Is the Salvation Army a Church or a Charity?
This is a really good question because it's not possible for the Salvation Army to be a church without being charitable. Therefore, it is both a church and a charity.
The Salvation Army thinks of itself in terms of a body with two arms, the spiritual and the social—with one hand we reach out to God and with the other we reach out to the world. I think that's a beautiful image.
And this 'two-in-one' focus is not new for us. From the commencement of The Salvation Army in London in the late 19th century, our founders, William and Catherine Booth, emphasised that we must exist in this fashion—as a church we must live out our Christianity.
It's crucial that our Christianity is expressed in charitable work. I don't see a separation between church and charity and, in fact, if there were ever to be a separation between the two, then The Salvation Army would cease to exist as it is known, understood and valued today.
If it were to be 'just' a church and failed to be charitable, then it would have no right to preach or speak about justice, compassion, or anything that affects the well-being of others.
But if, on the other hand, it were just a charity, it would fail to respond to the whole person—the body, mind and spirit.
Is the Salvation Army a religion or a mix of denominations?
The short answer to this question is 'no'. The Salvation Army is not a religion nor is it a mix of denominations.
The Salvation Army stands independently as a denomination in the christian church alongside other churches, for example, the Anglican, Baptist and United church.
In the 1860s William Booth, the Salvation Army founder, began reaching out to the masses who were living in poverty in London. He preached that there was a God who could transform their lives and show them a new way. He fed them, prayed with them and thousands of people's lives were changed.
Booth, a Methodist minister, tried to introduce his converts to local Methodist churches, but the wider church at the time had lost much of its vision for what was then considered the underclasses, and would not accept them.
In less than 20 years, while it had not been his initial goal, he established The Salvation Army. Today, the Army upholds the cross of Christ and serves suffering humanity worldwide in 127 countries.
A good word to describe our church is 'community'. The Salvation Army, like other churches, is a community of people that meets together in local neighbourhoods, regions or centres.
They worship God together; nurture faith, wholeness and integrity of life in their own lives and in the lives of others; and, in keeping with the 'DNA' of the Army, their faith shows itself in service to people with all kinds of material, emotional, physical and spiritual needs.
The Salvation Army is a great place to belong and I encourage you to go and find this out for yourself.
Why don't Salvationists drink alcohol, smoke, or gamble?
Salvationists believe that once we have entered into a relationship with God, our lives become his temple, and so we must try to adopt a lifestyle that is beneficial to our well-being. Body, mind and soul are closely interrelated and what has an adverse effect on one may well affect the other. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says: Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your bodies.
The misery and poverty of London's East End, which was often exacerbated by excessive drinking, led the Army's Founders to regard drink as a social evil. They believed in abstinence from alcohol because abstinence rather than moderation seemed to them to be the most effective answer to the tragedies caused by drunkenness and alcoholism.
Today, tragedies caused through excessive drinking are no less in evidence, and the Army feels it would be hypocritical to come alongside and try to help in such situations unless its own members practised abstinence from that which was the root cause of these problems.
The Army would not judge people who see no harm in drinking in moderation. However, in a society where much social and business interaction revolve around alcohol, a positive stance is made by Salvationists that it is not necessary to rely on alcohol to feel confident, communicate with others or enjoy oneself.
In an age before the dangers of smoking were known, the Founders regarded tobacco as injurious to health, a waste of money and a disagreeable thing to inflict on others. For that reason Salvationists were at first discouraged, and continue not to smoke. History has proved William and Catherine Booth's views correct.
Of course Salvationists, regard drugs in the same light as the above and abstain from the non-medical use of drugs or addictive substances.
Christians believe that our lives are in God's hands. Gambling is based on luck and chance and contradicts this belief. More importantly, gambling can be addictive, causing misery to the families of those caught in its web. Salvationists want to distance themselves from anything that can be the cause of so much harm. Nor would we be happy at making gain through other people's loss, the principle on which gambling operates.
When asked to support a lottery or raffle in aid of charity, Salvationists are free to support by making a donation instead. Salvationists do not regard their abstinence from alcohol, tobacco and gambling as a negative lifestyle, but rather we believe that it gives us the freedom to be the people God intended us to be.
Why does The Salvation Army not baptize or hold communion?
A major difference between The Salvation Army and some other religious denominations is that it does not include the use of sacraments (mainly holy communion, and baptism) in its form of worship.
The Salvation Army has never said it is wrong to use sacraments, nor does it deny that other Christians receive grace from God through using them. Rather, the Army believes that it is possible to live a holy life and receive the grace of God without the use of physical sacraments and that they should not be regarded as an essential part of becoming a Christian.
Salvationists see the sacraments as an outward sign of an inward experience, and it is the inward experience that is the most important thing.
It should be noted that The Salvation Army did not cease to use the sacraments because of any prejudices it had against them or from any desire to be 'different'. The decision to discontinue their use was a gradual process in the minds of the Army's founders. Some reasons for The Salvation Army's cessation of the sacraments may be summarised as follows:
1. The Army's Founders felt that many Christians had come to rely on the outward signs of spiritual grace rather than on God's grace itself. William and Catherine Booth believed, along with the Apostle Paul and others in the bible, that salvation came solely from the grace of God personally received by faith. They felt that much of what passed for Christianity in their day was primarily an observance of outward ritual, and not enough focus on a relationship with God.
2. Some Bible scholars had pointed out that there was no scriptural basis for regarding the sacraments as essential to salvation or Christian living. Many Christians assumed that Jesus commanded the use of baptism and holy communion. But there are very few New Testament references to these practices and it was argued that none of them showed any intention by Jesus that they (or any other practice) should have become fixed ceremonies.
3. The sacraments had been a divisive influence in the Church throughout Christian history and at times the cause of bitter controversy and abuse.
4. Some churches would not allow women to administer the sacraments. The Army, however, believed that women may take an equal part in its ministry, and did not want to compromise this stance.
5. The Society of Friends (the Quakers) and others had managed to live holy lives without the use of sacraments.
6. Many early-day converts to the Army had previously been alcoholics. It was considered unwise to tempt them with the wine used in holy communion, and unfermented "wine" was not available/acceptable at the time.
Luke 3:16 John answered all of them: “I baptize you with water, but One more than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
1 Corinthians 11: 25-26 "... He also took the cup after supper saying"This cup is the new covenant in My blood.This do as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes."
Note "as often" or "every time" they drank and ate, not just on a prescribed day, in a formal church setting, about once a month, and apart from a fellowship meal. Salvationists view the true sacrament here is that spiritual joy and fellowship Christians share every time they gather together for a meal ...and remember Jesus in a prayer of thanksgiving.
To a large extent this is still the Salvationist's standpoint. However, it should be stressed that Salvationists have never been in opposition to the sacraments. Indeed, when they take part in gatherings with Christians from other churches, Salvationists will often share in using the symbols of the Lord's Supper as a sign of fellowship and remembrance. Furthermore, Salvationists are not prevented from being baptised in other churches should they so desire. There may be those who would take exception to some aspects of the Salvation Army's interpretation of the Bible, but keep in mind there has always been criticism and differences of opinion concerning both the practice of baptism and the lord's supper ...there is no monolithic structure through all churches. The essential thing for all christian churches to keep in mind is that regardless of what we practice, or how we practice them, Jesus Christ is the ground and centre of our faith and through Him, in Him, and by Him we may have glorious unity, fruitful fellowship, shared ministry, and brotherly love.
A quote regarding baptism, communion & even our next question of wearing the Salvation Army uniform:
"If we were allowed a glimpse into the heavenly throne room of our eternal God I am sure he might be amused at our deliberations on the finery and details of our particular expression of church. If we accept him as Saviour through Christ, having renounced our sins and sought forgiveness, then been spiritually blessed in our quest to be like him in word and deed, then we have become part of the body of Christ, the Church. We are a church in essence and by adoption. What we actually call ourselves and what we wear or what symbols we use to confirm our status – as important as they may be to our own expression of faith – are largely incidental to the fact that we are who we are, children of the most high Living God. I don’t need the symbols of sacrament, the water of baptism, the uniform of witness to know that. I simply choose these things as part of my expression of Faith. If I do not choose those things it doesn’t make me unworthy of membership. I make my confessions and promises and public pronouncements to witness to all that I am saved by grace – and I am sure God is happy with that and blesses all of us who then follow in the footsteps of Christ in whatever capacity in whatever Christian church. I can break bread with fellow believers in church or at home if I wish, wearing whatever attire I choose, but when I share sacred fellowship it is not about the ceremony, but it is in the knowledge that Jesus is our Saviour and only by the blessing and power of the Holy Spirit are we part of the embodiment of Christ and therefore his Church."
(Salvation Army Major Keith White)
Why do some Salvationists wear uniforms?
The uniform of the day was used to equialize the new members who came from all places in society, It was also used to unify them in cause and commitment. Knowing that their mission was to engage in spiritual warfare, the uniform became a symbol of a visual reminder that they had accepted the call to Christ. Underneath the uniform was a heart committed to God and a willingness to use their hands to reach humanity.
The Salvation Army uniform is one of the recognizable icons of the world. This uniform shows itself in the pulpit, on the street corner, in hospitals and nursing homes. It served food at Ground Zero in New York and at the floods, fires, tornados, and hurricanes around the world.
The uniform is the clerical garb of The Salvation Army officer (ordained minister) and is also worn by some soldiers (local corps members), It is a symbol to declare our faith to everyone and to make ourselves available for service.
It tells the onlooker that the person wearing uniform is a professing Christian and that he or she is available to give practical or spiritual help through the Movement, if not personally. Uniform also opens the way for the wearer to be recognised and accepted as the representative of The Salvation Army in all kinds of situations.
There are also personal advantages in uniform-wearing. It helps the wearer to remember to live up to the Christian profession he or she has made. In difficult or dangerous situations from inner cities to wars around the world, the uniform can give the wearer a measure of protection. Wearing uniform also gives Salvationists a feeling of fellowship and an increased opportunity to witness to those who often ask questions or offer stories of appreciation for what the Salvation Army has done.
The intention of Salvation Army uniform is not to isolate its wearer from other people but to give a visible sign that he or she is available to serve others. You do not have to wear uniform to be a Salvationist, however Salvationists who do wear uniform feel it is a privilege to do so.
Who is William Booth?
William Booth, born in Nottingham, UK, on 10 April 1829, was the founder of The Salvation Army. Booth grew up in the Methodist Church and worked in a pawnbroker's shop.
He felt a calling on his life to become a full-time preacher and was offered a position as an evangelist for a few months with some financial support. This was the beginning of him being able to fulfil his life's calling.
In 1865 Booth started the Christian Mission, which was re-named in 1878 as The Salvation Army. Booth had a heart for the down-and-out in society. As he walked around the East End in London and saw people—the poorest of the poor—sleeping in the streets, Booth felt these were the people he should help.
Outside a pub called The Blind Beggar in June 1865, Booth stopped to listen to a group conducting an open-air meeting and he accepted an invitation to say a few words. Soon after, on 2 July in the Whitechapel district of London, Booth preached to hundreds and later declared to his wife, Catherine: 'I have found my destiny'.
Booth encountered opposition, but became a social reformer in his time. In 1890 he published a book, In Darkest England and the Way Out, and in 1891 opened a match factory to create employment. He also provided training in agriculture, shelter and food. While reaching out to help the poor, Booth encouraged the rich to use their wealth wisely.
Booth was a creative communicator and was ably supported and advised by his wife Catherine. Physically weak and blind after giving himself in total commitment to the calling on his life, Booth died on 20 August 1912.
Does the Salvation Army have a Pope?
The Salvation Army doesn't have a Pope, but instead has an international leader who is called the General. The General leads the work of the Salvation Army in over 130 countries.
To become General of The Salvation Army, a person (man or woman) must be a Christian who is ordained and commissioned as a Salvation Army officer (minister). The electing body, referred to as the High Council, is composed of all active commissioners and territorial commanders in the world.
The General resides in London where The Salvation Army began its work in 1865. The founders of the Army were William and Catherine Booth. They chose a quasi-military command structure in 1878 when their congregation, The Christian Mission, changed its name to The Salvation Army.
William Booth was the Army's first General and, since then, another 19 Generals from around the world (including General Brian Peddle from Canada since 2018) have served in the role.
In The Salvation Army, the rank of Commissioner is assigned by the General. The roles of commissioners vary, but all carry a great weight of responsibility.
A territorial commander is responsible to the General for accomplishing the Salvation Army's mission of transforming lives, caring for people, and reforming society within a territory of the world.
This person must provide visionary and practical leadership and inspire Salvationists in their Christian faith. They are also responsible for the effective implementation of social service programs to meet human need, and for taking social action against evil in society.
Among other things, a territorial commander is also responsible for the legal constitution, property, and finances of the territory, as well as the development of officers (ministers) and soldiers (full members).
How does the Salvation Army use the funds it raises?
The Salvation Army is committed to assisting all people without regard to nationality, race, belief, sexuality, ability, or judgement of behaviour. Donations worldwide are used to fund the following programs:
- Addiction rehab centres
- Aged care services and visitation
- Alcohol detoxification facilities and services
- Anger management programs
- Anti-trafficing and modern slavery relief
- Armed forces services
- Asylum seeker support services
- Budgeting help services
- Chaplaincy services
- Child programmes & services
- Christmas Toy and Food distribution
- Community support programs
- Court and prison services
- Crisis accommodation / Contact / Counselling centres
- Crisis telephone support services
- Critical incident counselling
- Disability services
- Disaster relief & rehabilitation
- Domestic and family violence services
- Drug addiction detoxification
- Drug and alcohol programs
- Emergency services
- Employment training programs
- Family counseling & welfare services
- Family crisis and transitional housing
- Family tracing (missing persons)
- Flying Padre and outback services
- Food vans and kitchens
- Food banks
- Gambling counselling
- Grief counselling
- Health care and disease prevention/treatment
- Home and school support programmes
- Homeless accommodation centres
- Homes for the aged
- Hospitals developed and managed
- Hostels for youth
- Housing services
- Human trafficking safe house
- Indigenous peoples' work
- Marriage enrichment
- Material aid
- Meals programmes
- Mental health services
- Migrant and refugee services
- Outreach services
- Parenting skills
- Prison visitation
- Recreation programmes
- Refuge for victims of violence
- Research and advocacy
- Rural support services
- Small business community projects in developing countries
- Social policy and social justice services
- Sports ministries
- Survivors of suicide counselling groups
- Water well drilling developing countries
- Youth crisis drop-in centres
- Youth support programmes