Why is the Salvation Army called the Salvation Army?

The original proof. The Christian Mission is a volunteer army.
The original proof. The Christian Mission is a volunteer army.

Names
In 1865 Booth and his team set up headquarters in Whitechapel, London. But they had difficulty deciding on a suitable name.

Here are the early variations they used:
‘The East London Christian Revival Society’ (it’s quite an accomplishment to create a name from which even the most diligent can’t force some kind of acronym).
This soon became ‘The East London Christian Mission’. This was definitely better but, as George Railton tells us[i], they had to drop ‘East London’ because the work was so successful they opened mission sites outside London. ‘East London’ was now only one sphere of their activity.
Finally, ‘The Christian Mission’ remained.
And they kept it for a while but there was an obvious problem with this name. Theirs was one among many good and definitely ‘Christian’ missions operating in England and, by defining their mission as the Christian one, the name seemed to imply haughtiness on their part and a snub towards the others.

So for six years[ii] they were in a kind of awkward limbo. A dynamic work with a not very helpful name. Another interesting intermediary link in the evolution of the Salvation Army’s name was that Booth was then called the General Superintendent. When they became The Salvation Army the shift to General was easy.

Not a Church but an Army!
William Booth recalls,
After a while the work began to spread and show wonderful promise, and then, when everything was looking like progress a new trouble arose…Some of the evangelists whom I had engaged to assist me rose up and wanted to convert our Mission into a regular Church…They wanted to settle down in quietness. I wanted to go forward at all costs…so I called them together and said, ‘My comrades, the formation of another Church is not my aim. There are plenty of churches. I want to make an Army.’

He then offered to help those who wanted to leave to find work amongst the churches, but all decided to stay.
By 1878 (13 years from the formation of the London Mission) they had grown to 80 mission sites, which they didn’t name as churches but Stations, and then later – in keeping with army-sounding designations – ‘corps’.

The growth was phenomenal. By 1880, they had 162 Stations. They weren’t just fussing over names – there was such growth behind them that the name had to encapsulate the spirit of what was quickly being recognised as a missionary movement. Remember, their appeal was not to Christians who were restless and unhappy in their churches – their first aim, and the primary pool from which they gained members, was to reach the unbelieving working classes who had no interest in church-going.

A Volunteer Army?
Richard Collier writes,
Early one morning in May 1878…Bramwell and Railton were summoned to Booth’s bedroom for the day’s instructions. As Booth, who was recovering from flu, paced the floor in a long yellow dressing gown and felt slippers, Railton scanned the proofs of the pink eight-page folder which was the Mission’s annual report.

It’s preliminary was bold and succinct:

THE CHRISTIAN MISSION
Under the superintendence
of the Rev. William Booth
is
A VOLUNTEER ARMY
Recruited from amongst the multitudes who are without God and without hope in the world…

At this time the Volunteers, a part-time citizens’ Army … were a favourite butt of cartoonists. Bramwell, aged twenty-two, was stung by the imputation.
‘Volunteer!’ he exclaimed … ‘Here, I’m not a volunteer. I’m a regular or nothing!’
Booth stopped dead in his tracks … Abruptly, he crossed to where Railton sat, taking the pen out of his hand. He struck decisively through the word ‘volunteer’ and substituted the word ‘Salvation.’ Simultaneously, they scarecely knew why, Bramwell and Railton leapt from their chairs, crying, ‘Thank God for that!’[iii]

The corrected proof. The Christian Mission is a Salvation Army!
The corrected proof. The Christian Mission is a Salvation Army!

The Salvation Army it is then…

More next time
For the first post in this series on the Salvation Army click here


© 2016 Lex Loizides / Church History Review

[i] George Railton, General Booth (London: Hodder and Stoughton 1912) p.68
[ii] ibid p72
[iii] Richard Collier, The General Next to God (Glasgow: Fontana/Collins 1965) p.56

The Power of the Gospel to Unite

Germantown Philadelphia old
A somewhat romaticised view of old Germantown, Philadelphia

Gospel Unity
We’re often told about how fragmented the Christian Church is. But actually, the true, final and eternal basis on which people will be united is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Although we live in a fallen world, the reality of this unity can be experienced even now. And even though we are not unrealistic about our differences, every Christian at one time or another has known the joy of this unity in Christ.

American Unity
On Tuesday 27 November 1739, George Whitefield visited Germantown, Philadelphia. What is inspiring here is that Whitfield’s visit drew together individuals, denominational leaders and people of varying ethnic backgrounds into a united experience of worship.

This kind of evangelistic moment prefigures the coming reality of Rev 7:9-10 (NIV) which says,

‘After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb…they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God!”’

Unity because of the Power of the Holy Spirit
Whitefield records the following:
‘Tuesday Nov 27 – According to appointment, I preached at German Town, seven miles from Philadelphia, from a balcony, to above six thousand people.

God strengthened me to speak nearly two hours, with such demonstration of the Spirit, that great numbers continued weeping for a considerable time.

I have not seen a more gracious melting for a considerable time. After I had done, people came to shake me by the hand, and invited me to their houses, and fresh places…

I had sweet converse, and felt a blessed union and communion with many souls, though of different nations and professions.

I think there are no less than fifteen denominations of Christians in German Town, and yet all agree in one thing, that is, to hold Jesus Christ as their Head, and to worship Him in spirit and in truth.

I talked with one who had been banished from Switzerland for preaching Christ. Numbers are scattered round about the town, who were driven out of their native countries for the sake of their holy religion.’ (George Whitefield, Journals, Banner of Truth edition, p.358-9)

The gift of the Evangelist, as described in Ephesians 4, is a means of bringing the church to maturity and to unity. Our efforts to produce unity apart from the gifts listed in Ephesians 4 (Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, and Pastor/Teachers) will always fall short of our hopes.

The ascended Christ gives these specific gifts to cause the church to grow and to bring her to maturity and unity. Whitfield continues to serve as an inspiration to all who would seek such gospel unity.

For more on Apostles today click here

© 2009 Lex Loizides