Salvation Army

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The Salvation Army is a Protestant Christian evangelical denomination and, consequently, a charity and social services organization, with international headquarters at 101 Queen Victoria Street London, England.

Standard of The Salvation Army
Standard of The Salvation Army



The Salvation Army was founded by William Booth in London in 1865 as an Evangelical movement called The Christian Revival Association. It then changed its name to Eastlondon Christian Mission. After starting the work outside the EastEnd, the name changed to The Christian Mission. William Booth resigned as a New Connexion Methodist minister because the New Connexion attempted to shackle his emerging ministry.

The William Booth Memorial Training College, Denmark Hill, London: The College for Officer Training of The Salvation Army in the UK
The William Booth Memorial Training College, Denmark Hill, London: The College for Officer Training of The Salvation Army in the UK

In 1878, the name was changed to The Salvation Army and a quasi-military style outlook was adopted. On March 10, 1880, Commissioner George Scott Railton and seven young women, landed in the USA and began operations. The Salvation Army is led by a General. John Larsson held this position beginning in 2002.

The Salvation Army's main converts were at first alcoholics, drug addicts, prostitutes and other "undesirables" of society with whom the Church refused to have any association. As a result of Booth's pragmatic approach to ministry, they decided not to include the use of sacraments (mainly baptism and Holy Communion) in the Army's form of worship, believing that many Christians had come to rely on the outward signs of spiritual grace rather than on grace itself. William and his wife Catherine Booth believed in the teachings of 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.

Among the other long-established beliefs of The Salvation Army are that its members should completely refrain from drinking alcohol (teetotalism), smoking, taking illegal drugs and gambling. The Salvation Army grew rapidly, and as it did it created friction among certain people within the society. These people, grouped under the name of the Skeleton Army, hired thugs to disrupt Salvation Army meetings and gatherings, the usual tactics being the throwing of rocks, rats, and tar, and physically assaulting members of The Salvation Army.

The Salvation Army International Headquarters, London
The Salvation Army International Headquarters, London

The mission of The Salvation Army is to win the world for Jesus. General Booth, the Army founder, explained, "Salvationism means simply the overcoming and banishing from the earth of wickedness." The Salvation Army has from its founding been uncompromisingly opposed to what it sees as sin. Their idea of wickedness is based on their belief in the inerrancy of the Christian Bible. This can put them into conflict with people who see themselves as moral but base their morality on different interpretations of the Bible or on different moral systems, for example secular humanism.

The Salvation Army, due to its interpretation of the Christian Bible, does not approve of homosexuality. Although they do not approve and call it a sin, homosexuals who work for The Salvation Army are given benefits as anyone else is. Their same sex partners, however, are not given the benefits of a spouse.

Shield of The Salvation Army
Shield of The Salvation Army

At the turn of the 21st century The Salvation Army has grown to operate in over 100 countries. The phrase of "Heart to God and Hand to Man" was its focus and its driving goal during that time. In the United Kingdom, the Salvation Army became the second largest provider, after the government, of social welfare.

The Salvation Army is sometimes affectionately referred to as the "Sally Anns" (though this expression is generally unknown outside of Canada). In the UK the usual affectionate name is the "Sally Army."

In Australia, The Salvation Army is frequently referred to as the "Salvos" and has adopted a popular secular expression, "Thank God for the Salvos," for their annual fundraising campaigns.

The Salvation Army has recently adopted a new catch-phrase in The United States -- "Doing the Most Good."


As the popularity of the organization grew and Salvationists worked their way through the streets of London attempting to convert individuals, they were sometimes confronted with unruly crowds. A family of musicians, named the Frys, began working with the Army as their "bodyguards" and played music to distract the crowds.

A parade with a Salvation Army brass band, Oxford, England
A parade with a Salvation Army brass band, Oxford, England

The tradition of having musicians available continued, and eventually evolved into the creation of true bands. Their musical groups, usually a brass band or smaller collection of brass instruments, are seen in public at Army campaigns, as well as at other festivals, parades and at Christmas. The Salvation Army also has choirs, these are known as Songster Brigades, and these normally comprise of the traditional SATB (Soprano, Alto Tenor and Bass) singers. The Premier Songster Brigade in the Salvation Army is the International Staff Songsters (ISS).

The standard of playing is usually high and the Army operates bands at the international level, such as the International Staff Band, which are the equal of professional ensembles, though they do not participate in the brass band contest scene. Many professional brass players and contesting brass band personnel have come up through The Salvation Army, and in some cases continue to maintain links, such as Philip Smith, principal trumpet of the New York Philharmonic, who still plays and records quite often with the Army's New York Staff Band.

Depending on the size, corps have brass bands that enhance Sunday services by accompanying the congregation in the singing of hymns and/or during "Praise & Worship" times set aside during the service. Those Salvation Army corps (churches) without a sufficient number of proficient musicians may use either a piano accompanist or other live musician accompaniment as available. Where no musicians are available, corps will often use CD's or cassettes to fill those roles.

Mission and doctrines

Mission statement:

Statue of General William Booth
Statue of General William Booth
The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.


Blood & Fire
"With Heart to God, and Hand to Man"


  1. WE BELIEVE that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were given by inspiration of God; and that only they 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 co-equal in power and glory.
  4. Belief 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. Belief that our first parents were created in a state of innocence, 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. Belief 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. Belief that repentance towards God, faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and regeneration (being born again) by the Holy Spirit are necessary to salvation.
  8. Belief that we are justified by grace through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and that he that believes has the witness in himself.
  9. Belief that continuance in a state of salvation depends upon continued obedient faith in Christ.
  10. Belief 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. (1 Thessalonians 5:23)
  11. Belief 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.

The Salvation Army has always seen itself primarily as a Christian church, but this has been eroded in the public's perceptions over the years. It is now seen externally to be mainly a social services charity and/or thrift shop. This has caused a major rethink within The Salvation Army who are keen to re-emphasise their role as a Christian church.

Disaster relief

The Salvation Army's first major forays into Disaster Relief resulted from the tragedies of the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 and the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. These two events instilled such a sense of need in the hearts of Salvationists that their nationwide appeals for financial and material donations yielded tremendous support, enabling the Army to provide assistance to many thousands of affected individuals.

The Salvation Army is one of the largest non-governmental relief agencies, and is usually among the first to arrive with help after natural or man-made disasters. They have worked to alleviate suffering and help people rebuild their lives. After the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, they arrived immediately at some of the worst disaster sites to help retrieve and bury the dead. Since then they have helped rebuild homes and construct new boats for people to recover their livelihood. The Sallies were prominent among relief organizations after Hurricane Hugo and Hurricane Andrew and other such natural disasters in the US. They maintain ongoing work in refugee camps especially among displaced people in Africa, but also in other areas. In August of 2005 they rushed supplies of drinking water to poor people affected by the heat wave in the US. Later in 2005 they responded to hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Most recently they have helped the victims of the 2005 Kashmir earthquake.

Disaster Relief work is accomplished with the invaluable assistance of trained volunteers, employees, Officers and Soldiers. One Soldier's blog of Hurricane Katrina relief shows how the spiritual impetus behind the work measures up against a sense of need and immediate service to suffering humanity. Without a sense of empowerment, many Salvationist's work would hold little meaning beyond immediate gratification. This bedrock of faith drives people to devote much of their own selves and resources for the good of others.

Thrift shops and charity

The Salvation Army is well-known for its network of thrift stores, which raise money for its charitable and religious activities by selling donated used goods such as clothing, housewares, etc. The Salvation Army has a history of free alcohol and drug rehabilitation. The thrift stores provide the revenue to run the Adult Rehabilitation Centers known as ARC's. The ARC's are located all over the world, are work and Bible based and are usually long term residential facilities. In many places across the USA and Canada, The Salvation Army is recognizable in the Christmas season for its volunteers who stand outside of businesses and ring bells to inspire passersby to give donations of cash and checks to the kettles. This campaign is conducted across North America every year, and generates several million dollars. An odd tradition has developed in the U.S., where, in some places, gold coins are anonymously inserted into the kettles that the bell ringers collect donations in. This started in Crystal Lake, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. Most of the donated coins are worth several hundred U.S. dollars. In New York City these bell ringers wear Santa Claus costumes.

Youth groups

Statue of Catherine Booth, the Mother of the Army
Statue of Catherine Booth, the Mother of the Army

The Salvation Army has a number of youth groups associated with it, mainly its Sunday schools and Scout and Guide pack. Some territories around the world have Salvation Army Guards and Legions Association (SAGALA).

Alove UK

In the new millennium The Salvation Army in the United Kingdom created a sub-brand of itself for the youth, called Alove, The Salvation Army for a new generation. Its purpose is to free the youth of the church and their communities to express themselves, and their faith in their own way.


Mission Statement

Calling a generation to dynamic faith, radical lifestyle, adventurous mission and a fight for justice.


  1. Worship: Giving our lives and world back to God.
  2. Discipleship: Getting into Jesus and his community.
  3. Mission: Going into the world to find Jesus and point him out.
  4. Social Action: Giving a voice to the voiceless.


The Salvation army has come under attack for what some people see as discriminatory behavior. In a recent case, the New York Federal Court ruled that the Salvation Army could hire based on religious faith. Despite the fact that it receives tax breaks as a registered charity, it has a policy of "discrimination" against of those of a different faith or sexual orientation. The State of New York has proposed legislation that requires businesses to offer health benefits to partners of homosexual staffers. The Salvation Army has opposed this and threatened to close its soup kitchens and shelters across New York.

See also

External links and references

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