as a convenience by which we organise the Army and secondly as one function, among many, to which we feel “called of God. [It is] impossible to define a concept of officership which is plainly and clearly distinct from that of soldiership. [He concluded] (a) That it would seem that the Army needs full time workers… Most, but by no means all, these workers are officers. (b) That we believe we may be called to be such workers - and this call may refer to officership (rather than employee or envoy status). (c) That to be so called and so engaged is sufficient to sustain our work, our spirit and our identity. I believe we need look for nothing more special than this.”

So ran the debate amongst Salvationists; but there were also Official Words:

• Ordination

The first official statement on this matter was General Brown’s introduction of “ordination” in commissioning. The Chief of Staff’s 1978 letter to Territorial Commanders stated:

It is the General’s wish that a slight modification should be made to the wording of the Dedication Service during the Commissioning of cadets, in order to emphasise the fact that Salvation Army officers are ordained ministers of Christ and of His Gospel.
After the cadets have made their Affirmation of Faith, the officer conducting the Commissioning should then say: “In accepting these pledges which you each have made, I commission you as officers of The Salvation Army and ordain you as ministers of His Gospel.”

This decision did not command universal support: it was reviewed in 1988 and 1992, and in 2002 it was amended by General John Gowans to read:

The commissioning officer will say to each cadet in turn: “Cadet (name): Accepting your promises and recognising that God has called, ordained and empowered you to be a minister of Christ and of his gospel, I commission you an officer of The Salvation Army.”
Apart from the individual rather than collective commissioning of cadets, the significant change was that “ordination” was seen as something already done by God rather than in this ceremony by a representative of organisation. As you will know, the present General disagreed with this change, and has now reversed it.

• Response to the Lima Document

The 1982 World Council of Churches Faith and Order Paper 111 on Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry (Lima) was circulated amongst churches for comment. In its response, the Army identified with Lima where could; its main concern was to defend its non-sacramental stance.

On the question of how Salvation Army ministry was perceived in relation to traditional Church belief about ordination, the Army missed significant areas of difference. It was vague about meaning of language of ordination, which it had recently adopted, and confused the concept of indelible character of orders with Army’s own expectation that officers had life-long ministry. It identified with the theology of “radical reformation” but also sought to be included in the fold of “mainstream” ecclesiology by claiming to be just like everyone else but with different terminology. Or in the use of “ordination”, the same terminology.

At same time as the Army dismissing as irrelevant the theological fine print on matters of faith and order, it adopted a form of words, “ordination”, which did not belong to its own tradition. It interpreted this term in a sense unacceptable to the mainstream of tradition which held apostolic succession to be important - possibly because its own ecclesiology was not thought through.

• Community in Mission

Philip Needham’s Community in Mission, A Salvationist Ecclesiology was published 1987. Needham’s basic premise: “a Salvationist ecclesiology stands as a reminder to the Church that its mission in the world is primary, and that the life of the Church ought largely to be shaped by a basic commitment to mission.” His ecclesiology deals with ministry of Army as a whole, and only by the way with that of the officer corps in particular.
Needham clearly confined the concept of “ordination” to a “functional” role within the movement - he claimed its significance was best expressed in word “commissioning”, used of both officers and soldiers taking up specific tasks, while “ordination” was commonly used in connection with “ministries that require theological training, specialised skills, pastoral leadership and a full-time vocation the ordained ministry can only be understood as functional…”

• The work of the International Doctrine Council

The 1998 edition of the Handbook of Doctrine, Salvation Story, explains the evolution of our Movement from an agency for evangelism to a denominational church.
On Ministry, it explains that all Christians are “ministers or servants of the gospel… share in the priestly ministry… In that sense there is no separated ministry.” However:

Within that common calling, some are called by Christ to be full-time office-holders within the Church. Their calling is affirmed by the gift of the Holy Spirit, the recognition of the Christian community and their commissioning - ordination - for service. Their function is to focus the mission and ministry of the whole Church so that its members are held faithful to their calling.
They serve their fellow ministers as visionaries who point the way to mission, as pastors who minister to the priests when they are hurt or overcome, as enablers who equip others for mission, as spiritual leaders.

Like Community in Mission, Salvation Story makes clear the principle that ministry of particular persons arises out of ministry of whole Christian community, and attempts to explain and justify how this happens in practice.
The Council’s work Servants Together was prepared because of the 1995 International Council of Leaders’ recommendation that:

The roles of officers and soldiers be defined and a theology of “the priesthood of all believers” be developed to encourage greater involvement in ministry (for example, spiritual leadership, leadership in general), worship, service and evangelism.

This book clearly stated that there is no distinction in status between soldiers and officers, although it then struggled to establish what is unique about the officer role, admitting that a variety of opinion is held on the subject. As an official response to the debate of the previous forty years, Servants Together entrenched the Army’s traditional ambiguity about its “separated ministry” - although the 2008 edition, with its inclusion of the new Minute on Commissioning amongst other things, takes us in a clericalising direction.
Nevertheless, we may still sum up the progression after the introduction of ordination in 1978 at least to Servants Together in 2002, by saying that in 1970s the pendulum had swung far in direction of status for officers, while subsequent works tried to correct the imbalance and restore a functional view - while retaining Movement’s traditional ambiguity about question.

• There are officers who may not be officers.

We have Salvationists who perform “officer” functions without officer status. These may include non-commissioned and warranted ranks - Envoys, Auxiliary Captains, Lieutenants between 2001 and 2008 - and also soldiers. The ambiguity about the status of officers - whether they are clerical or lay - has implications for them too. (Also, surprisingly, women officers, particularly married women. I have three chapters on women in my book: I cannot even begin to comment in the space of this lecture!) To have people doing identical work, under similar conditions, but accorded differing status and privileges is unfair and illogical and runs counter to the principle that officership is simply functional. It means that people are being treated differently because of what they are rather than what they do. That implies a priesthood of those essentially different.

The late twentieth century saw more soldiers in ministry roles - as youth workers, pastoral workers, corps leaders, social workers and administrators - particularly in western countries with declining officer strength. Debate about the respective roles and status of officers and soldiers has paralleled similar controversy in the Roman Catholic church. The difference between Church and Salvation Army lies in fact that Army does not in theory reserve spiritual ministry and leadership roles for sacerdotal class. The similarity is that in practice, because of its hierarchical structure, the Army behaves in the same way as Church, so change in this area occasions similar tensions.
Against the tendency for officers to become clergy and soldiers to think of themselves as laity, there has always been counter-movement, a consistent tradition of soldier initiative and participation in Army’s work. There is always some tension between the belief that soldiers are the front line of evangelism, in real “full-time service”, to be resourced by officers rather than used; and the assumption that soldiers are “cannon-fodder”, whose lives are co-extensive with Army programmes. The second approach is always a danger in a clericalising context.

In the “Western world” Army, the second half of twentieth century saw attempts to introduce consultative machinery on both the local level, with Corps Councils, and the territorial level, with a variety of “laymen’s advisory” groups. Three weaknesses may be discerned in attempts to spread the ownership of the Army.
1. Firstly, as Peter Price has observed of Catholic Church: “The consultative structures of the Church are still only ‘recommended’ and ‘advisory’. They do not necessarily facilitate Lay participation in real decision-making. Such participation as well as its authority are dependent on the individual Bishop or Parish Priest, and may be dismantled at will.”
2. Secondly, the default, officer-centred position into which organisation readily lapses, attributing omnicompetence to commissioned rank, means that too often business decisions are made by commercial amateurs, with commensurate loss of credibility in eyes of soldiers.
3. Thirdly, conversely, there is a danger that people see the professional business of the church as the “real” work of Christians, instead of their being light and salt in the world. This also “clericalises” the “laity”.

• The International Commission on Officership

This was set up by General Rader on the recommendation of the 1998 International Conference of Leaders “to review all aspects of the concept of officership in the light of the contemporary situation and its challenges, with a view to introducing a greater measure of flexibility” into officer service.

Concerning the status of officership, the Commission was asked to do two incompatible things: to strengthen ideal of life-time service and to explore possibilities of short-term service. The first would shore up the “clerical” assumptions behind officership; the second would permit a greater degree of flexibility based on an “all-lay” ethos. The Commission offered both alternatives. General Gowans tried to have it both ways but ended up perpetuating the two-tier model, with two groups performing the same ministry roles but only one having the status of officership. Lieutenants were not officers. (Of course, “As you were!” is now the Order of the Day.)

• The Salvation Army had three options regarding clerical status

1. There are priests/clerics/people in orders in Church, with status distinct from laity, but we do not have them in Salvation Army.

That would mean the Army’s acceptance of an “all lay” status for soldiers and officers and a second class clergy status for officers. The Army would be something like an “order” rather than a stand-alone entity like a “church” or “denomination”.

2. There are priests/clerics/people in orders in Church, and we do have them as officers in Salvation Army.

This is what General Brown claimed by adopting “ordination”, and assuming that the Army’s commissioning was always equivalent to ordination. It endorsed officially what Salvationists already assumed. Confusion on this issue within the Army is partly the result of the ambiguity about church order inherited from Methodism, and partly the desire to be accepted by other Christian denominations as one of them. But that’s a position difficult to hold without sliding into clericalism.

3. There are no priests/clerics/orders in Church, and Salvation Army does not aspire to any. All Christians are “lay”, all belong to the people of God, without distinction of status.

This was Booth’s theoretical position; his theology required it. However, the Army’s ecclesiology was shaped instead by his autocratic temperament, the need for organisation, the twin demons of militarism and bureaucracy, the susceptibility of human nature to pride and ambition, and historically conditioned expectations. So the Salvation Army became “clericalised”. The difficulty lies in the tension between the hierarchical institutional structure and the “Priesthood of all Believers” ethos inherited from our radical Protestant antecedents.

• Why is clericalisation a problem?

Clericalisation has had two related adverse effects on the Church - and on the Salvation Army.
1. Clericalism fosters a spirit incompatible with “servanthood” Jesus modelled and taught; it undermines the kind of community Jesus calls together.
2. By concentrating power and influence in the hands of minority, clericalisation disempowers majority of members of Church. It can therefore diminish the Church’s effectiveness in mission.
Of the first adverse effect, you could supply your own examples, but if it’s any help, Bramwell Booth was aware of the danger long back. In 1894 he was complaining that “the D.O.’s [Divisional Officers] are often much more separate from their F.O.’s than they ought to be. Class and caste grows with the growth of the military idea. Needs watching.” Thirty years later he was still anxious about Divisional and Territorial leaders in that “they are open to special dangers in that they rise and grow powerful and sink into a kind of opulence…” (Unhappily, Captains are just as prone to this as Colonels.) William Booth himself, addressing staff officers in Conference in 1907, spoke of the difficulties some officers had with promotion - “because their promotion is not as rapid as they think it should be, or as they think the promotion of other officers is… That is sometimes baldly styled ambition, and when that ambition is based on selfishness it is a very ruinous quality.”

General Albert Orsborn acknowledged to the 1949 Commissioners’ Conference that

dissatisfaction and decline… is blamed on our system of ranks, promotions, positions and differing salaries and retirements… that it has created envy and kindred evils and developed sycophancy, ingratiation, “wire-pulling”, favouritism, etc… It is a sad reflection that we are in character, in spirituality, unable to meet the strain of our own system.
All of which is to say that it is in the nature of systems to get in the way of the reason they exist. If the doctrine of holiness is not lived as well as talked about, human nature will take its course, and a system which actually encourages it to do so requires extra vigilance.

And the second adverse effect, the disempowerment of the many by the exaltation of the few? The American Nazarene sociologist Kenneth E. Crow sums up: “Loyalty declines when ability to influence decision and policies declines. When institutionalization results in top-down management, one of the consequences is member apathy and withdrawal.” I do offer some statistical support for this proposition in my book, but here it may be simpler to quote the words of Sir Christopher Wren’s memorial in St Paul’s cathedral: “If you would see his monument, look about you.” That is, what have our Territorial statistics been telling us?

It would be difficult to say whether clericalisation had led to a loss of zeal, or loss of zeal had been compensated for by a growing preoccupation with status, or whether each process fed the other. There is a paradox here: the military system, quite apart from the fact that it fitted Booth’s autocratic temperament, was designed for rapid response, and is still officially justified in those terms. The Army’s first period of rapid growth followed its introduction. It caught the imagination for a time. However the burgeoning of hierarchical and bureaucratic attitudes came to exert a counter-influence. The reason for success contained the seeds of failure. The longer-term effects of autocracy and “sectarian totalitarianism” were to lose the loyalty of many of those hitherto enthusiastic, and to deter subsequent generations, more habituated to free thought and democracy, from joining.

Clearly I’m talking about what we may loosely call the “Western” Army. In Africa and India the Army is both expanding rapidly and also extremely rank-conscious! The cultures are different. I do not believe that in our culture, our salvation lies in the hair of the dog that bit us. You may conclude that this may all be true in a theoretical way but have no real importance? Unfortunately clericalism is to clergy as water to fish. It’s so pervasive we don’t recognise it, but as a soldier working on THQ said to me, “It’s in our faces all the time!”

What, if anything, can be done?

If clericalisation is a bad thing in our culture, how may its ill-effects be moderated?

Leadership is indispensable to the effectiveness of any movement; it’s a given. Structure is necessary; it will happen anyway, and it needs continuity, accountability and legitimacy to mitigate the effects of unrestrained personal power. But if institutionalisation is inevitable, the prophetic critique, the Reformation’s ecclesia semper reformanda (the church always reforming itself), is equally necessary. There are two ways the problem can be approached: one is structural, the other attitudinal.
The 2002 edition of Servants Together made the following suggestions for structural change:

What actions does Army administration need to take in order to facilitate servant leadership? Here are some of the important ones:
• Develop non-career-oriented leadership models.
• Dismantle as many forms of officer elitism as possible.
• Continue to find ways to expand participatory decision-making.

I wonder why these have been omitted from the 2008 edition?

Personally, I wish that John Gowans had bitten the bullet offered by the Commission on Officership and abolished the two-tier system. It would have mitigated an injustice and encouraged the variety of options of vocational service available. I would have all leaders in full-time paid employment called officers; the soldiers’ covenant would suffice for all. Appointments could be by application like any other job and be held under employment contract rather than the anomalous “employed by God” fiction we cling to - a relic from a Christendom we no longer inhabit. I would drop this claim to ordination and forget about whether or not we’re as important as anyone else. Who gives a toss anyway? We already had the respect of anyone worth consulting without having to play clergy to get it.

I believe structural change is essential but none of us is in a position to make it, and you know it’s not going to happen. In fact the whole paragraph quoted has been deleted from the new edition of Servants Together. Perhaps none of the changes suggested might have made any difference anyway. That leaves our attitudes. The 2002 text of Servants Together made one other suggestion, also now deleted in the new edition:

• Teach leaders to be servants by modelling it.

The mantra today is, “Servant Leadership”. Too often, that’s an oxymoron. Servant is as servant does. This is the only suggestion most of us can aspire to implement, but it is also the most important: to model servant-hood. And where opportunity affords, to name and challenge its antithesis, its shadow, which is the abuse of power.

To that I can only add four texts that I would commend to all of us to bind on our foreheads and get daily on our knees until they become part of our DNA:

• “That is the way the rulers of the nations act - Don’t be like them!” (Matthew 20:25)
• “Wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example: you are to do as I have done for you.” (John 13:14)
• “The friend of the bridegroom rejoices at the bridegroom’s voice… He must increase and I must decrease.” (John 3:29) (”It’s not all about me!”)
• “Be nice to people on your way up - you may meet them again on your way back down.”
(Lt Colonel Lawrence Weggery)

(The above was presented originally as The Booth College Association Lecture for 25 September 2008)

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