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.

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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

Can charisms change? Insights from the examples of William Booth and Isaac Hecker

My research on the charism of William Booth and Isaac Hecker is raising some interesting questions in relation to the relative permanence or provisionality of charisms.   Are charisms a permanent endowment given to a person, or can they change, or even come and go, depending on the specific situations faced by the church in various times and places?

The issue is particularly important as it relates the charisms of ordained ministry, because traditions with a “high” view of ordination often believe it bestows a permanent character on the ordained person.

The report on Ministry from the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (1973) provides an example of this kind of thinking:

In this sacramental act, the gift of God is bestowed upon the ministers, with the promise of divine grace for their work and for their sanctification; the ministry of Christ is presented to them as a model for their own; and the Spirit seals those whom he has chosen and consecrated. just as Christ has united the church inseparably with himself, and as God calls all the faithful to life-long discipleship so the gifts and calling of God to the ministers are irrevocable. For this reason, ordination is unrepeatable in both our Churches (#15).

On the other hand, Miroslav Volf, in his After our Likeness, while not discounting the possibility of lifelong charisms, suggests that charisms may come and go:

In contrast to calling, charismata in the theological sense of a combination of calling and endowment for a specific ministry in church and world are not “irrevocable” (Rom. 11:29). Various charismata can replace one another over time, something implied by the interactional model of their bestowal.  Over the history of the congregation and of its individual members, the charismata with which these members serve in the congregation can also change; certain charismata come to the fore at certain times, while others become unimportant (either for the congregation itself of for the bearers of these charismata). This does not mean that the divine calling and endowment for a certain ministry cannot be a lifelong affair; but it is not necessarily such.  In any case, there is no correlation between the permanence of a particular charism and its divine origin.  The Spirit of God is the Spirit of life, adn the Spirit’s gifts are accordingly as varied as is ecclesial life itself (233).

William Booth and Isaac Hecker are interesting case studies in relation to this question, because both experienced what could be called a “broadening” of their respective vocations.

For Booth, the broadening related to his theology of redemption.  This is the development traced in Roger Green’s War on Two Fronts, in which Booth’s understanding of redemption expanded to include efforts at social reform.   Whereas early in his ministry Booth was strictly a revivalist who engaged in some social ministry as a means to and end (the end being evangelism), by 1890 he had come to see efforts at social reform as part of the church’s mission.  Booth came to see salvation as social as well as personal, and therefore solidified and extended the mission of The Salvation Army to include organized efforts at social redemption.

Does this shift in missional thinking and practice signify a change in Booth’s personal charism, or did his charism remain the same, while he gained a broader understanding of its vocational direction?   The answer, of course, depends on how Booth’s charism prior to 1890 is understood.   Was his ministry to the poor and marginalized an essential aspect of his charism, or did he simply have the charism of an evangelist?  Is it possible to have a charism of “evangelist to the marginalized”?

I’m working these questions through right now, but I’m leaning toward suggesting that it wasn’t Booth’s charism that changed, but simply his understanding of where that gift ought to take him and the ways he ought to exercise it in his own context.   If salvation includes the social as well as the spiritual, then being an evangelist ought to include social action, since the good news of the gospel itself has social implications.

For Isaac Hecker, the change came in terms of the scope of his personal mission.   At the time of the founding of the Paulist Fathers (1858), Hecker was captivated by a strong belief that he should be a missionary to America.  He felt that his experience as a native-born American, his acquaintance with the culture, desires, and values of the American people, and his familiarity with a class of Americans who were already on a spiritual quest had placed him in a unique position to reach out to the American people as a Catholic evangelist.  This required, he believed, the founding of a religious society that was specifically adapted to the American culture, since the established religious orders were all of European origin, and thus unsuited to the task of reaching Americans.

Starting in the 1870s, however, Hecker began to broaden his vision, and now felt that the Paulists should not confine themselves to America, but should expand into Europe.  This was supported by his view of America’s providential place in the world – he felt that the American culture, and the experiences of the Catholic Church in America, would provide the solutions for the Church’s troubles in Europe.   He thought the Paulists should take what they had learned in America and come to the aid of the European Church.

Writing in 1875 along these lines, Hecker seems to suggest something like a “provisionality of charisms”:

One may be engaged in a good work, but of an inferior order, more on the circumference; but as it is a good work, and he sees no better, he should act where he is and be contented. Suppose, however, it is given to a soul the light to see a good of a much higher order, more essential, more efficacious, more general, more universal, including the former; and this light draws him from the former, all his interest as such in it has expired, and he lives in this higher and more universal light; can he do no otherwise than follow it? (The Paulist Vocation, Revised and Expanded Edition, p. 96)

As with Booth, I’m not entirely sure where to come down on this issue.  Hecker clearly believed his vocation, and that of the Paulists, had expanded – does this imply a change of charism?  Again, I’m leaning toward the idea that his personal charism did not change; rather his sense of vocation was expanded, based on his growing familiarity with the challenges facing the Church in Europe.

Three Quotes from William Booth on the Sacraments

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.