The Salvation Army. History and Beliefs Presented by Chris Reeves. Salvation Army History.
History and Beliefs
Presented by Chris Reeves
William Booth embarked upon his ministerial career in 1852, desiring to win the lost multitudes of England to Christ. He walked the streets of London to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to the poor, the homeless, the hungry, and the destitute.
Booth abandoned the conventional concept of a church and a pulpit, instead taking his message to the people. His fervor led to disagreement with church leaders in London, who preferred traditional methods. As a result, he withdrew from the church and traveled throughout England, conducting evangelistic meetings. His wife, Catherine, could accurately be called a cofounder of The Salvation Army.
In 1865, William Booth was invited to hold a series of evangelistic meetings in the East End of London. He set up a tent in a Quaker graveyard, and his services became an instant success. This proved to be the end of his wanderings as an independent traveling evangelist. His renown as a religious leader spread throughout London, and he attracted followers who were dedicated to fight for the souls of men and women.
Thieves, prostitutes, gamblers, and drunkards were among Booth's first converts to Christianity. To congregations who were desperately poor, he preached hope and salvation. His aim was to lead people to Christ and link them to a church for further spiritual guidance.
Many churches, however, did not accept Booth's followers because of their past. So Booth continued giving his new converts spiritual direction, challenging them to save others like themselves. Soon, they too were preaching and singing in the streets as a living testimony to the power of God.
In 1867, Booth had only 10 full-time workers, but by 1874, the number had grown to 1,000 volunteers and 42 evangelists, all serving under the name "The Christian Mission." Booth assumed the title of general superintendent, with his followers calling him "General." Known as the "Hallelujah Army," the converts spread out of the East End of London into neighboring areas and then to other cities.
Booth was reading a printer's proof of the 1878 annual report when he noticed the statement "The Christian Mission is a volunteer army." Crossing out the words "volunteer army," he penned in "Salvation Army." From those words came the basis of the foundation deed of The Salvation Army.
From that point, converts became soldiers of Christ and were known then, as now, as Salvationists. They launched an offensive throughout the British Isles, in some cases facing real battles as organized gangs mocked and attacked them. In spite of violence and persecution, some 250,000 people were converted under the ministry of The Salvation Army between 1881 and 1885.
Meanwhile, the Army was gaining a foothold in the United States. Lieutenant Eliza Shirley had left England to join her parents, who had migrated to America earlier in search for work. In 1879, she held the first meeting of The Salvation Army in America, in Philadelphia. The Salvationists were received enthusiastically. Shirley wrote to General Booth, begging for reinforcements. None were available at first. Glowing reports of the work in Philadelphia, however, eventually convinced Booth, in 1880, to send an official group to pioneer the work in America.
On March 10, 1880, Commissioner George Scott Raiton and seven women officers knelt on the dockside at Battery Park in New York City to give thanks for their safe arrival. At their first official street meeting, these pioneers were met with unfriendly actions, as had happened in Great Britain. They were ridiculed, arrested, and attacked. Several officers and soldiers even gave their lives. Three years later, Railton and other Salvationists had expanded their operation into California, Connecticut, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. President Grover Cleveland received a delegation of Salvation Army officers in 1886 and gave the organization a warm personal endorsement. This was the first recognition from the White House and would be followed by similar receptions from succeeding presidents.
The Salvation Army movement expanded rapidly to Canada, Australia, France, Switzerland, India, South Africa, Iceland, and local neighborhood units. The Salvation Army is active in virtually every corner of the world.
General Booth's death in 1912 was a great loss to The Salvation Army. However, he had laid a firm foundation' even his death could not deter the ministry's onward march. His eldest son, Bramwell Booth, succeeded him.
Edward J. Higgins, served as the first elected general, beginning in 1929. The first female general was Booth's daughter, the dynamic Evangeline Booth, serving from 1934 to 1939. The Army's fifth general was George Carpenter, succeeded in 1946 by Albert Orsborn. General Wilfred Kitching was elected in 1954, succeeded by Frederick Coutts in 1963. Erik Wickberg followed in 1969; Clarence Wiseman in 1974; Arnold Brown in 1977; Jarl Wahlstrom in 1981; and Eva Burrows, the second female general, in 1986. General Bramwell Tillsley was elected in 1993 and was succeeded by General Paul Rader in 1994. General John Gowans was elected in 1999 and commands the Army from International Headquarters in London, England.
The Salvation Army began in 1865 when William Booth, a London minister, gave up the comfort of his pulpit and decided to take his message into the streets where it would reach the poor, the homeless, the hungry and the destitute.His original aim was to send converts to established churches of the day, but soon he realized that the poor did not feel comfortable or welcome in the pews of most of the churches and chapels of Victorian England. Regular churchgoers were appalled when these shabbily dressed, unwashed people came to join them in worship.Booth decided to found a church especially for them — the East London Christian Mission. The mission grew slowly, but Booth's faith in God remained undiminished.In May of 1878, Booth summoned his son, Bramwell, and his good friend George Railton to read a proof of the Christian Mission's annual report. At the top it read: THE CHRISTIAN MISSION is A VOLUNTEER ARMY. Bramwell strongly objected to this wording. He was not a volunteer: he was compelled to do God's work. So, in a flash of inspiration, Booth crossed out "Volunteer" and wrote "Salvation". The Salvation Army was born.By the 1900s, the Army had spread around the world. The Salvation Army soon had officers and soldiers in 36 countries, including the United States of America. This well-organized yet flexible structure inspired a great many much-needed services: women's social work, the first food depot, the first day nursery and the first Salvation Army missionary hospital. During World War II, The Salvation Army operated 3,000 service units for the armed forces, which led to the formation of the USO.
Today, The Salvation Army is stronger and more powerful than ever. Now, in over 106 nations around the world, The Salvation Army continues to work where the need is greatest, guided by faith in God and love for all people.
What is The Salvation Army?The Salvation Army is a Christian church which is committed to spreading the good news of Jesus Christ through both word and action. Because of this primary aim the Army shows practical concern and care for the needs of people regardless of race, creed, status, color, sex or age.How did the Salvation Army begin?The Salvation Army’s founders, William and Catherine Booth, were Methodists and William was a minister in that denomination. They both believed that William was called by God to be an evangelist and they did not agree with the decision of Methodist officials that he should be confined to a local church situation.So strongly did the Booths believe William should be an evangelist that he resigned from the Methodist ministry and they moved to London with their young family. After being invited by a group of Christians from a small mission to preach on the streets to the crowds thronging the Mile End in East London, William was sure he had found his destiny.The group made William its leader, and became known as The East London Christian Mission. The Mission grew rapidly, its work spreading through Great Britain, resulting in its name being changed to The Christian Mission.In 1878 the Mission’s name was changed once more — this time to The Salvation Army. Such a military name fired members’ imagination and enthusiasm, and uniforms were adopted and military terms given to aspects of worship, administration and practice.While over the years the Army has adapted its military image to changing times, it still retains a distinctive uniform and structure to enable it more effectively to combat wrong and make known the good news of Jesus.
“The Salvation Army … We identify these organizations with the “Methodist Family” for several reasons: (1) Its leading characteristic is evangelism. (2) In doctrine it is Arminian rather than Calvinistic. (3) It shows the same attitude toward doctrine as is taken by all Methodists (holding a doctrinal position without insisting upon it as a test for membership). (4) In polity it is an episcopacy although in another way and under another name.” (J.L. Neve, Churches and Sects of Christendom, page 369.)
“Originally it was intended purely as a recruiting agency for the churches among the ‘lower classes,’ but it was found that converts of the Salvation Army were not always welcome and did not always feel at home in the congregations; consequently the Salvation Army has become in reality a Church with a ministry known by military titles.” (J.L. Neve, Churches and Sects of Christendom, page 370.)
1. We believe that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were given by inspiration of God: and that they only constitute the Divine rule of Christian faith and practice.2. We believe that there is only one God, who is infinitely perfect, the Creator. Preserver, and Governor of all things, and who is the only proper object of religious worship.3. We believe that there are three persons in the Godhead—the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost—undivided in essence and coequal in power and glory.4. We believe that in the person of Jesus Christ the Divine and human natures are united, so that He is truly and properly God and truly and properly man.5. We believe that our first parents were created in a state of innocency. but by their disobedience they lost their purity and happiness; and that in consequence of their fall all men have become sinners, totally depraved. and as such are justly exposed to the wrath of God.6. We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ has, by His suffering and death, made an atonement for the whole world so that whosoever will may be saved.7. We believe that repentance towards God, faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and regeneration by the Holy Spirit are necessary to salvation.8. We believe that we are justified by grace, through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ; and that he that believeth hath the witness in himself.9. We believe that continuance in a state of salvation depends upon continued obedient faith in Christ.10. 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.11. We believe in the immortality of the soul; in the resurrection of the body; in the general judgment at the end of the world; in the eternal happiness of the righteous; and in the endless punishment of the wicked. (www.salvationarmy.org)
The Sacraments (www.salvationarmy.org/au)
The "Mother" of The Salvation Army, Catherine Booth, was a firm advocate for inner awareness of God. She was a strong influence on the young movement's decision to formally choose not to partake in the Christian Church's oldest rituals.
Speaking in a public meeting, in London, Booth said she feared the "mock salvation" offered "in the form of ceremonies and sacraments... men are taught that by going through them or partaking of them... they are to be saved... what an inveterate tendency there is in the human heart to trust in outward forms, instead of seeking the inward grace!"
In the course of forging a "red hot" mission to the unchurched, William Booth, the Founder, proved to be something of a pragmatic visionary. Fearful of converted alcoholics being led astray by the communion wine, or male chauvinists protesting female celebrants of the bread and the wine, Booth suggested that the issue should be deferred, to be decided by a future, more mature Salvation Army.
In the Salvationist news paper the War Cry, on 2 January 1883, Booth wrote the following apologia for the Army's stance:
"In the north of England... a clergyman said... that it is evident The Salvation Army is not a church. To be a church there must evidently be the exercise of sacramental functions, which evidently are not duly appreciated by the Army. We are... getting away from ordinary idea of a church every day. It seems as if a voice from heaven had said that we are an army, separate from, going before, coming after, and all round about the existing churches.
"But we are asked by the churches, what should be our attitude to you? We answer, 'What is your attitude towards the Fire Brigade? Or... towards the lifeboat crew?'
"Now if the sacraments are not conditions of salvation, and if the introduction of them would create division of opinion and heart burning, and if we are not professing to be a church, not aiming at being one, but simply a force for aggressive salvation purposes, is it not wise for us to postpone any settlement of the question, to leave it over for some future day, when we shall have more light?"
"Moreover we do not prohibit our own people... from taking the sacraments. We say, 'If this is a matter of your conscience, by all means break bread. The churches and chapels around you will welcome you for this. But in our own ranks... let us mind our own business. Let us remember His love every hour of our lives... and let us eat His flesh and drink His blood continually... and further, there is one baptism on which we are all agreed... and that is the baptism of the Holy Ghost."
In the 1990s The Salvation Army's International Headquarters set up an International Spiritual Life commission. The commission's brief was "to look at the heartbeat" of the denomination. While promoting the freedom God has given His children, the commission's report proffered the following two sets of statements regarding baptism and holy communion.
While the majority of Christians find value in the ritual celebrations of baptism and communion, Salvationists have not done so - as a part of corporate Salvationist worship - since 1883. (Note: The Salvation Army has its own rituals and ceremonies, see festivals and ceremonies.)
While not wishing to denigrate the sense of the divine that the sacraments convey to others, Salvationists hold to the belief that, "as God meets us in Jesus, we can receive his grace without prescribed rituals and experience real communion with him by the exercise of faith".
The worshiper's readiness, Christ's presence and the Holy Spirit's indwelling come as God wills. Through the relative simplicity of Salvationist worship, rituals and celebrations, God comes among us.
In his book The Salvationists, John Coutts suggests that, as with the Quakers (or Society of Friends), the non-observance of the sacraments by Salvationists "is essentially a witness to the Church, and not to the world" that "no outward rite" is necessary for salvation.
Coutts asserts that water baptism alone will not put a person into a right relationship with the Creator, but also questions the impact (if any) such a distinction would have on people who doubt the very existence of God. (www.salvationarmy.org/au)
After full and careful consideration of The Salvation Army's understanding of, and approach to, the sacrament of water baptism, the International Spiritual Life Commission sets out the following regarding the relationship between our soldier enrolment and water baptism.
1. Only those who confess Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord may be considered for soldiership in The Salvation Army.
2. Such a confession is confirmed by the gracious presence of God the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer and includes the call to discipleship.
3. In accepting the call to discipleship Salvationists promise to continue to be responsive to the Holy Spirit and to seek to grow in grace.
4. They also express publicly their desire to fulfil membership of Christ's Church on earth as soldiers of The Salvation Army.
5. The Salvation Army rejoices in the truth that all who are in Christ are baptized into the one body by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13).
6. It believes , in accordance with scripture, that "there is one body and one Spirit... one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all in all" (Ephesians 4:5-6).
7. The swearing-in of a soldier of The Salvation Army beneath the trinitarian sign of the Army's flag acknowledges this truth.
8. It is a public response and witness to a life-changing encounter with Christ which has already taken place, as is the water baptism practiced by other Christians.
9. The Salvation Army acknowledges that there are many worthy ways of publicly witnessing to having been baptized into Christ's body by the Holy Spirit and expressing a desire to be His disciple.
10. The swearing-in of a soldier should be followed by a lifetime of obedient faith in Christ.
HOLY COMMUNION (www.salvationarmy.org/au)
After full and careful consideration of The Salvation Army's understanding of, and approach to, the sacrament of Holy Communion*, the International Spiritual Life Commission sets out the following points:
1. God's grace is freely and readily accessible to all people at all times and in all places.
2. No particular outward observance is necessary to inward grace.
3. The Salvation Army believes that unity of the Spirit exists within diversity and rejoices in the freedom of the Spirit in expressions of worship.
4. When Salvationists attend other Christian gatherings in which a form of Holy Communion is included, they may partake if they choose to do so and if the host Church allows.
5. Christ is the one true Sacrament, and sacramental living - Christ living in us and through us - is at the heart of Christian holiness and discipleship.
6. Throughout its history The Salvation Army has kept Christ's atoning sacrifice at the centre of its corporate worship.
7. The Salvation Army rejoices in its freedom to celebrate Christ's real presence at all meals and in all meetings, and in its opportunity to explore in life together the significance of the simple meals shared by Jesus and by the first Christians.
8. Salvationists are encouraged to use the love feast [fellowship meal] and develop creative means of hallowing meals in home and corps with remembrances of the Lord's sacrificial love.
9. The Salvation Army encourages the development of resources for fellowship meals, which will vary according to culture, without ritualizing particular words or actions.
10. In accordance with normal Salvation Army practice, such remembrances and celebrations, where observed, will not become established rituals, nor will frequency be prescribed.
A major difference between The Salvation Army and other religious denominations is that it does not include the use of sacraments (mainly holy communion, sometimes called the Lord's Supper, and baptism) in its form of worship.
The Salvation Army has never said it is wrong to use sacraments, nor does it deny that other Christians receive grace from God through using them. Rather, the Army believes that it is possible to live a holy life and receive the grace of God without the use of physical sacraments and that they should not be regarded as an essential part of becoming a Christian.
Salvationists see the sacraments as an outward sign of an inward experience, and it is the inward experience that is the most important thing.
It should be noted that The Salvation Army did not cease to use the sacraments because of any prejudices it had against them or from any desire to be 'different'. The decision to discontinue their use was a gradual process in the minds of the Army's founders.
The reasons for The Salvation Army's cessation of the sacraments may be submersed as follows:
1. The Army's Founders felt that many Christians had come to rely on the outward signs of spiritual grace rather than on grace itself. William and Catherine Booth believed, with the Apostle Paul, that salvation came solely from the grace of God personally received by faith. They felt that much of what passed for Christianity in their day was primarily an observance of outward ritual.
2. Some Bible scholars had pointed out that there was no scriptural basis for regarding the sacraments as essential to salvation or Christian living. Many Christians assumed that Jesus commanded the use of baptism and holy communion. But there very few New Testament references to these practices and it was argued that none of them showed any intention by Jesus that they (or any other practice) should have become fixed ceremonies.
3. The sacraments had been a divisive influence in the Church throughout Christian history and at times the cause of bitter controversy and abuse.
4. Some churches would not allow women to administer the sacraments. The Army, however, believed that women may take an equal part in its ministry, and did not want to compromise this stance.
5. The Society of Friends (the Quakers) had managed to live holy lives without the use of sacraments.
6. Many early-day converts to the Army had previously been alcoholics. It was considered unwise to tempt them with the wine used in holy communion. To a large extent this is still the Salvationist's standpoint. However, it should be stressed that Salvationists have never been in opposition to the sacraments. Indeed, when they take part in gatherings with Christians from other churches, Salvationists will often share in using the symbols of the Lord's Supper as a sign of fellowship. Furthermore, Salvationists are not prevented from being baptized in other churches should they so desire.
Why doesn't The Salvation Army hold any communion services?(from The War Cry, 28 February 1987)
The answer must be a two-part one.
First, it is felt that there are some very real dangers in forms of religion which place heavy dependence on ceremonies and rituals. Meaningful symbols can become meaningless rituals, and have often done so. The Salvation Army places the emphasis on personal faith and on a spiritual relationship with God which is not dependent on anything external.
Further, Church history shows that disputes about the detailed practice and meaning of such ceremonies have often been a divisive factor between Christians.The second part of the answer is to point out that the belief of many Christians that the use of the sacrament of communion was commanded by Christ as essential for all Christians for all time, can be no more than an assumption.
They interpret certain texts in the light of hindsight: that is, they read back into history their present background of belief and practice and assume that Jesus or the Early Church leaders were requiring observance of the ceremony - though it may be possible to interpret their words in other senses.For example, take the sentence in Luke 22:19 (AV), 'This do in remembrance of me', which is thought by many to command what we now know as communion. It could equally well be a suggestion to the Twelve that they should think of Jesus whenever they shared the annual Passover meal or had any meal together (for that is what they were doing), in much the same way as Christians today remember Jesus whenever they say grace before any meal.
The binding nature of this statement is further brought into question when one studies the background of the sentence. It does not appear in Matthew or Mark, nor does it appear in some of the oldest manuscripts in Luke (and therefore is left out of some modern translations of that gospel). It has been suggested that it comes from elsewhere, eg 1 Corinthians 11:24 (to which we shall return). If we look at John's gospel we find that the symbolic act there (John 13:3-17) is feet-washing. Why do sacramental Christians not observe this as a binding command, when they do so with the rather less certain one about bread and wine?
There is no doubt that Christians in the Early Church did share common meals, but initially they were meals, not ceremonies (Acts 2:42-46; 4:32; 20:7, 11, 27:33-38). 1 Corinthians shows, however, that in that one church at least they soon ceased to be occasions of real sharing (1 Corinthians 11:17-22) .To give the meal more spiritual meaning and dignity Paul used the traditional teaching about the last supper (11:23-24) to steer them away from selfish 'bingeing' and towards real Christian sharing in the spirit of Christ.
It should be noted, however that 15 of the 21 New Testament letters make no mention at all of the ceremony which so many Christians now regard as essential to Christian living.
For a time both kinds of meal continued (Sunday morning - communion; evening - common meal). Then gradually the ceremonial became dominant and more and more ritualistic.
The Army does not hold its position as an article of faith or doctrine, but simply as one of practice. So it does not debar anyone who wishes to partake in such a ceremony or prevent anyone who wishes to enter a communion service as a sign of fellowship with other Christians.
It also recognizes that many sincere Christians find the communion ceremony to be a deeply meaningful aid to worship and devotion, and a help towards drawing a Christian community closer together.
The Army Founders' attitude to baptism was similar to that of Communion. They saw dangers that the rite could replace the reality of entering into a living relationship with Jesus, and so they decided that the Army would not practice adult baptism.
To become a Salvation Army soldier a person must first and foremost acknowledge that they have asked God for forgiveness for their wrongdoing and that Jesus Christ is their savior from sin.
Recruits - as those who wish to become Salvation Army soldiers are known - study the Army's doctrines and the principles and practice of a Salvationist lifestyle before a swearing-in ceremony takes place, usually in a Sunday meeting. During this, recruits stand under the Army flag and publicly acknowledge their salvation from sin, state their belief in the Army's doctrines and promise to live by the standards laid out in the 'articles of war'. They then sign a copy of these articles of war and a prayer is said asking for God's help in keeping those promises.
While this ceremony is a serious occasion, it is also a very joyful one with the new soldier being warmly greeted by the congregation and by individual fellow-Salvationists.
As with the ceremony of Communion, Salvationists are not forbidden to be baptized in another church if they feel this is right for them as individuals, and the Army has from time to time reconsidered its stance on the sacraments, and continues to keep it under review.
The Salvation Army is an integral part of the universal Christian Church, although distinctive in government and practice. Salvation Army places of worship are sometimes called 'citadels' or 'temples', but, whatever their name, they are Christian churches open to the community they serve and offering a warm welcome to all.
Most Salvation Army centers hold weekly worship services, usually on a Sunday. These meetings have a relaxed atmosphere, and can include hymn singing, Bible readings, members of the congregation talking about their Christian experiences, and presentations by worship or drama groups. As well as services on a Sunday, there are often weekday and evening activities, such as prayer groups, family events, lunch groups, youth clubs and meetings for seniors.
Why not go along to your local Salvation Army centre and see for yourself all that it can offer? (www.salvationarmy.org)
The Salvation Army was founded as an evangelical organization dedicated to bringing people into a meaningful relationship with God through Christ. Its doctrinal basis is that of the Wesleyan-Arminian tradition. It is composed of persons who are united by the love of God and man, and who share the common purpose of bringing others to Jesus Christ. The word salvation indicates the overall purpose of the organization—to motivate all people to embrace the salvation provided to them in Christ.The word army indicates that the organization is a fighting force, constantly at war with the powers of evil. Battles are effectively waged through an integrated ministry that gives attention to both body and spirit. It is a total ministry for the total person. The Army cooperates with churches of all denominations to meet the needs of the community. Those who have drifted away from God and those estranged from their own religious affiliations are often attracted to The Salvation Army. They are first urged to seek Christ for pardon and deliverance from sin. Then they are encouraged to return to active membership in their
Christianity is synonymous with service for the Salvationist. The distinguishing feature in the religious life of The Salvation Army is active participation by its members.Corps community centers are the focus of the spiritual work and are organized in a military manner, using military terms throughout. The corps building is sometimes known as the “citadel.” The pastor serves as an “officer.” Members are “soldiers.” This sphere of activity is known as the “field.” Instead of joining The Salvation Army, members are “enrolled” after signing the “Articles of War.” When officers and soldiers die, they are “Promoted to Glory.”Soldiers are disciples of Jesus Christ and are expected to accept responsibility in the work of The Salvation Army. Whenever possible, they participate in Army meetings. Soldiers may teach Sunday-school classes, play musical instruments, join the band, assist the corps officer in visitation among the poor and sick, or aid in general social work. Soldiers abstain from the use of alcoholic beverages, drugs and tobacco.