By Pat Dignum
Graduate Student, Grand Valley State University
The Salvation Army is an international non-profit religious organization, committed to providing human services and assistance to the very needy as an essential component of its evangelistic mission of fundamental Christianity.
The organization's mission statement reads:
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 Salvation Army 2003)
The Salvation Army is funded by donations and voluntary support. The national headquarters is located in Alexandria, Virginia, while London serves as the site of its international headquarters. Official publications of the Salvation Army include The War Cry and All the World. The Salvation Army is organized using a military model, following a similar chain of command, including military titles for personnel, local bands, and banners. Committed volunteers are essential to the success of this extensive ministry and its programs.
In 1865, the Salvation Army was founded in London by William Booth, an English Methodist minister. First known as the "Christian Mission" to provide social welfare assistance to the residents of urban slums and save them from their sinful lifestyles of prostitution, gambling, and drunkenness, it was renamed in 1878. Military ranks and titles were assigned according to their responsibilities. His wife, Catherine, was co-founder. The "soldiers" preached openly in the streets. They promoted high ideals of service and commitment.
Lieutenant Eliza Shirley held the first meeting in America. In 1880, a group of seven women, led by George Scott Railton, went to the United States and established the first international site of the Salvation Army in New York City. Their mission was to bring a gospel of hope and redemption to orphans, prostitutes, alcoholics, and the working poor by meeting their needs of food and shelter. During this time, the Salvation Army expanded rapidly in many countries.
During World Wars I and II, the Salvation Army provided physical, emotional, and spiritual comfort to the allied forces' overseas soldiers. They distributed up to 900 doughnuts per day, boosted morale, and read letters aloud to those who could not read. The volunteers conducted concerts and church services for the soldiers. They operated 1,000 canteens on twenty-six battlefronts. They continue, today, to provide services to veterans and disaster relief to those in need.
The Salvation Army is currently active in ninety-eight countries, using 136 languages. It was the first significant organization to recognize and act upon a Christ-like belief that providing for the physical needs of the poor enabled meeting their spiritual needs. Its ministry is a model of Christian social action. It pioneered the pairing of relief and social welfare with the opportunity for work. Significantly, the Salvation Army never distinguishes its programs from its evangelical ministry, nor wavers from its doctrine.
Worldwide facilities include children's homes, maternity homes, and hotels offering free lodging and meals. Institutions include community centers, rehabilitation centers, hospitals, children's camps, foster care centers, senior citizen residences, senior centers, and homeless shelters which enroll people in work programs. Its programs address juvenile delinquency, alcohol and substance abuse, war and disaster relief, veteran's assistance, unemployment and indigence, family counseling, and daycare needs, in addition to religious services. It operates 600 kindergartens, 950 primary and middle schools, 100 secondary schools, fifty trade schools, and twenty-five teacher training schools, a Bible College and one university.
The Salvation Army has been historically distinctive because its women hold leadership and preaching positions. In fact, women led expansion of the organization and continue to give leadership in all facets. General Eva Burrows, elected in 1986 as international leader, held the highest ecclesiastical leadership position of any woman in the world at the time of her election. While many churches debate the issue of ordination of women, the preaching and pulpit ministry of the Salvation Army has been open to women since its beginning.
Ties to the Philanthropic Sector
INDEPENDENT SECTOR, a well-recognized nonprofit sector research group, lists the Salvation Army as the number one nonprofit fundraiser in the United States in a 1999 review. The organization raised $1.2 billion in cash and in-kind contributions.
Author and business world guru, Peter Drucker, was quoted in Forbes magazine, as saying that "the Salvation Army is by far the most effective organization in the U.S. No one even comes close to it with respect to clarity of mission, ability to innovate, measurable results, dedication and putting money to maximum use" (The Salvation Army Massachusetts 2002). The organization utilizes over $0.83 of each dollar it receives to provide relief services for those in need. It is one of only four (of the fifteen largest social welfare and health charities charted) to meet or exceed the standard set by the National Charities Information Bureau of sixty percent of income spent on programs. At that time, sixty-five percent of the Salvation Army's total budget was spent on programs, strong evidence of its accountability and stewardship.
Key Related Ideas
- "Doughboys" was a term used for the American
soldiers fighting in Europe in World War I.
- Social services
- Women's Rights in Ministry
- World War II
Important People Related to the Topic
Catherine Booth was the wife of William Booth and co-founder of the Salvation Army. She was an evangelist, a popular preacher, and a theologian.
Evangeline Booth, born Eva Cory Booth, was the seventh child of William and Catherine Booth. She adopted four children, though she never married. In 1904, she began her command in the United States. She became the Army's fourth General in 1934.
William Booth founded the Salvation Army in 1865 in London. He also served as its first general.
George Scott Railton led seven women to the United States as a mission to share the work of the Salvation Army in New York City. This established it as an international organization.
Eliza Shirley, at the age of seventeen, held the first Salvation Army meeting in the United States in 1879.
Related Nonprofit Organizations
With over 2,400 local clubs in the United States, YMCA (Young Men's Christian Association) is the largest nonprofit community service organization in the country. The organization was originally founded in London in 1844 as a response to the unhealthy living conditions and crime-ridden streets of post-Industrial Revolution England. The first YMCA opened in America in 1851. Its mission is "to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind, and body for all" (YMCA 2003).
Related Web Sites
The Salvation Army United States of America National Headquarters Web site, at http://www.salvationarmyusa.org, covers services and disaster relief assistance, historical figures, national publications, and division office locator.
The Salvation Army Web site, at http://www.thesalvationarmy.org/, provides news, publications and international events, from the London-based Christian charity.
Salvation Army Website Finder Page, at http://www.redshield.org, is a service that will quickly and easily locate Salvation Army Web sites for local communities across the U.S. and other countries.
Bibliography and Internet Sources
Allahyari, Rebecca Anne. Visions of Charity: Volunteer Workers and Moral Community. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000. ISBN 0-520-22144-3.
Beaber, Patricia A. "How Women Saved the City," Library Journal 126 (February 2001): 108-109.
Gariepy, Henry. Christianity in Action:The Salvation Army in the USA Today. Wheaton, Illinois: Victor Books, 1990. ISBN 0-89693-231-1.
Light, Paul C. Making Nonprofits Work. Washington, D.C: The Brookings Institution, 2000. ISBN 0-8157-5245-8.
McKinley, Edward H. Marching to Glory: the History of the Salvation Army in the United States, 1880 - 1980. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1980. ISBN 0-06-65538-0.
Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2002. Salvation Army. [cited 22 September 2002]. Available from http://encarta.msn.com.
Riess, Jana. "Blood and Fire: William and Catherine Booth and Their Salvation Army," Publishers Weekly 247 (May 2000): 110.
Riess, Jana. "Hallelujah Lads and Lasses: Remaking the Salvation Army in America, 1880-1930," Publishers Weekly 248 (May 2001): 83.
The Salvation Army Massachusetts Division. Why Give to the Salvation Army. [cited 28 December 2002]. Available from http://www.salvationarmy-ma.org/help/whyhelp.htm.
The Salvation Army United States of America National Headquarters. [cited 8 January 2003]. Available from http://www.salvationarmyusa.org.
Taiz, Lillian. "Red-Hot and Righteous: The Urban Religion of the Salvation Army," The Journal of American History 87 (June 2000): 253-254.
YMCA. History. [cited 10 January 2003]. Available from http://www.ymca.net.
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