The Salvation Army is a worldwide evangelical Christian church with its own distinctive governance and practice. The Army's doctrine follows the mainstream of Christian belief and its articles of faith emphasize God's saving purposes. Its religious and charitable objects are the advancement of the Christian religion ... and, pursuant thereto, the advancement of education, the relief of poverty, and other charitable objects beneficial to society or the community of mankind as a whole.
In 1852 William Booth went into the streets of London to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to the poor, the homeless, the hungry and the destitute. Booth abandoned the conventional concept of a church and a pulpit and took his message to the people. His wife, Catherine, was a major force in The Salvation Army movement. In 1865, Booth was invited to hold a series of evangelistic meetings in the east end of London. Thieves, prostitutes, gamblers and drunkards were among Booth's first converts to Christianity. His congregations were desperately poor. He preached hope and salvation. Even though they were converted, churches did not accept Booth's followers because of what they had been. In 1867, Booth had only 10 full-time workers. By 1874, the numbers had grown to 1,000 volunteers and 42 evangelists. Known as the "Hallelujah Army,'" the converts spread out of the east end of London into neighboring areas and then to other cities.
In America The Army was gaining a foothold in the United States. Lieutenant Eliza Shirley had left England and held the first meeting of The Salvation Army in America in Philadelphia in 1879. These pioneers were again met with similar unfriendly actions. They were ridiculed, arrested and attacked. Several officers and soldiers even gave their lives. Three years later, their operation expanded into California, Connecticut, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania. President Grover Cleveland received a delegation of Salvation Army officers in 1886 and gave the organization a warm personal endorsement. This was the first recognition from the White House that was to be followed by similar receptions from succeeding presidents of the United States.
In the South the first work in America among the military took place here among the troops in the the Spanish-American War. The Salvation Army in the South found its fortunes bound to a farm economy that was dominated by cotton and tobacco. As prices rose and fell, corps experienced both boom times and bust. The work was difficult to establish but finally it was felt that the region was strong enough to become its own command. As the economy improved and as the South tackled the problems created by years of racial segregation, the Army found more fertile fields for growth. Its pragmatic approach to social issues and its simple, but heartfelt proclamation of the Christian Gospel has allowed it to grow at a continuing accelerated pace. Currently one of the fastest growing territories in the world the Southern Territory is now experiencing growth in new areas such as ethnic ministries with Hispanic and Asian corps. Innovative social programs have continued to keep the Army's work relevant through the transition caused by welfare reform.