The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Salvation Army

The Salvation Army is a Christian denomination, a charity and a social services organization.



The Salvation Army was founded as an Evangelical Christian Mission in London, England on July 5, 1865 by William Booth, who at that time was a Methodist minister. The name was later changed to The Salvation Army in 1878 to match its recently adopted quasi-military style and outlook. On March 10, 1880 members of the Salvation Army landed in the United States and began operations there. The Salvation Army is led by a General, currently John Larsson.

The Salvation Army's main converts were at first alcoholics, drug addicts, prostitutes and other "undesirables" of society with whom the church at that time refused to have any association. As a prophetic reminder to the rest of the Body of Christ, the Salvation Army decided not to practice baptism or to celebrate the Lord's Supper in any form. Among the other long-established beliefs of the Salvation Army are that its members should refrain from drinking alcohol, smoking, taking illicit (illegal) drugs and gambling. The Salvation Army grew rapidly, and as it did it also created friction among certain people within the society at that time. These people hired thugs to disrupt, any way they could, Salvation Army meetings and gatherings. These people grouped under the name of the Skeleton Army. Usual tactics used by this army were throwing rocks, rats, and tar, and physically assaulting members of the Salvation Army at these meetings.

The mission of The Salvation Army is to win the world for Jesus. General Booth, Army founder, explained, "Salvationism means simply the overcoming and banishing from the earth of wickedness." The Salvation Army has from its founding been uncompromisingly opposed to what it sees as sin. Their idea of wickedness is based on their belief in the inerrancy of the Christian Bible. This can put them into conflict with people who see themselves as moral but base their morality on different interpretations of the Bible or on different moral systems, for example secular humanism.

In the summer of 2004 the Salvation Army was in conflict with New York City authorities because New York insists that organizations which do business with them provide medical help to the partners of gay people. Since the Army's stance on homosexuality would seem not to permit this, they risked being forced to cease their social work in the city if no compromise can be reached: this seems to place them in a strange and, to many, paradoxical position about who they will and will not help.

At the turn of the 21st Century the Salvation Army had grown to operate in over 100 countries world wide. The phrase of "Heart to God and Hand to Man" was its focus and its driving goal. The Salvation Army, in the United Kingdom especially, became the second largest provider, after the government, of social welfare.

The Salvation Army is sometimes referred to, usually affectionately, by the slang term the Sally Ann.

Statue of General William Booth
Statue of General William Booth

Thrift stores and Charity

The Salvation Army is known for its network of thrift stores, which raise money for its charitable and religious activities by selling used goods such as clothing and housewares donated to them.

In many places across the United States and Canada, the Salvation Army is recognizable in the Christmas season for its many volunteers who stand outside of businesses and ring bells to inspire passersby to give donations of change. This campaign is conducted across North America every year, and generates several million dollars yearly. A peculiar tradition in the United States has developed regarding bell ringers. In some places, gold coins are anonymously inserted into the kettles that the bell ringers collect donations in. This tradition started in Crystal Lake, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. Most of the donated coins are worth several hundred US dollars.


The Salvation Army is a church "with its sleeves rolled up" and has always had a history of being involved in social action. It maintains the following operations around the world (statistics taken from Salvation Army publications):

  • Has more than 800 hostel catering for nearly 40,000 people throughout the year.
  • Over 300 retraining centres.
  • More than 2,000 food distribution centres, with additional emergency feeding programmes set up when and where needed.
  • More than 700 eventide and elderly people homes.
  • Nearly 300 hospitals and clinics.
  • 202 children's homes
  • 481 day nurseries and crèches
  • 5 holiday homes
  • 66 fresh-air camps
  • 1,505 primary and secondary schools
  • 32 domestic science and trade schools.
  • 370 occupational and industrial centres for retraining and work experience
  • Over 130 drug and alcohol rehabilitation programmes
  • 7 institutes provide a home and training for the blind
  • Over 30 purpose-built homes for the physically handicapped
  • Over 400 canteens, mobile units and hostels cater for the needs of people who serve in the armed forces.
  • More than 10,000 missing relatives were traced through The Salvation Army's Missing Persons services
  • Nearly 500,000 prisoners were visited and given help on discharge.
  • Over 30 homes accommodate almost 900 young offenders.
  • The Salvation Army's night patrols, rescue and anti-suicide missions helped around about 200,000 people last year alone.
  • Nearly 300,000 people received counselling from Salvation Army personnel last year.
  • 75 residences are provided for students and business people who need accommodation.

Mission and Doctrines

Statue of Catherine Booth, the Army Mother
Statue of Catherine Booth, the Army Mother

The Mission Statement of the Salvation Army states:

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 needs in His name without discrimination.

The current General of The Salvation Army is a full-time volunteer.

The Salvation Army bases its beliefs on the following 11 doctrines:

  • Belief that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were given by inspiration of God; and that only they constitute the divine rule of Christian faith and practice.
  • Belief 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.
  • Belief that there are three persons in the Christian Godhead - the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost - undivided in essence and co-equal in power and glory.
  • Belief 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.
  • Belief that our first parents were created in a state of innocence 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 .
  • Belief 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.
  • Belief that repentance towards God, faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and regeneration by the Holy Spirit are necessary to salvation.
  • Belief that we are justified by grace, through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ; and that he that believes has the witness in himself.
  • Belief that continuance in a state of salvation depends upon continued obedient faith in Christ.
  • Belief that it is the privilege of all believers to be 'wholly sanctified', and that their 'whole spirit and soul and body' may 'be preserved blame less unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ' (1 Thessalonians 5:23).
  • Belief in the immortality of the soul; in the resurrection of the body; in the general judgement at the end of the world; in the eternal happiness of the righteous; and in the endless punishment of the wicked.

The Salvation Army has always seen itself primarily as a Christian church, but this has been eroded in the public's perceptions over the years. It is now seen externally to be mainly a social services charity or thrift shop. This has caused a major rethink within the Salvation Army who are keen to re-emphasise their role as a Christian church.

Youth groups

The Salvation Army has a number of youth groups associated with it, mainly its Sunday schools and Scout and Guide pack. Some territories around the world have SAGALA, the Salvation Army Guards and Legions Association.


One of the militaristic trappings adopted by the Salvation Army, in an effort to heighten its profile and improve the appeal of its worship, was the use of uniformed bands. This is now another way in which the Army is well-known since their musical groups, usually a brass band or smaller collection of brass instruments, are often seen in public at Christmas and in other festivals and campaigns. The standard of playing is often high and the Army operates bands at the international level (for example the International Staff Band) which are the equal of professional ensembles, though they do not participate in the brass band contest scene. Many professional brass players and contesting brass band personnel have come up through the Salvation Army, and in some cases still maintain links, for example Philip Smith, principal trumpet of the New York Philharmonic, who still plays and records quite often with the Army's New York Staff Band.

External links

  • The Salvation Army
  • The Salvation Army Community
  • SAGALA - Salvation Army Guards and Legions Association
  • International Staff Band of the Salvation Army
  • Salvation Army Uses Homeless To Fight Gay Benefits - New York social services row


  • Information mainly taken from Salvation Army publications and press releases.

Last updated: 02-06-2005 20:33:46
Last updated: 05-03-2005 17:50:55