Friday, 28 August 2015

Accentuate the Positive

She was tall and elegant, the vicar's wife. While he wore a black cassock (? Full length

dressing gown thing with countless buttons down the front) she was in something Laura Ashleyish as I recall. We were in the same discussion group after I had spoken on "the person of Jesus" as part of the Alpha course taking place at their Sussex church. 

The conversation turned to John 14:6 - Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. The lady was forthright: "I love the first half of the verse. It's wonderful. But I can never accept the second half. I just don't believe it. So negative!"

I have never forgotten that moment. Her openness and honesty were refreshing, perhaps, but what she said appalled me and, given her prominent role in the parish church, went a long way to explain why so few of the ninety or more regular church goers present seemed to have much living understanding of Jesus, at least so far as I could see from their words that night. 

What she said has struck me many times since as symptomatic of a widespread discomfort in the church regarding negatives. "I am the way..." is lovely; "no one can..." is uncomfortable.  We feel we want to be affirming and positive, we want to reach out in love, not erect barriers. We want to say Yes. 

But actually, Jesus himself, and the NT in general, use negatives very liberally. Even a passage so famously positive as the Beatitudes is followed immediately by:

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. 

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 

In both of those paragraphs, the negative is used precisely to accentuate the positive. The importance of the positive teaching is brought out, but more, the words highlight the urgency of obedience given that an alternative, dreadful, negative possibility is brought into view. This pattern continues. Sometimes the pattern starts with the negative, at others the logic is more complex, but time and time again Yes and No interweave to create a tight and inescapable argument or exhortation. Try these:

Matt 6:13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
Matt 9:13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.
Matt 10:28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
Luke 18:16 But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these

Ephesians 2:8-9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast

John 3:16-18 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son

Romans 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind

Sometimes in the letters exhortations seem to almost alternate in their positive and negative

Romans 12:9-12, 16-19 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. ...

Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 

Many more examples could be given. The point is that the negative not only accentuates the positive; very often the positive could not be clearly expressed without the negative. Unless the negative is said, the truth is not actually being communicated at all. 

And that is where our desire to be positive is getting us into deep problems. The vicar's wife who denied John 14:6b but wanted to keep saying 14:6a actually didn't get 14:6a at all. Light pierces the darkness, but darkness in a sense underlines the light. The negative accentuates the positive. It is Jesus' gentle "No" to Martha that helps us to see the beauty of Mary's priorities; to understand what Mary got right we should be so glad of the rebuke to Martha who got it not-quite-right.
And more: in a fallen world, we need God's gracious No, and not merely to highlight the good, but to assault the bad. When we read the papers, we want to say "No." When we watch the TV news, we should want to scream "No!" at the screen. And when we look at our own lives, there is something wrong with us if we don't want to say, "No!" to much of what we see.

The perpetual diet of sweet "inspirational" images and text-bites on social media reveals a less than healthy church. A church which wants to say "Yes" all the time isn't actually saying "Yes" to Jesus, because he requires us to say "No" rather frequently. Grace-talk, love-talk, joy-talk, Spirit-talk, forgiveness-talk - "Christian" talk that is never negative is not really fully Christian at all. We are slipping away from the gospel, and all our fluffy kittens and sunlit scenes seem only to show how determined we are not to go back to it. We badly need to re-embrace the negative, to re-learn to say No, and so to enjoy God's real, realistic, refreshing grace in all its genuine fullness.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Death and the Big Story

The young woman on the radio was almost beside herself. Her best friend had just visited her, and then had left, to drive down the A27.
Her car had been in exactly the wrong place at the wrong time as the Hawker Hunter from the Shoreham Airshow came down on the road. In a moment, utterly unexpected and which no driving skill could avoid, she was gone. 

A few hours earlier, my delightful, daft and lovely uncle David died at his home.
He was well into his 80s, had been going downhill for a long time and there was nothing that medics, including the trained nurses in the family, could really do about it. Death came to an elderly man, a father, grandfather and great-grandfather, who had seen enough days. 

The two sets of circumstances could hardly be more different, and any comparison of the reactions could be terribly unfair. Nevertheless, one difference did hit me hard. The young lady who had lost her friend in the crash clearly had absolutely no sense whatsoever of any deeper, wider, larger or more eternal narrative than the immediate loss. Like so many people today, the present is all there is; take that away and there is absolutely nothing. 

It also happens that recently we have been reading Peter's letters. Specifically, over the fatal weekend, 2 Peter.

There is no other section of the NT which so speaks into a world where the eternal meta narrative has been abandoned. Specifically, this section gives us the argument that the apparent inertia of God in stepping into history is actually the demonstration of his gracious patience. He appears to do nothing not because he doesn't care, but because he is kind. His visible action, when it comes, will not be pleasant (witness the flood!), and he delays it in order to give us room and time to bear fruit. 

That is his visible action, of course. Throughout the age he is active invisibly, calling men and women, girls and boys, into his Kingdom by Word and Spirit. He is not willing that any should perish, and he summons his church to be active with him in reaching the perishing. 

The view of history we have in 2 Peter is so needed. Who am I? Where are we? Where are we going? I am a creature, an image of God, in a world that has been judged and will be judged again. But in between those two judgements, this world has been visited, by a Saviour. It is this Jesus who is the Judge-to-come, and who, by his cross, saves me from that judgement. And beyond that judgement is an eternal Kingdom, an eternal home, and an eternal joy. And whether I die in my bed or in a flaming plane crash, or don't die at all because the Judge arrives first, that big picture holds true and will secure me and mine. 

It is tragic that 2 Peter has been sidelined in our reading, preaching and thinking. In part that is due to theories of pseudepigraphy. I suspect that the gagging of this letter and of Jude also has to do with their outspokenness against false teachers - teachers who, amongst other things, seem to have wanted to make sexual immorality acceptable in the church. We have also, as ever, mirrored the society around us; the leaching out of the eternal meta-narrative has affected us too, and we are now almost as "me/now" as everyone else. We need these books, we need a sense of where we stand on the line between Creation, Fall, Flood at one end and Final Judgement and New Creation at the other. Only then will we see ourselves for what we are, and see Jesus for all he is! 

My thoughts are with the families and friends of those who died, out of the blue, at Shoreham. I pray for them in their grief and (in that lady's case, anyway) their total lostness. And pray that someone, somewhere, someday, helps them get the bigger picture.  

As for those I know and love best: next Friday we will weep at Uncle David's funeral, but we will share immense joy too. Cos the present may have gone, but the big story isn't over. 

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Rainbows and Owls in the Sally Army

I have often observed the antics of the English Defence League and the radical Muslims of, say, Luton, with a certain wry amusement. A friend, who knows them all far better than I do, suggests that they are totally symbiotic - each side needs the other for its existence. I have now seen exactly the same principle at work in the Salvation Army. 

I was recently added as a member of a large Salvation Army discussion group. It soon became apparent that all debates boiled to one - regarding "gay inclusion" - which was pursued with an unholy viciousness and insult on both sides. A number of people, on both sides, left the group.  The admin seemed fairly passive, until apparently chucking a number of people out this week. 

I was then put into a new, small and "progressive" group. I feel flattered that this has been done. It is a hundredth the size of the big group, and composed of the people who don't post anti-gay material. 

The thing is, what do we talk about when the bad old conservatives aren't there? So far we have had cute pictures of paintings on the wall, a cuddly dog, a generous owl, and the vital theological question "How much wood would a wood chuck chuck if a wood chuck could chuck wood?" 

In the absence of the bad guys, we have also had a picture of Hitler and a quote about the Nazi movement being Christian. Thus have the vitally necessary enemies been reincluded in absentia. But the thrill is gone. Discussion just won't flow. 

Over in the old discussion group, things are little better. All subjects have to be turned towards the inclusion/exclusion theme, sidetracking anything that might kick us off into something that helps us reach a needy world. Anyone who contributes to a discussion has their timeline examined by the thought police, to see if they have EVER posted a picture of a rainbow in ANY form. Their old rainbow - NOT their recent contribution to discussion - is then attacked. 

All the same, hunting through people's past history smacks of desperation. Now that the pro-gay Indians have gone, the Cowboys have nobody to play fight with. Cuddly owls are expected at any time. 

As a radical who believes in infinite inclusivity and yet total exclusivity, ruling even myself out of the Salvation Army, I am, of course, perfect in every way.  I know that I never attack a straw doll, or need a caricatured enemy at whom to tilt. As I read the story of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, I am so glad that I'm not like that Pharisee. 

Oh dear. 

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Wanted: Conmen for the Salvation Army

The Salvation Army in the UK is facing huge challenges. Numbers are down, Corps are closing – I am just a new boy and I have already become accustomed to the litany of gloom. Thankfully there are many pockets of hope, with some great examples of church plants and re-plants that should encourage anyone who loves this quirky and lovely denomination. 

What is the need of the hour, though? For me, it is more Conmen, and Conwomen, for that matter. Specifically, practitioners of the Double Con. Unless we get them, I can see no cause for generalised encouragement. In fact, so far as I can see, the pockets of hope are precisely where the Conmen and women are doing their stuff. 

For the first Con we need Conservatives. And I absolutely don’t mean Tories. We need people – adherents, soldiers and officers – who understand, believe and know how to communicate the old gospel. If the Sally Army is seen by many members of the public as simply “a charity” that is not only due to the profile of our social work, it is because there is a significant tendency to communicate a vague and socially acceptable message. We haven’t been good at conserving the faith. A gospel of watery niceness, of interfaith cuddliness, of absolutized inclusiveness, is not the message of our Founders; it is not the message of the church down the centuries, nor of the apostles and prophets, nor of Jesus himself. We need to recover our confidence in the authority of Scripture, in the message of the Cross, in the power of the Spirit to change lives. 

But it has to be a double Con. Because we need Conservatives who are also Contemporary. It's all there in the phrase “know how to communicate the old gospel”. There is value in believing the old gospel for yourself, of course, but getting it out and into the minds, hearts and lives of the people around us – that is quite another thing. We need to know how to reframe, or rephrase, old truths in ways that resonate in our own generation. We need to find new metaphors, new illustrations, and new arguments. We need to be able to deal with new objections… and new sources of spiritual apathy.

And more: preservation of the doctrinal tradition of TSA is of no use if it is shackled by an unthinking preservation of every other tradition that comes from the 19th century. All of us tend to find a certain security in the outward trappings of our religion, of course, and we become very easily blind to the impact of those trappings on the outside world. But we need to question hard. What does a timbrel display actually say in the age of Diversity?? Did William Booth really expect and desire the maintenance of brass bands for ever, even as tastes changed? He actually said the opposite! 

There is a tendency to see the preservation of TSA as consisting precisely in the preservation of such traditions. But without the Double Con this would be embalming a corpse! We don't want to go Army Barmy (or Balmy!) in that sense. Seeing what should be altered or dropped is as much a part of the preservation of the church as is holding on to the good. 

Actually, the most fatal of conditions for a church is where the preservation of tradition and its imposition in diverse contexts has taken precedence over the maintenance of doctrine. A friend recently wrote that the “recipe for good denominational health ... is cultural diversity centred around confessional unity.” So often the opposite situation pertains – maintenance of an imposed or dated culture takes priority over unity in the truth, with sad consequences. Such a situation is the precise inversion of the Double Con. You know the kind of thing: Where a totally vague or erroneous sermon is hardly commented on, but woe betide the bass player if his buttons aren't polished... Where you would be pulled up for sitting on the mercy seat but not for querying the Deity of Christ. Where denying Doctrine 11 is a far greater possibility than drinking a pint of bitter. When that kind of illogic has crept in, a cancer, sprung from the church's own subculture, has started to eat away at its heart, and death cannot be far away. 

We need to be Conservative and Contemporary. Holding to the gospel, and getting it across, today. And doing so with love. For love to broken people around us, for love of the Salvation Army, above all, for love of God, Father, Son and Spirit, we need to be Conmen and Conwomen. 

Double Conners all.


Friday, 14 August 2015

Boundless Salvation?

My experience of Boundless was strictly limited – very definitely not infinite! I was able to attend just two sessions of Boundless Theology, the one day event at William Booth College that closed the Congress’ activities on the Monday. From a range of options I chose a first session on teaching patterns in local churches - corps and SA ministries. It wasn’t strictly theological, being largely a discussion of how the pedagogical theory of “learning styles” can be applied in ministry.
The second and final session I was able to attend was on the doctrine of hell, with Phil Garnham. It was theological; it was well structured; it was strongly and persuasively argued. The title was “Endless Punishment – Is salvation really boundless?” What follows is a brief synopsis, with some verbatim quotes. 
Catherine Booth
The session started with some thoughts on Catherine Booth. Although there is a “massive weight of scripture against female ministry” she showed that this was not the only strand in the Bible. It was a shame, given her ability to show a counter argument in such a way, that she did not live long enough to engage with the doctrine of hell. (The fact that William outlived her by 22 years and never rethought the position was not mentioned.)
The main streams of Christian thought on the matter were then sketched out: annihilationists/conditionalists, for whom there is a final death as opposed to endless punishment;  universalists (though this term was not used, as I recall), for whom there will be an ultimate reconciliation of all people in Christ;  and those who believe in an eternal hell. William Booth was a passionate advocate of this last, traditional doctrine of hell.
There followed a brief discussion of the biblical language used to describe the destination of people after death. One conclusion was that, with regard to Gehenna, “there is no irrefutable evidence that can lead to any certain understanding of the meaning of the word.”
This opens the possibility of the burning rubbish dump being something akin to purgatory (although that word was not used). For restorationists there will be a “purifying fire that will prepare us for the coming life with the God of love.”
Jacobus Arminius
Reference was made to the SA's Arminian roots. “We are against Calvinism - the terrible doctrine. Calvinism can't speak of the God of love in any meaningful sense. A dark doctrine indeed.” But then we were told of the “dark side of Arminian theology” – that salvation is “utterly bounded by the choices of human beings. We stress the love of God but we lose the boundlessness due to our sinful choices.”
A way out of these theological black holes and into a truly boundless view of salvation began with the assertion that there is “no clear cut scripture to say you must decide for Christ before you die.” 1 Peter 3:19 was cited as hinting at post mortem evangelism. And where our sinful nature makes choosing the right path seemingly impossible, “what is impossible with man is possible with God.” God's sovereignty and human free will can be seen together in the illustration of the chess grandmaster, whose defeat of a novice is utterly certain, even as the novice plays his best using his own free decisions along the way. So God will universally outwit human choices that at present seem to thwart his grace.
The argument’s conclusion was that the strongest biblical case is for ultimate reconciliation of all in Christ, after the ‘purifying flame’ for those who do not accept Christ in this life. This really is boundless salvation. God has no dark side. The whole world really will be redeemed!
It was affirmed (as an approving answer to a suggestion from the floor) that the doctrine of hell was developed by the mediaeval church to control the masses. It is not Biblical at all.
Finally, William Booth’s understanding of hell as a place of conscious torment was criticised, humorously, on the grounds that “he didn’t even work out that dead bodies don't have nerve endings.” 
Now, much could be said about all of this. In the theological tradition from which I come, conditional immortality, or annihilationism, is a more common option than universalism, as we recoil from the appalling weight and horror of the traditional teaching, but debates have also frequently touched on the kind of universalism discussed at Boundless Theology. I found it fascinating. Universalism of the Barthian type, which marries the Calvinistic notion of the efficacy of the atonement (all for whom Christ died will certainly be saved) with the Arminian notion of the extent of the atonement (Christ died for all) seems to be what is in view, although what place does this “purifying flame” have in the light of grace? Unless the flame is instantaneous (perhaps 'in the twinkling of an eye’ as some have put it), or is simply a symbol of a purifying with no element of pain or suffering at all, it seems to reintroduce God as celestial Torturer at some level, even if not an eternal one. The Cosmic Chess player wins – by burning his foes till they inevitably submit? Too many questions were raised for me by that thought.
With regard to the exegetical questions, I had that feeling, as so often in contemporary theological discussions, that what we were left with was the summing of a number of “the word COULD mean this” arguments. In each phase, the understanding of a text is picked from one end of a spectrum of possible semantic options, and then a number of such similar results is brought together to form a conclusion. A “possible reading” on top of a “possible reading” on top of a “possible reading”. But the “sum” often seems so out of kilter with all traditional understandings of scripture, so utterly modern, that we are left gasping. In this case, I was left wondering how on earth Paul could ever have described the Thessalonians’ experience of the gospel in this way:
1 Thessalonians 1:9b-10 They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.
That sure sounds like more than a benign purifying flame to me!
But the glaring issue for me is even more basic than the truth value of what was taught. The debate can and should be had, of course. But the context of the debate is everything. My concern has to do with the nature of the Soldier’s and Officer’s covenant within the Salvation Army. The lecture was given at William Booth College. I believe that similar material and arguments are brought to the attention of cadets who are candidates for officership at the college. Clearly a range of "options is taught, but there is no doubt that this kind of Universalism is in the air. The cadets who go on to officership (the vast majority) will stand in Central Hall, Westminster and affirm their belief in the following statement:
Statue of William Booth at the college
that bears his name
We believe in the immortality of the soul; in the resurrection of the body; in the general judgement at the end of the world; in the eternal happiness of the righteous; and in the endless punishment of the wicked.
What seems to me to be problematic is any implication that it might be possible to agree with the teaching of the lecture and still make such an affirmation. Whatever one makes of the session, and whatever one makes of the Eleventh Doctrine of the Salvation Army, to see them as compatible requires a degree of Orwellian doublethink (glorified now as postmodern deconstruction) that takes the breath away and leaves words, affirmations, vows and covenants with no real meaning or value at all. Someone who can believe the content of the Boundless Salvation? lecture and affirm Doctrine 11 seems to me to be in the position of a bridegroom who can vow “forsaking all others” while harbouring the express intention of sleeping around, starting with the bridesmaids. There is a catastrophic failure of integrity.
I know what it is to minister under the cloud of broken integrity. I left the ministry after a pressure built within me over a period of years that my words and thoughts and actions did not match up. I am not a Perfectionist (one reason why I am an adherent not a soldier), and I know that every preacher is a sinner, but I felt that I had reached the point where “the lie” was just too big and I could not in any way look to God to bless my ministry. I left the work I loved.
A significant proportion of SA cadets come from Corps where the Doctrines have never been stressed. Some have never read the whole Bible. Although a range of positions is taught at the college, I think it would be fair to say that the pervasive atmosphere is one of some hostility or at least mockery towards traditionalism and excited embrace of the new and radical. Cadets’ positions by the end of their time at college thus reflect a whole range of influences and “options”. A significant number are Universalists. (A thoughtful, and certainly not fundamentalist, friend from a recent Session put the proportion at perhaps a quarter “open” to this, with a handful fully convinced and keen to persuade others. The remaining 75% were a mix of Traditionalists and Annihilationists, with the proportions of those two groups hard to determine as in his Session it was Universalism which was more of a live issue.) As cadets prepare for commissioning, the issue of what to do with the Doctrines, and especially Doctrine 11, becomes pressing. How do the non-traditionalists, both Universalists and Annihilationists, deal with the moment of doctrinal affirmation in Central Hall?

I have heard discussion of a number of possible solutions. Some would sidestep by saying that the affirmation is not one of personal belief but of “this is what the Salvation Army as a body teaches.” But that is not what the preamble says. Some may only soundlessly mouth the words at commissioning, or shut their mouths for the final phrase. Perhaps still others say the words, but with reservations or downright disagreement. 
Sometimes people say that Universalism or Annihilationism were not live options at the time the Army was founded – that Booth’s very strong emphasis on Hell was not tested by contemporary alternatives. This is akin to the Catherine Booth argument in the seminar – ‘if she had lived long enough... if he had known of other views... they would not have insisted on this doctrine, and we can make our “affirmation” knowing that the trajectory of the Army was towards a more liberal view.’ But the premise is wrong – the other options were very much alive back then. The intended meaning of the Doctrine is not in any debate. In a paper on “How to use the Bible” the General wrote:
There are plenty of arguments designed to lessen the importance of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, or to explain away its merit altogether, although the spirit of that sacrifice and the blessing it brings are the glory of the Bible. There is plenty of interpretation of the Bible which vainly attempts to explain away the punishment of the wicked, so clearly announced in its pages. Take away those things, and the Bible becomes not only ordinary, but an uninteresting book, to be neither feared nor cared for.
A frequent mantra is that “doctrine changes” or that “doctrines change”. But they don’t. People change – what they once believed, they no longer believe. Ditto, churches. Doctrinal statements remain, and people and churches of integrity who find that they have shifted theologically don’t claim to believe the same forms of words they used to affirm. Where the doctrines remain, unedited, in black and white, they should challenge the consciences of those who say they believe them, but think and teach otherwise.
To repeat, I am not saying that there is no cogency in the Universalist case as presented. Nor am I disputing the value of debate. Nor am I even defending the Doctrines of the Salvation Army as such – after all, I am not a soldier precisely because I cannot affirm some of them. But I am pleading for integrity in ministry – in teaching and at commissioning and in the ongoing preparation of soldiers and candidates.
When I was ordained, it was, I think, with integrity. I was a sinner, but there was no intrinsic lie built into the intentions of that day in and of itself. Over the years, of professionalisation and temptation, I lost that, and left. But it makes me tremble to think of building in a lie right at the very beginnings of ministry. For that is what it is: for every effort to deconstruct and mollify it, a person who affirms belief in Doctrine 11 while believing in Universal Salvation, or Annihilation for that matter, is telling a lie.

The Salvation Army is justifiably conscious of its own history as a church. There is much mention of the Founder, and his hymns are sung and his words are quoted frequently. But there is a certain hypocrisy in such fondness if the doctrine which was so central to his motivation to do all that he did is fudged in this way. What would Booth, who wrote “We have not developed and improved into Universalism, Unitarianism, or Nothingarianism, or any other form of infidelity, and we don’t expect to”, make of the Boundless lecture? What would WB make of WBC?
And more. There are many thousands who believe the Doctrines and who by their giving maintain WBC and support its ministry and the ministry of those who are trained there. Such people would be surprised by the assertion that there is no biblical support telling people that they must put things right with God in this life. They would be more surprised still by the idea that a Salvationist might teach a kind of purgatory, followed by universal salvation.  To accept support from such people and teach something utterly different is really a kind of theft. So long as one humble supporter believes the Doctrines as written, let our consciences bind us, or take us elsewhere.
The Salvation Army is dying in the UK. To quote a friend, who culled these figures: “in the 1960’s there were around 100,000 senior Soldiers in the UK Territory. By 1998 it had reached 48,000. Today it’s at 27,000.” There is a caveat: “the curve is getting less steep, and we weren’t as efficient in measuring stats in the 1960s. And in the UK soldiership isn't the best way to measure the size of the Army, as in many places attendance is on the rise, but people don’t commit to soldiership (or adherency) in the same way any more.” Even so, the situation is dire.
I personally believe that the only way ahead is to proclaim the old truths, graciously but uncompromisingly, and in contemporarily relevant forms; it is to stick to the gospel as preached by the founders with new fervour and prayerfulness. Others may think that a Universalist message is what is needed. In my opinion this has not helped the other denominations that have shrunk even further than we have as they have gone down the liberal route, and in any case, no one has the right to teach Universalism under the banner of the Salvation Army. But what is really clear is that we can’t go down both these paths at once and maintain any credibility. The Army and the UK need a clear and coherent message, preached with integrity.

Integrity in preaching is not a matter of doctrine only. The subject of Doctrine 11, as with other Doctrines, but particularity so, demands an integrity of the whole person. To “believe” Doctrine 11 glibly or flippantly is not really to believe it at all. Part of the recovery of doctrinal integrity in the Army will be the recovery of seriousness and earnestness. People of humanity, humour and warmth we may be, we must be, but people of flippancy or silliness about this doctrine we dare not be. To believe it is to tremble.  To believe it is to look on the world with concern and pity and compassion and love. To believe it is to take action. The doctrine is a call to arms - to preach and reach out and argue and persuade with all love and urgency. 

No challenge to cadets could be more worthy of the college that bears William Booth’s name than that.  

May God help us all.