Sunday, June 19, 2016

Saved, Sanctified and Serving PART TWO

That which hath been is that which shall be; and that which hath been done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

By some counts, there are over 2,000 religious denominations in the United States, and the World Christian Encyclopedia by Barrett, Kurian, Johnson (Oxford Univ Press, 2nd edition, 2001) refers to 33000+ total "Christian" denominations; an organized Christian group within a specific country.

Clearly, most of the listed denominations are similar ecclesiastical traditions across borders, whose component congregations and members are called by the same denominational name. And this holds for TSA in 127 countries and territories.

Modern “Christendom” is full of the names of different people and groups spanning two millennia. How did we get to this point?

We will share a brief intro to our own denominational history here.

The Salvation Army will not be found among the largest twenty-five denominations nor will it be found among the smallest.  However, the Army surges past all others in denominational social work delivered worldwide; no one comes close.

From Denis Metrustery's; Saved, Sanctified and Serving 

‘Raised up by God…’ [1]

Contextualising The Salvation Army in the Church and in the World

Denis Metrustery

It is at work in 127 countries of the world, has 2.3million members, over 26,500 officers and almost 117,000 employees[2] – but what exactly is The Salvation Army?

Internationally, the Army operates local worship centres, hostel accommodation for individuals and families, addiction dependency programmes, emergency disaster response, community services (youth, unemployed, counselling, thrift shops), hospitals and clinics, schools and education programmes.  This leads to The Salvation Army being one of the most visible Christian agencies, but its overall identity can be confused.  Is it a church, is it a social services agency, is it a humanitarian organisation?
The aim of this chapter is to examine the Army’s roots and see that it is best described as an innovative and militant Christian denomination which participates in the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God by way of its direct assault on spiritual slavery to sin and attempts to remedy the societal consequences of sin by bringing to bear God’s redemptive love and justice.[3]
In recent years, there has been much internal debate seeking to clarify for contemporary members the nature and mission of the Christian organisation which became known as The Salvation Army in 1878.  Founders, William and Catherine Booth, stated that their objective was not the starting of a new church, believing that many of the existing churches of their day were failing in their calling to seek and save the lost. The early Salvationists thought of their movement very much as a mission, and their unique identity was further moulded by the adoption of a military model of organisation. The Army’s obvious initial mission field was the poor of London’s East End, where the full range of human degradation weighed heavily on the Booths’ hearts. Today’s Salvation Army is often referenced as ‘Christianity with its sleeves rolled up’, an acknowledgement from a variety of quarters, both ecclesiastical and secular, of the practical nature of the Army’s approach to its calling.

Central to the Army’s self-identity is the belief that it was God himself, albeit through human agency, who brought it into being to be his ‘storm troops’ who would have no fear of reaching out to the lowest in human society to recall them from the spectre of eternal damnation. A former international leader, General Paul Rader (Rtd), proposes that

The Salvation Army was born of a vision. First, an idea germinating in the heart of God. Then, a living flame in the heart of a man and woman, William and Catherine Booth. Then, a compelling vision claiming the devotion of a growing Army of Salvation spreading across the world.[4]

[1] The Salvation Army in the Body of Christ: An Ecclesiological Statement, ( London: Salvation Books, 2008), 5 – ‘WE BELIEVE that God raised up The Salvation Army according to his purposes for his glory and for the proclamation and demonstration of the gospel.’
[2] The Salvation Army Yearbook 2016, (London: Salvation Books, 2015), 29 – statistics correct as at 1 January 2015. Slovakia became the 127th country where the Army’s work became officially recognised in September 2015
[3] The Salvation Army’s International Mission Statement can be found at Appendix A; its mission has also been summarised by pithy straplines such as ‘Heart to God, Hand to Man’, and ‘Doing the Most Good’
[4] Paul A. Rader, ‘Vision’, in Henry Gariepy & Stephen Court (eds) Hallmarks of The Salvation Army, (Blackburn, Victoria, Australia: Salvo Publishing, 2009), 65

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