First Holiness Seminar Builds on Legacy

"Testimony after testimony spoke of the desire to take everything they learned back into their local corps to reinforce this foundation of holiness in the lives of their fellow soldiers."

When William Booth was 15, he wrote these words in his journal: “God shall have all there is of William Booth.”

This sentiment, that God can have all there is of His followers, is reflected in The Salvation Army’s tenth doctrine, cementing and boldly stating our belief in the doctrine of holiness:

“We believe that it is the privilege of all believers to be wholly sanctified and that their whole spirit and soul and body may be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

As Salvationists, the belief in holiness is our history, the legacy we inherited from the very foundations of this movement and recorded in the writings and messages of William and Catherine Booth, Samuel Logan Brengle, Gunpei Yamamuro and more.

We cannot be content to simply allow that to be our beginning, though. We are dedicated to continue as a people of holiness and it is that dedication that birthed the first National Seminar on Holiness, conducted by The Salvation Army’s National Headquarters. Nearly 100 Soldiers and Officers from around the nation gathered at Glen Eyrie in Colorado Springs, Colorado to spend time studying the doctrine of holiness and how it shapes our lives today. From the moment it began, there was a sense of expectation to truly grasp all that God had in store over the week. Dr. Bill Ury, National Ambassador of Holiness, who taught several sessions, shared his experience of this hunger from the delegates. “From the first interactions at registration until separating at the airport, there was not one light conversation.  Every participant came expectant and desirous of more of the Holy One.  Even though I was honored to be one of the speakers, it was challenging to stand in a breakfast line and be asked, “Now tell me again, is ‘holiness’ the same as sanctification and perfection?”  What a beautiful question.  And that was the level of our constant conversations about the deepest ideas revealed: who God is and what He wants to make of us.” Reverand Diane Ury, Associate National Ambassador for Holiness, expressed similar thoughts. “From the very first moments of the delegates’ arrival at Glen Eyrie, the degree of longing for holiness was unmistakable and remarkable. I’ve never been in a context like this before, where each participant came with an ardent eagerness to learn, and also a desperate hunger to receive an experience of cleansing and renewal in their own hearts. 

Commissioner Kenneth Hodder made it clear from the very first session that the Mercy Seat is a place where God meets human need and that it was open and available to any person at any time during the week. This set the tone for immediate altar response. No waiting until the end of the event – No! Sunday morning, and each day following, staff and delegates alike rushed to prayer, offering all of themselves to belong to the One who continually offers all of Himself to us.”

Under the deep teachings of Commissioner Kenneth Hodder, Dr. Bill and Reverend Diane Ury, Dr. Steve Macchia, Captain Enrique Azuaje, and soldier Cotton Presley, delegates poured over Scriptures to study the basis for this doctrine on holiness. Small groups gave the opportunity for discussion and wrestling through these challenging concepts, as well as the opportunity to intercede for one another in prayer. This small group time was impactful, leading some to want to start a similar ministry in their corps. As one delegate shared, “My understanding of the Gospel message has been enriched and will permeate into all aspects of my ministry. Most importantly though is the small group discipleship calling that the Lord has placed on my heart.”

Of her first event as the National Secretary of Program, Commissioner Jolene Hodder shares: “Sometimes we compare ourselves to other Christians and think we’re doing pretty good. But God doesn’t call us just to be ‘pretty good.’ In fact, 1 Peter 1:16 tells us that we are to be holy just as God is holy.  That should be every Salvationist’s desire.  It is my desire. The speakers at NSH demystified holiness and shared practical ways we can all experience it.  My prayer is that as we continue to desire more of God, surrendering our hearts to Him, the Holy Spirit will take full control of our lives and transform our Army.”

At the end of the week, delegates descended from the mountain, both physically and spiritually, changed by their experiences and the presence of God. Testimony after testimony spoke of the desire to take everything they learned back into their local corps to reinforce this foundation of holiness in the lives of their fellow soldiers. May it be so! 

Report by Major Jamie Satterlee, photos by Major David Davis

The National Seminar on Holiness will continue on a biyearly basis, rotating with the National Seminar on Evangelism. If you are interested in attending either event, please see your local Salvation Army for more details.