History and Guiding Beliefs of the Salvation Army Church

Salvation Army Church
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The Salvation Army has earned worldwide notoriety for helping the poor and disaster victims, but what is not as well known is that the Salvation Army is also a Christian denomination, a church with roots in the Wesleyan Holiness movement.

Brief History of the Salvation Army Church

Former Methodist minister William Booth began evangelizing to the poor and wayward people of London, England, in 1852. His missionary work won many converts, and by 1874 he led 1,000 volunteers and 42 evangelists, serving under the name "The Christian Mission." Booth was the General Superintendent, but members began calling him "General." The group became the Hallelujah Army, and in 1878, the Salvation Army.

The Salvationists took their work to the United States in 1880, and despite early opposition, they eventually gained the trust of churches and government officials. From there, the Army branched out to Canada, Australia, France, Switzerland, India, South Africa, and Iceland. Today, the movement is active in more than 115 countries, involving 175 different languages.

Salvation Army Church Beliefs

Salvation Army Church beliefs follow many of the teachings of Methodism, since the Army's founder, William Booth, was a former Methodist minister. Belief in Jesus Christ as Savior guides their evangelistic message and their wide spectrum of ministries.

  • Baptism - Salvationists do not baptize; however, they do perform baby dedications. They believe one's life should be lived as a sacrament to God.
  • Bible - The Bible is the inspired Word of God, the only divine rule for Christian faith and practice.
  • Communion - Communion, or the Lord's Supper, is not practiced by the Salvation Army church in their meetings. Salvation Army beliefs hold that a saved person's life should be a sacrament.
  • Entire Sanctification - Salvationists believe in the Wesleyan doctrine of entire sanctification, "that it is the privilege of all believers to be wholly sanctified, and that their whole spirit and soul and body may be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."
  • Equality - Both women and men are ordained as clergy in the Salvation Army Church. No discrimination is made as to race or national origin. Salvationists also serve in many countries where non-Christian religions predominate. They do not criticize other religions or faith groups.
  • Heaven, Hell - The human soul is immortal. Following death, the righteous enjoy eternal happiness, while the wicked are condemned to eternal punishment.
  • Jesus Christ - Jesus Christ is "truly and properly" God and man. He suffered and died to atone for the sins of the world. Whoever believes in him may be saved.
  • Salvation - The Salvation Army Church teaches that humans are justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Requirements for salvation are repentance toward God, faith in Jesus Christ, and regeneration by the Holy Spirit. Continuance in a state of salvation "depends upon continued obedient faith."
  • Sin - Adam and Eve were created by God in a state of innocence but disobeyed and lost their purity and happiness. Because of the Fall, all people are sinners, "totally depraved," and justly deserving of God's wrath.
  • Trinity - There is only one God, infinitely perfect, and the only object worthy of our worship. Within the Godhead are three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, "undivided in essence and co-equal in power and glory."

Salvation Army Church Practices

Sacraments - Salvation Army beliefs do not include sacraments, as other Christian denominations do. They profess a life of holiness and service to God and others so that one's life becomes a living sacrament to God.

Worship Service - In the Salvation Army Church, worship services, or meetings, are relatively informal and do not have a set order. They are usually led by a Salvation Army officer, although a lay member may also lead and give the sermon. Music and singing always play a large part, along with prayers and perhaps a Christian testimony.

Salvation Army Church officers are ordained, licensed ministers and perform weddings, funerals, and baby dedications, in addition to providing counseling and administering social service programs.


“A Warm Bed on a Cold Night.” The Salvation Army USA, The Salvation Army USA.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy, The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

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Zavada, Jack. "History and Guiding Beliefs of the Salvation Army Church." Learn Religions, Aug. 26, 2020, learnreligions.com/beliefs-and-practices-of-the-salvation-army-church-700095. Zavada, Jack. (2020, August 26). History and Guiding Beliefs of the Salvation Army Church. Retrieved from https://www.learnreligions.com/beliefs-and-practices-of-the-salvation-army-church-700095 Zavada, Jack. "History and Guiding Beliefs of the Salvation Army Church." Learn Religions. https://www.learnreligions.com/beliefs-and-practices-of-the-salvation-army-church-700095 (accessed March 28, 2023).