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05 June 2020

The leaders speak to Major David WilliamsonIN an exclusive video interview released today, General Brian Peddle and Commissioner Rosalie Peddle (World President of Women’s Ministries) speak openly and passionately about lockdown and the challenges and opportunities presented by The Salvation Army’s COVID-19 response. They also reflect on what might be the ‘next normal’ for The Salvation Army.

The interview, conducted in London by the General’s Private Secretary Major David Williamson, and filmed in a safe, socially-distanced manner, reveals how the General felt on leaving International Headquarters (IHQ) for the last time before lockdown commenced. He shares openly about the ‘air of uncertainty’ surrounding the start of lockdown, but acknowledges the blessing of donors. He holds his predecessors and current co-leaders in high esteem with regard to their fiscal management, putting The Salvation Army ‘in a position where we were months, even a year ahead on our resources of disbursement’.

The international leaders share how transitioning to an online, working-from-home model has enabled IHQ’s work in supporting The Salvation Army around the world to continue, despite the workforce being unable to come together physically. ‘For me,’ says Commissioner Rosalie, ‘I think that the one thing I really miss, truly miss is the IHQ family.’

She shares from her heart about concerns that have ‘accelerated’ during the COVID-19 pandemic: ‘Things like modern slavery, human trafficking, child safety, certainly domestic violence,’ she says, describing abuse within the home as a ‘huge concern right now’.

Reflecting on the adage that ‘the pandemic is no respecter of persons’, the General thoughtfully unpacks the ‘tremendously challenging’ reality of places in the world ‘where ventilators are hardly heard of [and] where PPE is … elusive’.

Creative responses

He praises the creativity of Salvation Army officers, soldiers, volunteers and employees in the diversity of the COVID-19 response in local communities, sharing some examples. Considering also the ways in which The Salvation Army internationally has taken worship online, the General gives ‘full credit to all those who have been courageous in the gospel’. It ‘takes courage to put yourself in front of a camera and say it’s on the Internet [where] the whole world can see me,’ he says.

‘I suspect that we have – in this moment – a greater spiritual footprint in the world than we have had up to this time in our history. And it’s because we have been able to engage through technology countless audiences who would not normally come and sit in our churches … The Salvation Army is, technically, right where it needs to be, and I’m grateful to God for his provision.’

Looking ahead to what the leaders describe as the ‘next normal’, the General considers that ‘maybe there is an opportunity here as we’ve pressed the pause button … what are we going to do now with the ministry opportunities we’ve added to our profile [during COVID-19]. And how are we going to safeguard those in the future?’

Highlighting the current atmosphere of international cooperation between governments, he asks: ‘Could we learn to work more cooperatively and more concertedly to meet a need? If we can do that with COVID-19, can we then circle back round and talk about the poverty in the world, the sheer number of children who die?’ Summing up, he repeats: ‘We can do better.’

He speaks, too, of governments which have historically ‘not been overtly friendly’ to The Salvation Army but ‘see our work, they must value our work, and they know we can mobilise’, and the opportunities presented in recent days when invited by these regimes to help serve suffering communities.

'Thank you'

Commissioner Rosalie wraps up the 35-minute interview with an impassioned and unambiguous ‘thank you’ to the international Salvation Army world. The General echoes this in his conclusion, adding a clarion challenge to Salvationists: ‘I think my sense is … that we have to be as never before – the world needs us to be as never before – an outward-facing Army. Love the gathered church, enjoy it fully. But in our benedictions, may we understand that that is the sending, that is us facing outward. If the need is there, then we face that way. If the need is here we face this way.

‘God bless the very fabric of The Salvation Army that he’s raised up!’

IHQ Communications
International Headquarters

Tags: South Pacific and East Asia, Africa, Europe, Coronavirus, Prayer, Americas and Caribbean, South Asia, The General, News