What is the Salvation Army?

The Salvation Army was founded in the London slums in 1865 by a Wesleyan Methodist minister, William Booth (1829-1912), with the aid of his wife, Catherine (1829-1890), and was originally known as the Christian Revival Association. It was later renamed The East London Christian Mission, serving to evangelize to the poor, the outcast, and the non-church goers in the East End of London and to be a church for those who weren't accepted in England's established churches. Based on the belief that in order to be saved the believer must try to save others and that the gospel would be better received by people if they weren't starving, homeless, oppressed, or afflicted, it then went on to provide other social and charitable services to the communities where it was organized. In 1878, it was officially established as the Salvation Army. In 1880, it was organized in the U.S. as part of the Revivalist Reform Movement of the Second Great Awakening and by 1886 was spreading throughout the world. Today it operates as a nonsectarian, evangelical organization with the following purposes: provide spiritual, physical, and moral reformation worldwide to those who need it; reclamation of the vicious, criminal, dissolute, and degraded; visitation among the poor, lowly, and sick; preaching of the Gospel and dissemination of Christian truth. It does this through providing various welfare programs in local communities and has become one of the most popular American charities (known for its thrift stores, food drives, and holiday bell ringers). The Salvation Army is organized in a militaristic structure complete with flags, ceremonials, uniforms and badges, brass bands, discipline, corps (church halls), citadels (meeting places), nine ranks of officers, and soldiers who are considered radical disciples of Jesus Christ. Influences upon the formation of its doctrines come from the teachings and theology of Martin Luther, John Wesley, and George Whitefield. Its mission statement is: "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 need in His name without discrimination."

Anyone wishing to devote themselves to service in the Salvation Army must take an oath, originally known as the Articles of War. According to the website of the international headquarters of the Salvation Army (http://www1.salvationarmy.org/ihq/www_sa.nsf/ce952dea4507ee7780256cf4005d2254/600eeabff964edfe80256d58004b4d58!OpenDocument), this is the covenant made by individuals who enter into service as soldiers:

Soldier's Covenant

HAVING accepted Jesus Christ as my Saviour and Lord, and desiring to fulfil my membership of His Church on earth as a soldier of The Salvation Army, I now by God�s grace enter into a sacred covenant.

I believe and will live by the truths of the word of God expressed in The Salvation Army�s eleven articles of faith:

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. 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 Ghost�undivided in essence and coequal 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 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.

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.


I will be responsive to the Holy Spirit�s work and obedient to His leading in my life, growing in grace through worship, prayer, service and the reading of the Bible.

I will make the values of the Kingdom of God and not the values of the world the standard for my life.

I will uphold Christian integrity in every area of my life, allowing nothing in thought. word or deed that is unworthy, unclean, untrue, profane, dishonest or immoral.

I will maintain Christian ideals in all my relationships with others: my family and neighbours, my colleagues and fellow Salvationists, those to whom and for whom I am responsible, and the wider community.

I will uphold the sanctity of marriage and of family life.

I will be a faithful steward of my time and gifts, my money and possessions, my body, my mind and my spirit, knowing that I am accountable to God.

I will abstain from alcoholic drink. tobacco, the non-medical use of addictive drugs. gambling, pornography, the occult, and all else that could enslave the body or spirit.

I will be faithful to the purposes for which God raised up The Salvation Army, sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, endeavouring to win others to Him, and in His name caring for the needy and the disadvantaged.

I will be actively involved, as l am able, in the life, work, worship and witness of the corps, giving as large a proportion of my income as possible to support its ministries and the worldwide work of the Army.

I will be true to the principles and practices of The Salvation Army, loyal to its leaders, and I will show the spirit of Salvationism whether in times of popularity or persecution.

I now call upon all present to witness that I enter into this covenant and sign these articles of war of my own free will, convinced that the love of Christ, who died and now lives to save me, requires from me this devotion of my life to His service for the salvation of the whole world; and therefore do here declare my full determination, by God�s help, to be a true soldier of The Salvation Army.

        When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?" "Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my lambs." Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?" He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep." The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my sheep..." (John 21:15-18)

Following are links to various Salvation Army websites. Since the Salvation Army has established central organizations within various territories and divisions in several countries, not all territory websites are listed here. The best place to start is the The Salvation Army International Headquarters.


"The Salvation Army Website Finder Page. Welcome to the new Redshield.org. We've redesigned our site and added new features like ZIP�Finder, which let's you find your nearest Salvation Army location by ZIP Code."

The Religious Movements Project - The Salvation Army

"The 35 year marriage of William and Catherine Booth was a nurturing relationship and several authors mention the great influence Catherine Booth contributed to the creation and success of the Salvation Army. Catherine, besides preoccupying her time with increasing women activities and vocalness within the context of the Christian message, believed in the protecting of souls from 'sinful ignorance.' With this end in mind, the Booths took on the responsibility of providing basic necessitities to those less fortunate. There exists three theories on why the Booths adopted a charitable demeanor. McKinley states, that with the positive results from small charitable actions they randomly engaged in, the Booths decided to incorporate these charitable activities into their Christian objectives. Yet, according to Murdoch, urban, Irish-Roman Catholic resistance to Salvationist preaching forced Booth to convert to a social form of gospel he termed 'wholesale salvation.' (Murdoch, 1992:575) Another theory given by Murdoch, since Booth's original intention to save London's 'heathen masses' did not prosper like his later evangelical outreach missions. Faced with stagnation, Booth decided to move outside of East London and into provincial English towns, areas that had already been exposed to other nonconformist evangelical groups. With a more 'open minded' populace, Booth's message received a warm welcome and his following grew. In fact, by the 1880's, the group had expanded into America, Australasia (Australia and New Zealand), Europe, India and Africa. Yet, growth only occured in Anglo-American towns, not the slums which was Booth's original target group. Thus, a social program , in the late 1880's, found incorporation into the group's objectives in order to accomodate this original intention. Whatever the reasoning, the Army adopted charitable endeavors within their objectives. In 1878 the Christian Mission turned into the Salvation Army: The Salvation Army was born...the "Great Salvation War" began to add piecemeal: church halls became corps, flags, ceremonials, military badges, ranks, brass bands and the rudiments of uniform and discipline," the Christian mission had transformed into an army -- The Salvation Army. (McKinley:4) Immediately, William Booth reassured the readers of the Christian Mission's magazine that simply the name of the group had changed, nothing else. But with the increased development and growth, Booth found the need to integrate a rigid sectarian discipline within the Salvation Army. This more structured form of organizations resulted in tensions arose within the group between the old revivalist freedom and the newly acquired denominational discipline. This tension explains the fact that the Salvation Army grew, not out of directly sanctioned expansion, but rather from disenchanted members who had left the core and gone out on their own to start independent Salvation Armies. Yet, there were other members who left the Army and formed their own movements. For example, the National Commander from 1887 to 1896, resigned and formed the Volunteers of America."

The Salvation Army in Australia

"The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church. Our message is based on the Bible. Our ministry is motivated by love for God. Our mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and meet human needs in his name without discrimination.Our work in Australia is divided into two territories."

The Salvation Army in Canada

"The Salvation Army began its work in Canada in 1882, just fifteen years after Confederation, and quickly became the vital part of the spiritual and social service life of the country that it now is. The first open air �meetings�, or worship services, were held in Toronto in January, 1882, and in London, Ontario, five months later. These were led by British immigrants who had known the Army in their homeland. Official Salvation Army operations began in July of that year when Major Thomas Moore arrived from the U.S. headquarters to take charge. By then there were eleven �corps� or congregations in Ontario, and a year later Canada was declared an independent �Territory�, responsible for its own governance within the worldwide organization. From the beginning, the Army in Canada adopted founder William Booth�s philosophy that there is little point preaching �salvation� to hungry people. And so the concept of �soup and salvation� took hold, later to be developed into the comprehensive social service programs The Salvation Army operates today, many of them in partnership with government."

The Salvation Army International Headquarters

"The Salvation Army began in 1865 when William Booth, a London minister, gave up the comfort of his pulpit and decided to take his message into the streets where it would reach the poor, the homeless, the hungry and the destitute. His original aim was to send converts to established churches of the day, but soon he realized that the poor did not feel comfortable or welcome in the pews of most of the churches and chapels of Victorian England. Regular churchgoers were appalled when these shabbily dressed, unwashed people came to join them in worship. Booth decided to found a church especially for them � the East London Christian Mission. The mission grew slowly, but Booth's faith in God remained undiminished. In May of 1878, Booth summoned his son, Bramwell, and his good friend George Railton to read a proof of the Christian Mission's annual report. At the top it read: THE CHRISTIAN MISSION is A VOLUNTEER ARMY. Bramwell strongly objected to this wording. He was not a volunteer: he was compelled to do God's work. So, in a flash of inspiration, Booth crossed out "Volunteer" and wrote "Salvation". The Salvation Army was born. By the 1900s, the Army had spread around the world. The Salvation Army soon had officers and soldiers in 36 countries, including the United States of America. This well-organized yet flexible structure inspired a great many much-needed services: women's social work, the first food depot, the first day nursery and the first Salvation Army missionary hospital. During World War II, The Salvation Army operated 3,000 service units for the armed forces, which led to the formation of the USO. Today, The Salvation Army is stronger and more powerful than ever. Now, in over 106 nations around the world, The Salvation Army continues to work where the need is greatest, guided by faith in God and love for all people."

The Salvation Army U.S. National Headquarters

"When the United States entered World War I, the Salvation Army was ready. Commander Evangeline Booth (1865-1950) sent a wire to President Woodrow Wilson, placing the personnel of The Salvation Army at his disposal in the United States for any service that it could provide. The Salvation Army began to organize the War Work Council creating a War Service League. This League functioned in knitting and sewing circles, making sweaters, socks and other personal items. These were distributed through the Red Cross. The Salvation Army War Board began programs in US Army camps and canteens across the country. Many huts and hostels with canteen services were established. Food and beverages were provided for the soldiers, along with books, writing supplies and opportunities for recreation. The overseas work was also important and received most of the publicity. Officers and men from the American Expeditionary Forces (including General Pershing) were most appreciative of the services provided. The Salvation Army personnel were sent directly to the front line, and moved with the AEF as they moved across France. These Huts were tent-like buildings where the famous doughnuts were created, along with pies, cakes and other home-baked goods. The soldiers were given a "home away from home" and had the opportunity to sing, read, write letters, and attend church services. Lt. Colonel Helen Purviance is considered the "first doughnut girl" of The Salvation Army. In 1917, the newly commissioned Ensign Purviance was sent to France. She and other Salvationists would conduct religious services, concerts and baked treats for the "doughboys". Using limited rations and an open stove, Helen and her fellow officers rolled out doughnuts. They rolled the dough using a wine bottle (they were in France !) and fried the dough over the fire. Soon the aroma drew the soldiers to the hut and they lined up, waiting for their turn. Only 150 doughnuts were made that first day; however, once the assembly line was created, up to 9,000 were made daily Along the front lines, the doughnuts became the symbol of The Salvation Army's will to bring a touch of home to the soldiers. A small token of sweetness, it has remained in the public's mind for many years as a symbol of warm friendship and service to those in need."

The Salvation Army in the UK and Ireland

"The Salvation Army is a distinctive part of the universal Christian Church. Its message and the lifestyle it advocates are based on the Bible�s teaching. Its work is to make known the good news about Jesus Christ and to persuade people to become his followers. Alongside this primary aim, the Army shows practical concern and care for the needs of people regardless of race, creed, status, colour, sex or age. The Salvation Army�s Founders, William and Catherine Booth, were Methodists and William was a minister in that denomination. They both believed that William was called by God to be an evangelist and they did not agree with the decision of Methodist officials that he should be confined to a local church situation. So strongly did the Booths believe William should be an evangelist that he resigned from the Methodist ministry and they moved to London with their young family. After being invited by a group of Christians from a small mission to preach on the streets to the crowds thronging the Mile End in East London, William was sure he had found his destiny. The group made William its leader, and became known as The East London Christian Mission. The Mission grew rapidly, its work spreading through Great Britain, resulting in its name being changed to The Christian Mission. In 1878 the Mission�s name was changed once more - this time to The Salvation Army. Such a military name fired members� imagination and enthusiasm, and uniforms were adopted and military terms given to aspects of worship, administration and practice. While over the years the Army has adapted its military image to changing times, it still retains a distinctive uniform and structure to enable it more effectively to combat wrong and make known the good news of Jesus. Although The Salvation Army had its beginnings in the East End of London, it has grown into an international movement. There is no continent where the Army is not at work somewhere, and it operates in more than 100 countries. The Army�s work combines a spiritual and social ministry which takes into account the needs of each particular country. Projects are geared specifically to local requirements and are often run by local people. This is of particular importance in trying to ensure that the spiritual ministry is unhampered by language or cultural barriers. In many countries The Salvation Army co-exists with non-Christian faiths such as Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. It respects the sincerely-held beliefs of devout non-Christians, and does not regard conflict or bitter controversy as suitable means to making known the good news of Jesus. It prefers to maintain a clear and consistent witness to the Christian faith, hand-in-hand with a varied social ministry to people, no matter what their race, creed or class."


"Welcome to Salvationist.org, the home for Salvationists and friends on the web. Please note: although everyone is welcome, this website is aimed at members and friends of The Salvation Army and does not contain information about our services or how to make donations etc. For that information, please visit www.salvationarmy.org . There you will find articles about The Salvation Army and its international work, as well as links to The Salvation Army in your area."

        "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." (James 1:27)

[ Denominations | Home | Search | Links | Glossary | Copyright | E-mail ]
Search this site: