Salvation Army

views updated May 23 2018


SALVATION ARMY . The Salvation Army is described in its official mission statement as an "international movement" and "an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church." Its "message is based on the Bible," its "ministry is motivated by the love of God," and its "mission is to preach the Gospel" and to "meet human needs" without discrimination. In 2001 the organization operated in 108 countries and had 17,341 active clergy (officers) and 1,028,691 active members (soldiers). Members of any rank are called Salvationists.

Salvationists are officially required to subscribe to eleven doctrines, which are fundamentalist, evangelical, and Protestant. The army's theological position is based on that of John Wesley (17031791), the founder of Methodism, and is a restatement of the orthodox belief that love is the single motive for all true Christian endeavor: as God loved his children and sent his Son to die for them, so his children desire to love God and to show love to each other and to all people, especially the unsaved. Salvationists show this love through aggressive evangelism and a broad range of social welfare activities. Except for the omission of sacramental observances, the doctrinal beliefs of the Salvation Army have excited little controversy.

History and Aims

The doctrinal positions, objectives, and military structure of the Salvation Army have not changed since its beginning in 1878, and in many aspects even its methods of operation have changed surprisingly little. The movement was the brainchild of William Booth (18291912), an English evangelist, and his wife Catherine Booth (18291890). Members of their immediate family held important positions of leadership until the Booths' daughter Evangeline Booth (18651950) retired in 1939. The founders' influence over the modern army has remained strong.

The forerunner of the Salvation Army was the Christian Mission, which the Booths established in the East End of London in 1865 to evangelize the urban poor. Booth and his associates believed that this segment of the population had been ignored by the organized religious bodies of their day. While this was not true, Booth's efforts developed into the first systematic and large-scale program to reach London's poor with the gospel. A degree of social conscience was characteristic of the Christian Mission almost from the beginning. Efforts to relieve the destitution of those who attended their religious services were a natural outgrowth of the missionaries' evangelical zeal: kindness and generosity were commanded by Christ, and, on the practical level, hunger and cold kept many potential converts from paying proper attention to the gospel message. By 1867, four small-scale charitable activities, including a soup kitchen, were listed in the mission's annual report.

The military structure, by which the Christian Mission was transformed into an army, seemed to be the inspiration of a moment, although Booth and his closest associates had been dissatisfied with the conference system of governing the mission for some time. While preparing the mission's annual report for 1878, Booth deleted the term volunteer army in describing the work and substituted Salvation Army. The effect was electric. Booth became the "General"; full-time mission workers became "officers" and adopted a variety of military titles; converts and members became "soldiers." Brass bands, long popular with the English working class and especially well suited to the army's open-air evangelism, were added in 1879, along with a weekly devotional and news publication suitably called the War Cry. In 1880 the first regulation uniform was issued to George S. Railton (18491913) as he departed for the United States to establish the army's first official overseas mission. Comrades who died were "promoted to Glory," and children born into army families were hailed as "reinforcements." Since 1890, soldiers have been required to subscribe to the "Articles of War," a statement of doctrine, allegiance, and zeal for the "salvation war."

The new Salvation Army grew rapidly. Booth and his officers were driven by an overpowering sense of urgencynot to change the social structure but to save souls by any means. The great work was not revolution but rescue, while time yet remained. The army's most frequent self-portrayal, which appeared in posters, on the War Cry covers, and in songs, was as a lifeboat or a lighthouse, with eager Salvationists shown snatching the lost from the waves of drunkenness, crime, and vice. The thrill of losing oneself in a triumphant crusade, the military pomp, and a constantly expanding scheme of social relief proved irresistible to large numbers of the poor and to many working- and middle-class persons as well. Despite legal obstructionism from municipal authorities and ridicule from the movement's opponents, by 1887 there were a thousand corps (local units) in Great Britain, and by the end of the decade work had been started in twenty-four other countries and British colonies.

Doctrines and Practices

The Salvation Army held its converts at least partly on the clarity and simplicity of its doctrines, which were formally established by an act of Parliament in 1878. The army's doctrinal statement proclaims, on the one hand, both the atonement of Christ and the necessity of radical conversion and, on the other hand, the "privilege of holiness." In Salvation Army terms, holiness means that the sincere believer can live for love, in adoration of Christ, in joyful fellowship within the ranks of the army, and in kindly service to a dying world. Pioneer Salvationists saw religious questions in stark and simple terms; anything that was not deemed absolutely essential to salvation or helpful to evangelism, or that was regarded as inherently confusing to unlettered converts was simply jettisoned. It was partly for these reasons that the Booths abandoned sacramental observances; in addition, they had committed their movement almost from the start to the temperance (abstinence) crusade, which would not allow the use of sacramental wine.

As appealing as the doctrines of the Salvation Army may be, however, they are neither original nor unique, and they only partly explain its strength as a religious movement. The rest of the explanation has been the use to which the army puts its members, its system of discipline, and its social relief program. Converts are put promptly to work giving testimony about their own conversions, distributing the War Cry, praying, singing, playing a band instrument at indoor and outdoor religious meetings, or visiting the elderly, sick, and needy. Soldiers expect a lifetime of such service, and occasional natural disasters add to the ordinary demands on local army personnel. In addition, a number of entertaining and useful programs have been developed to utilize the energy of young people. Parades, military regalia, and an effective use of music augment, where they do not actually create, joy and pride in being part of the "Army of God." The Salvation Army has always made its appeal as broad as possible and is intentionally multicultural.

Salvationists are comfortable within the army's autocratic structure, which emphasizes obedience, loyalty, and efficiency. The system has changed more in practice than in spirit since 1878. The most important alteration in the absolute autocracy established by William Booth came in 1929, when the general's privileges of serving for life and naming his own successor were abolished. The generalship became an elective office at the disposal of a council of all territorial commanders, and the leader so chosen serves only until a certain age. Once a general is installed, however, his or her powers differ little in theory from those of the founder. Every subordinate officer is expected to obey without question the orders of a superior, and much the same is required of the soldiers. In practice, the principle of unquestioning obedience is tempered by many considerations. There is a growing commitment to a more consultative management style.

The army offers a "balanced ministry," which consists of its evangelistic program and a vast system of social welfare activities. There were important beginnings in the 1880s in England, the United States, and elsewhere, but the turning point in the development of the army's social welfare program came in 1890 with the publication of General Booth's manifesto titled In Darkest England and the Way Out. The book and the scheme it offered for relieving the sufferings of the "submerged tenth" of Victorian society attracted considerable publicity and support. An immense and varied program, marked by a quick delivery of services at the point of need, has developed. The army has sponsored food and shelter depots, industrial rehabilitation centers, rescue homes for converted prostitutes, hospitals for unwed mothers, orphanages, day-care centers, halfway houses for released convicts, programs for alcoholics and drug addicts, camping trips for poor city children, a variety of family relief and counseling services, and abuse shelters.

The Salvation Army's greatest strength is in English-speaking countries. Just over 50 percent of all active officers and 85 percent of all lay employees are in five countries: the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Although the international headquarters remains in London, the American branch is by far the largest in terms of social programs, whereas the largest numbers of active members are found in Africa, India, and Pakistan.

The army in the United States is divided into four territorial commands, each with its own headquarters and training school. The territorial leaders report to the national commander, whose headquarters is in Alexandria, Virginia. In 2003, two-thirds of the 3,647 Salvation Army officers in the United States were serving as ministers to the 1,369 local congregations (called corps), while also directing the numerous social services that flow from these local units. Other officers serve in staff and educational appointments or as administrators of the army's many social institutions. The Adult Rehabilitation Command, which offers residential alcoholic rehabilitation to both men and women, is particularly well developed.

See Also

Booth, William.


The amount of written material produced by the Salvation Army since its beginning is enormous; it is of uneven quality, but an acquaintance with at least some of it is indispensable to an understanding of the movement. Early issues of the War Cry (London, 1879; New York, 1881) portray the zeal and colorful activities of the pioneers. The serious student should begin with Chosen to Be a Soldier: Orders and Regulations for Soldiers of the Salvation Army (London, 1977 [earlier editions were written by the founder]) and Salvation Army: Salvationist Handbook of Doctrine (London, 1998). A useful and informative Salvation Army Yearbook (London, 1903) is published annually. The best full-scale history of the army is a long-range project by senior officers, Robert Sandall, Arch R. Wiggins, and Frederick Coutts, and Henry Gariepy, The History of the Salvation Army, 8 vols. (London and New York, 19471994). The most comprehensive history of the army in the United States is still Edward H. McKinley, Marching to Glory: The History of the Salvation Army in the United States of America, 18801992, 2d rev. ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich., 1995), but the serious student should consult the growing body of new scholarly works on the army. Notably useful is Diane H. Winston, Red-Hot and Righteous: The Urban Religion of the Salvation Army (Cambridge, Mass., 1999). The army's international, U.S., and territorial headquarters maintain copious websites that are continually updated.

Edward H. McKinley (1987 and 2005)

Salvation Army

views updated May 21 2018

Salvation Army

In little more than a hundred years, the Salvation Army transformed itself from a despised and persecuted evangelical mission to the largest charitable fund-raiser in the United States. One of the few extant expressions of the ninetieth-century Holiness tradition that teaches sanctification, or a second baptism, and empowers believers for service, The Salvation Army remains true to founder William Booth's rallying cry "Soup, soap, and salvation!" In the last half of the twentieth century, however, Salvationists have been better known for soup and soap—that is, their vast array of social services—than for evangelism.

In 1861 William Booth resigned from a British Methodist denomination to start an itinerant ministry. Holding outdoor services in the London slums, he and his wife, Catherine, an early proponent of women's right to preach, sought the poor and destitute. But when Booth discovered that pressing material needs prevented many from hearing the gospel message, he began providing basic necessities, too. In 1879 Booth changed the name of his "Christian Mission" to the Salvation Army, and the military metaphor soon defined the structure, dress code, and identity of the organization. Instead of clergy, laity, and churches, the Salvation Army had officers, soldiers, and corps. Soldiers signed "articles of war" before enlisting in "active engagement" and donning their uniforms.

Booth's army arrived in the United States in the early 1880s, and its noisy bands and street-corner services elicited outrage from the pulpit and contempt from the press. When not marching through the streets, soldiers brought their campaign to the slums. Among their early efforts was a "Garret, Dive, and Tenement Brigade" of women officers serving in Manhattan's Lower East Side. By day the slum sisters cleaned, cooked, and tended children; at night they proselytized in brothels and saloons. Few were saved, but Salvationists, believing the work was itself a Christian witness, augmented their outreach and, by the turn of the twentieth century, ran shelters, soup kitchens, orphanages, and homes for unwed mothers. The organization was seen as a religious do-gooder group, but its status rose when, during World War I, members selflessly served American troops at the front lines. For almost a decade afterward, "Sallies," as Salvation Army women were called, were celebrated on stage and screen, and the Salvation Army was hailed as an exemplar of nonsectarian service.

The 1950 Broadway musical Guys and Dolls was the last time a starring role was written for a Sallie, but the Salvation Army still enjoys wide support. In 1997 donors contributed $1.1 billion to its $2.5 billion budget, which, in turn, subsidized programs including resident alcoholic rehabilitation centers, shelters for transients, halfway houses for ex-convicts and addicts, medical facilities, group homes, family programs, outreach to battered women and families with AIDS, thrift stores, employment bureaus, day-care centers, prison work, and emergency relief. Since religious witness is part of many Salvation Army programs, the organization accepts a limited amount of governmental funding. Relying on private support also allows the Salvation Army to follow its conscience, as in 1998, when it refused to comply with San Francisco's domestic partners law. While the Salvation Army provides social services for people with the HIV virus and AIDS, officials chose not to condone domestic partnerships between gays and lesbians in their workplace policy.

Salvationists describe their faith as a "practical religion" or a "religion of action," but they also subscribe to a conservative Christian theology (and concomitant social stands). Their eleven doctrines affirm traditional evangelical beliefs, such as the divine inspiration of Scripture and the atoning death of Jesus Christ. Since the organization's inception, Salvationists have done things differently than many of their coreligionists. Women have always had equal access to ministry; the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper are not practiced, and innovation has been the byword of evangelical outreach. Innovation has also changed the Salvation Army's structure. William Booth's army was an oligarchy, but today's organization is run democratically. Its global headquarters is in England, but national and territorial units worldwide have considerable autonomy and, as a result, distinctive regional profiles. The U.S. Salvation Army has four territorial divisions, and its policy is formulated by regional heads and the national commander. The Salvation Army in America is known for its abundant resources and diverse programs despite its modest size of 468,000 members. (There are about 3 million Salvationists worldwide.)

The Salvation Army's very success presents a singular challenge: how to keep its evangelical identity strong while appealing to a diverse public. Balancing its two foci—religious witness and social ministry—is the ultimate goal. Salvationists also face the same issues currently confronting American society: integrating increased racial and ethnic diversity within its ranks and providing women with equal access to top levels of leadership.

See alsoConversion; Food; Health; Holiness Movement; Preaching; Proselytizing; Salvation.


McKinley, Edward H. Marching to Glory: The History ofthe Salvation Army in the United States, 1880 –1992, rev. ed. 1995.

Murdoch, Norman. Origins of the Salvation Army. 1994.

Winston, Diane. Red-Hot and Righteous: The Urban Religion of the Salvation Army. 1999.

Diane Winston

Salvation Army

views updated May 11 2018


In 1865, the Reverend William Booth (1829–1912), an ordained minister in the Methodist New Connexion (a group that had seceded from the Wesleyans), began an urban home mission in London's East End. In 1861, Booth had left the New Connexion for a successful itinerant evangelism in Cornwall and the English Midlands. But his call to London's slums was primarily due to his wife's success as an evangelist. Catherine Mumford Booth's (1829–1890) preaching in South and West London, and William's lack of engagements, caused her to ask him to bring their six children from Leeds to London to be cared for by her mother. The Booths' eldest son, Bramwell, termed this period his father's wilderness years. The best William could do was to fill in for an evangelist in an East London Quaker cemetery. As he became comfortable preaching to the "heathen masses," he organized a mission (1865–1879) that he renamed a "salvation army" in the years 1878 and 1879.

Reflecting this military theme, in 1879, William Booth changed his title from the Christian Mission's general superintendent to simply general and shortly after his lay evangelists became officers. Booth called war councils to announce strategy, and abolished the mission's Methodist conference system. Governance became autocratic, with Booth as sole arbiter of doctrine, policy, and appointments. Booth's model was the British Volunteers, a popular military organization among working-class men in 1879. The Volunteers held military exercises, including street parades. The Salvation Army adopted their uniforms, parades, bands, flags, and jargon as other groups were doing—including temperance crusaders, Boys' and Girls' Brigades, Boy Scouts, Girl Guides—to proclaim a "muscular Christianity."

As a militant evangelical mission, the Salvation Army grew into an international Christian imperium. Before 1879, lay missioners had set up stations in other parts of London, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and even North America in 1872. In the 1880s, Booth standardized operations with Orders and Regulations patterned after the British Army. He sent his representative commissioners to lead "invasions" of Europe, North America, Australasia, Africa, and South America. In chronological order, the Army "attacked" France, India, Switzerland, Sweden, Sri Lanka, South Africa, New Zealand, the Isle of Man, Pakistan, St. Helena, Newfoundland, Italy, Denmark, Holland, Jamaica, Norway, Belgium, and Finland. It mimicked other churches in tying its growth to the expansion of Britain's imperial realm, as well as to European and American commercial and political expansion.

As the Army became international, it was dying at its urban core. The "heathen masses" it claimed as its primary constituents were resisting its evangelical gospel. Many European cities were absorbing rural and foreign immigrants who had no interest in Booth's form of Christianity. Rather than convert to abstinence and Protestantism, many formed mobs to attack the Army's drum, flag, and soldiers. Wisely, Booth ordered his street preachers and writers to stop attacking Roman Catholic dogma in 1883.

As the Army diminished as an urban mission in the 1880s, it grew in the Midlands and on the outskirts of its empire. Critics, including Anglican clergy, asked whether Booth was a unique failure in urban slums. In the late 1880s, Booth responded with social reform programs he termed Wholesale Salvation. Hungry souls had no time for spiritual conversion; they needed food, employment, housing, and clothes. In 1890, the Army published a social manifesto: In Darkest England, and the Way Out.

Since Booth was no social reformer, the book was a joint effort. Frank Smith was its intellectual and operational father and first commissioner of the Social Reform Wing. Major Susie Swift compiled Smith's notes into a book outline. William Thomas Stead (1849–1912), a leading journalist, wrote the final copy. As editor of the Review of Reviews, he named it the book of the year. William and Bramwell Booth oversaw each stage of composition as Catherine Booth was dying of cancer. Smith left the Army in 1891 in a dispute over Booth's refusal to separate the social and spiritual wings' funds. He became a socialist member of the London County Council and of Parliament. In 1897, Swift became a Dominican nun. Stead died on the Titanic in 1912. Their social program evolved into the Army's premier ministry.

After 1890, most Europeans knew Salvationists for their social rather than their spiritual emphases on holiness, abstinence, and female ministry. By 1919, the Army had grown in northern Europe where Protestantism predominated (mainly Scandinavia). After the High Council deposed Bramwell Booth as general in 1929, generals were elected rather than appointed by their predecessor.

See alsoMissions; Poverty; Protestantism; Religion.


Primary Sources

Booth, William. In Darkest England, and the Way Out. London, 1890.

Secondary Sources

Murdoch, Norman H. Origins of the Salvation Army. Knoxville, Tenn., 1994.

Scott, Carolyn. The Heavenly Witch: The Story of the Maréchale. London, 1981.

Walker, Pamela J. Pulling the Devil's Kingdom Down: The Salvation Army in Victorian Britain. Berkeley, Calif., 2001.

Norman H. Murdoch

Salvation Army

views updated May 17 2018


A non-denominational religious organization founded in London, England (1865), by William booth (18291912). It was known as The Christian Mission until 1878, when the name was changed to Salvation Army. Booth underwent a profound religious experience at the age of 15; he became a regular preacher in the Methodist Church, but separated from it (1861) in order to work among the poor of the London slums. Although personally satisfied with the existing churches, he was forced to establish his own when his poor found themselves unwelcome in the class-conscious congregations. Convinced that the masses of poor needed a unique form of evangelism, he founded his church on the pattern of the British Army, with uniforms, brass bands, titles, marching orders, furloughs, and knee drills. At first scorned, the Army soon won the admiration of the English people and later the esteem of the world for its vast system of social services ranging from the rehabilitation of alcoholics to the operation of maternity homes, welfare bureaus, employment centers, and stores selling a variety of used items.

In general the doctrines of the Salvation Army follow those of the Methodist Church. No great emphasis is placed upon theology, although the Bible is acknowledged as the source of God's revelation. Conversion consists of an inner experience that leads to trust in Jesus Christ, the divine Son of God. The sinfulness of the human race is stressed along with the need for complete confidence in Christ's vicarious atonement for sin. Emphasis is on the preaching of the gospel to all and the practice of Christian service to one's neighbor.

Churches are not used. The religious services, held in halls, are evangelical, with free prayer, hymn singing, testimony, preaching, and Bible reading.

International headquarters are in London, and commanders are in charge of clearly defined territories in almost every country throughout the world. Each territory is organized into divisions commanded by colonels or majors. These divisions are subdivided into corps (similar to parishes) under a captain or lieutenant. Converts are expected to become soldiers, but those not wishing to don the uniform and to devote their lives to the salvation of sinners are free to join other churches. Officers are recruited from the ranks of soldiers, and no distinction is made because of sex.

Two schisms occurred in the Salvation Army ranks at the close of the 19th century. The first (1882) resulted in the foundation of the American Rescue Workers, while the second brought into existence the Volunteers of America.

Bibliography: f. s. mead, s. s. hill and c. d. atwood, eds., Handbook of Denominations in the United States, 11th ed (Nashville 2001).

[e. delaney/eds.]

Salvation Army

views updated May 23 2018


SALVATION ARMY. The Salvation Army is an evangelistic organization created in 1865 by William Booth, a former adherent of Methodism, to work among the poor of London. His book In Darkest England and the Way Out (1890) not only won popular support for his movement but also helped awaken public opinion to poverty in the world's richest city. The present military format of the group dates from the publication of The Orders and Regulations for the Salvation Army in 1878. The uniforms, designed by Booth's wife, Catherine Mumford Booth, were adopted in the early 1880s. A branch of the army was formed in the United States in 1880 and received leadership from Evangeline Cory Booth, the general's daughter, from 1904 to 1934. The group has been noted for the vigor of its preaching, its energetic use of music, and its crusades on behalf of the poor and oppressed. It has considered itself to have a special mission to alcoholics.

In 2001, as President George W. Bush proposed bringing "faith-based" charities into a federally coordinated program, the Salvation Army's stance on homosexuality caused concern. While the army condemns harassment based on sexual orientation, it nevertheless describes same-sex intimacy as sinful and has at times refused to hire homosexuals.

In the early twenty-first century the United States branch of the Salvation Army had 443,000 members and

several million volunteers supporting its social service programs.


Taiz, Lillian. Hallelujah Lads & Lasses: Remaking the Salvation Army in America, 1880–1930. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001.

Winston, Diane H. Red-Hot and Righteous: The Urban Religion of the Salvation Army. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1999.

Glenn T.Miller/s. c.

See alsoDiscrimination: Sexual Orientation ; Evangelicalism and Revivalism ; Methodism ; Volunteerism .

Salvation Army

views updated Jun 08 2018

Salvation Army. In 1865 William Booth and his wife launched the ‘Christian Mission to the Heathen of our Own Country’ in Whitechapel (London), and this mission expanded into the Salvation Army (1878). It was both a religious community and an evangelistic agency. Its doctrines were those of evangelical revivalism: sin, conversion, justification by faith, hell, and heaven. At the ‘holiness meetings’ of the army, the emotional scenes and sudden conversions were reminiscent of early methodist revivals. The aim was to reach out beyond the established churches to working-class non-worshippers at their own cultural level. The officers and soldiers (i.e. members) of the army were themselves working men and women, who had experienced conversion and practised self-denial. At their open-air meetings, with bands and banners and sales of the War Cry, they sometimes met with violent opposition. From the late 1880s the army turned to social action, establishing slum posts, night shelters, and schemes for assisting the unemployed. The military organization of the Salvation Army ensured strict discipline of the members under the dictatorship of Booth and (later) his family. A tribute to the success of the Salvation Army was the foundation in 1882 by the Church of England of its own Church Army.

John F. C. Harrison

Salvation Army

views updated May 18 2018

Salvation Army. Christian denomination. Founded in 1865 by W. Booth for evangelism, and for social work, it is now established in about 100 countries. From the beginning, its organization has been along military lines. Its Arminian doctrinal convictions, embodied in its Orders and Regulations (1878), reflect the Wesleyan background of its founder, particularly in universal redemption, human free will, and a post-conversion sanctification experience. Music has always played an important role in the Army's worship and witness.

Salvation Army

views updated May 23 2018

Salvation Army a worldwide Christian evangelical organization on quasi-military lines, established by William Booth (1829–1912).

The name was adopted in 1878 (the body until then was styled ‘the Christian Mission’). The officers bear military titles (‘general’, ‘captain’, etc.). In its early years, open-air evangelistic services, featuring its famous brass bands, were the most prominent feature of the Salvation Army's work.

Salvation Army

views updated May 17 2018

Salvation Army International Christian society devoted to the propagation of the gospel among the working classes. Its origin was the Christian Revival Association founded (1865) in London by William Booth. In 1878, it became the Salvation Army and the members, led by ‘General’ Booth, were given ranks. Under the leadership of Booth's son, Bramwell, its work spread to other parts of the world.