The Salvation Army
What is the Salvation Army?
The Salvation Army is a Christian denomination and international charitable organisation organised in a quasi-military structure. The organisation reports worldwide membership of over 1.5 million, consisting of soldiers, officers and adherents known as Salvationists. Its founders Catherine and William Booth sought to bring salvation to the poor, destitute and hungry by meeting both their "physical and spiritual needs". It has a presence in 126 countries, running charity shops, operating shelters for the homeless, and providing disaster relief and humanitarian aid to developing countries.
The theology of the Salvation Army is mainstream Methodist although it is distinctive in government and practice. The Army's doctrine follow mainstream Christian beliefs, and its articles of faith emphasise God's "saving purposes". Its objects are "the advancement of the Christian religion… of education, the relief of poverty, and other charitable objects beneficial to society or the community of mankind as a whole."
The Army was founded in 1865 in London by one-time Methodist minister William Booth. Originally known as the North London Christian Mission, in 1878 Booth reorganized the mission, becoming its first General and introducing the military structure which has been retained to the present day. The current world leader of The Salvation Army is General André Cox, who was elected by the High Council of The Salvation Army on 3 August 2013.
The Salvation Army was founded in London's East End in 1865 by one-time Methodist Reform Church minister William Booth and his wife Catherine. Originally, Booth named the organization the East London Christian Mission. The name The Salvation Army developed from an incident during 19th and 20th May. William Booth was dictating a letter to his secretary George Scott Railton and said, "We are a volunteer army."
Bramwell Booth heard his father and said, "Volunteer! I'm no volunteer, I'm a regular!" Railton was instructed to cross out the word "volunteer" and substitute the word "salvation". The Salvation Army was modeled after the military, with its own flag (or colours) and its own hymns, often with words set to popular and folkloric tunes sung in the pubs. Booth and the other soldiers in "God's Army" would wear the Army's own uniform, for meetings and ministry work. He became the "General" and his other ministers were given appropriate ranks as "officers". Other members became "soldiers".
When William Booth became known as the General, Catherine was known as the "Mother of The Salvation Army". William preached to the poor, and Catherine spoke to the wealthy, gaining financial support for their work. She also acted as a religious minister, which was unusual at the time; the Foundation Deed of the Christian Mission states that women had the same rights to preach as men. William Booth described the organisation's approach: "The three ‘S's’ best expressed the way in which the Army administered to the 'down and outs': first, soup; second, soap; and finally, salvation."
In 1880, the Salvation Army started its work in three other countries: Australia, Ireland, and the United States. It was not always an official Officer of The Salvation Army who started the Salvation Army in a new country; sometimes Salvationists emigrated to countries and started operating as "the Salvation Army" on their own authority. When the first official officers arrived in Australia and the United States, they found groups of Salvationists already waiting for them and started working with each other.
The Salvation Army's main converts were at first alcoholics, morphine addicts, prostitutes and other "undesirables" unwelcome in polite Christian society, which helped prompt the Booths to start their own church. The Booths did not 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.
Other beliefs are that its members should completely refrain from drinking alcohol (Holy Communion is not practiced), smoking, taking illegal drugs and gambling. Its soldiers wear a uniform tailored to the country in which they work; the uniform can be white, grey, navy, fawn and are even styled like a sari in some areas. Any member of the public is welcome to attend their meetings.
As the Salvation Army grew rapidly in the late 19th century, it generated opposition in England. Opponents, grouped under the name of the Skeleton Army, disrupted Salvation Army meetings and gatherings, with tactics such as throwing rocks, bones, rats, and tar as well as physical assaults on members of The Salvation Army. Much of this was led by pub owners who were losing business because of the Army's opposition to alcohol and targeting of the frequenters of saloons and public houses.
The Salvation Army's reputation in the United States improved as a result of its disaster relief efforts following the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 and the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. The establishment of Victorian bell-ringers raising charity today "helps complete the American portrait of Christmas", with over 25,000 volunteers taking up kettles over the holiday period in the U.S. alone. The church remains a highly visible and sometimes controversial presence in many parts of the world.
In 1994, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, an industry publication, released the results of the largest study of charitable and non-profit organisation popularity and credibility. The study showed that The Salvation Army was ranked as the 4th "most popular charity/non-profit in America" of over 100 charities researched, with 47% of Americans over the age of 12 choosing 'Love' and 'Like A Lot' for The Salvation Army.
Charity Watch rates the Salvation Army an "A-" to an "A"
Structure, organisation and expenditures
As of 30 November 2012 the Salvation Army operates in 126 countries and provides services in 175 different languages. For administrative purposes, the Salvation Army divides itself geographically into territories, which are then sub-divided into divisions. In larger areas, regional and area commands are also introduced as sub-divisions of divisions. Each territory has an administrative hub known as territorial headquarters (THQ).
Likewise, each division has a divisional headquarters (DHQ). Each of these territories is led by a territorial commander who receives orders from the Salvation Army's International Headquarters in London. A territory is normally led by an officer holding the rank of colonel (for small territories) or commissioner for larger territories. In some countries, the work of The Salvation Army may be called a command, led by a command commander. A larger command is typically led by an officer holding the rank of colonel.
Its stated membership (as quoted from 2010 Year Book) includes 16,938 active and 9,190 retired officers, 1,122,326 soldiers, 189,176 Adherents, 39,071 Corps Cadets, 378,009 Junior Soldiers, around 104,977 other employees and more than 4.5 million volunteers.
Members of The Salvation Army also include "adherents", these are people who do not make the commitment to be a soldier but who formally recognize The Salvation Army as their church. (According to the 2006 Salvation Army Year Book, in the United States there are 85,148 Senior Soldiers and 28,377 Junior Soldiers, 17,396 Adherents and around 60,000 employees.)
The current world Leader of The Salvation Army is General André Cox.
The Salvation Army is one of the world's largest providers of social aid, with expenditures including operating costs of $2.6 billion in 2004, helping more than 32 million people in the U.S. alone. In addition to community centers and disaster relief, the organization does work in refugee camps, especially among displaced people in Africa.
The Salvation Army has received an A- rating from the American Institute of Philanthropy. In the United Kingdom, The Salvation Army is no longer the largest non-governmental provider of social services; however provides a significant service to people in need. The Salvation Army is the second largest charity in the United States, with private donations of almost $2 billion for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2007.
In 2004, the Army in the United States received a $1.6 billion donation in the will of Joan B. Kroc, third wife of former McDonald's CEO Ray Kroc. This donation was among the largest individual philanthropic gifts ever given to a single organization. The donation came with certain restrictions that caused some controversy.
The International Congress of The Salvation Army is normally held every 10 years as a conference for all Salvationists from around the world to meet. The first such conference took place in London, UK, from 28 May to 4 June 1886, and subsequent Congressional meetings were held sporadically until 1904 and then 1990. The seventh International Congress in Atlanta, GA, USA, from 28 Jun to 2 Jul 2000, was the first held outside of the UK. The next International Congress has been scheduled for July 2015, in commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of The Salvation Army's founding.
Officers are given 'Marching Orders' to change ministries within The Salvation Army. Usually, officers are given new Marching Orders every two to five years and reassigned to different posts, sometimes moving great distances.
A Moscow court ruled that the Salvation Army was a paramilitary organization subject to expulsion. In October 2006, the European Court of Human Rights ruled the original decision illegal.
The beliefs of the Salvation Army rest upon these eleven doctrines:
- 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.
- 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.
- We believe that there are three persons in the Godhead – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, undivided in essence and co-equal in power and glory.
- 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.
- We believe 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.
- 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.
- We believe that repentance towards God, faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and regeneration by the Holy Spirit, are necessary to salvation.
- 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.
- We believe that continuance in a state of salvation depends upon continued obedient faith in Christ.
- 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.
- 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.
The denomination does not celebrate the Christian sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion; although its officers conduct marriages, it holds a traditional Protestant belief that marriage was not instituted by Christ and therefore is not a sacrament.
The Salvation Army opposes euthanasia and assisted suicide, and accepts abortion only in extreme cases such as to save the life of the mother. Their official statement says: "The Salvation Army believes in the sanctity of all human life and considers each person to be of infinite value and each life a gift from God to be cherished, nurtured and redeemed. Human life is sacred because it is made in the image of God and has an eternal destiny. (Genesis 1:27) Sacredness is not conferred, nor can it be taken away by human agreement."
It is also against the death penalty: "The Salvation Army recognizes that the opinions of Salvationists are divided on the moral acceptability of capital punishment and its effectiveness as a deterrent. However, to advocate in any way the continuance or restoration of capital punishment in any part of the world would be inconsistent with the Army’s purposes and contrary to the Army’s belief that all human life is sacred and that each human being, however wretched, can become a new person in Christ."
In 2012, the Salvation Army placed its Positional Statement on Homosexuality "Under review" after receiving adverse publicity about the statement. Prior to 2012, its position was as below.
Practicing homosexuals are "ineligible for full membership" in The Salvation Army. The organization will not appoint 'practising' homosexuals to posts as ministers, preferring heterosexuals "whose values are consistent with the church's philosophy."
The ordination of women is permitted in the Salvation Army. Salvation Army officers were previously allowed to marry only other officers (this rule varies in different countries); but this rule has been relaxed in recent years. Husbands and wives usually share the same rank and have the same or similar assignments—the major exception to this is the General's spouse, who is given the rank of Commissioner.
The Salvation Army flag is a symbol of the Army's war against sin and social evils. The red on the flag symbolizes the bloodshed by Jesus Christ, the yellow for the fire of the Holy Spirit and the blue for the purity of God the Father.
In 1878 Captain W.H. Ebdon suggested a crest, and in 1879 it was to be found on the letterhead of the Salvation Army Headquarters. The captain's suggested design was changed only slightly and a crown was added.
The meaning of the crest:
The cross: The cross of the Lord Jesus Christ
The "S": Salvation from sin through Jesus
The ray on the outside of the circle: The Fire of the Holy Spirit
The dots: The Truth of the Gospel
The swords: Spiritual Warfare
"Blood and Fire": The Blood which was shed by Jesus for our sins and the Fire of the Holy Spirit
The Red Shield has its origins in Salvation Army work during wartimes. At the end of the 19th century, Staff-Captain Mary Murray was sent by William Booth to support British troops serving in the Boer War in South Africa. Then, in 1901, this same officer was given the task of establishing the Naval and Military League, the forerunner of the Red Shield Services.
Salvation Army officers serving in the Red Shield Services in wartime performed many functions. The Doughnut Girls of World War I are an early example, serving refreshments to troops in the trenches. They also provided first aid stations, ambulances, chaplaincy, social clubs, Christian worship and other frontline services.
This symbol is still used in Blue Shield Services that serve the British Armed Forces but it is widely used as a simple, more readily identifiable symbol in many Salvation Army settings. It is common to see the Red Shield used on casual Salvation Army uniform.
In Australia, the Red Shield has become one of the country's most identified and trusted brands, leading the Australian Salvation Army to prefer to use this symbol over the crest on its uniform, corps buildings and advertising materials. In the 5th Volume of Australian Superbrands it was recorded that "Research reveals that the popular Salvation Army slogan ‘Thank God for the Salvos’ has almost total recognition amongst the Australian public, achieving 93 per cent aided awareness".
Similarly the Red Shield logo is highly desired by companies wishing to link their brand with a solid emblem of care and compassion.
The uniform also gives the Salvos a very visible presence, often creating a sense that they are ‘everywhere’, although uniformed Salvationists are actually a very small percentage of the Australian population.
Salvation Army officers and soldiers often wear uniforms. The idea that they should do so originated with Elijah Cadman who, at The Salvation Army's 'War Congress' in August 1878 said "I would like to wear a suit of clothes that would let everyone know I meant war to the teeth and salvation for the world".
The uniform identifies the wearer as a Salvationist and a Christian. It also symbolises availability to those in need. The uniform takes many forms internationally but is characterized by the 'S' insignia for 'Salvation' and carries the meaning 'Saved to Serve', or 'Serve to Save'. Other letters are substituted to conform with local language.
Since 1983 there has been an official Salvation Army tartan. It was designed by Captain Harry Cooper, for the Perth Citadel Corps Centenary commemoration. It is based upon the colours of the Salvation Army Flag, with which it shares the same symbolism. However, it is rarely seen outside Scotland.
The Salvation Army has a unique form of salute which involves raising the right hand above shoulder-height with the index finger pointing upwards. It signifies recognition of a fellow citizen of heaven, and a pledge to do everything possible to get others to heaven also. In the case of saluting in response to applause, in circumstances such as a musical festival or being applauded for a speech, it also signifies that the Salvationist wishes to give Glory to God and not themselves.
In some instances, the salute is accompanied with a shout of 'hallelujah!'
"The Salvation Army" Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (with minor edits), under GFDL.