The world's second largest provider of social aid welcomed its new international leaders Wednesday to their first day at its headquarters in London.
On "a day of new beginnings," General Shaw Clifton and Commissioner Helen Clifton arrived at The Salvation Army's International Headquarters (IHQ) after the evangelical organization’s former international leaders, retired General John Larsson and Commissioner Freda Larsson, stepped down from their positions over the weekend. Upon the Larssons’ retirement at midnight on Apr. 1, 2006 – the date of the general’s 68th birthday - Shaw Clifton became the 18th general of The Salvation Army.
After being greeted by the IHQ Commissioners, representatives from the various headquarters departments and a group of officer-cadets, General Clifton admitted that he felt "a little strange" to have moved from being General-elect to actually taking up his new role, according to The Salvation Army. The organization's 2006 High Council had elected the former territorial commander for the United Kingdom and Ireland to be the organization’s next general on Jan. 28, 2006 – the ninth day of the High Council’s election meeting.
Clifton described the transition as "not a little daunting" and told his listeners that he needed their love, their prayers and their patience.
"I have so much to learn in my new role," The Salvation Army reported him as saying.
Clifton also paid tribute to the Larssons for their help over the past few months and described them as "worthy and dignified leaders."
He also thanked his wife for her support and described her as "God's gift to me."
Although Clifton spoke about the "sacred responsibility" of his role, the new general expressed the hope that he and his wife would be seen "just as people – people with a huge task to perform." As the international leaders, the Cliftons will be heading an organization that operates in 111 countries, provides services in 175 different languages, and helps more than 30 million people. Salvation Army membership includes more than 17,000 active and more than 8,700 retired officers, around 100,000 other employees and more than 4.5 million volunteers.
After speaking about their experience in various settings around the world, Clifton said, "We know how to trust in God for everything."
The general concluded his first message as international leader by reading again the Scripture portion used earlier in the meeting, this time emphasizing the parts he wanted his listeners – and The Salvation Army as a whole – to pay particular attention to.
"Have your minds ready for action," Clifton stated, citing from 1 Peter 1:13-25 in the Good News Bible, "be obedient to God ... be holy in all that you do ... spend the rest of your lives here on earth in reverence to [God] ... [you know about] the costly sacrifice of Christ ... [have] a sincere love for your fellow-believers ... love one another ... you have been born again as the children of a parent who is immortal ... the word of the Lord remains."
According to the Salvation Army, the new general will be welcomed by the public in London’s Kensington Town Hall on Apr. 8 at 4 p.m.