According to a memo leaked to The Washington Post last week, the Salvation Army was hoping to swing a deal with the Bush administration: the Army would support his faith-based initiatives if he protected them from local laws requiring employers to provide benefits for employees' same-sex partners. As extensively documented in CT Weblog (appearing daily at Christianity Today magazine's site), the media went bananas, accusing the Salvation Army of everything from "injecting religious views into secular activities" to issuing a "call to hate." According to the rabid newspaper columnists, letting city councils adjudicate doctrine is more appropriate than letting a church (for the Salvation Army is first and foremost a Christian church) manage its own affairs. So that "wall of separation" is really more of a one-way door?

At any rate, aggravating as this assault must be to the Salvationists, they've weathered worse.

William Booth (1829-1912), who founded the Army along with his wife, Catherine, started his ministry in England's Wesleyan Methodist church. Soon after his conversion, teenage Booth invited a group of street people to his chapel. The elders resented the intrusion and told him not to bring them again. Booth eventually became a minister with the denomination, but in 1850, due to a misunderstanding, the church kicked him out. He tried the Reform Methodists and the Methodist New Connexion but decided by 1861 that he was done with "settled ministry." A few years later he organized the East London Christian Mission, which, in 1878, became the Salvation Army.

Booth's organization focused on evangelism, announcing, "The Christian Mission has met in Congress to make War. It has organized a Salvation Army to carry the blood of ...

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