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Leadership, Australia and gender equality

Leadership, Australia and gender equality

Leadership, Australia and gender equality

29 November 2017

Commissioners Brian and Rosalie Peddle during their visit to Sydney and Melbourne earlier this year.

By Anne Halliday

They hold the second-highest officer roles in the global Salvation Army. As Chief of the Staff and World Secretary for Women’s ministries, respectively, Commissioners Brian and Rosalie Peddle are charged with leading the global mission of the movement. During a recent visit to Australia, they took time to speak with Others.

Others: You have been officers for 40 years! What appointments have been most formative in that journey?

Brian Peddle: We were officers for 13 years serving at the training college and in youth ministry before we were appointed to corps work, which was unusual at that time. Having come to corps ministry a bit later we found ourselves in significant corps where we settled our framework and philosophy of ministry. We felt like we were jumping into the deep end and doing a lot of learning and being stretched. As we look back we see God’s hand and we give thanks, that every one of our appointments between then and now put us into learning curves way beyond our comfort levels. Becoming Chief Secretary in the UK is another one of those formative appointments. We had no cabinet experience, no leadership experience at that level. We recall a sense of feeling inadequate but also discovered what it means to be embraced by a territory and yes, given permission to lead while being fully supported.

Rosalie Peddle: Yes, all of our appointments have been a shock and unanticipated. We have never looked beyond the current assignment and have never wanted to leave or experienced the sense we were finished. Engaging in leadership at divisional headquarters and territorial headquarters level has pushed me far beyond my comfort zone, resulting in developing my capabilities and capacities to heights far beyond anything I could have imagined possible.

Others: What moments have been spiritually formative for you as leaders?

BP: The way I think about it, ours is a covenant relationship with God and we play that out through the Army and officership. Through the years, at different points we’ve added dimensions to that covenant through surrender as a couple in leadership together and later our daughters became a part of that surrender as they shared and participated in our ministry. We do recall vividly covenant moments that involved trust where we could not see the future, bringing with it a continued need to lean heavily upon God. I’ll be honest with you; we did not want to leave corps ministry, especially having waited a while to be a part of that dynamic experience, to help in administering the Army. We were at a symposium and at the end they put a covenant card in front of me and we were asked to add what it was that God was asking of us. It was obvious what I had to surrender. Our preferences needed to become second place to what the Army needed from us and by God’s design what he needed. My best gift to the General and the Army today is that I can keep a dozen things in the air at a time and it doesn’t bother me. I knew then I could do that, but I wanted to do that as a corps officer. These were significant moments in the journey.

RP: I think for me, it was the conscious awareness throughout my life that I needed to constantly cultivate a daily, deep spiritual relationship with God in order to be fully engaged in that which he had called me to do. It has been my anchor and stronghold. Everyone comes at this differently but you’ve got to find what works for you to create that time where you let the Word and God speak into your life so that you experience growth and transformation. I celebrate significant God moments, which have been life-changing encounters.

Others: What kind of leadership do we need to be developing to serve the future mission of The Salvation Army?

BP: The biggest asset the Army has is its officers and their availability – keeping themselves fresh and “appointable”. We need people who are able to take any appointment to the next level. If we are talking about characteristics of emerging leaders, what comes to mind for me are people who are emotionally mature, self- aware, intuitive, people with unquestionable integrity, people who are inspirational – and it’s not just inspiring people with a sermon but with life lived in the real world. Something that is not an option is a passion for the mission and the extension of God’s Kingdom here on earth.

RP: To add to that, my vision is to develop creative and relevant ways to empower women leaders to be fit for mission and leadership for The Salvation Army of the future. Within our movement we have many incredible, gifted women leaders who will rise up to take their place and lead in all levels of Salvation Army mission and ministry. With God’s help, wisdom and courage I want to have influence and impact to help make this happen. This will take me and others into deeper waters of change and forward thinking.

BP: I’m not a futurist but I am bold enough to say traditional frameworks around leadership will shift. “Command and control” structures will not survive. Personal powers will fall away. Male prominence has got to bow down. The officer-lay worker friction has to get sorted and all in the next decade. And those that can’t survive in this new reality can’t be leaders. It’s that simple. I am not assuming that everyone is okay with that but we believe that the generations that are coming will embrace new models of leadership and governance. The General and I admit we are laying foundation stones. But they have to be stones that those following us can climb onto because we won’t get there in our term. We are committed to doing what we can in our time, and doing that courageously. We are trying to staff the international Army with a set of disciplines that are probably well beyond any human capacity, so we build teams. I think what’s critical is that territories and command leaders are doing the same thing. International Headquarters (IHQ) doesn’t have an officer contingency outside of the territories. So if the territories aren’t doing a good job with leadership identification, development and in capacity building there will be future challenges and our next few Generals will experience challenges in providing needed leaders.

Others: Can you imagine what the Army would look like in another decade?

BP: What I can see is an Army that is not confined in any way to a building, but is “fit for purpose” – that has future-proofed itself by God’s grace. I see an Army that is coming to grips with its core values – very in touch with why we were raised up in the beginning, comfortable in our own skin, quite willing to accept we have a DNA in the body of Christ that doesn’t give us an option when it comes to the poor and marginalised, and that we don’t see that as a problem but an opportunity.

RP: These are exciting days to be in leadership. While we cannot see the future we actually have the opportunity, with the wisdom of God, to help shape
the future. The Whole World Mobilising initiative has been a catalyst in helping the Army come to grips with the need to return to what God intended for us from the very beginning: to be about the mission of Christ in a broken, helpless world in need of a Saviour. It is great to see the Army across the globe moving out of their barracks and into the streets of villages, communities and cities sharing the message of hope and transformation. I see a vibrant, mission-focused, God-
blessed Salvation Army that not only reflects Jesus but powerfully impacts the world with Calvary’s love.

Others: What is the significance of Australia becoming one territory for the global Army?

BP: Any country needs to be able to have one voice and one mission because it is one Army, and this particularly so in Australia. What knocks me over is how the two territories (Australia Eastern and Australia Southern) have become so different in their structures and programs. We were convinced of the Australia One project because it was a better plan for Australia.I like your tag line “1+1=new” and the vision of winning Australia for God, one Australian at a time. When that proposal came to IHQ the message was: we can be stronger together, positioned to serve Australians better, we can create efficiencies that will save money and create a war chest that will serve Australians well into the future. And we are still banking on that. You have your own flavour of Army – you are entrepreneurial: driving lessons for refugees, Salvos Funerals, Salvos Legal. Other people from around the world are catching wind of that and wondering if they can do it too.

Others: How is the Gender Equity Plan that Australia has put in motion regarded internationally?

BP: Gender equity is an issue we can’t celebrate to the level we want to celebrate it. In Australia you are targeting the equity that is applied to officers who are still in time to be prepared for senior leadership, witha goal to reflect this across the leadership spectrum. The reality is that we have leaders at present who were not afforded that opportunity. What we are dealing with is the consequences of that inequity. We can’t adjust any quicker than we are and so it will take a generation or two to right that. It will take that long but it will be easier with the generations to come. I think the appointment of Julie Campbell as Gender Equity Advocate creates an accountability to turn the tide here in Australia. There are other territories doing this, yes, but perhaps not quite as demonstratively. Australia has done this “out loud” and we applaud that.

RP: Appointing gifted men and women into significant roles has to be an intentional focus for the international Salvation Army as we move into the future. It is about more than gender and marital status. It has to be about putting the person who is best qualified and gifted for the role and who will deliver the desired outcomes. It is not an easy task internationally and will be challenging. We need to be sensitive to cultures, personal agendas, keeping marriages safe and strong and tooling up potential leaders. If our goal for the future is a strong and vibrant Army then we need strong, vibrant and inspirational leaders.

BP: One of the balances that we do have to hold is that we could end up treating the traditional roles that women have held in the Army as substandard. The reality is that in many parts of the world, leading women’s ministry
is the bread and butter of the Army’s work and the backbone of The Salvation Army. We still need competent officers leading women’s ministry as much as we need them in other roles.

RP: IHQ watches this issue and continues to be concerned that across the Army world globally, we still have an imbalance of power. If Australia can be helpful in naming this and coming up with strategic activities to bring change, we will welcome it. We should be embarrassed that we are still having these conversations. But the issues are deep. Our dialogue with each other on this, across cultures, with couples and at all levels is critical.

Others: What is the gender equity landscape like in the non-Western territories?

BP:The reality is you can’t start in the same place. Are we pressing those issues? Yes, we are. But we can’t always get up on a platform and name and shame because the dialogue is very different in other places. We can’t just take what Australia is doing and put it in every territory. It wouldn’t be understood. But we are making sure the women in some of our territories have what they need to experience the fullness of their officership. It’s small steps. And when it comes to choosing people to represent the various parts of the Army at IHQ , the women, along with the men, are given that opportunity. You’ve got to do what you can do, to bring the change you can where you are and let that seed flourish around the world.

RP:There are healthy conversations taking place in many of these non-Western countries regarding this very topic. Our present-day international leaders are empowering and encouraging local leadership to find ways to achieve gender equity so that women and men are treated equally. It would not be wise for us to lack cultural sensitivity and we need to understand that every country has to deal with the laws and rules of the country. There are many things we can do within the context of The Salvation Armyin these territories that would help women feel valued, important, loved and respected. 


  1. Excellent interview and very encouraging.

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