Who Founded the Salvation Army?
The Salvation Army was founded by William Booth (1829-1912) on military lines in the East End of London, to wage war on sin, and to help the poor and desperate. The Army was founded in 1865 in London by one-time Methodist circuit-preacher William Booth and his wife Catherine as the East London Christian Mission, and can trace its origins to the Blind Beggar tavern.
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 international leader of The Salvation Army and chief executive officer (CEO) is General André Cox, who was elected by the High Council of The Salvation Army on 3 August 2013 and is due to retire on 2 August 2018.
It has since become established in more than 128 countries, running charity shops, operating shelters for the homeless and disaster relief and humanitarian aid to developing countries. General Booth, as he was to become known, was born of poor parents in Nottingham and was still a child when he determined to help the “down and out”. He joined the Methodists and was ordained a minister, spending his free time as a wandering preacher.
In 1855 he married Catherine Mumford who assisted him in his mission, and also bore him eight children. In 1865 he left the Methodists to form his “army” in the East End of London. At first his movement was known as the Christian Mission, but in 1878 it was named the Salvation Army and modeled on military lines. Its head is known as general, its officers have military ranks and its other members are soldiers. The importance of obedience is stressed, and campaigns are fought all over the world.
William Booth used rousing hymn tunes, banners, trumpets and drums in his battle to lure the poor from the gin palaces. At first the Army met persecution in some districts, but it defeated the opposition and flourished, founding hospitals, homes and other institutions, and campaigning in the very worst slums, which others would not enter.
The “Sally Army” believes that God will forgive anyone who is truly sorry for his wrongdoings. It shares the general beliefs of the Protestant Church, but has no sacraments because it regards the whole of life as a sacrament. Its work and care for the poor has made it loved and respected throughout the world, for it believes that a hungry, homeless person is more likely to become a good Christian if first given help, food and shelter.
The theology of the Salvation Army is derived from that of Methodism, although it is distinctive in institution and practice. It does not celebrate the divine command of Baptism and Holy Communion. The Army’s doctrine is typical of evangelical Protestant churches. 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”.