20 May 2023

High Council: It's not a competition

Commissioner Jane Paone

Photo shows someone putting a piece of paper into a ballot box

Commissioner Jane Paone encourages Salvationists to pray for the 2023 High Council.

By praying for all who will participate in the 2023 High Council, many Salvationists have – in a certain sense – already been active participants and will be waiting with anticipation to find out who the new General will be.

Why should the election of a new General matter to each of us? Simply because an ‘army’ cannot lead itself! Someone has to give clear direction. The General is our spiritual leader. Thankfully, the General is not alone: they will have great support and timely advice from the Chief of the Staff, the General’s Council and Consultative Council and a team at International Headquarters. The General will listen to advice and stay in touch with what is happening in the world and especially how The Salvation Army responds to those situations and challenges – at a local, divisional, territorial and international level.

There is a connection: we are all part of the whole Salvation Army, united to serve and love in Christ’s name, part of his body here on Earth. The General is in touch with how Salvationists are carrying out their common mission where God has placed them. We need to be praying not only for the General, but also for our Salvationist brothers and sisters everywhere who represent the living Christ and the Army in many different languages and cultures, often in challenging settings.

I was privileged to attend the 2013 and 2018 High Councils and perhaps what struck me most was the insistence on waiting on the Lord and hearing his voice. The pace is unhurried, although it is clear that there is ‘work’ to be done, as this is a sacred task. The whole atmosphere is special, no doubt, because delegates have prepared themselves for this spiritual atmosphere and are aware of the prayer support of others.

Those nominated to stand as General will need the courage of Daniel, the patience of Job and the wisdom of Solomon! Some factors to be considered in this fractured world are family life, loneliness - highlighted by the Covid-19 pandemic - migration, climate change, polarisation in attitudes and behaviour... The list seems endless!

In contrast to recent political elections, the High Council is not a competition. The attitude desired is one of humility, not of self-promotion. We are called to have ‘the same mindset as Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 2:5). There are no heated debates. I have personally witnessed some tender moments of forgiveness and prayer, if there have been hurts that need to be healed. The unity that came among us led to the final document, which is a legal requirement, being signed by every member. However, much more than a legal process, this is a process of spiritual discernment.

It is not always easy to calm down – as leaders we are all used to getting things done. Yet, in quiet waiting upon the Lord and gentle conversations, with one another – as well as plenty of laughter and beautiful fellowship during meal times – a consensus is reached.

Reflect and respond

  • Read the lyrics to 'Mid All the Traffic of the Ways, song 777 in the songbook, and reflect on the words ‘more grace is wrought in quietness than any is aware’.
  • Read Numbers 14:24. Pray that, in this significant time between Ascension and Pentecost, the Holy Spirit may come upon the waiting host and discern someone who is motivated by a ‘different spirit’, who can communicate and be an inspiration of that enthusiasm, courage and love for the Lord to the whole Salvation Army.

Written by

Photo of Jane Paone.

Commissioner Jane Paone

Secretary for International Ecumenical Relations, IHQ

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The 2023 High Council will be held at Sunbury Court Conference Centre, commencing formally on 18 May 2023.

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