Sunday 3 September 2023 was bright and sunny for the official public welcome to General Lyndon Buckingham and Commissioner Bronwyn Buckingham (World President of Women’s Ministries) at the Salvation Army’s Regent Hall on Oxford Street, London.
A musical prelude including the International Staff Band (ISB) and International Staff Songsters (ISS) ministered to the congregation as they arrived at this historic and spiritual event. Colonel Peter Forrest (Chief Secretary, International Headquarters (IHQ)) greeted everyone and invited worshippers to welcome the new international leaders into the hall. As the ISB played the march ‘Wellingtonian’ the congregation clapped and flag-bearer Captain Heidie Bradbury guided the leaders to their seats.
The Chief of the Staff, Commissioner Edward Hill, said, ‘Thank you very much for your warm welcome and welcome to those joining us online from around the world. Welcome to our new international leaders, General Lyndon and Commissioner Bronwyn Buckingham. We have great admiration and respect for you. General and Commissioner, we are fully supportive of your ministry. We have a very positive vision of The Salvation Army of the future. The General was not elected, nor was I appointed, to efficiently manage the demise of the spiritual ministry of The Salvation Army. No, our vision is for a growing Salvation Army … and not just in certain places around the globe, but in every zone … We ask: will you partner with us?’
The Chief continued: ‘We rejoice today as we welcome the 22nd General of The Salvation Army. These are people of integrity. We thank you for their faithful service. Lord, the world around us is in turmoil. We need you today more than ever. We pray that you will be with our world leaders and that you guard their hearts and minds, and fill them each day with an abundance of your wisdom. May your blessings be upon them … today and for evermore.’
As the first General from New Zealand, General Lyndon Buckingham gave his initial greeting to the global Army world in Māori and then English. He confessed to feeling a little overwhelmed. He said, ‘I do want to welcome our commissioners “Dusty” and Shelley Hill. These are great people.’ He welcomed his family and explained that in being motivated by whatever we do, we should do it with all of our hearts to the Lord. He said, ‘You can be certain that we will serve with all we have for the glory of God and his Kingdom. God bless you.’
The ISS then sang ‘On the Rock’, followed by a Scripture reading by Niamh Standley from Regent Hall Corps and a short film produced by the International Children and Youth Advisory Group. Commissioner Edward Hill recognised the wisdom of the film and acknowledged that the young people in it may be the future of The Salvation Army.
Colonel Hary Haran (a member of the General’s Consultative Council) speaking for The Salvation Army around the world, said, ‘On behalf of this one big family, I greet you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. This moment has been much awaited. I humbly remind you that it is God who has placed you in this role. Now it is required that those that have been given the trust must prove faithful. Know that the Army regards you as servants of Christ. Know that we love and trust you. You are faithful. On behalf of our international movement, we recognise you as our international leaders. General, a divided house will not stand – unite us. Shepherd us. Minister to us with your vision and lead us from the front.’
The Chief of the Staff then recognised the musical leadership of the day and invited the congregation to sing ‘Praise to the Lord, the Almighty’.
Commissioner Bronwyn Buckingham, the new World President of Women’s Ministries, addressed the meeting. She said, ‘Hallelujah! It’s good to be in God’s house this afternoon. Praise to the Lord, let all that is in me adore him.’ Recognising the vital part that young people have to play in the future of the movement, she said, ‘I believe we have a generation rising up to take their place in this Army and I want to be amongst their loudest supportive cheerleaders! My prayer today is that we allow the Holy Spirit to work within us to do and be what pleases him, all for God’s glory. God bless you.’
There followed the ISB’s quiet rendition of ‘I know thou art mine’, before Commissioner Norman Howe said, ‘This is the Lord’s doing and it is marvellous in our eyes. It is not for me to recognise this leadership. That is the function of the Spirit. My message for General Lyndon Buckingham is simple - please keep the Christian mission at the heart of The Salvation Army.’
Captain Hana Seddon and Major Campbell Roberts, Nan Patea and her son Hohepa then gave a Māori blessing as the General and Commissioner Bronwyn were lovingly wrapped in feathered Korowai (feathered Māori cloak) and blessed. The verses of Ephesians 4:3-6 were then sung and shared with the congregation.
General Buckingham responded to the congregation, saying, ‘You have blessed and honoured us today and we are humbled. Thank you.’ He described some of the early Army (and family) history, before saying, ‘In November of 1882, William Booth called together a “War Gathering”. During that meeting, he commissioned around 90 officers who he despatched all around the world. What motivates people to make themselves available to God and the Army?’
The General shared the things his research had shown as part of their motivation. He said, ‘They all testified to a life-transforming encounter with God that completely changed them – to be forgiven, cleansed and embraced and to understand the love God has for them. They wanted to share this with other people. This is the DNA of our movement! They had a genuine concern and care for other people; for lost, vulnerable, hurting, disadvantaged people. They demonstrated this not just by the things that they said, but by the things that they did. They had a desire to demonstrate the values of the gospel. This is our heritage! They had a deep desire to glorify God with their living. I love that! The very living of their lives would be salt and light.
‘This was their simple strategy: to know him and to make him known. To care for others and pursue the holy life. I rejoice that there are men and women all over the world today captured by these three great ideas. I celebrate it in our movement.’
He continued, ‘This surely is the time for the Body of Christ to rise up. To agree that this is what we exist for. Let’s get on with it! To this, I am absolutely 100 per cent committed – how about you? Do not underestimate how the Kingdom of God will use us. You can change the world!’
The Haka was then performed by Captain Daniel Buckingham, Captain Hana Seddon, and Nan Patera then acknowledged with warm applause.
The General said, ‘We have more resources now than we have ever had. We have people all around the world. We have people who need to see demonstrations of the love of God and, by golly, this world needs to see God-filled people. There is so much more that we could be doing. Count me in! God bless you.’
General Buckingham invited the congregation to join him and Commissioner Bronwyn at the mercy seat as the ISS and IHQ worship team sang a selection of spiritual songs. The General prayed that the Lord would keep us ‘on mission’.
Chief of the Staff Commissioner Edward Hill led the singing of ‘And can it be’ as members of the congregation clapped and waved flags. He then closed with a benediction, saying, ‘Friends, we bring our service to a close with a blessing for every person with us today. The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. Amen.’