Salvation Army

Salvation Army

Salvation Army, Protestant denomination and international nonsectarian Christian organization for evangelical and philanthropic work.

Organization and Beliefs

The Salvation Army has established branches in more than 110 countries throughout the world. International headquarters are in London. In the United States, where the movement is strong, headquarters are in Alexandria, Va. The Army's ministers are ranked as officers and its members are called "soldiers"; women have equal position and responsibility with men. High commands may be attained by promotion from lower offices. Each country has its divisions and its local corps, with a commander at the head of all. Officers are prepared in training colleges for their varied responsibilities. In addition to its officers and soldiers, the Army has many more adherents, who regularly worship at its centers, and volunteers, who aid the Salvation Army in meeting community needs.

The Army operates hospitals, community centers, alcoholic and drug rehabilitation programs, emergency and disaster services, social work centers, and recreation facilities. Support of the vast undertakings in all parts of the world depends on voluntary contributions and profits from the sale of publications. The War Cry is the official organ. The beliefs of the Army as set forth in the Handbook of Salvation Army Doctrine (1926) generally agree with those of most Protestant evangelical denominations, but the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper are not considered essential to salvation and are not practiced. Great emphasis is placed on the experience of salvation and purity of life. In conducting the meetings officers are allowed great freedom, as no form of service is required; bands and singing are important features. The Salvation Army distinguished itself by its work with the armed services in both world wars and by its aid to those suffering in disasters, such as floods and earthquakes, all over the world.


The Salvation Army was founded by William Booth, with the assistance of his wife, Catherine Booth. Booth, a Methodist minister, began independent evangelistic work in Cornwall, England, in 1861. In 1865 he began his movement by holding outdoor meetings and revivals in tents and theaters in London. The movement was originally known as the East London Revival Society, shortly renamed the Christian Mission, and finally in 1878 designated the Salvation Army. A military form of organization, with uniforms and other distinctive features, was adopted in the interest of a more effective "warfare against evil."

From its inception the organization sought to minister to physical as well as spiritual human needs. Soup kitchens were the first in a long line of widely varied projects designed to provide physical assistance to the destitute. Although the members often met opposition, the value of Salvation Army services had been generally acknowledged by 1890, when General Booth set forth his plan of procedure in his book In Darkest England and the Way Out.

On his death William Booth was succeeded by his son, Bramwell, as head of the organization; but in 1929 his removal was voted by the high council of the Army, and Edward J. Higgins was elected to that post. Salvation Army work in the United States dates from 1880, when Commissioner George Railton and seven women workers from England founded a branch in Pennsylvania. In 1904, Evangeline Booth, daughter of the founder, was put in command of the work in the United States; in 1934 she became general of the International Salvation Army.

See also Volunteers of America.


See R. Sandall, The History of the Salvation Army (6 vol., 1947-79); S. Chesham, Born to Battle (1965); R. Collier, The General Next to God (1965); J. D. Waldron, Pioneering Salvationists (1987); D. Winston, Red-Hot and Righteous (1999); R. Hattersley, Blood and Fire (2000).

The Salvation Army is a Christian charity and church that is internally organised like a military service. Its founders William and Catherine Booth sought to bring Christian salvation to the poor, destitute and hungry by meeting both their physical and spiritual needs.

The Salvation Army is both a charity and social services organization; and a denomination of the Christian religion. One of its stated objectives is:

The international headquarters is at 101 Queen Victoria Street, London, England, with branches around the world. It is sometimes colloquially referred to as the "Sally Ann" in Canada and the "Sally Army" in the United Kingdom and New Zealand and the "Salvos" in Australia. It is also known pejoratively as the "Starvation Army".


The Salvation Army was founded in London's East End in 1865 by one-time Methodist minister William Booth and Catherine Booth. Originally, Booth named the organization the Christian Mission, but in 1878 Booth reorganized it along military lines when his son Bramwell objected to being called a "volunteer" and stated that he was a "regular" or nothing. The name then became The Salvation Army.

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, stated that women had the same rights to preach as men. William Booth described the organizations 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.

The Salvation Army's main converts were at first alcoholics, drug addicts, prostitutes and other "undesirables" of society. These "undesirables" were not welcomed into 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 they work in; 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 church services.

As the Salvation Army grew rapidly in the late 1800s, it generated opposition in England. Opponents, grouped under the name of the Skeleton Army, disrupted Salvation Army meetings and gatherings, the usual tactics being the throwing of rocks, rats, and tar, and physical assaults on members of The Salvation Army. Much of this was led by publicans who were losing business due to 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 after it began disaster relief efforts after the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 and the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. It remains a highly visible and sometimes controversial presence in many parts of the world.

Worldwide expansion of the Salvation Army

Current organization and expenditures

The Salvation Army operates in 111 countries and provides services in 175 different languages. For administrative purposes, the organization divides itself geographically into Territories, which are then sub-divided into Divisions. Each Territory has an administrative hub known as Territorial Headquarters (THQ). Likewise, each Division has a Divisional Headquarters (DHQ). For example, Japan is one territory, the United States is divided into four Territories: Eastern, Southern, Central, and Western while Germany & Lithuania together are one territory. Each of these Territories is led by a Territorial Commander who receives orders from the Salvation Army's International Headquarters in London.

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 US alone. In addition to community centres 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.

Its claimed membership includes more than 17,000 active and more than 8,700 retired officers, 1 041 461 soldiers, around 100,000 other employees and more than 4.5 million volunteers. Members of the Salvation Army are also the so-called adherents, who do not sign the document to become soldier but who do see the Salvation Army as their church and who do not wear uniform. The truth is that the membership is much smaller, since inactive soldiers are rarely removed from the rolls. It is led by General Shaw Clifton, who has held this position since April 2, 2006 after the 2006 High Council elected him as the next General January 28, 2006. 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.

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 were met with some controversy.


The ultimate mission of The Salvation Army is to bring the whole world under the Christian umbrella. This mandate is based on the Army's interpretation of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament. The Salvation Army believes, as stated in their first doctrinal statement, that only these scriptures "constitute the Divine rule of Christian faith and practice.

The beliefs of the Salvation Army rest upon these eleven doctrines:

"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 co-equal 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."

The Booths believed that many Christians had come to seek salvation through ritual rather than reliance on God. Accordingly they decided not to include the use of sacraments, (mainly baptism and Holy Communion) in the Army's form of worship. Other beliefs of The Salvation Army are that its members should completely refrain from drinking alcohol, smoking, taking recreational drugs, pornography, the occult, and gambling. Soldiers affirm that they will give "as large a proportion of my income as possible" to the Salvation Army.

The ordination of women is permitted in the Salvation Army. Salvation Army officers were previously only allowed to marry 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.

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.

The flag

Around the world, The Salvation Army flag is a symbol of the Army's war against sin and social evil. The red on the flag symbolizes the blood shed by Christ, the yellow for the fire of the Holy Spirit and the blue for the purity of God the Father. The star contains the Salvation Army's motto, 'Blood and Fire'. This describes the blood of Jesus shed on the cross to save all people, and the fire of the Holy Spirit which purifies believers.

The flag precedes outdoor activities such as a march of witness. It is used in ceremonies such as the dedication of children and the swearing-in of soldiers. It is sometimes placed on the coffin at the funeral of a Salvationist. The Salvation Army term used to describe the death of a Salvationist is that of the deceased being "promoted to glory". This is a term that is still used and upheld by Salvationists today.


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 (the Frys, from Alderbury near Salisbury in Wiltshire, the home of the Salvation Army Band) began working with the Army as their "bodyguards" and played music to distract the crowds. They were also involved in union-busting actions: Salvation Army bands would show up at union actions and attempt to bring down the union activities with hymns and music.This in turn led the Industrial Workers of the World to create their own lyrics set to popular Salvation Army Band tunes, many of which remain in that union's "Little Red Songbook.

The tradition of having musicians available continued, and eventually grew 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. Across the world the brass band has been an integral part of the Army’s ministry and an immediately recognizable symbol to Salvationists and non-Salvationists alike. The Salvation Army also has choirs; these are known as Songster Brigades, normally comprising the traditional 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 high and the Army operates bands at the international level, such as the International Staff Band (a brass band) which is the equal of professional ensembles although it does not participate in the brass band contest (see music competition) scene. Some professional brass players and contesting brass band personnel have come up through The Salvation Army.

Sometimes larger Salvation Army corps (churches) have brass bands that play at Sunday meetings or services. Examples include Maidenhead Citadel Band, and, in America, Montclair Citadel Band, Pasadena, Norridge, Oakbrook Terrace, Pittsburgh Temple, Royal Oak, Flint, Dearborn Heights, Spring Valley, Clearwater, Pioneer, and many others.

The Army tradition in music is to use the popular idiom of the day to reach people for Jesus. The Army's Joy Strings were a hit pop group in the 1960s and early 1970s in the UK and beyond, reaching the charts and being featured on national television. Another popular band is The Insyderz, an American ska-core group in the 1990s and early 2000s. Current bands like New Zealand's Vatic, Chamberlin, Hypemusic and The Lads, England's Electralyte, Australia's Soteria Music Ministries and Escape and America's transMission, The Singing Company, HAB, and BurN, carry on this Salvation Army tradition.

Saytunes is a popular website designed to encourage and promote these contemporary Salvation Army bands and artists.

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. The Salvationists' nationwide appeals for financial and material donations yielded tremendous support, enabling the Army to provide assistance to thousands. General Evangeline Booth, when she offered the services of Salvationists to President Wilson during the First World War thrust Salvation Army social and relief work to newer heights. Today the Salvation Army is best known for its charitable efforts.

The Salvation Army is a prominent non-governmental relief agency 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. Members were prominent among relief organizations after Hurricane Hugo and Hurricane Andrew and other such natural disasters in the United States. In August 2005 they supplied drinking water to poor people affected by the heat wave in the United States. Later in 2005 they responded to hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Most recently they have helped the victims of the May 2006 Indonesian Earthquake.

In the year since Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, The Salvation Army has allocated donations of more than $365 million to serve more than 1.7 million people in nearly every state. The Army’s immediate response to Hurricane Katrina included the mobilization of more than 178 canteen feeding units and 11 field kitchens which together have served more than 5.7 million hot meals, 8.3 million sandwiches, snacks & drinks. Its SATERN network of amateur ham-radio operators picked up where modern communications left off to help locate more than 25,000 survivors. And, Salvation Army pastoral care counselors were on hand to comfort the emotional and spiritual needs of 277,000 individuals. As part of the overall effort, Salvation Army officers, employees and volunteers have contributed more than 900,000 hours of service.

The Salvation Army was one of the first relief agencies on the scene of the 9/11 attacks in New York. They also provided prayer support for families of missing people.

The Salvation Army, along with the American National Red Cross, Southern Baptist Convention, and other disaster relief organizations, are national members of the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD).

Also among the disaster relief capabilities is the Red Shield Defence Services, often called the SallyMan for short. The effort that they put in is similar to that of a chaplain, and reaches many more, offering cold drinks, hot drinks, and some biscuits and lollies for the soldiers of the military to have, though, if a SallyMan is on deployment, the locals are offered a share in the produce. Despite this generousity, the RSDS is generally unnoticed because it only works in disaster relief and military actions, not general welfare opportunities.

Thrift shops and charity

The Salvation Army is well-known for its network of thrift stores or Charity Shops, which raise money for its charitable and religious activities by selling donated used items such as clothing, housewares and toys. The Salvation Army has a history of free rehabilitation from alcohol and drug abuse. Thrift stores provide the revenue to run the Adult Rehabilitation Centres known as ARCs. The ARCs, found in many global locations, are work- and Bible-based and are usually long term residential facilities.

In many countries The Salvation Army is most recognized during the Christmas season with its volunteers who stand outside of businesses and play/sing Christmas carols, or ring bells to inspire passersby to place donations of cash and checks inside red kettles. A tradition has developed in the United States in which, in some places, gold coins are anonymously inserted into the kettles that the bell ringers collect donations in. This was first recorded in 1982, in Crystal Lake, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago.

Red Shield Appeal

The Red Shield Appeal is The Salvation Army's ways of raising money. Each year, hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets worldwide to participate in the doorknock weekend. Each year, several million dollars are raised in each territory alone.

Family Tracing Service

One programme for which The Salvation Army is internationally renowned is its Family Tracing Service (sometimes known as the Missing Persons Service). This was first formally established in 1885, and the service is now available in most of the countries where The Salvation Army is represented. The objective is to restore (or to sustain) family relationships where contact has been lost for some reason, whether recently or in the distant past. Thousands of people are traced every year on behalf of their families. A world record was attained in 1988 when a brother and sister were reunited after a separation of 81 years.

Youth groups

The Salvation Army includes multiple youth groups, which primarily consist of its Sunday schools and the Scout and Guide pack. Also some schools volunteer to get a group of kids to help. Some territories have Salvation Army Guards and Legions Association (SAGALA). In the United States these internal youth groups that are specifically for females are known as Girl Guards (older females) and Sunbeams (younger females). Adventure Corps serves boys who are enrolled in school for first through eighth grade.

The Refuge

Another youth group that has emerged in The Salvation Army is The Refuge, meaning REviving FUture GEnerations. The Refuge was established in The Salvation Army division of Pendel which is in the Eastern Territory of The United States. The Refuge was created and founded by a group of friends and salvationists. It began when this group recognized the need for this type of ministry in their area. The Refuge began in the Spring of 2005. With the aid of dedicated musicians and administrative staff, the Refuge has been a success and continues to be a safe place for worship, fellowship, food, and fun.

GodRock (GeneratioNext)

Based at the Pioneer corps in the Kensington district of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which is the longest surviving corps in the United States. GodRock began in the late 90s with a group of teens from greater Philadelphia. GodRock now meets every Sunday evening, providing an opportunity for contemporary worship, testimonies, and food. GodRock has expanded from what was once primarily Salvation Army teens to a group of teens (and young adults), not only from the Salvation Army, but from area churches as well.

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 ways. Its mission statement is "Calling a generation to dynamic faith, radical lifestyle, adventurous mission and a fight for justice.", and it emphasizes worship, discipleship, missions, and social action.


Based at the Johnsonville Salvation Army in Wellington New Zealand. Hype! has around 80 members who regularly attend a range of events. Hype.Tuesdays is the youth-groups regular 'church' style weekly meeting, it is unique in that all members who attend are given an opportunity to share their thoughts on the weekly topic making it different from a 'Youth-church' style meeting. Hype! also has fornightly social events run under the Hype.massive name. Their official website can be found here


United States

Opposition to hiring homosexuals
The Salvation Army in the U.S. has been the topic of many controversial discussions about discrimination against homosexuals in their hiring practices. According to lesbian/gay newsmagazine The Advocate, the Bush administration was "willing to do whatever it takes to perpetuate, support, and defend discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals" in exchange for The Salvation Army's lobby support for Faith-Based Initiatives, in what the publication described as a "secret arrangement. The New York Times reported that the Salvation Army believed it had a firm commitment from the White House to issue a regulation that would override local antidiscrimination laws. A disclosure of The Salvation Army's request "outraged some civil rights groups and lawmakers," and resulted in an immediate reversal of a previous promise to honor the request.

The Salvation Army's position is that because it is a church, Section VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964 explicitly guarantees its right to discriminate on the basis of its religious beliefs in its hiring. To reinforce its position, it threatened to close all soup kitchens in New York City when the city government proposed legislation that would require all organizations doing business with it to provide equal benefits to unmarried domestic partners.

Financial accountability
Because the Salvation Army is a billion-dollar organisation, Trent Stamp of Charity Navigator has questioned the Salvation Army's religious exemption from Form 990 (a financial accountability report filed by most relief organisations). The Salvation Army publishes an annual report on its website.


From 1940 through the 1970s the Salvation Army in Australia sheltered approximately 30,000 children. The Australian Salvation Army issued an apology and has acknowledged that sexual abuse may have occurred during this time. The Army explicitly rejects the claim that there are as many as 500 potential claimants.


In December 2001, a Moscow court ruled that the Salvation Army was a "paramilitary" organization subject to expulsion. This ruling was later changed when clarification was accepted by the Russian government. In October 2006, the European Court of Human Rights ruled this decision to be illegal.

Cultural references


The Limelight Department of the Salvation Army was the first film studio in Australia (from 1898).




See also

Other miscellaneous articles



  • Eason, Andrew Mark. Women in God's Army: Gender and Equality in the Early Salvation Army. Waterloo, Ontario, Canada: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2003. ISBN 0-88920-418-7
  • A Hundred Years’ War:The Salvation Army 1865 – 1965 (Watson Bernard)
  • The History of the Salvation Army Vol. I (Sandall Robert)
  • The General next to God (Collier Richard)
  • God's Army: The Story of the Salvation Army (Brook Stephen)
  • McKinley, E.H. (1995). Marching to Glory: The History of the Salvation Army in the United States, 1880-1992. Eerdmans Pub Co. ISBN 0-8028-3761-1.
  • Taiz, Lillian (2001). Hallelujah Lads and Lasses: Remaking the Salvation Army in America, 1880-1930. University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0-8078-2621-9.
  • Walker, Pamela J. (2001). Pulling the Devil's Kingdom Down: The Salvation Army in Victorian Britain. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-22591-0.
  • Winston, Diane (2000). Red-Hot and Righteous: The Urban Religion of the Salvation Army. Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-00396-9.
  • Ostling, Richard N. "The Salvation Army: A distinctive corps simultaneously expands and shrinks". Associated Press, .
  • Washington Post article regarding the deal between Salvation Army and the Bush administration

External links

Search another word or see Salvation Armyon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature