The Salvation Army is a Christian church and international charitable organisation structured in a quasi-military fashion. The organisation reports a worldwide membership of over 1.5 million, consisting of soldiers, officers and adherents known as Salvationists. Its founders Catherine and William Booth sought to bring salvation to the poor, destitute and hungry by meeting both their "physical and spiritual needs". It is present in 127 countries, running charity shops, operating shelters for the homeless and disaster relief and humanitarian aid to developing countries.
The theology of the Salvation Army is derived from that of Methodism although it is distinctive in institution and practice. The Army’s doctrine is typical of evangelical Protestant denominations. The Army’s purposes 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 Army was founded in 1865 in London by one-time Methodist circuit-preacher William Booth. Originally known as the East London Christian Mission, in 1878 Booth reorganised the mission, becoming its first General and introducing the military structure which has been retained to the present day. The current world leader of The Salvation Army is General André Cox, who was elected by the High Council of The Salvation Army on 3 August 2013.
The Salvation Army was founded in London’s East End in 1865 by one-time Methodist Reform Church minister William Booth and his wife Catherine. Originally, Booth named the organisation the East London Christian Mission. The name The Salvation Army developed from an incident on 19 and 20 May. William Booth was dictating a letter to his secretary George Scott Railton and said, "We are a volunteer army." Bramwell Booth heard his father and said, "Volunteer! I’m no volunteer, I’m a regular!" Railton was instructed to cross out the word "volunteer" and substitute the word "salvation". The Salvation Army was modelled after the military, with its own flag (or colours) and its own hymns, often with words set to popular and folkloric tunes sung in the pubs. Booth and the other soldiers in "God’s Army" would wear the Army’s own uniform, for meetings and ministry work. He became the "General" and his other ministers were given appropriate ranks as "officers". Other members became "soldiers".
When William Booth became known as the General, Catherine is known as the "Mother of The Salvation Army". William preached to the poor, and Catherine spoke to the wealthy, gaining financial support for their work. She also acted as a religious minister, which was unusual at the time; the Foundation Deed of the Christian Mission states that women had the same rights to preach as men. William Booth described the organisation’s approach: "The three ‘S’s’ best expressed the way in which the Army administered to the ‘down and outs’: first, soup; second, soap; and finally, salvation."
In 1880, the Salvation Army started its work in three other countries: Australia, Ireland, and the United States. It was not always an official Officer of The Salvation Army who started the Salvation Army in a new country; sometimes Salvationists emigrated to countries and started operating as "the Salvation Army" on their own authority. When the first official officers arrived in Australia and the United States, they found groups of Salvationists already waiting for them and started working with each other.
The Salvation Army’s main converts were at first alcoholics, morphine addicts, prostitutes and other "undesirables" unwelcome in polite Christian society, which helped prompt the Booths to start their own church. The Booths did not include the use of sacraments (mainly baptism and Holy Communion) in the Army’s form of worship, believing that many Christians had come to rely on the outward signs of spiritual grace rather than on grace itself. Other beliefs are that its members should completely refrain from drinking alcohol (Holy Communion is not practiced), smoking, taking illegal drugs and gambling. Its soldiers wear a uniform tailored to the country in which they work; the uniform can be white, grey, navy, fawn and are even styled like a sari in some areas. Any member of the public is welcome to attend their meetings. As the Salvation Army grew rapidly in the late 19th century, it generated opposition in England. Opponents, grouped under the name of the Skeleton Army, disrupted Salvation Army meetings and gatherings, with tactics such as throwing rocks, bones, rats, and tar as well as physical assaults on members of The Salvation Army. Much of this was led by pub owners who were losing business because of the Army’s opposition to alcohol and targeting of the frequenters of saloons and public houses.
The Salvation Army’s reputation in the United States improved as a result of its disaster relief efforts following the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 and the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. The familiar use of bell ringers to solicit donations from passers-by "helps complete the American portrait of Christmas." In the U.S. alone, over 25,000 volunteers with red kettles are stationed near retail stores during the weeks preceding Christmas for fundraising. The church remains a highly visible and sometimes controversial presence in many parts of the world.
In 1994, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, an industry publication, released the results of the largest study of charitable and non-profit organisation popularity and credibility. The study showed that The Salvation Army was ranked as the 4th "most popular charity/non-profit in America" of over 100 charities researched, with 47% of Americans over the age of 12 choosing ‘Love’ and ‘Like A Lot’ for The Salvation Army.
Charity Watch rates the Salvation Army an "A-" to an "A", indicating a high level of financial efficiency and organisational transparency.
STRUCTURE, ORGANISATION AND EXPENDITURES
As at 1 September 2015, the Salvation Army operates in 127 countries and provides services in 175 different languages. For administrative purposes, the Salvation Army divides itself geographically into territories, which are then sub-divided into divisions. In larger areas, regional and area commands are also introduced as sub-divisions of divisions. Each territory has an administrative hub known as territorial headquarters (THQ). Likewise, each division has a divisional headquarters (DHQ). Each of these territories is led by a territorial commander who receives orders from the Salvation Army’s International Headquarters in London. A territory is normally led by an officer holding the rank of colonel (for small territories) or commissioner for larger territories. In some countries, the work of The Salvation Army may be called a command, led by a command commander. A larger command is typically led by an officer holding the rank of colonel.
Its stated membership (as quoted from 2010 Year Book) includes 16,938 active and 9,190 retired officers, 1,122,326 soldiers, 189,176 Adherents, 39,071 Corps Cadets, 378,009 Junior Soldiers, around 104,977 other employees and more than 4.5 million volunteers. Members of The Salvation Army also include "adherents", these are people who do not make the commitment to be a soldier but who formally recognise The Salvation Army as their church. (According to the 2006 Salvation Army Year Book, in the United States there are 85,148 Senior Soldiers and 28,377 Junior Soldiers, 17,396 Adherents and around 60,000 employees.)
The current world Leader of the Salvation Army is General André Cox.
The Salvation Army is one of the world’s largest providers of social aid, with expenditures including operating costs of $2.6 billion in 2004, helping more than 32 million people in the U.S. alone. In addition to community centres and disaster relief, the organisation does work in refugee camps, especially among displaced people in Africa. The Salvation Army has received an A- rating from the American Institute of Philanthropy. In the United Kingdom, the Salvation Army is no longer the largest non-governmental provider of social services; however provides a significant service to people in need. The Salvation Army is the second largest charity in the United States, with private donations of almost $2 billion for the fiscal year ending 30 September 2007.
In 2004, the Army in the United States received a $1.6 billion donation in the will of Joan B. Kroc, third wife of former McDonald’s CEO Ray Kroc. This donation was among the largest individual philanthropic gifts ever given to a single organisation. The donation came with certain restrictions that caused some controversy.
The International Congress of The Salvation Army is normally held every 10 years as a conference for all Salvationists from around the world to meet. The first such conference took place in London, UK, from 28 May to 4 June 1886, and subsequent Congressional meetings were held sporadically until 1904 and then 1990. The seventh International Congress in Atlanta, GA, USA, from 28 June to 2 July 2000, was the first held outside of the UK. The latest International Congress was held in London, England 1–5 July 2015, in commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of The Salvation Army’s founding.
Officers are given Marching Orders to change ministries within The Salvation Army. Usually, officers are given new Marching Orders every two to five years and reassigned to different posts, sometimes moving great distances.
A Moscow court ruled that the Salvation Army was a paramilitary organisation subject to expulsion. In October 2006, the European Court of Human Rights ruled the original decision illegal.
The Red Shield has its origins in Salvation Army work during wartime. At the end of the 19th century, Staff-Captain Mary Murray was sent by William Booth to support British troops serving in the Boer War in South Africa. Then, in 1901, this same officer was given the task of establishing the Naval and Military League, the forerunner of the Red Shield Services.
Salvation Army officers serving in the Red Shield Services in wartime performed many functions. The Doughnut Girls of World War I are an early example, serving refreshments to troops in the trenches. They also provided first aid stations, ambulances, chaplaincy, social clubs, Christian worship and other front-line services.
This symbol is still used in Blue Shield Services that serve the British Armed Forces but it is widely used as a simple, more readily identifiable symbol in many Salvation Army settings. It is common to see the Red Shield used on casual Salvation Army uniform. It is now official Salvation Army policy in the UK that the red shield should be used as the external symbol of the Salvation Army, with the Crest only being used internally. Therefore, any new Salvation Army building will now have the red shield on the outside rather than the crest which certainly would have been used on its Corps (church) buildings.
In Australia, the Red Shield has become one of the country’s most identified and trusted brands, leading the Australian Salvation Army to prefer to use this symbol over the logo on its uniform, corps buildings and advertising materials. In the 5th Volume of Australian Superbrands it was recorded that "Research reveals that the popular Salvation Army slogan ‘Thank God for the Salvos’ has almost total recognition amongst the Australian public, achieving 93 per cent aided awareness".
The Salvation Army consistently comes out in research as the charity where people would most like to donate (named spontaneously).
Similarly the Red Shield logo is highly desired by companies wishing to link their brand with a solid emblem of care and compassion.
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