The new leader of the Salvation Army in the UK and Ireland was introduced this week. Upon taking up his new appointment on June 1, 2004, the experienced Commissioner Shaw Clifton, has highlighted his concerns about the fall in membership in the UK.
During a special service for his official installment held in Sheffield this week, he addressed the current challenges the Salvation Army faced to all Salvationists in the UK and Ireland. The Salvation Army in the UK has not been immune to the rate of decline felt amongst other churches, but our challenge is to seek ways of reversing that trend, commented Commissioner Clifton.
Commissioner Clifton is optimistic about the future and wants to take concrete actions to relieve the crisis. In particular I believe in the importance of people responding to God's call to full-time ministry, as this will in turn provide more local leadership and more opportunities to reach people for Christ.
He immediately short term plan in the coming months is to visit Salvation Army churches across the UK and Republic of Ireland to see how ministry and membership can be encouraged.
At the same time, Commissioner Helen Clifton, the wife of Commissioner Shaw Clifton, was also newly appointed to take on responsibility for all women's activities and groups in the UK. The two have proved to be good co-workers leading Salvation Army work in New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga immediately before taking on this role.
Since Commissioner Shaw and Helen Clifton joined the Salvation Army in 1973, they have led Salvation Army work in five continents as well as spending a period of time at The Salvation Army's international office. Both of them are successful and devoted leaders who have pledged to save the UK from the membership crisis.
Commissioner Shaw, who is 58, holds a Bachelor of Divinity degree from the University of London and is a PhD in the History of Religion. For several years, he has lectured Christian Ethics at The Salvation Army's International College for Officers in London. He is specialized in the interface between Christian belief and the current political climate, including the international political scene. Commissioner Clifton was a joint signatory with other church leaders in New Zealand to a statement advocating against the invasion of Iraq.
As a trained LLB from Kings College London, Commissioner Clifton has also held the position of Legal and Parliamentary Secretary at The Salvation Armys International Headquarters. He has written several books on Salvation Army practice and doctrine entitled: What does the Salvationist say? (1977), Growing Together (1984), Strong Doctrine, Strong Mercy (1985), Never the same again (1997) and Who are these Salvationists? (1999). He also holds the University of Londons Relton Prize for Biblical and Historical Theology.
Commissioner Helen Clifton is a schoolteacher by profession. She has always had a close connection with youth work and education. In particular, she had kept close touch with the impact of education upon women in the developing work. Her special field of interest is in the personal and professional development of women in spiritual leadership. Therefore, she has been involved in both human resources and The Salvation Army's Mother and Child Health Education project in Pakistan.
The Salvation Army in the UK and Ireland is part of an international Christian church working in 109 countries worldwide. Demonstrating its Christian principles through social welfare provision, the Salvation Army is one of the largest providers of social welfare in the UK.