Biography: General Shaw Clifton and Commissioner Helen Clifton

Commissioner Shaw Clifton was elected the 18th General of The Salvation Army by the High Council on Saturday 28 January 2006. He succeeded General John Larsson as the international leader of The Salvation Army on Sunday 2 April 2006. Commissioner Helen Clifton became the World President of Women’s Ministries succeeding Commissioner Freda Larsson.

Shaw Clifton was born to Salvation Army officer parents in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on 21 September 1945. During his early years he also lived in Scotland and England before attending the University of London to study law. After university, he lectured in law at the Inns of Court, London, and at the University of Bristol before entering The Salvation Army International Training College for Officer Training in 1971 with his wife, Helen. Shaw Clifton is also the holder of a first class honors Bachelor of Divinity degree from the University of London.

Helen Ashman was born on 4 May 1948 and spent her childhood in London. She has a Bachelor of Arts (Honors) degree in English Language and Literature from Westfield College, University of London and a Post-Graduate Certificate of Education from Goldsmiths’ College, University of London. Helen Ashman married Shaw Clifton in 1967. She was a teacher before entering the International Training College at Denmark Hill, London.

Commissioned as Salvation Army officers in 1973, Lieutenant and Mrs. Clifton served as corps officers at Burnt Oak, North London, and then, while awaiting an appointment overseas, the Lieutenant worked for some months in the Literary Department at International Headquarters. The Cliftons were appointed to Zimbabwe where the Lieutenant was the Vice-Principal at Mazowe Secondary School, and then Captain and Mrs. Clifton were corps officers at Bulawayo Citadel. This was a period of remarkable growth in the corps at a time of significant political turmoil.

In January 1979 Captain and Mrs. Clifton were appointed corps officers at Enfield, North London. From 1982 to 1989 the Captain was the IHQ Legal and Parliamentary Secretary where he undertook considerable international travel looking after The Salvation Army’s constitutional affairs and other legal matters. During these years, he completed a PhD in the History of Religion at King’s College, University of London. This research was an ethical analysis of The Salvation Army’s policies in time of war. Major and Mrs. Clifton were appointed the corps officers at Bromley Temple, South London, for three years.

In June 1995, following a three-year appointment as divisional leaders in Durham and Tees Division (United Kingdom), Lt. Colonel and Mrs. Clifton were appointed leaders in the Massachusetts Division (USA Eastern). In August 1997, the Cliftons were promoted to the rank of Colonel and appointed to lead The Salvation Army in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan where the Army experienced rapid and consistent growth amid deep political and interfaith tensions. In March 2000, while in Pakistan, they were promoted to the rank of Commissioner and in March 2002 they became territorial leaders of the New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga Territory. In New Zealand they faced the challenges of a highly secularized society.

In June 2004 Commissioners Shaw and Helen Clifton were appointed as the leaders of the United Kingdom Territory with the Republic of Ireland. Their term of office was characterized by an emphasis on reinforcing, under God, the self-confidence of Salvationists who live in a post-modern and secularized society. The Cliftons encouraged a renewed belief in commitment to soldiership and a strong emphasis on the distinctive calling to officership. In addition, Commissioner Shaw Clifton led the way in responding to daunting challenges in matters of finance and property stewardship.

The Cliftons are frequent guest leaders and speakers at Brengle Institutes and other Army events around the world. They consistently emphasize The Salvation Army’s holiness teaching. General Clifton’s training as a lawyer, ethicist and theologian has resourced his significant teaching and writing ministry. He continues to lecture in Christian Ethics and other topics at the International College for Officers in London. Two of his recent books, published by the Army, were released by Crest Books (USA National HQ). These are Never the Same Again – Encouragement for New and Not-so-New Christians and Who Are These Salvationists? – An Analysis For  The 21st Century. His sixth and latest book was published in New Zealand in March 2004. Entitled New Love, it is a unique collection of essays on practical holiness.

Commissioner Helen Clifton has always had a close interest in youth work, especially in The Salvation Army Students’ Fellowship. A schoolteacher by profession, she has kept in touch with the world of education and especially the impact of education upon women in the developing world. She gives much time and energy to women’s ministries and especially to the personal and professional development of women in spiritual leadership. She has been Chair of the Pakistan Territory’s Human Resources Development Board, and was also Director of the Army’s nationwide Mother and Child Health Education (MACHE) project in Pakistan. She was an invited facilitator/contributor to the Army’s international Summit on Poverty. As Territorial President of Women’s Ministries in the United Kingdom Territory with the Republic of Ireland, Commissioner Helen Clifton has headed up a Territorial Task Force to respond to human trafficking. Innovative programs to support women leaving the sex trade are being devised and piloted.

The Cliftons have three children and five grandchildren: Captain Matthew Clifton serving with his wife, Lynne, are corps officers in the UK and parents to Hannah, Elijah and Amos; Captain Jenny Collings, who with her husband, Marcus (from Auckland) is a Salvation Army officer in New Zealand with their sons, Hudson and Lincoln; and Cadet John Clifton, a member of the Ambassadors of Holiness Session at the William Booth College in London.

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