Q & A with Commissioners Floyd and Tracey Tidd
Q & A with Commissioners Floyd and Tracey Tidd
28 June 2019
As they complete their appointment in Australia, Assistant Editor-in-Chief Scott Simpson sat down with the Tidds to reflect on what have been some of the most demanding yet fulfilling days of their Salvation Army officership.
Scott Simpson: I’d like to begin by looking in particular at the past six months and all that’s happened in that time. There’s been the launch of the new Australia Territory, the bedding down of that, then new appointments for both of you, just to name a few of the bigger things. Have you had a chance to reflect on all that’s happened?
Tracey Tidd: After the announcement came out that we were moving, but before the announcement about where we were being appointed to, we had a chance to take some time out and go away for two weeks. It gave us a chance to relax, debrief and chat with each other, and come to the realisation how exhausted we are. It’s been a roller coaster ride, and we only came to that awareness once we just sat and relaxed.
SS: So do you feel like you are reconciled with everything that’s been going on?
Floyd Tidd: I think there really is for us a sense that the six-year journey has been an amazing journey. And the past six months has been pretty dynamic in so many ways. I think there has been for us a growing sense that the timing is right for change to happen. The timing is right for change to happen for Australia and timing right for us to change. So having, as Tracey indicated, that pause moment when we were away for a couple of weeks, really allowed us to come to terms with what that might mean and what that looks like going forward.
SS: Six years ago you were appointed as territorial leaders to what was then the Australia Southern Territory. Six years on and how are Floyd and Tracey Tidd better equipped as Salvationists, as people? How has your time in Australia shaped you, changed you?
TT: As we reflect and look back I believe I’m not the same person I was three years ago let alone six years ago! It’s strengthened my faith that God has done amazingly more than we could ever ask or imagine. I just marvel at that. Not that I doubted it, but I just see it in this space and time that we’ve been through – the good, the bad, and the ugly. I truly believe that I’m different because I have this bolder faith to trust God and the things that I can’t see, or couldn’t see right in front of me. And I trust him fully as I move forward one day at a time.
SS: What about you, Floyd?
FT: I think we’ve been, as Tracey indicated, significantly shaped by the experiences here. There’s certainly been some challenges in the journey of six years of leadership, but there’s also been some ecstatic moments of great enthusiasm and excitement when we’ve seen things happening here. I think our hearts have been lifted, broadened in our own faith and expectation. Our hearts have also been broken through some of the journey of what this has meant, not for us but for people. And I think we have been most affected and shaped by the people of Australia.
SS: You mentioned the challenges. Your feet had hardly touched the ground in Australia and you were faced with the Royal Commission into the way some young people were treated in Salvation Army children’s homes. That must have been a trying time for you. Can you talk us through that?
FT: Yes, without question the Royal Commission was a part of a journey that we never anticipated. There was no early indication to us that we would be a part of the journey. But we weren’t long on the ground in Australia when we became aware of the reality of that and the necessity of that journey. I think for us, through that journey, we became all the more aware of the power of the individual influence upon a person’s life. We’ve seen, during our six years here, the light that one can bring. We’ve also seen the darkness that one can bring. And so the opportunity to represent The Salvation Army through the Royal Commission was a challenging but honourable opportunity. I think when the word came that I would be called to represent The Salvation Army, there was a dawning for me that it wasn’t just to represent The Salvation Army. It was also the opportunity for us as a Salvation Army to re-present Christ. In many cases, by virtue of what had happened to so many, there was a false representation of the Christian message. Our journey through the Royal Commission, I think has given us as a movement and us as leaders an opportunity to re-present Christ.
SS: What sort of support structure did you have around you at that time? You hadn’t been in Australia long, so close friends you could turn to must have been thin on the ground. Was there a much greater need to rely on each other for that support?
TT: I think so. For personal reasons, I did not sit in the courtroom ... I was back in Melbourne and I went to Adelaide on weekends to support Floyd. But we chatted every day and my support to him was just making sure he was okay at the end of the day after he came off the stand from speaking. Also, the people around us, our leadership team, we had a support system there, and we also had counselling and debriefings on a regular basis. And then at the end of the journey, we took time out just to recover from the experience that we had.
SS: But even hearing you speak about it now, it sounds like it was a very intense time.
FT: I think it was intense because of the necessity of doing that journey, the necessity of sitting with survivors, the necessity of owning a past that none want to own but is a reality that needed to be owned. And through that to ensure that we were doing all that we could in the present to help every survivor who would present themself.
SS: I imagine that the roles you have, as territorial leaders, that the intensity doesn’t really let up. What can it be like for you? It must be hard to be involved in a corps in the way that you would probably like, and you’re often having to make decisions that aren’t always going to make you popular with everybody. How do you cope with it?
TT: I say this often, when you’re at senior leadership level it’s a very lonely life, and I speak from experience. I guess for us, we have no history here in Australia, we don’t have colleagues that we’ve shared and journeyed with long term. So we rely on each other a lot; I think we’ve become closer because we’ve had to rely on each other in those difficult moments. We have, though, gained some friendships here, which we will truly miss, and good colleagues that have partnered with us and shared the journey with us.
SS: And probably no bigger part of that journey has been the transition to one territory in Australia. Before you were appointed leaders of the Australia Southern Territory, were you prepped on this possibility?
FT: No, there was no conversation about that prior to our arrival. But within about 18 months of our arrival in Australia studies were underway and things began to evolve. That conversation extended further and ended up with recommendations to International Headquarters (IHQ) to move to one territory. We thought that decision would probably precipitate our departure and they would bring in a new leader, but the view of IHQ was that we would stay and lead the two territories into a merger.
SS: Out of this whole process there’s been many new initiatives. One of the significant ones, and I might direct this to you, Tracey, is the gender equity question. What sort of response are you getting from other territories?
TT: When we first brought this [one territory] proposal to IHQ , part of it was the gender equity issue with regards to having somebody placed in that leadership role, as well as putting a committee together and what that looked like. When we proposed that to IHQ , there was no thought about not doing it; it was just, ‘yes’. I think from that moment, we were quite excited what that would look like. Colonel Julie Campbell has taken on that role [gender equity advocate]. She has done a great job of bringing this committee together, and also holding us accountable as a movement in all areas of what that looks like, whether it be in our boards, whether it be in personnel council, appointment council. We still have a long way to go, but conversation is taking place and people are asking us, “What have you done, how have you done it?” We are quite pleased that we are on target. The world is watching, and we have just come to know that IHQ has now put a team together with regards to gender equity and what does that look like across the world. Actually, Julie Campbell is on that reference group so that she can speak into that space because we are so far ahead of what’s happening around the world.
SS: The new Australia Territory officially launched five months ago, yet there still seems to be much change happening, positions to be filled, processes that are being tinkered with. Is this where we should be? Are we behind on the timeline you imagined?
FT: Someone recently asked me, “Is Australia One working?” I think the answer to that is yes, and not yet. Yes, it is working, and it’s not yet fully realised. I think the amount of change that we’ve chosen to undertake is going to take time. There are processes that need to be redeveloped. We could have implemented a system where we simply say we’ll take what exists and we’ll mash it together and we’ll have a single, simple, straightforward operation doing what we’ve always done, but doing it in a more streamlined fashion. We chose the harder opportunity, and that was to actually ask, “What are we doing and what’s the best way to actually deliver the Army’s mission in Australia in the 21st century?” That’s going to take time. Our governance board has actually said to us we’re probably on a two- to five-year journey of continued changes. My ultimate hope, I think, is that we don’t actually ever come to a sense of we’ve landed; that we’re always evaluating what does it mean to be The Salvation Army in Australia at this point in time; that we have the courage to continue to change what needs to change to be the most effective that we can be for a mission that desperately is needed in Australia.
SS: Floyd, you’re known for your positivity and optimism, both when it comes to how the Army is progressing in Australia and just generally in your character. But I’m wondering if there’s anything you regret in the past six years that you would – with the value of hindsight – do differently?
FT: I don’t think there’s a whole lot that I’d do differently. I think a good part of that is I’ve carefully checked in on a regular basis with where are we, what are we doing, what have I done, how have I approached that? We’ve been modifying as we go. But if there was one thing, I think a greater emphasis on continuing to tell more of the stories that we have the privilege of seeing when we traverse back and forth across the territory. In the midst of so much change and the intensity of that being felt in certain corners, for the stories to be told of the impact that’s being made on the front line, of lives being transformed. Sitting, whether it’s with a survivor, or whether it’s with somebody who’s been through one of our programs, or a family that has just come into the Army as a place of faith community and discovering what it means to be a follower of Jesus. I think if anything, it would be finding more ways to tell more of those stories. SS: You really feel quite comfortable with the past six years?
FT: I think so, because we didn’t make decisions independently; we really worked well with a team. I’m so grateful what’s been accomplished in Australia has been really the result of a solid team. So I don’t think there’s any of the decisions that we’ve made that I would go back and say, “We got that one wrong.” I think we’ve made decisions that we needed to make with the information that we as a group had at the time, and that we’ve continued to move forward from those decisions.
SS: How would you respond to some comments that The Salvation Army is becoming more corporatised?
FT: As our Mission Statement says, “The Salvation Army is a Christian movement dedicated to sharing the love of Jesus. We share the love of Jesus by caring for people, creating faith pathways, building healthy communities and working for justice.” We are a Christian movement. I think there’s also a recognition, especially in the journey of Australia One, that we are talking about a corporate entity. We’re talking about an operation that deals with 10,000 employees, 30,000 volunteers, 1000 officers, and has in excess of $1 billion operations annually. We owe it to the people who support us and to the people we serve, to have the best business practice in place and the best governance in place. That doesn’t have to be in opposition to being a strong spiritual evangelical and holiness movement. I think the two actually ride well together.
SS: Just a final question, and I’d like to hear from both of you. What is it that excites you about The Salvation Army in Australia now?
TT: Oh, there’s so much. I think as we travel to every state and sit with people and have conversations with people, I think there’s a lot of things happening in The Salvation Army across the nation and I truly believe that we have a strong force in our officers, who are very positive and excited to be doing what God has called them to do. It doesn’t matter how hard it is, you see them out there slugging it out. It’s all about the people whom they serve. I just think that God is going to continue to do amazing things in and through The Salvation Army, and it’s up to us to continue to share those stories of transformation. It goes back to our National Vision Statement: “Wherever there is hardship and injustice, Salvos will live, love, and fight, alongside others, to transform Australia one life at a time, with the love of Jesus.” That's what our officers, our people, are doing and it’s just amazing to watch.
SS: What about you, Floyd?
FT: When we brought together a large group of people aged 30 and under during part of the Australia One visioning journey, one of the comments that came from them was, “We dream of the day when we don’t talk about social versus spiritual, that we simply are The Salvation Army.” We’re seeing that on so many fronts, where it’s really hard to draw the line as to what is corps and what is social – we’re simply The Salvation Army. What’s also exciting for me is that Australia has had the courage to embrace the opportunity that God placed before it. And that has been possible because there has been two strong territories that generations of officers, soldiers, employees, volunteers, have built. That is recognised by the Australian public. And that strength, built by sacrificial service, brought two territories to a point where they could actually step into this new future. I think it’s an exciting future for The Salvation Army and as we journey to the other side of the world, we’ll be keeping a close eye on what God is doing in and through Salvo officers, soldiers, employees and volunteers.
Scott Simpson is Assistant Editor-in-Chief.