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What is a Salvation Army Officer or Soldier?
The General, based at International Headquarters in London, is the international leader of The Salvation Army and travels widely wherever the Army is active. He or she is elected by the High Council (a group of senior Salvation Army officers) for a term of five years or until the 68th birthday is reached, when he or she must retire. The Advisory Council to the General assists The General in policy making.
Salvation Army officers are ordained ministers serving in The Salvation Army in a professional capacity and on a full-time basis. They are members of The Salvation Army who commit their lives to doing God's will and serving others.
Officers may be single or married. If married, both husband and wife must undertake the same training, an both are ordained and commissioned upon completion of training. Single officers wishing to marry must marry within the ranks or resign their officership. Officers resigning their officership to marry may remain in The Salvation Army as soldiers and may resume their officership if the non-officer spouse elects to undertake officer training.
Officers come from all walks of life and complete a two year residential course at a Salvation Army Training College. Concurrent with ordination they are commissioned to the rank of captain. After fifteen years of satisfactory service they are promoted to the rank of major. Higher ranks are at the direction of the General.
The majority of officers are responsible for a Salvation Army corps community center (church), with pastoral and community service responsibilities. Officers may also serve in other Salvation Army facilities or in an administrative capacity at headquarters.
All officers receive a small standard allowance according to rank, with an added stipend calculated on the number of dependents. The amount of allowance does not vary for different appointments or levels of administrative responsibility. Quarters and transportation are provided and remain the property of The Salvation Army.
Auxiliary/Captains are persons who undertake Salvation Army officership after they reach the maximum age for acceptance into the college for officer training. After five years, an auxiliary/captain may receive a full commission. An auxiliary /captain has the same responsibilities and receives the same allowance as a regular officer.
Sergeants are Salvationists (active lay members in good standing for at least two years) who elect to work full-time for The Salvation Army in a pastoral or administrative capacity. Sergeants are employees and are not ordained or commissioned, but they may be appointed to a corps community center, where they will perform all pastoral duties except those reserved to ordained clergy.
Lay members of The Salvation Army are called soldiers. As do lay members of other churches, Salvation Army soldiers have secular professions and are typical members of the community. Upon enrollment, soldiers sign the Articles of War, which state the Army's beliefs, and they accept certain moral standards, e.g., Salvation Army soldiers do not smoke or drink alcohol. Soldiers are expected, but not required, to wear the uniform as a witness to their faith.
Children may be enrolled as Junior Soldiers. Junior Soldiers sign a covenant in which they make a confession of faith and agree to obey God, pray and read the Bible. While adults make a commitment to The Salvation Army when they become soldiers, the Junior Soldier covenant does not include this provision.
Salvationists who accept particular lay leadership responsibilities in a corps are called local officers; their positions are similar to elders in other churches. Local officers may undertake such responsibilities as corps treasurer, Sunday school teacher, youth leader and other leadership and service positions. Local officers are required to wear the uniform when carrying out the responsibilities of their position. As with volunteer lay leaders in other organizations, they receive no pay for these activities.
Adherents choose to make The Salvation Army their spiritual home and place of worship, but do not wish to make the commitments of Salvation Army soldiership. While they may participate in all corps community activities, they may not assume official leadership positions. Adherents do not wear the uniform.
Why does The Salvation Army use military structure and uniforms?
The Salvation Army's military style is rooted in the militaristic spirit prevalent in the mid-1800's, when William and Catherine Booth founded the organization. This organizational style has proven effective in making the Army a highly disciplined and mobile organization, able to respond quickly and efficiently to human need whenever and wherever it arises.
The uniform also finds its roots in the culture of its founding and continues to serve as a witness to the Salvationist's commitment to serving God and man. Today, The Salvation Army's uniform is recognized as a symbol of commitment and a sign of availability and accessibility in times of need or crisis. Salvation Army officers always wear the uniform when they are on duty in the corps, the office or the community.