William Booth - Founder of The Salvation Army
In 1852, a Methodist minister named William Booth took what he thought would be a temporary leave of absence from the Methodist church in order to launch a street ministry in the slums of London. Abandoning the conventional concept of a church and pulpit, Booth's mission was to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the poor, the homeless, the hungry and the destitute.
Booth believed that the only way to bring about lasting change in the lives of men and women was through spiritual regeneration brought about by faith in Christ. His goal was to convert the lost to Christianity, then send them into established churches to continue their Christian journey. Unfortunately, even though they were converted, the churches did not accept these individuals because of what they had been - thieves, prostitutes, gamblers and drunkards.
As a result, Booth decided to officially leave the church in 1865 and dedicate his life to ministering to those who were considered outcasts of society.
As Booth's organization took root he recruited volunteers and evangelists. They served under the name "The Christian Mission." Booth assumed the title of General Superintendent, which was shortened to General by his followers.
Around London, the converts were referred to as the "Hallelujah Army." In 1878, while General Booth was reading a printer's proof of that year's annual report, he noticed the writer had referred to The Christian Mission as a "volunteer army." Booth crossed out the word "volunteer" and penned in the word "salvation." Thus, the name ‘The Salvation Army" was born, officially becoming adopted in August of that same year.
Because of the use of the word "army" and because of Booth's title as General, before long other military terms began to be used to describe aspects of the organizations work. Ministers were known as officers, holding ranks such as lieutenant, captain and major. Each Salvation Army worship center became known as a "corps." And volunteers who worked to help the Army carry out its mission began to be called "soldiers."
Since those humble beginnings, The Salvation Army has spread to 111 countries around the world. Salvation Army officers, employees and volunteers of all nationalities work to continue Booth's original mission of saving the lost.
The first Salvation Army meeting in the United States was held by Lieutenant Eliza Shirley in Philadelphia in 1879. Termed as the "Invasion of the United States," the movement quickly took root and began to expand. Currently in the U.S. there are more than 10,000 local corps community centers actively working to carry out the Army's mission.