After ten days of deliberation and five rounds of balloting, the Salvation Army's High Council in London elected Commissioner John Gowans as its sixteenth general on May 15.
Gowans, a 64-year-old native of Blantyre, Scotland, is known informally among evangelicals as the church's "poet laureate," having written hundreds of poems, many of which have been set to music. Some have become Salvation Army hymns. Gowans will succeed Gen. Paul A. Rader, the first American-born leader of the movement. Rader will retire next month on his sixth-fifth birthday to Lexington, Kentucky, where he will serve on the board of governors at Asbury College, his alma mater. The outgoing leader will have served almost five years as international head of the organization, and he, with his commissioner wife, Kay, has visited 72 of the 104 countries in which the movement operates.
Though primarily known for its social services, the Salvation Army is an evangelical denomination claiming a global membership of 1.2 million worldwide, including 786,000 in Africa and 117,000 in the United States.
Along with relief work in domestic disasters, such as the tornadoes that struck Oklahoma and Kansas last month, the organization is feeding refugees from the war in Kosovo, with plans calling for a six-month program of offering 27,000 meals per day, at a cost of $2.4 million.
Salvation Army ministers, called officers, and laypersons, known as soldiers, have been sent to refugee camps in Albania to support the effort.
ORIGINAL VISION RESTATED: Gowans's election comes at a moment when the Salvation Army is under the strain of the increasingly complex demands of providing humanitarian assistance around the world while facing the internal challenge of retaining a spiritual ...1