Time, and the Army, March on

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by Frances Dingman – 

Throughout the past 1,000 years, worldwide events have contributed to the form The Salvation Army takes today. The formation of the Church of England…Protestant Reformation…John Wesley’s Pentecost…Industrial Revolution…Booth’s break from the Methodist New Connexion…all preceded the development of a denomination that, while resembling the others, is significant in the scope and shape of its unique ministry to those in need.As we think about the year 2000, questions come to mind:

  • How did we get the way we are?
  • What were the significant events that shaped us?
  • Where have we been?
  • Where are we now?
  • How does this affect where we’re going?

The synopsis that follows identifies those key people, places and events that provide the prologue to the millennium…

1066–Normans invade England

In the 11th century, William the Conqueror invaded England, bringing with him a profound change in the country’s language and way of life, and setting the stage for the introduction of Christianity.

The Crusades, which were to go on for the next 200 years, left an impact on English culture while seeking to take the Holy Land away from the Muslims.

1215–Model for freedom

The Magna Carta, signed by King John under duress, made the vital keystone change of placing the king under the law and effectively checking royal power. While it did not make sweeping changes in religion, it provided a model for others who wanted a democratic government and equal rights for all.


Through the Dark Ages it had been the Church that kept going a thread of education, art and science as well as religion. Life outside the Church was unbelievably harsh and lowly. The idea had developed that common people were not worthy to pray to God directly, but only through priests, who decided the penances that would save their sinful souls. These often took the form of payment to the Church of money, material gifts and labor.

1231–Since the 4th century Roman emperors established Christianity as the state religion, heretics came to be considered enemies of the state. Until the 12th century the church had opposed coercion and physical penalties for acts of heresy, but then opinion changed.

Pope Gregory IX placed inquisitors under a special papal jurisdiction. Restricted at first to Germany and Aragon, the Inquisition soon extended to the whole church.

1292­Marco Polo, one of a family of tradesmen, returned from China with new ideas, exciting foods, and inspiration for other men to explore the globe.

1300s–Europe was struck by one of several waves of the “Black Death” plague that eventually killed half of the population. Mired in recurring waves of suffering and despair, Europe desperately needed a ray of light.


1455–One such ray came in the form of the Gutenberg printing press that gradually brought books to laypeople. The few made literate by the monks were thus able to read the Bible and interpret it for themselves. This led to the appearance of independent thought on religious matters.

1478–The Spanish Inquisition was established with papal approval at the request of King Ferdinand V and Queen Isabella I. Thousands of reputed heretics were executed. This Inquisition was not suppressed until 1834.


1492–Independent thinkers were venturing into scientific thought and the idea that the world was round. Christopher Columbus persuaded Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain that a route to India could be found by sailing west. Propelled not only by thoughts of riches but the idea of spreading Christianity to the East, they financed a voyage that led not to India, but to the discovery of a new world in the West Indies.

What possibilities lay there! Though his men and other explorers who followed were guilty of exploiting the natives, missionaries who followed made a serious attempt to lead these people to God.

1517–Church reforms

In Europe, a monk named Martin Luther, observing wrongs in the Church that led away from what he perceived as God’s plan, nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the cathedral in Wittenberg. Risking death for heresy, he broke from the Church and led the way for the Protestant movement.

1519-1521–World expands

Ferdinand Magellan’s ships sailed completely around the world and laid the foundation for trade in the Pacific between the Americas and the East. Spain began an active search for gold in the New World with tragic consequences to the native populations.

1534–Church of England

King Henry VIII, for reasons of his own, seceded from the Vatican to become the head of the Church of England.

1545-1563–During these years the Church held the Council of Trent, to determine the doctrines of the Church in answer to the “heresies of the Protestants.” A serious study was made of abuses asserted by Luther and other Protestants.

1585–Beginning with Sir Walter Raleigh’s unsuccessful Roanoke Colony, the English established settlements in Virginia. The Dutch settled on Manhattan Island and later bought it from the Indians.

1620–Religious freedom.

Protesting persecution in England, Puritans established a colony at Plymouth, Mass., beginning a tradition of religious freedom in America.

English settlers continued to come to the East Coast, establishing large land holdings. Most of these early settlers had left their churches behind.

1735–Reaching the common man

John Wesley, an early reformer, came to Georgia to reach these people, traveling by horseback for three years and preaching salvation. Wanting to bring Christianity to the common people, he returned to England to found the Methodist Church.


The Louisiana Purchase and the Mexican War added new territories to the original states, stretching the country from coast to coast. The steam locomotive and expansion of railroads increased migration westward. The discovery of gold in California in 1849 brought many in search of riches.

Thousands of workers were brought in from China and Japan to work on the mines and railroads, though the Exclusion Act kept families from accompanying them.


Key inventions changed British and American life as people migrated to the cities in search of factory jobs. The change from agrarian life to the crowded cities produced miserable slums around the factories by mid-century.

Overcrowding led to migration to parts of the British Empire: Canada, Australia and South Africa. Europeans flocked to America in search of jobs and religious freedom.

1861–American Civil War

The largely agrarian South depended on the industrial North as the main market for its cotton and other products grown on large plantations. Invention of farm machinery lessened the need for manpower.

The South secedes, leading to war between the states.

1863­Emancipation of slaves precipitated their movement to cities in search of work.

1865–Booth “goes for the worst”

In London, William Booth became dissatisfied with the Methodists, whom he felt had strayed away from John Wesley’s teachings. Spurning the offer of a middle-class parish, he and his wife struck out on their own to begin a Christian Mission in the slums of London’s East End. Thirteen years later, the movement, renamed The Salvation Army, appeared on a worldwide scale, first in America, Europe, and parts of the British Empire.

Assassination of Abraham Lincoln at war’s end halts his program of compassionate reconstruction and produces widespread poverty and suffering in South.

1879–Invention of internal combustion engine paves way for the modern automobile.

1880­-First Salvationists sent to New York.

1883–The Salvation Army begins in the West.

1890Salvation Army social work

Booth planned ways by which the lot of the working class could be improved by better conditions, training and assistance in emigrating.

In accordance with Booth’s principles, The Salvation Army in the U.S. worked to improve the lot of the poor as a means of saving souls. Their work spread up East Coast and in West as far east as Montana. Work was begun among Alaska Indians from the Canadian Territory

1898–Farm colonies are started in America to assist slum dwellers to relocate. Army’s outdoor meetings continue to be discouraged by harassment and jailing.

1904– National Commander Evangeline Booth began to personify the Army in the U.S.

1917–“What can we do?”

Salvationists were allowed to assist troops overseas in World War I. “Doughnut Girls” endeared themselves to doughboys and then to American public as The Salvation Army gained new recognition as a Protestant denomination. Cash donations enabled work to move forward.


Business prospers.

Salvationists welcomed Prohibition as a means of ending the blight of alcohol.

1929-35—Officers struggled to maintain services throughout the Great Depression.

Repeal of Prohibition dampens Army’s hopes of ending alcohol abuse.

1941–The beginning of World War II brought S.A. to service on the home front.

Accustomed to bringing in paychecks during the war, women continued to seek outside jobs to increase their standard of living. With this increased independence came a move toward higher education and a more important place in all of American life.

1947–Inventions bring change

Magnifying the effect of radio communication, television brought a new way of life to people in their homes. The Army and other churches sought new ways to reach people as church life continued to fade as a social hub.

1957–The Space Age, coinciding with the Cold War, and labor saving inventions such as automatic washers brought dramatic changes at home and in the workplace.

1962–Christian Cooperation

As a result of Pope John XXIII’s Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church reached out to fellow Christians with the Ecumenical Movement. Resulting compromises aided social work cooperation and understanding among all churches.

1981–Health Crises

Just as medical discoveries were wiping out diseases around the world, AIDS surfaced as a threat to all levels of society. The Salvation Army continued to find new ways to help families suffering from this epidemic.

1983–Leap in communication

The invention of computers and the establishment of the Internet revolutionized society and provided new avenues for evangelism. Churches increasingly followed The Salvation Army’s lead in opportunities for women as ministers.

1990–New work for Christ

The end of Communism in Europe brought new need for social work and religion among people in a chaotic society. The Salvation Army and other churches came in to fill the need.

1991–Commissioner Paul A Rader spearheads MISSION2000, aiming to double the number of corps in the Western U.S. by the year 2000.

1994–The Salvation Army is established in 100 countries worldwide.

1999–Commissioner David Edwards leads territory in Vision 2000 and Beyond, to strive to be biblically authentic in motive and mission; a relevant and vibrant expression of Christianity; culturally diverse in methods and ministry; and compassionately active in serving humanity.


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