While many procedures established by the Salvation Army in nineteenth-century London are still in place, its first U.S.-born general is moving the international organization toward greater flexibility in youth outreach.
The 1.4 million-member Salvation Army is in no hurry to dispense with its distinctive hierarchy, uniforms, and territorial divisions, but the denomination's leaders are re-examining their methods in order to be responsive to concerns from youth leaders.
At a January youth forum in Cape Town, South Africa, leaders including Gen. Paul A. Rader received feedback from young Salvationists, as church members are called, who desire their organization to diversify.
Rader chose church growth as a leading priority when he assumed the top command, placing a high value on keeping the Salvation Army culturally relevant in the more than 90 countries in which it operates (CT, Sept. 12, 1994, p. 68).
The Salvation Army's international flavor came to the fore at the forum, held at the University of Cape Town. Here, 500 soldiers gathered at the request of the 62-year-old Rader and his wife, Kay. Members ages 18 to 30 attended from 93 countries and broadly endorsed the denomination's military structure.
But they asked for more flexibility in the wearing of uniforms and more recognition in the command hierarchy of decision making from local churches, or "corps," as they are known. Some participants called for the introduction of water baptism and the celebration of Communion during worship services.
According to Capt. Geoff Ryan, a Canadian working in Russia, Rader's dialogue with young Salvationists is key.
"This is not just about the continued safe existence of the Army," he said, noting a need for the worldwide movement to "customize ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more