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1. WE BELIEVE that the Church, the Body of Christ on earth, often referred to in the New Testament as ‘the saints’ (hoi hagioi – Ephesians 1:23), comprises all who are born not of natural descent, nor of human decision, or a husband’s will, but born of God (John 1:13). The Church universal includes all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, confessing him as Saviour and Lord, and witnessing to that sacred commitment through loving mutual submission (Matthew 18:15-20; John 13:34-35; Ephesians 5:21) and sacrificial service (Mark 8:34; Matthew 20:25-28; John 13:1-17).
WE DO NOT BELIEVE that the Church universal depends for its existence or validity upon any particular ecclesiastical structure, any particular form of worship, or any particular observance of ritual.
2. WE BELIEVE that the Church universal is the whole of the worshipping, witnessing Christian community throughout the centuries comprised of whatever groupings, large or small, accepted or persecuted, wealthy or poor, into which her members may have been gathered in the past or in the present.
WE DO NOT BELIEVE that an adequate definition of the Body of Christ on earth, the Church universal, can be confined in terms of ecclesiastical structure, but must rather be stated in terms of a spiritual relationship of grace that must find expression in all ecclesiastical structures. Members of the Body are those who are incorporate in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:1) and therefore reconciled to God through his Son. All such are in a spiritual relationship one with the other, which begins and continues regardless of externals, according to the prayer of Jesus that those who are his may be one (John 17:23). These words of Jesus ask for a oneness as is found in the oneness of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This oneness is spiritual, not organizational.
3. WE BELIEVE that The Salvation Army belongs to, and is a particular communion of, the Church universal and a representative of the Body of Christ. Christ is the True Vine (John 15:1) and all believers are his living, fruit-bearing branches, exhorted by Scripture to live in Christlike unity (1 Corinthians 12:12).
WE DO NOT BELIEVE that any community made up of true followers of Christ can rightly be regarded as outside the Church universal, whatever their history, customs or practices when compared with those of other Christian communities. God alone knows those who are truly his (2 Timothy 2:19).
4. WE BELIEVE that God’s dealings with his people are perfect according to his will, but that human responses are imperfect and prone to error. It may be God’s dealings or fallible human responses to those dealings which have brought about the rich and varied denominational tapestry discernible today.
WE DO NOT BELIEVE that denominational or organizational variety can automatically and in every case be said to be contrary to God’s will for his people.
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.
WE DO NOT BELIEVE that The Salvation Army’s existence as an independent and distinctive Christian church, having no formal, structural ties with other Christian churches, is an affront to the gospel of Jesus Christ or self-evidently contrary to God’s will for the whole of his Body on earth.
6. WE BELIEVE that the practices of The Salvation Army have much in common with the practices of other churches, but that being raised up by God for a distinctive work, the Army has been led of God to adopt the following combination of characteristics:
its emphasis upon personal religion and individual spiritual regeneration through faith in Christ leading in turn to a commitment in mission to seek to win others to Christ;
its commitment to the unceasing proclamation of the gospel and its insistence that this gospel is for the whosoever;
its teaching concerning sanctification and holy living;
its teaching that the receiving of inward spiritual grace is not dependent upon any particular outward observance;
its worldwide tradition of service (arising out of the compassionate love of Christ for all persons) without discrimination or preconditions, to the distressed, needy and marginalised, together with appropriate advocacy in the public domain on matters of social justice;
its willingness to obey the ‘great commission’ of Jesus Christ, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, by ongoing expansion of Salvationist witness and service into new countries, with a con •sequential celebration, with thanksgiving to God, of its internationalism;
its preference for non-liturgical and flexible forms of worship, seeking to encourage spontaneity, for example in prayer and in spoken personal witness and testimony;
its tradition of inviting public response to the presentation of the gospel message, and its use of the mercy seat for this and other spiritual purposes;
its focus, in self-expression, on the biblical military metaphor of living in the world and of serving God as soldiers of Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 2:3; Ephesians 6:11-17);
its requirement that adults and children wishing to become full members (soldiers and junior soldiers), and thereby wishing to make a commitment to formal membership of the Body of Christ on earth, should publicly confess their faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord, the children making a simple statement of faith with promises as to lifestyle and the primary spiritual disciplines (see page 19), and the adults entering into formal doctrinal and ethical commitments, the latter focusing on the sacredness of human relationships, but including also the personal disciplines of abstention from alcohol, tobacco, and non-medical use of addictive drugs (see page 21);
its wearing of distinctive uniforms as a witness to belonging to Christ and as a signal of availability to others;
its encouragement into Salvation Army fellowship of those who do not wish to enter into the full commitment of soldiership (see j above), but are willing to become adherent members as a step in the journey of faith;
its recognition of the equal place within the Body of Christ of men and women in all aspects of Christian service, ministry and leadership including the holding of ecclesiological authority
its readiness to use all forms of musical expression in worship and evangelism, and its encouragement in many cultures of the indigenisation of worship expressions and styles.
7. WE DO NOT BELIEVE it to be self-evidently God’s will for his people in the Army that they cast aside in haste the leadings of God or the blessings of the years, but rather, in humility, to value them, learn from them, and harness and adapt them for ongoing relevance in future witness and service.
THE LOCAL CHURCH
WE DO NOT BELIEVE that the validity of a denomination or its local congregations depends upon any particular ecclesiastical tradition, structure, hierarchy, form of worship, or ritual. Where even two or three gather in Christ’s name there he is present (Matthew 18:20) with a presence no less real than that discerned in larger, more formal, ceremonial or liturgical settings.
THE ARMY’S IDENTITY
8. WE BELIEVE that The Salvation Army is an international Christian church in permanent mission to the unconverted, and is an integral part of the Body of Christ like other Christian churches, and that the Army’s local corps are local congregations like the local congregations of other Christian churches. The Army springs from the Methodist Revival and has remained unassimilated by any other denomination. Like other reformers before him, William Booth did not intentionally set out to found a new denomination. However, through the years Salvationism has moved on in its emerging self-perception, and in the perceptions of others, from being a para-church evangelistic revival movement (at first known as The Christian Mission) to being a Christian church with a permanent mission to the unsaved and the marginalised. Salvationists remain comfortable in being known simply as ‘the Army’, or a ‘mission’, or a ‘movement’, or for certain purposes as a ‘charity’. All of these descriptors can be used alongside ‘church’. With this multi•faceted identity the Army is welcomed to, and takes its place at, the ecumenical table at local, national and international levels.
WE DO NOT BELIEVE that The Salvation Army’s history, structures, practices or beliefs permit it to be understood as anything other than a distinct Christian denomination with a purpose to fulfil and a calling to discharge under God. Similarly, its local corps cannot properly be understood unless seen primarily as local church congregations meeting regularly by grace and in Christ’s name for worship, fellowship and service. Typically a local Army congregation will offer an integrated and holistic ministry, with both spiritual and social service dimensions, to the local population. Commissioned officers (both men and women) of The Salvation Army are duly ordained Christian leaders and ministers of the Christian gospel, called by God and empowered by the Holy Spirit to preach and teach biblical, apostolic truth (Acts 2:42), and to serve others in the name of Christ and for his sake.
THE ARMY AND OTHER CHURCHES
9. WE BELIEVE that it is God’s will that harmonious relations are built up and sustained, by divine grace, between Christians everywhere and between all Christian denominations including their local congregations. The Army’s numerous and widespread contacts with other Christian communities around the world serve to enrich the Army and to enhance its understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit. For this reason the Army welcomes such contacts and seeks cordially to extend and deepen them.
WE DO NOT BELIEVE that narrowness or exclusiveness are consistent with God’s will for his people, or that God has nothing to teach us by our sharing and co-operating with his people in other denominations. As in humility we learn from others, also we come to the ecumenical table ready to share whatever God in his wisdom has graciously bestowed upon the Army.
10. WE BELIEVE that every visible expression of the Church universal is endowed with its own blessings and strengths as gifts from God. We respect and admire those strengths, recognising too that because of human frailty every such expression, including The Salvation Army, has its imperfections
WE DO NOT BELIEVE it is our task to comment negatively upon, or to undermine, the traditions of other denominations, and certainly not in relation to the sacraments (on which our distinctive, though not unique, position sees the whole of life as a sacrament with a calling from God to Salvationists to witness to a life of sanctity without formal sacraments). It is contrary to our practices to offer adverse comment upon the life of any denomination or local congregation. We seek to be careful not to belittle the doctrines or practices of any other Christian group. The Army places emphasis in its teaching not upon externals but upon the need for each believer personally to experience that inward spiritual grace to which an external observance testifies. We maintain that no external observance can rightly be said to be essential to salvation or to the receiving of divine grace and that the biblical truth is that we can meet with God and receive his grace anywhere at any time through faith. We recognise that external observances such as baptism and eucharist are used in many denominations as a means of grace. We believe that our calling into sanctity without sacraments is not a contradiction of the ways of other churches, but is something beautiful for Christ, to be held in creative tension with the equally beautiful, but very different, practices of other denominations. In the overall economy of God there are no inherent contradictions, but there are creative paradoxes.
11. WE BELIEVE that The Salvation Army was called into being by the will of God, is sustained in being by God’s grace, and is empowered for obedience by the Holy Spirit. Its overriding purpose as encapsulated in the name God has given us – The Salvation Army – is therefore to strive to lead men and women and boys and girls into saving faith in Jesus Christ, working tirelessly and for Christ’s sake, to develop them in holy living, that they might better serve suffering humanity while remaining unpolluted by the world (James 1:26, 27).
WE DO NOT BELIEVE that we alone are called to these sacred and awesome tasks, and therefore we rejoice exceedingly because in other Christian churches we find co-workers for God.
For Salvationist acceptance of the historic Christian creeds (The Apostles’ Creed, The Nicene Creed, The Athanasian Creed) see Salvation Story – Salvationist Handbook of Doctrine (The Salvation Army, London, 1998).