- The Washington Times - Monday, January 31, 2011

For the third time in its 146-year history, the Salvation Army has selected a woman to be its general, or international leader. The London-based church and charity elected Commissioner Linda Bond on Monday to take office on April 2.

“I am a Salvationist through and through; I love the Lord with all my heart,” Ms. Bond, 64, said in remarks streamed over the Internet from Sunbury Court in southeast London. An officer, or ordained minister, in the Army since 1969, she currently leads the group’s activities in the eastern part of Australia. A Nova Scotia native, Ms. Bond entered the ministry from Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Moments after her election, Ms. Bond focused attention on the spiritual work of the Army. While widely known for its social services, Salvationists — as members of the movement are called — see themselves as evangelical Christians first and foremost.

“Our relationship with Jesus is what makes the Salvation Army great. It’s what makes the Salvation Army effective, and it’s what makes the Salvation Army loved,” said Ms. Bond. “We have a great world that needs us, and we are God’s gift to this world, and we need God’s spirit to come upon us,” she added.

Earlier in her career, Ms. Bond was territorial commander, or leader, of Salvation Army work in the western United States. It was during that period that the now-deceased Joan Kroc, widow of McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc, bequeathed $1.5 billion to the group for a series of ultramodern community centers, largely aimed at inner-city areas.

Ms. Bond’s election, coming 25 years after the last time a woman, now-retired General Eva Burrows, was named to the top slot, is a positive move all around, said Roger J. Green, a Salvationist who is chairman of the department of Biblical Studies and Christian Ministries at Gordon College in Wenham, Mass.

Ms. Bond is “certainly qualified, has broad experience in the Salvation Army and is committed to the Army and to its mission,” said Mr. Green, who has written a biography of Army co-founder Catherine Booth.

“This will say something to the broader church world, having a woman General again, will say something about the importance of women in ministry to the Salvation Army,” he added in a telephone interview.

He predicted that the new General will clearly represent the movement in a secularized world. “I think that the strength of Linda is that she’s very clear about the history, the theology and the mission of the Salvation Army. She and I are on the same page on this: Clarity in those issues is critical for working in the world in which we work,” Mr. Green said.

The Salvation Army claims a church membership of 1 million Salvationists in 123 countries. The group also has more than 100,000 employees, who taken together communicate in 175 different languages, the organization says.

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