The Salvation Army

The Salvation Army

The Salvation Army is a Protestant Christian movement and an international charitable organisation structured in a quasi-military fashion. The organisation reports a worldwide membership of over 1.5 million, consisting of soldiers, officers and adherents known as Salvationists.

The Army was founded in 1865 in London by one-time Methodist circuit-preacher William Booth and his wife Catherine as the East London Christian Mission. In 1878 Booth reorganised the mission, becoming its first General and introducing the military structure which has been retained to the present day. They sought to bring salvation to the poor, destitute and hungry by meeting both their “physical and spiritual needs”.

The theology of the Salvation Army is derived from that of Methodism although it is distinctive in institution and practice. The Army’s doctrine is typical of evangelical Protestant denomination. The Army’s purposes are “the advancement of the Christian religion … of education, the relief of poverty, and other charitable objects beneficial to society or the community of mankind as a whole”.

The Salvation Army entered Southern Rhodesia from its base in South Africa in 1891.  A pioneer party of six families, led by Major Pascoe, set out from Kimberley in May 1891 in a wagon drawn by 18 oxen.  They arrived 6 months later at Fort Salisbury (later Salisbury, now Harare) on November 18, 1891.  Cecil Rhodes had provided the Salvation Army a farm in the Mazoe Valley and it was here that, by May, 1892, missionary work had started.

The early pioneer missionaries struggled with malaria, gaining trust from people, language barriers, cultural differences, uprisings and raids.  Two of the party had left by 1894.  Their missionary efforts were further impacted by the Mashonaland rebellion in 1896.  Work was not resumed until 1901. Initially the missionary focus was preaching and caring for white settlers.  It wasn’t until after a visit in 1908 from William Booth, the head of the Salvation Army, that evangelism efforts shifted towards the “natives.”

For the first 40 years, Salvationists in Southern Rhodesia were under the administrative control of the Commander in South Africa.  That changed in May 1931 when Rhodesia became its own territory with its Territorial Headquarters located in Salisbury (Harare).  The territory initially consisted of Southern and Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) as well as Bechuanaland (Botswana).  The territory has gone through various changes since then.  It was renamed the Zimbabwe Territory in 1988.

The Salvation Army is present in 127 countries, running charity shops, operating shelters for the homeless and disaster relief and humanitarian aid to developing countries.



  • Missions in Southern Rhodesia – Paul King
  • Christian Warfare in Rhodesia-Zimbabwe: The Salvation Army and African Liberation, 1891-1991 – Norman H. Murdoch
  • Mark Loomis