Back to Ecunemism

Other Churches: 8     Salvation Army

The Salvation Army1 is an integral part of the Christian Church, but it remains distinctive in government and practice. William Booth did not intend to form a separate church2, but to send his converts to the established churches of the day. However, they were not made welcome. The poor soon got the message that they weren’t welcome3 – and Booth formed the “East London Christian Mission”. In 1878 he presented a draft annual report to his son Bramwell, under the title “The Christian Mission is a volunteer army”. Bramwell objected that he was not a volunteer because he felt compelled by God to do what he had to do. In place of the word “volunteer” he wrote “Salvation” – and the “Salvation Army” was born.

The new name appealed to Booth’s now rapidly growing numbers of followers, who, becoming increasingly militant, took on a military style, responding to a recurrent theme in Christianity which sees the Church engaged in spiritual warfare. The newspaper was called the “War Cry”. Prayers became “Knee drill”. Uniform was introduced. The many soldierly features included flags - and ranks4 to identify, inspire and regulate its endeavours.  

Since then the Army has spread into 100 countries, becoming an “army” of peace and love. Its doctrine follows the mainstream of Christian belief and its articles of faith emphasise God's saving purposes.

One of the chief differences between the Salvation Army and other denominations5 is that it does not use sacraments6 – so there is no baptism7 and no communion8. Salvationists, like us, see the sacraments as an outward sign of an inward experience, but say it is the inward experience that is the most important thing. Salvationists accept a disciplined and compassionate life of high moral standards which includes abstinence from alcohol, gambling and tobacco. From its earliest days the Army has accorded women equal opportunities, every rank and service being open to them.