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Commissioner Miriam Gluyas - called by God to lead


Commissioner Miriam Gluyas gives her first sermon after being installed as Territorial Commander of the Australia Territory during a ceremony at Project 614 Corps in Melbourne on Sunday 12 February 2023. Photo: Ben Whimpey – Indimax Productions


Shortly after her starting as head of The Salvation Army in Australia on 1 February 2023, MAJOR PETER McGUIGAN spoke with Commissioner Miriam Gluyas about her life and her vision for the mission of the Salvos.


Commissioner Miriam Gluyas, recently appointed Territorial Commander for The Salvation Army Australia and Chair of its Board of Governance, believes that accessibility of leaders is vital to the success of any organisation in any sector of society – including the religious and charity sectors.


“It would kill me if I wasn’t able to be accessible,” she says with a firmness that tells you she is serious. “Times have changed. It’s no longer about position and title. We have to be highly relational in these days. We’re in a postmodern, post-Christian, post-COVID world.”


Commissioner Miriam Gluyas enjoys a lighter moment during her Installation service in Melbourne on Sunday. Photo: Ben Whimpey – Indimax Productions

Taking that a step further, the new Salvos leader seeks to hear and welcome all points of view. “The important thing is to come into a room and value the diversity and the contribution of everyone in that room.


“Together, we recognise the way ahead may not be clear, but ‘our eyes are on you Lord because you can show us the way’. Together we will pray and we will wrestle with the issues, and everyone’s opinion will count. I can’t tell you how important that is for me – that the voice of all is heard.”


That might come as a breath of fresh air to Australians, for whom many executive leaders almost seem unknowable or remote at best. And certainly, it’s a good sign for the more than 17,000 signed-up Salvos and 8000 employees working under her leadership. It says a lot about exactly who Miriam Gluyas is and the kind of leader she has become.


Born in 1959 into a Salvation Army family and raised in the Victorian city of Ballarat, at her admission, her childhood and teenage years were “fortunate”. They delivered both an outlook on life that sees anything being possible and a foundation steeped in the faith, hope and love practice of her family and The Salvation Army.


“What makes me who I am today is really my family of origin,” she says with a glint in her eye and an open smile. “Very strong values, we loved well, we wrestled well, you knew that you could be anything, do anything.


“Our roots go way back into The Salvation Army. My great-great-grandmother was a church planter in Scotland. It was a really solid foundation of love and acceptance. I loved life, loved a challenge, never thought anything was too hard.”


Early role models

Miriam says Ballarat was a great place to grow up. She learnt to barrack for the Geelong Cats even though her dad was a strong Collingwood Magpies supporter. It was a good wrestle she remembers well.


She went to Mount Clear Primary School and then Ballarat and Clarendon College, a Presbyterian school. At Clarendon, while you were expected to succeed, she affirms it was a great environment to grow and develop.


“I had some great role-modelling whether at church, at school or at home. My grandmother always lived with us. She was strong, independent, opinionated. My father was very much a debater. He and I would disagree on most things and debate them. My mother was a beautiful, amiable lady.


Miriam had a dream of pursuing a professional golf career before becoming a Salvation Army officer. Photo: Shairon Paterson

“So I think I got the best of every world between the three of them. Close to all of them. I’ve lost my Nanna and Mum now, but Dad is still with us, and we’re still debating. This independence, this free spirit, this debater. I’ve become highly relational. I love people.”


There is a confidence about Commissioner Gluyas and an evenness in her temperament that tells you she has carried the best fruit of her formative years into adulthood and her leadership roles in The Salvation Army. In the late 1970s, she relocated with her family to Port Macquarie on the NSW mid-north coast. Despite wanting to teach sport and pursue professional golf, she trained as a Salvation Army officer and was commissioned in January 1983 in Sydney.


Since then, her posts have included being at the frontline as a corps officer (pastor) for Salvation Army faith communities (corps); a training officer at the Officer Training College; a divisional youth secretary; divisional commander of The Salvation Army NSW/ACT Division; and, internationally, as a chief secretary of The Salvation Army Papua New Guinea.

Turning points

Notwithstanding her positive, nothing’s impossible outlook, Commissioner Gluyas talks about turning points in her life that have prepared her along the way for the next steps. One of these was when she was appointed to lead a church plant in the Newcastle suburb of Eastlakes. “God said very clearly to me, ‘Are you going to do it your way or my way this time?’ I thought, ‘That’s a bit rude, God!’


“But I knew exactly what he meant. I’m a person who loves life; I can do things, I can see where we’re going to go and how to get there. But God was showing me there’s a better way, and that is to say, ‘Holy Spirit, I actually need you; I need you to come through.’


“So we fasted, we prayed, we did the journey together, we relied on the Spirit and asked for his presence constantly. As we did, we saw a plant that went from basically nothing to a couple of hundred with so many salvations and people’s lives transformed. What God showed me was a defining moment because that would then be how I did ministry through the years.”


Enrolling senior soldiers at Bankstown Corps in Sydney during her time as divisional commander of the NSW/ACT Division.   

Another turning point was when she arrived back in Australia from Papua New Guinea, where she had been Chief Secretary for three years. It was January 2016, and she was appointed to lead the NSW/ACT Division.


“God gave me a picture of him standing with his arms folded and saying, ‘When you’re ready in the West, when you’re finished with all your cleverness and your money and your consultants and everything else, I’m here.’


“I have a really strong calling on my life that aligns with this vision. It’s that what God can do in a Developing Nation, he can do in the West. And it’s probably why I am here now. In the West, we have to really seek out how to rely on God. Every day, I’m committed to praying, ‘Holy Spirit, please come; I need you; you make the decisions; you walk with me.’ It’s a deliberate, daily choice.”


‘Oaks of righteousness’

Commissioner Gluyas describes herself as a visionary strategist but quickly adds that she values the lessons she has learnt along the way, including the importance of seeking individual and collective wisdom.


She understands the challenges facing the church and charity sector in the 2020s and sees that the difference between the Salvos flourishing and stagnating will be personal and corporate renewal of the group’s spiritual heart.


Scripturally, she says Salvos should take the calling of Jesus as their own, personally and collectively. “We are to be an Isaiah 61, Luke 4 people,” she stresses. “‘The Spirit of the sovereign Lord’ is on us. We have to make sure, first and foremost, that this is true. We are to be ‘oaks of righteousness’ (Isaiah 61:3). The people of God have to put their roots down deep. They’ve got to be the place where people want to come and shelter, the place where people find refuge, where we can sit and talk and explore together. If we’re not oaks of righteousness, we can’t do what God’s asking us to do.


“[As Isaiah 61:3 also says] we’re to bring ‘beauty for ashes’. We live in a world where kids are trying out all sorts of things. We live in a world without hope. So we’re to bring beauty instead of ashes. It’s the Salvation Army deal ...


“Again, if we’re not oaks of righteousness, we can’t bring the beauty for ashes. As the people of God called Salvation Army, we need to rise up and let’s go! We need to create a new story. Sometimes the world likes us better than we like ourselves. Our story is transformation.”


Commissioner Gluyas describes these days for The Salvation Army as “scary-exciting”. Getting it right is a big, big deal, she says. “We’re a mission movement born to be propelled by the Spirit of God into our communities, living out the transforming love of Jesus. That’s who and what we must be. We must be close to God.”


Major Peter McGuigan serves as Corps Officer of Sydney Congress Hall Corps and Faith Integration Leader for the Salvos in the City of Sydney. From 1 March 2023, he will be The Salvation Army’s Head of Government Relations for Australia, based in Canberra. Additionally, he is a writer for Others Online and Salvos Magazine.

 

To read a report on the official welcome and installation of Commissioner Miriam Gluyas as Territorial Commander of The Salvation Army Australia, go to https://others.org.au/news/2023/02/13/commissioner-miriam-gluyas-installed-as-territorial-commander/



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