Posts Tagged ‘Salvation Army

25
Feb
14

Comparing William Booth and Isaac Hecker: my paper at WTS

I’m looking forward to the annual Wesleyan Theological Society meeting late next week at Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho.  I’ve never been to Idaho, so I’ll be glad to see it first-hand, although I must confess I’d rather visit that state during a warmer time of the year!

This year’s theme is “Atonement in the Wesleyan Tradition,” and features keynote addresses by Ben Witherington III, Randy Maddox, and Jason Vickers.  A recent press release discussing the speakers and award recipients is available here.   You can find the full schedule of papers here.

I’ll be presenting a paper that builds on my dissertation research.  It will be presented in the Ecumenical Studies section, and the title is “Universal Atonement or Ongoing Incarnation? Comparing the Missional Theologies of William Booth and Isaac Hecker.”  Here is the abstract:

This paper will compare the missional theologies of William Booth and Isaac Hecker, two founders of 19th century missionary agencies. Booth, who started The Salvation Army in East London in 1865, was a Wesleyan revivalist who had previously been ordained in the Methodist New Connexion. Hecker was also raised in the Methodist church, but after a roundabout spiritual journey, became a Roman Catholic, first serving as a Redemptorist Priest, and then founding the Paulist Fathers in New York City, in 1858.

William Booth via wikimedia commonsBooth and Hecker were both possessed by visions of universal revival and reform in their later years, and both believed that God’s vision for universal reform extended beyond spiritual life, to social and political structures. However, the theological assumptions behind their universal visions for mission were markedly different, and are illustrative of divergences in 19th century Wesleyan and Catholic theology. The scope of Booth’s vision was founded upon the universality of the atonement, which provided a missionary mandate to evangelize the whole world, with a particular focus on those people not being reached by “the churches.” Hecker’s vision, on the other hand, was built on the universality of the Catholic Church as the historical extension of Christ’s presence in the world. These differing Christological starting-points funded two very different understandings of work of the Spirit, the place of the Church in God’s universal mission, and the relationship of their respective missionary bodies to established church structures. Whereas the Church has a rather ambiguous place in Booth’s understanding of world-wide redemption, Hecker’s view is thoroughly ecclesiocentric.

I will close by reflecting on the potential pitfalls of each view, and suggest some ways in which contemporary Wesleyans and Catholics might think together about universal mission in a way that avoids the theological extremes of our 19th century foreparents.

Hecker via wikimedia commonsFor Booth, the scope of Christian mission is very much related to his convictions about the universality of Christ’s atoning work, and the full implications of the atonement for human life.  As he got older, he came to believe that Christ had come not only to offer “spiritual” redemption, but to “destroy the works of the devil in the present time” by relieving humanity of temporal as well as spiritual evil (see his article “Salvation for Both Worlds” for example).  On other hand, for Hecker, the Catholic Church’s unviersality meant that the church was called to take up and incorporate the best of all the cultures of the world.  Hecker had a keen sense that the Spirit was guiding universal history, and had given “characteristic gifts” to the different cultures and races of the world, all of which needed to be directed to their proper ends and brought together in the one universal Church so that they might enrich the church’s life and bring glory to God.

As I’ve previously note here, I think Booth and Hecker are a very interesting comparison.  They are both compelling figures in their own right, but also provide an fascinating window into broader trends in the nineteenth-century church.   Hopefully the paper will help to bring out the contrast between the ecclesiological ambiguities of Wesleyan-holiness revivalism and the ecclesiocentrism of Catholic thinking from the same period.

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04
Aug
13

The Wesleyan Tradition’s Eastern Ontario Roots

I grew up north of Kingston, near the village of Sunbury, and I was raised in a church that is part of the Wesleyan family of denominations – The Salvation Army.  Most of my life, however, I had no idea that there was any significant connection between my geographical roots and my ecclesial roots.  As I’ve gone on to study Wesleyan history and theology, however, I’ve come to see that the historical roots of Wesleyan Christianity in Eastern Ontario are very deep indeed.

This has come home to me in a number of ways in recent months.

This summer, Tyndale Seminary received a generous bequest from Rev. Bill Lamb, who passed away in June.  Bill was a United Church minister and a historian of Canadian Methodism.  He left an amazing collection of historical literature to Tyndale’s library, and I was able to go to his home and help our head librarian, Hugh Rendle, sort through the materials.  Because the earliest Methodist churches in Canada were established in Eastern Ontario, Bill was also a student of Eastern Ontario history.

in 1925 the main Methodist body in Canada united with many Presbyterians and the Congregationalists to form the United Church of Canada – and that means that many of the United Church congregations that pre-date 1925 were in fact Methodist congregations.  Bill had written books on the history of two such congregations – Bridge Street Church in Belleville (Bridging the Years), and Wall Street Church in Brockville (The Meaning of the Stones).  He’d also written a book on the Old Hay Bay Church (The Founders), the first Methodist Church building in Canada, which still stands as a National Historic Site.  At the time of his death, he was working on books on two of the most important figures in Canadian Methodist history, William Case and William Losee.  Therefore he had amassed a very significant body of literature and archival material on Methodism’s spread in Eastern Ontario.

The fact that most Methodists joined the United Church in 1925 means that much of this Methodist history is not immediately apparent to a casual observer today.  People do not realize, for example, that churches like Bridge Street Church in Belleville, Wall Street Church in Brockville, and Sydenham Street Church  in Kingston are monuments to Methodist history.  All Belleville residents are familiar with Albert College and its beautiful campus, but most have no idea that this private school began as Belleville Seminary – a Methodist theological college.

Albert College interior by tjchampagne via flickr

But it is not only the mainline Methodist tradition that has strong Eastern Ontario roots.  The late nineteenth century holiness movement also had a significant impact on this part of Canada, especially in the legacy of Ralph Horner, whose biography I read and blogged about earlier this year.  Horner was from the Ottawa Valley, and had a ministry as an evangelist which centred around Eastern Ontario.   Originally serving with the Methodist Church of Canada, Horner eventually went on to found two holiness denominations: the Holiness Movement Church and the Standard Church of America.  Many of the churches that emerged out of the Hornerite revival in Eastern Ontario are still around today, although these two denominations also merged with others (HMC joined the Free Methodist Church in 1958 and the SCA merged with the Wesleyan Church in 2003).

Holiness Movement Church Hymnal via internet archiveIn addition to the fact that the Holiness churches have historically had a significant concentration of their congregations in Eastern Ontario cities and towns, there is also a rich history of revivals through camp meetings in rural locations.  Almost every little village was impacted.   Even Sunbury, where I grew up, had a Salvation Army corps at one time, and the Hornerite movement impacted nearby Inverary.   In Hastings County today, Ivanhoe may be known today as a place with a cheese factory along Hwy 62, but a century ago it was known as one of the most important holiness revival sites in Canada.  It was at the Ivanhoe camp meeting that Ralph Horner died in 1921, not long after preaching his last sermon.

The surprising thing for me has been the way that my life has now come full circle.  As a professor Wesley Studies at Canada’s largest seminary, my teaching and research interests now coincide with my personal history in a way I never thought they would.   The connection between between my geographical roots and my ecclesial roots, of which I was unaware for most of my life, now seems to have been established by providential design.

02
Oct
12

A brief follow-up on the early Salvation Army as “a church”

Just a quick follow-up to my last post, “When did The Salvation Army become a church?”   I was arguing that the SA started to “function” as a church from a very early date – once its members stopped finding their spiritual home and nurture elsewhere.

Thanks to the kind staff at the Salvation Army International Heritage Centre, I’ve been reading through a scanned-image copy of the 1870 Doctrines and Rules of The Christian Mission.  

This document was endorsed by the first “General Conference” of The Christian Misison, which met in November 1870, and marked the transition of the movement into a Methodist-style polity.  This lasted until 1878 when the switch was made to a military-style government, although by then the role of Conference had already been minimized by Booth.  

To get back to the 1870 Doctrines and Rules: I find it interesting that under “Membership,” rule V.17 states:

Persons belonging to other churches seeking membership with us shall be admitted on presentation of their note of transfer, if such can be obtained.

The reference to transfer from “other churches” implies that the members of The Christian Mission, at that time, saw themselves as a “church,” or at least the equivalent of a church on the issue of church membership.

Although this document was later replaced by the 1875 and 1878 Deed Polls, it is an interesting window on a mission that was already dealing with movement / church tensions.

21
Sep
12

When did The Salvation Army become “a church”?

Of course, the question of when The Salvation Army became a church is a loaded question.  First of all, there are many who would debate whether or not The Salvation Army ever became a church.  Is today’s Salvation Army a church?  The key sticking point is, of course, the sacraments, and whether or not they are key “marks” of the church.  That requires a separate post, I think, and I’ll attempt that in the next couple weeks.

To put my own view in a nutshell, however, I would say that The Salvation Army is a peculiar hybrid of church and specialized movement. This will be part of the argument I put forward in my thesis.  On the one hand, it has always acted like a church in terms of the functions it performs for its members.  It is the spiritual home for Salvationists, the place where they are converted, the place where they are nurtured, where they fellowship and serve, mark significant moments in their life, and raise their children.  On the other hand, it has often maintained that it has a special vocation, to be something more than, or other than “a church.”  And for a long time, Salvationist leaders explicitly and publicly insisted that The Salvation Army was “not a church.”

William Booth insisted that their original design was not to set up another church or denomination, but to evangelize people, and then send them to established churches.   In an oft-quoted passage, he explains why this didn’t happen:

My first idea was simply to get the people saved, and then send them to the churches.  This proved at the outset impracticable.
1st. They would not go when sent. 
2nd. They were not wanted. 
And 3rd. We wanted some of them at least, ourselves to help us in the business of saving others.
We were thus  driven to providing for the converts ourselves (“How We Began,” in Boundless Salvation: The Shorter Writings of William Booth, 39)

So, from an early date, even before it was known as “The Salvation Army,” Booth’s movement was functioning as a “spiritual home” for its converts and workers.   This is what I mean when I saw the Army “acted like” a church from the early days.  It was functioning as a church.

How early did this start to happen?   Harold Hill, in his fascinating book Leadership in the Salvation Army: A Case Study in Clericalisation, suggests that 1867 was a “turning point” for the young movement, when it became established as a “distinct body.”   Drawing on Sandall’s official account, Hill notes a number of important things that happened in 1867, including the formal naming of the movement as the East London Christian Mission, the acquisition of headquarters, the hiring of workers, and the establishment of a system of processing converts.

But if 1867 was a turning point, Hill goes on to argue, it was the beginning of a decade-long transition towards something very much like a “denomination.”  1878, the year when Booth assumed full, autocratic control of the movement, and the year when its name was changed to “The Salvation Army”  marked the end of this transition.

Between 1868 and 1878, then, the process took place whereby an independent mission staffed by volunteers from a variety of church backgrounds evolved into a highly centralised, sect-like organisation, a people with a distinct and common identity, and its own full-time, employed leaders, analogous to clergy (Hill, Leadership in the Salvation Army, 49).

With a distinct identity as a Christian body, members who were not part of other churches, and a clergy-like leadership structure, the newly-named Salvation Army was certainly acting like a church, and therefore from the perspective of “function,” was a church (leaving aside those difficult theological questions which I’ll take up another day).

Yet, in the first Orders and Regulations, issued in the same year of 1878, William Booth wrote: “We are not and will not be made a Church.  There are plenty for anyone who wishes to join them, to vote and rest.”  Subsequent Salvation Army Generals continued to maintain this view through the mid-20th century.  It wasn’t until the 1970s that Clarence Wiseman publicly affirmed his conviction that the Salvation Army was “a church” while still affirming that it was “a permanent mission to the unconverted” and that it shared some features of a religious order.

So, while acknowledging that the question of when The Salvation Army became “a church” is a very complicated one, I would argue that, functionally speaking, it began to act like a church from as early as 1867, even if it refused to self-identify as a church.  Whether or not we should say that the early Salvation Army was a church from a normative, theological sense, will depend upon how we define “a church,” and specifically, whether we believe the observance of sacraments is essential to ecclesiality.

17
Aug
12

Remembering Margaret O’Gara

I was saddened to hear that Professor Margaret O’Gara passed away yesterday after a two year battle with cancer.  Margaret was a long-serving professor of theology at St. Michael’s College, with a distinguished record of research, publication, teaching, and service to the church. She will be remembered by many, including myself, as a great theological mentor.

When I began my doctoral studies in September of 2007, I found out that Margaret was on my supervisory committee.  My committee met without her, however, and I didn’t actually come into contact with her until I enrolled in her class “Breakthroughs and Barriers in Ecumenical Dialogue” in January of 2008.   I was somewhat unsure if I should take the class.  The course description looked good, and I was already convinced of the importance of doing theology ecumenically.  But I suppose I carried with me some of that typical evangelical reticence towards ecumenism.  One evangelical colleague even advised me that I should not take the course.  However, I was very glad that I did, because the course material, along with Margaret’s own teaching, played a significant role in shaping the direction of my dissertation.  In fact, I appreciated the course so much that I signed up for another in September of that year, “Ecumenical Dialogue on Authority.”

I was raised in a tradition that has a very strong sense of denominational identity.  Even more than that, The Salvation Army claims to have a distinctive mission within the broader Christian church.  I believe to this day that The Salvation Army does have a special vocation within the church, but I have pushed back against some of the ways that this has been explained and conceived in Salvationist thinking.  I think that Salvationist identity sometimes morphs itself into a prideful triumphalism, wherein The Salvation Army is seen as something “other than” or “more than” the church.  For this reason, I had, before studying ecumenical dialogue, begun to see all claims to a unique denominational identity and mission as problematic and divisive.

Margaret’s approach to ecumenical dialogue was to conceive of it as a “gift exchange.”  This idea was not unique to her – she drew it out of magisterial sources in her own Catholic tradition –  but she was able to express it in a way that brought helpful conceptual clarity to the process of ecumenical dialogue.  She literally wrote the book on the subject (see The Ecumenical Gift Exchange).  Her expertise on ecumenical dialogue was developed out of decades of participation in national and international bilateral dialogues, which included work with Lutherans, Anglicans, Mennonites, the Disciples of Christ, and evangelicals.

When we began the class, she introduced the idea of the gift exchange, and asked us to introduce ourselves by sharing a) one gift which our church tradition could share with others and b) one gift we would like to receive from another tradition.  I don’t remember what I said, but I do remember that both courses I took from Margaret were living examples of this exchange of gifts, as the students, drawn from a variety of church traditions, not only shared from the gifts of our own traditions, but studied the various gift exchanges that have taken place through the ecumenical dialogues of the past fifty years.

The idea of “gifts” found within different traditions is, ultimately, what led me to my dissertation topic of ecclesial charisms, though my argument proceeds along quite different grounds from Margaret’s conceptualization of the process of ecumenical dialogue.  I am looking at a more specific question about a particular kind of gifts (charisms) and how these might expressed corporately in ecclesial bodies of various kinds.  The specific idea of using the language of “charisms” in this regard comes not from the ecumenical dialogues we studied in those classes (though it is occasionally treated there), but rather from the Catholic theology of religious life (religious orders and societies in the church), which I am applying more generally and ecumenically to “movements” in the church.   Indeed, part of my argument is that the language of “charisms” should not be applied across the board to all of the various “gifts” found in our traditions (and shared in ecumenical relationships), but more specifically to personal gifts of grace which carry a vocational obligation.

Nevertheless, in spite of the differences, my dissertation on ecclesial charisms may not have existed if not for Margaret’s work on the gift exchange of ecumenical dialogue.  Not only that, but Margaret also provided a great deal of personal guidance and encouragement for the project.  She helped me work through the ideas as I was conceiving the topic, and also played a pivotal role in shaping my comprehensive exams, which formed the background for my work.  For example, it was Margaret who suggested that my second comprehensive exam should be on reform movements before the reformation – an idea I never would have thought of, but which gave me a wonderful historical perspective on various movements of reform and renewal, and how they  related to the established church.

I suppose, if it wasn’t for Margaret, I also might not have applied to work with the Commission on Faith and Witness at the Canadian Council of Churches.  I worked there throughout 2010 and 2011, and was able to experience the joys and frustrations of ecumenical dialogue for myself.  This only confirmed much of what I had already learned from Margaret in the classroom.  One of the highlights of my two years there was a three-person panel I helped organize for the November 2010 Governing Board meetings, entitled “Ecumenical Dialogue as a Gift Exchange.”  Margaret was one of the presenters.

There is much more that could be said, and I am sure that others, who knew Margaret much better than I did, will offer fitting tributes to her life and work.  I am just one of the many people she influenced.  I am truly thankful that, through God’s providence, I was able to benefit from Margaret’s wonderful gifts as a theologian.

29
Jun
12

Book Review – Boundless Salvation: The Shorter Writings of William Booth

An important new resource has been produced for students of Salvation Army history, theology, and ministry: Boundless Salvation: The Shorter Writings of William Booth.  Edited by Andrew Eason of Booth University College and Roger Green of Gordon College, this book is a very significant publication from an academic perspective.  The fact that a  publisher like Peter Lang would publish a book of William Booth’s writings indicates that academic study of The Salvation Army has become a significant and legitimate scholarly enterprise.

The book is also the first publication of the newly founded Centre for Salvation Army Studies at Booth University College.  Hopefully it is an indication of more good things to come.

Since it is a hardcover book published by an academic press, it is a bit pricey.   Hopefully the book will do well and they will issue  a softcover edition down the road.  If you’re a serious student of William Booth and The Salvation Army, however, this would be a worthwhile investment, even at full price.

Eason and Green have grouped the writings under several categories:

  1. Origins and Early Days
  2. Salvation
  3. Holiness
  4. Female Ministry
  5. Missions and Missionaries
  6. Relationship to the Church

The book begins with a 12 page introduction which offers a brief overview of Booth’s life and ministry.   Each section also includes its own introduction, which summarizes Booth’s views and offers some background on the particular writings included.

What the book provides is access to important writings of Booth that were previously found either only in periodicals from the time (such as The Revivalist, The Christian Mission Magazine, etc.), or were previously included in other anthologies or collections without proper documentation or background information provided.

For example, Chapter 1, “Origins and Early Days,” includes the following three pieces:

  • “East of London Revival Effort” (originally found in The Revival (August 17, 1865)
  • “Our New Name” (originally found in The Salvationist 1 (January 1879)
  • “How We Began” (originally found in George Scott Railton’s Twenty One Years Salvation Army (London: The Salvation Army Book Depot, 1886).

Other writings included which I find particularly fascinating are “Salvation for Both Worlds,” a pivotal 1889 document that demonstrates the shift in Booth’s theology of redemption, and “The Millennium; or The Ultimate Triumph of Salvation Army Principles” (1890).

As someone who is currently writing a dissertation which deals with Booth and the early Army, this resource has come at a very opportune time.   It is great to have these pieces collected together, and to be able to benefit from the expert scholarship of Eason and Green.

The only thing the book lacks (from my perspective) is a complete table of contents, listing all the writings included.   The TOC only lists the main headings, as I’ve identified above.   I found it a bit inconvenient to have to search through each section to see what was included.  After a few times flipping through the book, I actually typed out my own TOC and stuck it inside the front cover, so I could easily reference the specific writings included.  I’ve pasted the expanded list of contents below, in case any of you are like me and you want the complete list.

However, that is a very minor criticism.  This is a very important resource for those studying The Salvation Army, and I hope many people will make use of the excellent work done by Eason and Green.

*************************

Boundless Salvation: The Shorter Writings of William Booth

Expanded Table of Contents

Acknowledgments – vii

Foreword – ix

Introduction – 1

Chapter 1. Origins and Early Days – 13

East of London Revival Effort (August 17, 1865) – 21

Our New Name (January 1879) – 25

How We Began (1886) – 28

Chapter 2. Salvation – 41

The Conversion of the World (October 1869) – 48

The Model Salvation Soldier (1885) – 49

Salvation for Both Worlds (1899) – 51

The Millennium; or, the Ultimate Triumph of Salvation Army Principles (1890) – 60

Chapter 3. Holiness – 72

Holiness: An Address at the Conference (1877) – 80

Holiness (1881) – 87

A Ladder to Holiness (n.d.) – 101

Chapter 4. Female Ministry – 106

Mrs. Booth as a Woman and a Wife (1910) – 111

On Salvation Women (1901) – 114

More about Women’s Rights (1901) – 118

Woman (1907-8) – 121

Chapter 5. Missions and Missionaries – 128

To the Officers and Soldiers of the Indian Salvation Army (1886) – 134

The Future of Missions and the Mission of the Future (1889) – 139

Chapter 6. Relationship to the Church – 165

Wesleyan Methodist Conference (1880) – 173

What is the Salvation Army? (1882) – 178

The General’s New Year Address to Officers (1883) – 185

Conclusion – 197

Resources for Further Study – 201

22
Mar
12

Catherine Booth at Chatsworth

I was surprised to discover during some reading yesterday that William and Catherine Booth had a bit of a holiday in Chatsworth Park when they were young marrieds.   Maybe I shouldn’t find it surprising, but it’s not the kind of place that I normally imagine the “Army mother” spending time.

Chatsworth has been home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire since Tudor times, and Chatsworth House is one of the most well known and oft-visited English country houses.  The main part of the current house was built in the late seventeenth century, and has been used as a set for many films, including the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.  Apparently, Jane Austen’s fictional Pemberley was inspired by the real-life Chatsworth.

We visited Chatsworth  in September 2010, and it was well worth the trip.  I didn’t care too much for the inside of the house,  but the grounds, and the physical setting of the house itself  are truly amazing.   These pictures give  you a bit of a sense of what it is like, but of course they cannot do it justice.

Catherine seems to have been quite taken by it all when she and William stayed in Chatsworth Park in late October and early November of 1855.  Frederick Booth-Tucker’s biography, The Life of Catherine Booth, Mother of The Salvation Army (2 volumes, 1892), includes extracts from some letters she wrote  to her mother during their stay in the Park, in which she praises the scenery and the magnificence of the house itself.

This afternoon we walked through the park right up to the Duke of Devonshire’s residence. It is one of the most splendid spots I was ever in. It is all hill and dale, beautifully wooded and bestudded with deer in all directions. The residence itself is superior to many of the royal palaces, and the scenery around is most picturesque and sublime. This splendid spot is ours for a week in every sense necessary to its full enjoyment, without any of the anxiety of being its real owner (p. 150).

I suppose I am so used to thinking of Catherine Booth as an austere, self-denying warrior and advocate for the poor, that I find it refreshing to see another side of her – one that is taken aback by the physical beauty and magnificence of a fine English estate.   In another letter she again offers high praise for the beauty of Chatsworth.

This morning we were just preparing to visit Chatsworth House and to explore a part of the park we had not seen, when to our surprise Mr. and Mrs. Fenton and Mr. Mark Firth, brother to the gentleman named in my former letter, came to the door…So we set off to climb some tremendous hills, in order to reach a tower built in the highest part of the Park grounds. I got about half-way up and then my strength failed me, and I begged to be allowed to sit down and wait, while the rest of the party completed the ascent. After much persuasion I carried my point and was left alone, sitting on a stone, my eyes resting on one of the loveliest scenes I ever expect to witness in this world. I enjoyed my meditations exceedingly. I was on an elevation about as high as St. Paul’s, with a waterfall on one side of me and the most romantic scenery you can imagine all round, above and below (p. 152).

Even in the midst of her revelry, however, she did not lose herself completely.  So she continues:

The old Duke ought to be a happy man, if worldly possessions can give felicity. But alas! we know they cannot. And, according to all accounts, he is one of those whom they have failed to impart it (p. 152).




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