6 October 2017
Colonel Julie Campbell never imagined her calling to officership would take her beyond the bounds of local corps ministry, let alone into some of the most senior leadership positions in The Salvation Army in Australia.
Yet her years as an officer and a follower of Jesus have convinced her that God will never lead her outside his purposes.
A child of officers who spent most of their years in corps ministry, Julie expected that she and husband Mark, currently National Chief Secretary, would do the same.
It’s a bit of surprise revelation coming from a woman who has just been appointed the National Advocate for Gender Equity and whose rise to leadership through divisional and territorial roles in women’s ministry and Training Principal at the Australia Eastern College for Officers seem to reflect a natural progression.
Her reputation as a down-toearth, capable yet humble leader appears a seamless fit for the demands of senior leadership.
At so many points, it has been neither natural nor seamless.
“Mark and I would say that we would never have chosen any of our appointments, yet we are always amazed by what God provided for us and what we learnt through them. I think every appointment has prepared me for the appointment I now hold.”
As of 1 August, Julie stepped into her landmark role, part of a pioneering initiative embedded in the structural foundation for the new Australia Territory, launched by National Commander Commissioner Floyd Tidd, in May.
The advocate will be responsible for identifying gender-equity issues across both territories and implementing strategies to bring change.
In addition, they will ensure recommendations for female representation on territorial and divisional boards and at public events will be fulfilled, as well as identifying married female officers for leadership development.
It is largely unmapped territory for The Salvation Army and has the keen attention of Salvationists around the globe.
Julie seems remarkably unruffled for one who seems to be facing a Goliath. But she possesses, like David before her, a deep faith in the God who has positioned her for this moment.
And she is confident that her journey has provided her with a store of personal understanding, experience and wisdom in engaging with the critical issues surrounding gender equity in the Salvation Army, particularly as it relates to married female officers.
Julie cites as pivotal the moment when, after a number of corps appointments early in their officership, Mark was appointed to the Public Relations Department, and Julie to an administrative position in Personnel.
They both thought the Army had made a mistake in their respective appointments. “In the early years of our officership I was content to be learning all I could developing the skills I needed to be a good corps officer,” explains Julie. “So when it came to administration or management, I didn’t think I would need those for corps ministry. They are Mark’s natural giftings so I just expected that he would be the one doing those things.”
In fact, Julie says she actively encouraged Mark in his training and development, knowing that she had brought to officership the advantage of being an officer’s kid.
Julie grew up in the busy officer household, the eldest of four children; three girls and a boy. From their early teens, all of the children were encouraged by their parents to take on positions of leadership in whatever corps their parents were appointed.
By the time Julie and Mark entered training college, Julie had years of leadership development already behind her. It was natural for her to encourage Mark, who through a natural shyness and a non-Army upbringing, had not entered officership with as many leadership experiences.
Added to this was the reality of raising a young family. “We had Sarah soon after we finished college. By the time we had our second child, Joel, it was like a tug-of-war for me – I wanted to be involved in the corps and take my place but I had these two beautiful children that I wanted to nurture and love.
My parents demonstrated that family is important and I was trying to work through what I could do, what was my role and I wanted to encourage Mark in his role.
So I tended to focus on more practical areas of ministry that worked in with our family life. I wanted Mark to grow and develop, so he took the study opportunities, rather than me. I was happy for him to do that.”
By the time their third child, Aaron, came along another four years later, there was more time, but Julie’s focus remained on the practical and spiritual aspects of corps ministry as her area of professional development.
“I think in the past a majority of women did take a back seat or a secondary role and that was also the era I grew up in,” she says.
“In those days, the corps officer was the man. When I look at my parents’ ministry, my dad was the one up front, but it was my mum who kept it all together. My mum was a very strong woman leader but quieter. She was the caring, nurturing influence and encourager.”
It was not hard for Julie to find herself following in the same path, even though she held firm beliefs about women having a place in leadership. “I don’t think I ever saw a difference between men and women in leadership, even though now I can see it tended to be male-dominated. And I come from a family of strong women – my mother, grandmother and my aunties, they are all strong spiritual women leaders. I saw them involved in all areas of leadership. I saw what they did and the part they played and the positions they held.”
Despite their early misgivings, Mark’s Public Relations appointment was a revelation. He thrived, growing in confidence and skills – first in Brisbane, Canberra and then Sydney as Australia Eastern Territorial Communications and Public Relations Secretary.
But while Mark was finding his niche, Julie found herself confronted by the apparent mismatch of her administrative appointments with both her skillset and her primary passions and gifts.
“It was really hard because I knew Mark was really happy. That’s when I started to wonder what I should have done differently and if I should have done more to improve my skills and leadership in those earlier years. I just didn’t have the skills I needed for the appointments I was receiving. At one point I did ask leadership if I could be in corps ministry, while Mark continued in PR. I didn’t want to be sitting in an office. I didn’t see myself as being called to those roles. I was called to see people come to faith. After a few years they did look into it, but it didn’t eventuate.”
Later, divisional roles in women’s ministry and her time as Training Principal for the Australian Eastern Territory Training College found Julie in roles where she felt her outgoing personality and natural gifts and abilities in teaching, encouragement and hospitality were easily employed and highly fulfilling.
“Maybe the leadership of the time saw more in me than I saw,” Julie says philosophically. “Maybe they thought those early roles would prepare both of us for senior leadership. It is in the unexpected and in the times when you are totally reliant on God that you really see God at work in your life. It’s where our dependence on him comes from – it is his work in us, not just what I know or am gifted to do.”
Julie knows that her story is not every married female officer’s story. But she does believe that her own experiences and frustrations have positioned her well for her new role.
“Because I struggled myself in some of these roles, I think I have a greater empathy for other women when they find themselves in roles that seem not to fit or where they feel undervalued. It’s not our position that gives us our value, but who we are in Christ and we’ve got to find that wherever we are.
“I could have just become bitter and dissatisfied. Yet through all that I tried to find God in those places. I didn’t always handle it well. There were times when I was totally frustrated but it has definitely been in the struggles that I have become stronger in my faith, become more a woman of God and I think, a better leader.”
But Julie is clear that God’s ability to grow her through those appointments does not justify past approaches to appointments for married female officers.
“I believe God has called me as an individual and as a married woman and mother,” she says. “I believe that he has given me gifts and abilities. I believe he can use me anywhere but I believe he does want me in the most effective role. In the same way, I want to see all women, all officers, fulfilled and being able to do their best for God; in roles that best fit their gifts and abilities so that we are all used in the most effective way for the kingdom.
“I would love to see Australia with a married female Territorial Commander or Chief Secretary – the question is what will it take for us to get that? How do we prepare women for those kind of roles?
At the same time it can’t all be about senior leadership. It is about women, wherever they are, being valued and confident and equipped as leaders in their own right. Empowered and equipped to be the leader that God has called them to be.
And it’s about having the choice – for women that want to continue in shared ministry, such as corps work or women’s ministry roles, to be able to do that and for those who want to take an individual role, for them to have that option.
“And we also want to see marriages and families strengthened, not diminished. I think the juggle of being in leadership and raising your children is a challenge, but I think the younger couples are much more aware and they believe in sharing home life and corps life. I think there is a lot more equitability than in my era, more give and take. And we want to support them to make time to care and nurture our future generations to be strong Christians and citizens.”
Julie is well aware of the complexities facing such idealistic rhetoric. How do we change the cultural mindset that certain roles are for men? How do we balance the uniqueness of The Salvation Army’s “shared ministry” with a focus on individual giftings?
What is the reality of opportunities for women in light of a diminishing number of divisional leadership positions? How do we identify gifts in women who do not necessarily stand out?
How do we bridge the gap of training that exists because of past practices?
How do we challenge the long-held view that advancement is not just about moving “up” or measured by the senior leadership roles you hold? Or that senior leadership positions should only be held by older, more experienced officers?
“There have been times when I have thought, ‘I’ll just leave others to this fight’,” admits Julie. “But I have an opportunity to speak up and make a difference for the younger generations coming through.”
Sleeves rolled up
Julie Campbell may not have envisaged the heights to which her officership would take her – but she’s not short on imagining the horizon she longs to see or the determination to roll up her sleeves and get on with the job before her.
While much of the detail of the Gender Equity Plan is yet to be developed, she is clear on her foremost task – laying a strategic foundation for the future.
“My first and key task is to form a committee; a working group with both external and internal people to develop this area and build a strategy for the future. I am really excited to have external people involved who are already doing this in the corporate world. It will be an important part of our role to make sure we have equitable representation of married female officers across the territory in boardrooms, on platforms and in training opportunities.
“The other key task is to put a process in place to identify 20 women each year to invite into development and upskilling for their current and future leadership roles. It’s more than just choosing women with leadership qualities. It’s about having a strategy for ongoing development of all women. Realistically, this first year for me will be about creating an awareness of our biblical and historical foundation and hearing the voices of female officers – both those who are happy and fulfilled and those who are not.
“My long-term vision is for every Salvo woman to be empowered, equipped and flourishing in leadership and ministry as we partner with God to share the love of Jesus and see people experience his love to transform communities.”