The role of International Headquarters today
The IHQ core mission statement succinctly summarises the role of International Headquarters today: 'International Headquarters exists to support the General as he/she leads The Salvation Army to accomplish its God-given worldwide mission to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and meet human needs in his name without discrimination.'
What hits the eye immediately is how inextricably linked the role of IHQ is with the leadership role of the General. As the mission statement makes clear, this leadership role has everything to do with mission. And the key role of International Headquarters is therefore to be the dynamo that inspires, directs, supports and resources mission around the world.
The extended version of the IHQ mission statement details how International Headquarters assists the General –
- To give spiritual leadership, promote the development of spiritual life within the Army, and emphasise the Army's reliance on God for the achievement of its mission.
- To provide overall strategic leadership and set international policies.
- To direct and administer the Army's operations and protect its interests – by means of appointments, and delegation of authority and responsibility with accountability.
- To empower and support the territories and commands, encourage and pastorally care for their leaders, and inspire local vision and initiatives.
- To strengthen the internationalism of the Army, preserve its unity, purposes, beliefs and spirit, and maintain its standards.
- To promote the development, appropriate deployment and international sharing of personnel.
- To promote the development and sharing of financial resources worldwide, and manage the Army's international funds.
- To promote the development and international sharing of knowledge, expertise and experience.
- To develop the Army's ecumenical and other relationships.
To accomplish these goals, the General uses his powers of delegation and IHQ works as a team. The Chief of the Staff is the chief executive, and there are nine international secretaries, under whom all aspects of activity are grouped. Five of these international secretaries are 'geographic' and represent different parts of the world. Four of the international secretaries are 'functional' and represent the functions of administration, personnel, business and programme resources. In virtually every matter IHQ deals with there is an interplay between 'geographic' and 'functional' considerations. In this IHQ is unique as a headquarters. The World President and World Secretary for Women's Ministries supervise the ministry by and to women around the world.
It is a small team – the new building is the smallest IHQ the Army has ever had. This is not because the Army internationally is getting smaller. On the contrary, the Army is bigger today than it has ever been. The smallness of the team is due to administrative readjustments and downsizing. But it is a team with a diverse range of skills which is becoming more and more representative of the Army's ethnic diversity around the world.
The IHQ team handles the wide range of activities covered by the bullet points above. The points speak for themselves, but let me highlight some aspects.
Unity amid diversity
The Army is probably the most closely-knit denomination in the world – even surpassing the Roman Catholic Church in this regard. It is the same Salvation Army everywhere in the world. All territories have the same mission, accept the same doctrines, are governed by the same set of directives in the form of internationally binding Orders and Regulations, and their officers and soldiers sign the same covenants. And yet at the same time there is diversity between territories. This diversity is essential. The Army must adapt to the local culture and circumstances if it is to achieve its mission. A continuing challenge for IHQ is to maintain unity amid this diversity.
Empowering of territories
The mission action is 'out there' – not at International Headquarters. And that is why another key role of IHQ is to empower and support the territories and to inspire local vision and initiatives. The General delegates extensive powers to the local leadership – and that leadership in turn is accountable to the international leadership. Within the bounds of unity accepted by all, territories have considerable autonomy. And that is how it should be.
Sharing of financial resources
Numerically, two thirds of the Army today is found in Africa and South Asia. Two thirds of the financial resources are in the Western world. When it comes to the sharing of financial resources, the story of The Salvation Army is one of remarkable international generosity and mutual support. International Headquarters facilitates this process through the International Self-Denial Fund, to which all territories contribute, and the quite remarkable system of 'projects'. IHQ also sponsors the recently-introduced 'Partners in Mission' scheme, whereby territories are directly linked with each other. About two thirds of territories receive grant aid in some form or other.
Sharing of personnel
If the sharing of financial resources is a remarkable story, so is the way that there is a continuous sharing of personnel. The complexities involved seem to grow greater as the world becomes smaller! Again, IHQ plays the leading role in facilitating that process. Another responsibility of IHQ is to encourage and monitor the development of personnel in all countries where the Army is at work.
Sharing of knowledge
Another crucial role of IHQ is to facilitate the sharing of knowledge, expertise and experience. This is sometimes achieved by making the right link-ups between people – linking need with supply. At other times it is achieved through the sharing of written material. The Army's international Lotus Notes intra-net system is opening up possibilities in this regard that our forefathers could not even have dreamt possible!
IHQ as glue!
In addition to its leadership and resourcing functions, IHQ is in fact the glue that binds the international Army together! A useful way of picturing the role of IHQ today is to imagine the office of the General and IHQ as no longer being there. At a stroke, The Salvation Army would be a very different Army. Instead of being one Army marching in one direction, it would begin to become a collection of armies each doing its own thing. Soon it would no longer be The Salvation Army as we know it today, and as William Booth meant it to be.
Always the visionary and the realist, the Founder knew what he was doing when he laid the Army's international foundations as he did!
Article written for and originally published in the UK Territory's