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Origins of The Salvation Army

English Beginnings

The Salvation Army's beginnings date back to July 2, 1865 when a Methodist minister commenced a work in East London that would encircle the world before the end of the 19th century. It began as the Christian Revival Society and soon after was called the East London Christian Mission. William Booth, the organisation's Founder, preached the Gospel to the poor and underprivileged; by 1867 it had developed into a ministry offering basic schooling, reading rooms, penny banks, soup kitchens, and relief aid to the destitute.

The ministry spread to places outside of London. The organisation grew rapidly and became known simply as the Christian Mission, with William Booth as its General-Superintendent.

Booth's wife, Catherine, was a brilliant preacher and played a leading role in determining The Salvation Army's direction and doctrines; she became known as The Army's Mother. From the beginning, Catherine Booth firmly established equality for women to be ordained ministers of the gospel and to hold leadership positions within The Salvation Army. She wrote a pamphlet in 1859, Female Ministry, which was truly ahead of her time. It gave Biblical reasons as to why women can have an equal ministry with men.

The Salvation Army is Born

In 1878 came another name change. William Booth was perusing a printer's proof which referred to the Christian Mission as a ' volunteer army'. Booth swept his pen through the word ' volunteer' and changed it to read Salvation Army. The name was adopted. Elijah Cadman, an enthusiastic believer, excitedly proclaimed in a meeting soon after, "God bless the Captains of The Salvation Army! I should like to wear a suit of clothes that would let everybody know I meant war to the teeth and salvation to the world".

A simple form of uniform was gradually adopted by its members. This, in 1880, was developed into a regulated uniform system. The full-time ordained minsters of the organisation were known as Officers and adopted military rank titles according to seniority. The part-time ordinary members were called Soldiers. Instead of General-Superintendent, William Booth became The Salvation Army's General; this remains the title given to the international leader of The Salvation Army. The Mission-Stations (Churches) were henceforth entitled Corps.

After responding to a call from America in early 1880, The Salvation Army next answered calls to commence operations in Australia.

Although The Salvation Army gained converts, there were those who set themselves against this new denomination. They called themselves the "skeleton army" and they marched against the Salvationists, hurling insults and missiles. Some Salvationists were badly hurt.

The Salvation Army has grown into a global evangelical movement with extensive social services. It now works in 106 countries and 160 languages, offering spiritual counsel, a sense of community and practical support to thousands of people, regardless of race, creed or conviction.

Next: 1880-1900: Gaining a foothold in Australia