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General uses farewell meeting to call Christians to be God's light

General uses farewell meeting to call Christians to be God's light

General uses farewell meeting to call Christians to be God's light

21 May 2018

General André Cox charged the members of the 2018 High Council (seated behind him) to consider carefully the "sacred purpose" of electing the next General.

By Kevin Sims

"Personal" is not the first word that springs to mind when describing a big event in central London, but the Welcome to the High Council and Farewell to General André Cox and Commissioner Silvia Cox (World President of Women's Ministries) managed to be spectacular and yet highly personal.

Held at Central Hall, Westminster, the Chief of the Staff, Commissioner Brian Peddle, welcomed the congregation to the "best ticket in town" – a nod to the royal wedding which had just taken place about 25 miles to the west. The General then turned to face the 108 members of the 2018 High Council, who were seated behind the stage, to charge them to consider carefully the "sacred purpose" of electing the next General. He told them it was "time to cast aside any personal opinions", adding: "God does not always work in the way we expect." 

Retired General John Larsson brought a Bible reading and also prayed, asking that High Council members would receive "a generous supply of wisdom that comes from above".

Music played an important role in the meeting and included a new piece by bandmaster Richard Phillips, Consecrated Service, which was written as a tribute to the General and Commissioner Cox. Featuring the International Staff Band, International Staff Songsters, Gemma Hinchliffe, Simon Cox, African Praise (a British group made up of Salvationists from Zimbabwe and other African countries) and Boscombe Timbrels, the work took the listener on a journey through the term of office of the General, from the early sacred moments following election through to their taking the message of being a consecrated, mobilised people around the world, all using well-known Salvation Army songs.

Tributes to the retiring leaders were paid by two members of the High Council. Commissioner Margaret Siamoya (Territorial Commander, Zambia) thanked the Coxes for showing spiritual leadership. She complimented the General on his championing of the Accountability Movement, his leadership at the International Congress in 2015 and the introduction of The Whole World Mobilising initiative which she said has had a great impact in her territory. The commissioner paid tribute to "Mama" Silvia's impact on souls and particularly her advocacy for women's development.

Commissioner Massimo Paone (Territorial Commander, Switzerland, Austria and Hungary) spoke about how the General and Commissioner Cox had embraced their roles with "commitment, passion and energy". He made a particular point to highlight the example that the leaders had made in working closely as a team, saying that this type of joint ministry could be seen as The Salvation Army's "secret treasure". 

In response, Commissioner Cox (pictured right) spoke about the "immense" privilege that has been hers and that she was "thankful for the adventures". She told the congregation that she could never have imagined how a shy person who was scared of flying could have done what she has over the past five years, travelling all over the world to speak to crowds that sometimes contained several thousand people. Through everything, she added, she has "learned to trust God".

A video presentation reminded the congregation of the General's "I Dream" statements that had underpinned his whole term of office, focusing on The Salvation Army he wanted to see – an accountable, mobilised Army that gave young people a voice. The General took up the last "dream" statement, then told the congregation – and thousands of people watching the live stream online – that he had been delighted to see some aspects of his dream become reality.

Far from being satisfied, however, he warned: "The Salvation Army around the world has the potential to be so much more!" And while he acknowledged that there are successes, he pointed out that when things are going well, it can become easy to stop relying on God. "Woe to us," he challenged, "if we ever forget the Lord in our Army."

He told his listeners not to allow compromise to take hold, and to avoid being taken in by the spirit of the world. Asking: "Do we rely on ourselves or do we rely on God's strength?", the General pointed out that "the light of our lives can sometimes be diminished by compromise", and yet "the world in which we live is desperate to see light and hope".

Referring to Joy Webb's song The Candle of the Lord, which talks about taking the light of God to the darkest places of society, the General called on everyone listening to join him in saying: "Lord, light me so I can make a difference in the world."

The meeting finished in spectacular, joyful style with O Boundless Salvation!, the song known as the Founder's Song and, as explained by the Chief of the Staff, "A bit of an anthem for us!" As the congregation gave a full-throated rendition of the seven verses, the music groups that had taken part joined in one by one until the final verse, "And now, hallelujah, the rest of my days shall gladly be spent in promoting thy praise", reached a glorious conclusion, followed by a long, spontaneous round of applause.

On May 18, the council elected a Questions Committee (see Inside a High Council chapter 7: sar.my/iahc7.) 

The members of the committee will undertake the work of formulating the questions to be answered by each candidate to be General. Australian Officer, Commissioner Jennifer Walker, is part of this committee.

Once the members of the Questians Committee have prepared, the council can move forward to the nomination of candidates for election as the next General of The Salvation Army.

Regular updates will be posted at facebook.com/highcouncil2018 and at salvationarmy.org/ihq/highcouncil2018

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