11 Jul | 2012
The 127 delegates attending the International Conference of Leaders (ICL) 2012 in Toronto, Canada, commenced the fourth day with the second in a series of early morning group Bible studies centred around what it means to be 'One Army'.
The study, which sought to identify elements integral to the Army's teaching, explored Scripture verses associated with the 'truth', unfolding from an understanding that Jesus is 'full of truth' (John 1:14) to the joy that is found by those walking in truth (3 John 3,4).
As part of his paper following the Bible study, Commissioner Robert Street (International Secretary for Europe) introduced a draft booklet, One Army, comprising the first unit of a proposed international curriculum of teaching material for use at corps and centres around the world. In parallel with this he demonstrated a web-based resource, complete with film clips and other links, to supplement and expand the printed booklet. The material has been prepared in response to the General's intention that a teaching programme be instituted which will unite the Army in its understanding of itself and its mission.
The commissioner's presentation outlined the proposed development of the teaching into a 10-unit programme, covering a number of themes associated with being an 'Army united'. Each unit will include information from a country revealing how culture and context in that setting impacts upon the Army's mission. The cultural material is intended to provoke discussion and evaluation in comparative situations. Within the booklet is a parallel volume containing teaching material specifically aimed at young people.
The ensuing discussion affirmed the purpose and intention of the resource, while acknowledging logistical constraints of translation and accessibility – for instance, in parts of the world without access to the Internet or where there are low levels of literacy.
The latter part of the day's business comprised an evaluation of the present state of work among children and youth – a key element within the General's call that the Army should be united in mission – by Commissioner Clive Adams (Territorial Commander, Norway, Iceland and The Færoes). Drawing from published material and personal research, the commissioner acknowledged that many young people in the developed world consider the Church to be outdated and irrelevant, and as such are disengaging from Christianity in significant numbers.
Nevertheless, Commissioner Adams completed his presentation by noting that the Army is equipped to respond positively to the challenges. He said that territories and commands where work among young people and the making of disciples remain mission priorities are experiencing encouraging growth.
In the subsequent discussion many of the delegates affirmed that work among young people in some places remains buoyant, with strategic and intentional policies in place to ensure that the future membership and leadership of the Army is assured. Caution was expressed that children and youth attendances should not be taken for granted or presumed, as culture and societal structures are increasingly influenced by developments in global communication.
The day's activities concluded with the leaders meeting over an evening meal and a subsequent period of prayer in the newly established mission partner* groupings. For many, this represented a new association and the later discussions explored how the partnership relationship might be further cemented during the coming months and years.
Report by Colonel Charles Swansbury
*Partners in Mission incorporates official links between Salvation Army territories and commands aimed at mutually increasing mission effectiveness. Each territory/command has more than one partner.