You are here: HomeFeatures › Governance Fit For Gods Purpose In The 21st Century

Governance fit for God's purpose in the 21st century

Governance fit for God's purpose in the 21st century

Governance fit for God's purpose in the 21st century

31 August 2016

By Commissioner Robert Donaldson

The current demand around the world for improved governance in profit, governmental and non-governmental organisations, as well as in Christian churches, arises out of multiple failures of individuals and groups to protect the interest of stakeholders and the integrity of institutions. 

The motivation for a review of governance in The Salvation Army is two-fold. Firstly, to develop the quality of governance, based upon theological foundations, in order to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the organisation. Secondly, to meet the required standards for continued registration of The Salvation Army as a religious and charitable organisation, with resulting rights and privileges, in 127 different legislative environments.

The Salvation Army requires a governance structure, at all levels, fit for its God-given purpose in the 21st century. The governance structure might be defined as the framework of rules and practices by which a "top policy-making group"[i] ensures accountability, fairness and transparency in an organisation’s relationship with all of its stakeholders (soldiers, officers, employees, donors, governments, communities). 

Theological principles                                                                      

Towards a Salvation Army Theology of Accountability[ii] is the internationally approved theological statement with regard to accountability and includes the following excerpts:

"God is the source and example for authority and accountability … It is God who gives to leaders in the Church their authority to lead … They are accountable first of all to him. We are accountable to God and to one another for our relationships, our actions and our stewardship of resources … Living under authority and being held to account both to The Salvation Army and where necessary to the wider world are essential responsibilities of each individual … Authority is entrusted to an individual for the purpose of the common good within the community … Authority is not about coercion or force, but about love, trust and obedience … Salvation Army leadership at all levels must be characterised by engagement, humility, transparency, fairness, influence and trust."

The International Positional Statement on Corruption condemns corruption in its entirety:

"The Salvation Army is aware of and abhors the suffering that individuals, groups and nations endure because of corrupt behaviour by people in positions of power and those entrusted with the management of public and private resources. It accepts responsibility to work towards the eradication of corruption whether individual, organisational or institutional, resulting in a more equitable environment for all concerned. The Salvation Army is committed in addition to prevent, identify and eliminate internal corruption."

The following excerpts from the "Practical Responses" section are of particular note:

  • In order to tackle corruption, action is needed both individually and collectively. The Salvation Army will work intentionally to increase transparency, accountability and good governance in its own organisation. The Salvation Army particularly charges its leaders to exemplify and encourage the highest levels of accountability and reject all forms of corruption.
  • Existing Salvation Army policies, procedures, orders and regulations must be followed to prevent corruption, bribery, cronyism and nepotism. The Salvation Army will regularly review its systems to ensure the highest possible standards are being followed.
  • The Salvation Army will promote environments which are corruption-free and based firmly on values of justice and mercy.

The International Positional Statement on the Use of Power commences as follows:

"The Salvation Army believes that power is neither good nor evil in itself. It is, rather, the purposes to which power is applied and the manner in which it is used that define its character. As a Christian church, … The Salvation Army believes that power, whether it is economic, emotional, legal, physical, political, psychological, religious or social, should always be exercised so as to promote the values of the Kingdom of God, such as love, justice and mutual respect. It should never be used for manipulation or exploitation. The Salvation Army strongly opposes any use of power that is oppressive, cruel or corrupt, or that denies human rights."

The following excerpt from the "Practical Responses" section is of particular note:

  • The Salvation Army is pledged to use its own power wisely and well in relation to all who receive its services, who belong to it, who work for it or who collaborate in its mission.

Governance guidelines

The word "governance" has its origins in the Greek verb meaning to steer. Sitting at the core of governance is the idea of defining what success means for an organisation and utilising resources, inclusive of people, money and time, to steer it towards that success. Governance encompasses the systems, processes and relationships through which an entity is directed or controlled.[iii]

The United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development states:

"Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels."

Three subclauses have particular significance to the governance of institutions, including The Salvation Army:

  • Substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all their forms
  • Develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels
  • Ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels.

The King Code of Governance Principles[iv] helpfully outlines best practice, and is endorsed by leading international organisations:

  • Fidelity to purpose: all resources, energies and activities devoted to promoting its public benefit
  • Altruism and benevolence: underlying motivation of public interest, not self-interest
  • Integrity: commitment to highest standards of integrity
  • Optimising resources: ensuring that valuable and limited resources are spent in an appropriate manner (avoiding undue risk)
  • Avoiding conflicts of interest: when a person in a position of trust makes a decision or enters into a contract from which they themselves, friends, relatives, associates, stand to benefit
  • Equality and non-discrimination: proactive steps to prevent unfair discrimination in the conduct of an organisation (e.g. race, gender or disability)
  • Democracy and empowerment: decisions should be informed by knowledge, research and a participative process, allowing for wide-ranging consultation and feedback
  • Independence and impartiality: all eligible beneficiaries must be treated equally and fairly, without special favour or prejudice

Governance principles for The Salvation Army therefore include selflessness and servant leadership, openness, respect, accountability, integrity, reason, due diligence, honesty, defined and separate roles, open debate, effective conflict resolution, trust and effective stewardship.

The Salvation Army has identified five key functions of governance which are outlined as follows: 

1.    Vision, Mission/Purpose and Strategy

Governance ensures that the vision and purpose of the organisation are clearly defined.  Simply stated, governance defines why the organisation exists and what the organisation does.

2.    Policy Approval and Compliance

Governance ensures that organisational policies are reviewed and updated regularly to ensure effectiveness and efficiency of operation, compliance with all regulatory requirements, and adherence to organisational values and principles.

 3.    Accountability

Governance ensures that actions and decisions taken are subject to oversight and justification. Accountability includes the obligation to report, explain and be answerable for consequences.

 4.    Performance Measurement

Governance ensures (1) the deployment of measurement tools that track progress against purpose and plans, (2) a culture of learning from experience, and (3) financial performance measures.

 5.    Risk Assessment and Management

Governance ensures the deployment of risk assessment and management tools, and internal controls that increase the likelihood of mission effectiveness and efficiency.

Review of Salvation Army Governance

In order to comply with current principles and values of theology, and meet best practice governance standards, the review of Salvation Army governance will be approached from two levels:

1. Existing systems and procedures that simply require review and development  

2. Systems and procedures that require substantial structural development.

Review and development of existing systems in order to meet theology and best practice governance standards will include reporting and monitoring processes, reporting and accountability to stakeholders, disciplinary processes for senior leaders, risk assessment and management, board effectiveness and training, and policy development for issues such as conflict of interest, complaints, procurement, employment and conflict resolution.

More substantial development is required in relation to the achievement of important theological and governance principles including the separation of governance and management, and an increase in the proportion of independent contributors to the ‘top policy-making group’. Whilst independence and separation can never be absolute or complete in the majority of organisations, the command and hierarchical structure of The Salvation Army, with significant authority currently vested in internal ‘command’ appointments, would seem to sit in the higher risk category. Such considerations and their outcomes could impact:

  • The current levels of authority of Salvation Army leaders in "command" appointments
  • Structure of boards and councils
  • Terms of reference for boards and councils
  • Membership of boards and councils
  • Roles and responsibilities for territorial commanders, chief secretaries, territorial presidents of women’s ministries and territorial secretaries for women’s ministries
  • Briefs of appointment for cabinet secretaries and trustees, and
  • The need for independent contributors to the "top policy-making group".


The Salvation Army requires a governance structure, at all levels, fit for its God-given purpose in the 21st century. The core of governance is the idea of defining what success means for the Army and utilising resources, inclusive of people, money and time to steer it towards that success. Theological and governance foundations establish principles that will improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the organisation as well as meet the increasing level of governance requirements for registration and operation in 127 countries. Finally, this governance review will result in us being a more focused and effective Salvation Army, preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and meeting human needs in his name without discrimination.


[i] Orders and Regulations for Territorial Commanders and Chief Secretaries, Part 1, Chapter 3, Section 2.14

[ii] See the General’s article in The Officer, January-February 2016

[iii] Institute of Directors, New Zealand (

[iv] King, 2009




No comments yet - be the first.

Leave a Comment

- Will not be published

Email me follow-up comments

Note: Your comment requires approval before being published.

Default avatarWould you like to add a personal image? Visit to get your own free gravatar, a globally-recognized avatar. Once setup, your personal image will be attached every time you comment.