Salvation Army

Salvation Army
Salvation Army
In 1878 in London, England, William Booth and his wife, Catherine, became the founders of a Wesleyan- and Holiness-oriented organization, which they called the Salvation Army. William, a discontented Methodist minister and then an evangelist, envisioned “a cathedral of the open air.”

The couple had eight children, and all of them became major figures in this new organization, which developed a military structure and esprit de corps to serve better the spread of the Christian message and a welfare program based on the Gospels. William gave himself the title of “General,” which his wife and children were enjoined to use even at home. Catherine became known as the “Army Mother.” Converts and members were known as “Salvationists.”

Within a decade, and particularly after the 1890 publication of William’s book, In Darkest England and the Way Out, this new movement was well established not only in the British Isles but also throughout Europe, Canada, and Australia. Already, by 1880, the Salvation Army had “opened fire” on the United States, and one of the older children, Ballington, soon became the “Commander” of operations there.

The doctrine of sanctification, by which God’s grace and believers’s practical exercise of faith give rise to a host of virtues and a deep sense of love for humanity, is preeminent in the ideology of the Salvation Army, functioning as a guiding force in members’ lives.

While many other evangelical doctrines, including faith in the sacrificial atonement of Christ’s death, are of enormous importance for Salvationists, all mainstream Protestant sacraments and rituals were jettisoned as confusing and divisive, in order to streamline the Army’s evangelistic goals.

In addition to the Booths’s evangelistic fervor for lost souls, demanding of all Salvationists, both Officers and Soldiers, that they sign the Army’s Articles of War on unbelief and poverty, the Salvation Army has always advocated humane treatment of animals and supported women’s rights. With respect to the latter, William and Catherine insisted that all three of their married daughters hyphenate their last names, long before the practice became more common.

However, it is the charitable nature of the Salvation Army that is so widely known and appreciated. The American organization has created day-care centers, summer camps, residences for senior citizens, programs for the homeless, rehabilitation centers for alcoholics and drug addicts, and relief collections, for which the red kettles and the ringing bells have become ubiquitous during the Christmas season.

The most vibrant mark on the American consciousness was made by the seventh of the Booth’s children, Evangeline. With a strong will and a penchant for flamboyance, this remarkable administrator served as the U.S. commander from 1904 to 1934, bringing relief to many during World War I and the Great Depression. Of special note were her campaigns on behalf of unwed mothers and neglected children, acknowledged by the government and the public alike.

Due to her work, today there are well over 1,000 Corps (local churches) in America, many of which conduct evangelical services distinguished by exuberant brass band hymn singing. Before retiring in the United States, now boasting the largest organization and membership in the world, Evangeline returned to London in 1934 and for five years assumed duties as the fourth general of the Salvation Army.