General Brian Peddle welcomed the international leadership of the Salvation Army to an historic, hybrid conference of leaders in Vancouver, Canada at his keynote opening speech on Saturday 24 September 2022.
Speaking with passion and conviction he shared his faith in the Almighty and the future saying, ‘My heart is bursting with eternal hope, whose foundation is deeply rooted in the adequate supply of God‘s grace and his provision. My expectations for these days have been surrendered to the “immeasurably more” God and I have prayed, “Thy will be done”. My confidence is at an unmeasurable height because I believe we are in his hands. My days in leading and being a part of this Army remain indescribable, my faith in the Almighty drives me to shout into our unknown future that, with you, I can be certain… The best is yet to come!’
Officers attending in person and online paid rapt attention in a room silent save for the low murmuring of translators working quietly in the background. In an animated address, the General shared his grief at missing colleagues unable to attend in person due to international travel restrictions. He said, ‘I pray against further disconnectedness in the world, and I hope for better days. We are striving for full participation by all our leaders through the creative use of technology.’
Boldly confronting the work of the devil, the General spoke of the division in today‘s world. He described not only an obvious ‘roaring lion’ whose work is easily identified, but also a scheming, stealthy adversary, who seeks to destroy all that Salvationists hold dear. Rejecting this outright he said, ‘The worldview suggests we are intolerant, no longer on the right side of history, antiquated in our beliefs and that the moral law of the gospel is no longer acceptable. Legislators are often not Christian, know little of the Bible and care less for its teaching. The result is that in years to come we will find ourselves often at odds with the world. I hear in my heart the words of Joshua: “Be strong and courageous.” If there was ever a time for Booth‘s vision of a worldwide One Army to flourish… it is now.’
The General urged leaders to reject the devil‘s ambition that we become sentimental about our spirituality and instead encouraged them to become ‘gracefully zealous, even militant.’ He said, ‘Such mediocrity would be sinful and would be all-pleasing to the one seeking our demise. The Church has stood as a beacon of light and even in the worst of times, the mission of God has marched forward and thousands have found faith. Any compromise at this point seems ludicrous. Faithful we must be.’
Courageously addressing the challenging issue of human sexuality and asking leadership to ‘guide conversations to help our people serve without discrimination’, the General stated that Salvation Army Doctrine is structured to give spiritual direction and is not designed to embrace all the dimensions of human sexuality and gender identity. He said, ‘I confirm our position as unchanged and not under review. I note this is little comfort to those who disagree and to some who have found little grace at the Army when they have needed it most. Our ambivalence, judgements and condemnation have not pointed anyone to Jesus. It cannot be about an endorsement of, but rather a willingness to “walk with”.’
He continued, ‘We must fully explore and experience what it means to become a “whosoever” Army, an Army of Salvation. If we leave our Doctrine out of the conversation and instead, by grace, let Christ be exposed as the Saviour of the world, maybe some of the hurt and pain will begin to subside, maybe the controversy over “for or against” becomes less of a focus, and maybe we will fully understand what it means to be created in his image.’
Turning to the work of the week ahead, the General focused his attention on the critical issue of ensuring that The Salvation Army of the future is fit for purpose. He stressed that intentionally dedicating time in the programme to identity (who we are and what we do), people (with pastoral oversight, stewardship and growth) and the priority of being ‘one Army; a whosoever Army’, should help leadership to focus on these vital elements whilst ensuring The Salvation Army remains positioned as ‘a people of faith, engaged in mission with no hindrance to the flow of God‘s blessing’.
Paying tribute to the humanitarian work of this evangelical Christian movement, the General recognised the significant contribution made by The Salvation Army‘s provision of such essentials as healthcare, education and shelter. More than this, he stressed the global need for this astonishing international Christian movement with its biblical messages and a ministry motivated by the love of God. He passionately reminded us all that the global mission of The Salvation Army is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in his name without prejudice or discrimination. He said, ‘We are committing ourselves and his Army into the capable hands of our immeasurably more God, our limitless God. Amen.’