The Salvation Army is an integral part of the Christian Church, although distinctive in government and practice. The Army’s doctrine follows the mainstream of Christian belief and its articles of faith emphasise God’s saving purposes. Its objects are ‘the advancement of the Christian religion… of education, the relief of poverty, and other charitable objects beneficial to society or the community of mankind as a whole.’*
The movement, founded in 1865 by William Booth, has spread from London, England, to many parts of the world.
The rapid deployment of the first Salvationists was aided by the adoption of a quasi-military command structure in 1878 when the title, ‘The Salvation Army’, was brought into use. A similarly practical organisation today enables resources to be equally flexible. Responding to a recurrent theme in Christianity which sees the Church engaged in spiritual warfare, the Army has used to advantage certain soldierly features such as uniforms, flags and ranks to identify, inspire and regulate its endeavours.
Evangelistic and social enterprises are maintained, under the authority of the General, by full-time officers and employees, as well as soldiers who give service in their free time. The Army also benefits from the support of many adherents and friends, including those who serve on advisory boards.
Leadership in the Army is provided by commissioned officers who are recognized ministers of religion.
All Salvationists accept a disciplined and compassionate life of high moral standards which includes abstinence from alcohol and tobacco. From its earliest days the Army has accorded women equal opportunities, every rank and service being open to them and from childhood the young are encouraged to love and serve God.
Raised to evangelize, the Army spontaneously embarked on schemes for the social betterment of the poor. Such concerns have since developed, wherever the Army operates, in practical, skilled and cost-effective ways. Evolving social services meet endemic needs and specific crises worldwide. Modern facilities and highly-trained staff are employed.
The need for modern facilities and longer-term development is under continual review. Increasingly the Army’s policy and its indigenous membership allow it to cooperate with international relief agencies and governments alike.
The movement’s partnership with both private and public philanthropy will continue to bring comfort to the needy, while the proclamation of God’s redemptive love offers individuals and communities the opportunity to enjoy a better life on earth and a place in Christ’s everlasting Kingdom.
The Salvation Army is currently led by General André Cox, who was elected as the 20th General on 3 August 2013.