Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: Salvation Army from Philip's Encyclopedia

International Christian society devoted to the propagation of the gospel among the working classes. Its origin was the Christian Revival Association founded (1865) in London by William Booth. In 1878, it became the Salvation Army. Under the leadership of Booth's son, Bramwell, its work spread to other parts of the world.

Summary Article: Salvation Army
From The Columbia Encyclopedia

Protestant denomination and international nonsectarian Christian organization for evangelical and philanthropic work.

Organization and Beliefs

The Salvation Army has established branches in more than 110 countries throughout the world. International headquarters are in London. In the United States, where the movement is strong, headquarters are in Alexandria, Va. The Army's ministers are ranked as officers and its members are called “soldiers”; women have equal position and responsibility with men. High commands may be attained by promotion from lower offices. Each country has its divisions and its local corps, with a commander at the head of all. Officers are prepared in training colleges for their varied responsibilities. In addition to its officers and soldiers, the Army has many more adherents, who regularly worship at its centers, and volunteers, who aid the Salvation Army in meeting community needs.

The Army operates hospitals, community centers, alcoholic and drug rehabilitation programs, emergency and disaster services, social work centers, and recreation facilities. Support of the vast undertakings in all parts of the world depends on voluntary contributions and profits from the sale of publications. The War Cry is the official organ. The beliefs of the Army as set forth in the Handbook of Salvation Army Doctrine (1926) generally agree with those of most Protestant evangelical denominations, but the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper are not considered essential to salvation and are not practiced. Great emphasis is placed on the experience of salvation and purity of life. In conducting the meetings officers are allowed great freedom, as no form of service is required; bands and singing are important features. The Salvation Army distinguished itself by its work with the armed services in both world wars and by its aid to those suffering in disasters, such as floods and earthquakes, all over the world.


The Salvation Army was founded by William Booth, with the assistance of his wife, Catherine Booth. Booth, a Methodist minister, began independent evangelistic work in Cornwall, England, in 1861. In 1865 he began his movement by holding outdoor meetings and revivals in tents and theaters in London. The movement was originally known as the East London Revival Society, shortly renamed the Christian Mission, and finally in 1878 designated the Salvation Army. A military form of organization, with uniforms and other distinctive features, was adopted in the interest of a more effective “warfare against evil.”

From its inception the organization sought to minister to physical as well as spiritual human needs. Soup kitchens were the first in a long line of widely varied projects designed to provide physical assistance to the destitute. Although the members often met opposition, the value of Salvation Army services had been generally acknowledged by 1890, when General Booth set forth his plan of procedure in his book In Darkest England and the Way Out.

On his death William Booth was succeeded by his son, Bramwell, as head of the organization; but in 1929 his removal was voted by the high council of the Army, and Edward J. Higgins was elected to that post. Salvation Army work in the United States dates from 1880, when Commissioner George Railton and seven women workers from England founded a branch in Pennsylvania. In 1904, Evangeline Booth, daughter of the founder, was put in command of the work in the United States; in 1934 she became general of the International Salvation Army.

See also Volunteers of America.

  • See Sandall, R. , The History of the Salvation Army (6 vol., 1947-79);.
  • Chesham, S. , Born to Battle (1965);.
  • Collier, R. , The General Next to God (1965);.
  • Waldron, J. D. , Pioneering Salvationists (1987);.
  • Winston, D. , Red-Hot and Righteous (1999);.
  • Hattersley, R. , Blood and Fire (2000).
The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2018

Related Articles

Full text Article SALVATION ARMY
Encyclopedia of Homelessness

The Salvation Army is an international human services organization—motivated by the Christian faith and inspired by the workings of the...

Full text Article Booth, William (1829 - 1912)
The Macmillan Encyclopedia

He was born in Nottingham and became an itinerant Methodist preacher, but left the Methodists in order to do evangelistic...

Full text Article SALVATION ARMY
Encyclopedia of Protestantism

The Salvation Army was founded in 1865 by WILLIAM (1829-1912) and CATHERINE (1829-1890) BOOTH as a mission to England's urban, working-class...

See more from Credo