People who have done research on The Salvation Army and the sacraments will probably be familiar with these quotes, but I find that a lot of people are surprised by some of the things that William Booth said about the Army’s non-observance of the sacraments. So I’m just putting these three quotes out there, as a follow up to my last post.
First, from Booth’s official announcement that the SA would stop observing the sacraments (“The General’s New Year Address to Officers,” The War Cry, Janary 17, 1883):
Now if the sacraments are not conditions of salvation, and if the introduction of them would create division of opinion and heart burning, and if we are not professing to be a church, not aiming at being one, but simply a force for aggressive salvation purposes, is it not wise for us to postpone any settlement of the question, to leave it over for some future day, when we shall have more light?”
Moreover we do not prohibit our own people… from taking the sacraments. We say, ‘If this is a matter of your conscience, by all means break bread. The churches and chapels around you will welcome you for this.
Second, from a book Booth wrote in 1885 called Doctrines and Disciplines of The Salvation Army, Section 26, question 6 (I’m taking the quote from Roger Green, The Life and Ministry of William Booth (Nashville: Abingdon, 2005), 148):
Q: What is the teaching of Army on the subject of the Lord’s Supper? A: When such an ordinance is helpful to the faith of our Soldiers, we recommend its adoption.
Finally, a quote from an interview Booth gave in 1895 (again from Green, 148):
…I should like to emphasize the fact that this with us is not a settled question. We never disclaim against the Sacraments; we never even state our own position. We are anxious not to destroy the confidence of Christian people in institutions which are helpful to them.
Obviously, I’m putting these up to flag the provisionality of Booth’s position (and the total lack of mention of a divine calling NOT to observe the sacraments), and also his desire to avoid any theological controversy relating to the sacraments. He may have been naive to think that not having sacraments would steer him clear of controversy!, but also note that he viewed this position as conditional in part on the Army’s claim that it was not a church. Most Salvationists today claim that the Army IS a church.