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Salvation Army Church Growth in Australia

In 1891, Booth-Tucker (the son-in-law of William Booth) wrote, "Perhaps no country has welcomed The Salvation Army with greater heartiness and offered for its operations a more congenial sphere, than has Australia."

However, this statement fails to present the whole picture, for whilst the social work of The Salvation Army gained popular support across the wide spectrum of society, including the other religious denominations and the Government, the evangelical mission of The Salvation Army often met with suspicion, derision and violence. Physical opposition such as that known back in England confronted Salvationists holding open air meetings. Salvationists marching through the streets would often suffer abuse and sustain injury from thrown objects.

Local councils passed by-laws forbidding Salvation Army street processions, and the Police were liable to arrest them.

Salvationists went to jail, (shown at right in Ballarat prison) or were fined rather than turning away from what they saw as their sworn duty to spread the word of God.

For example, the Mayor of Ballarat (Councillor Shoppee) disliked The Salvation Army intensely and instigated steps to prevent street marches. Council by-laws were passed, but were flaunted as The Salvation Army continued marching and holding street meetings. In October 1891 the Police halted the marchers and took down eight names. In the Ballarat Magistrate's Court on October 10, 1891, they were found guilty as charged and fined 20 shillings, with 23 shillings and sixpence in costs. Only one paid, the rest refused to pay and were arrested two days later and imprisoned. On October 30th a ratepayer's poll was taken on the question, resulting in 1,018 supporting the Mayor, whilst more than 16,000 supported the rights of The Salvation Army.

Despite persecution and prosecution the number of Salvation Army Corps (churches), and in turn Salvationists, grew at an amazing rate. So much so, that by 1900, there were over 1300 Corps and Outposts across Australia and New Zealand. By the 1920s it was a very small town indeed that did not boast a Salvation Army Hall. Much of the pioneering work in remote areas was carried out by young female Officers far removed from the support of fellow Officers.

Much of the rapid growth of The Salvation Army in those early days may be attributed to its own formative stages being closely linked to the social needs of a developing nation.



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