General with a mission to preach prays for the press: The Salvation Army's leader elect is loud and proud but unwilling to discuss the society's pounds 5m fraud losses

FEW press conferences start with the victim praying for the media. But the Salvation Army's new General-elect, Commissioner Bramwell Tillsley, was determined to preach to the press who had come - most to ask about the pounds 5m which the society had lost to a fraud last year.

He would not answer any questions about that in detail. 'I think God is going to bring good out of it. We have done what we could, and we are still hopeful of getting some of the money back,' he said.

Measures had been taken to prevent any repetition of the disaster, he said, but 'you can have all the safeguards in the world . . . but you are still vulnerable to the human factor'.

Commissioner Tillsley, 61, a Canadian, will take over on 8 July from General Eva Burrows, an Australian who led the society for seven years. He had been her second in command and was chosen from six candidates. The first 22 minutes of his press conference were taken up with a reproduction of his election speech, his large, self-confident voice overflowing the boundaries of the room. 'Fifthly, in my nominations speech, I was praying for basic integrity. Our methods change, but our principles must never change. I am praying most sincerely that we will be an Army of integrity,' the general continued, 'And I am praying, sixthly . . .'

After the questions, a five-year-old Zulu girl, Faith Mahlangu, was sent on to pose with the new General, his wife and predecessor. She only flinched a little when hoisted into the air to be kissed.

His barnstorming style was a clear reminder of what an un-English, international organisation the Salvation Army is. The General-elect said the most promising area for the Army's operations was in Russia. 'We are obviously there to meet human need: the social needs in Russia are almost overwhelming. But I am concerned that we do not just do the things government could just as well do. We are there to proclaim the gospel.'

At the end of the interview, he reached for a stack of postcards showing a baby being held against the epauletted shoulder of a Salvation Army officer, and signed it rapidly. 'Andrew, it has been a pleasure sharing with you. Bramwell H Tillsely.'

(Photograph omitted)

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