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English Speaking Protestantism

Salvation Army

Doctrines Powerful evangelism, Arminianism and emphasis on good works are all inherited from Methodism. The central tenant of the Army is that it is engaged in spiritual warfare to save people's souls. It has always believed that hungry men must be fed before they would listen to the Gospel, so social and spiritual work go on at the same time. Distinctively there is a powerful spiritual strain, similar to that of the Quakers, which claims that although the Scripture is vitally important God may also speak by inspiring leaders amongst men. The Army holds that the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper are not necessary since it is the spiritual meaning behind them and not the ceremony itself which is important. Because of this the ceremony of being sworn into the army, where members pledge total abstinence and obedience to the regulations, is held to fulfil the spiritual function of baptism. By strictly following the army's rules it is claimed a member can attain Christian perfection and be purged of internal sin entirely.

History The Salvation Army was founded by William Booth (1829-1912) who at the age of seventeen became a lay preacher in a Methodist Church in Nottingham, England. In 1853 he was ordained as a minister, and decided, against opposition from his superiors, it was his duty to become an itinerant evangelist. Supported by his wife he decided to take the message of the Gospel to the urban poor of the East End of London, an area which even Methodist evangelism had left more or less untouched previously. By taking the message from the chapel and onto the streets and adopting attention getting techniques such as processions, brass bands and fervent hymn singing he won many enthusiastic converts, but also generated conservative hostility. Booth's "Christian Mission" as it was known ventured into the most disreputable parts of London and by 1878 more than eighty stations had been set up.
It was at this point the name Salvation Army was adopted and proper organisation created whose orders and regulations were based on the British Army. Booth was set up as commander in chief and expected unquestioning obedience. The Army's activities generated powerful opposition in some quarters, even triggering riots in Britain. It successfully uncovered the full extent of the "White Slave Trade" in London's backstreets. In 1880 the Army began its campaign in America and experienced rapid success. In 1887 Booth published In Darkest England which revealed the full extent of the poverty in Britain's urban slums and strengthened calls for action. The Salvation Army has probably created probably the most successful attempt at social action by any Christian organisation. It supports hospitals, low cost meals, homeless shelters, education, legal aid and other similar activities in 98 countries world-wide.

Symbols  The Salvation Army takes a long-standing tradition of Christian symbolism, in which the Christian is seen as a solider in the army of God, to a new level. The crusade against sin and Satan becomes more than just a metaphor when people are given ranks and uniforms, organised in corps and mission stations are known as citadels. The pageantry and pomp of the Army means that symbolically at least it shares most in common with the differing orders and hierarchy of the Roman Catholic church.

Adherents Has 1,087,826 soldiers world-wide, 58,052 in the British Isles, and 446,403 in the USA (Whitaker, 1995, 428; World Almanac, 1995, 730).

Main Centre
 British Territorial Headquarters, PO BOX 249, 101 Queen Victoria Street, London, EC4P 4EP, UK