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Military Structure & Terminology

Military Structure & Terminology

The administration of The Salvation Army is top-down and autocratic, in true military style, with all positions except that of General being held by appointment.

Salvation Army Beginnings

William Booth’s Christian Mission was functioning as an army in all but name even before becoming ‘The Salvation Army’ in 1878.

Since its earliest days, the Christian Mission adopted military insignia and terminology to represent the battle being waged against poverty and sin. This was very much in keeping with popular Christian themes at the time, reflected in well known hymns of that era such as ‘Onward Christian Soldiers!’.

With the name change in 1878, many more Salvationists began using military phrases, many of which continue today. Uniforms, flags, and brass bands began to appear, and by October 1878, the first volume of Orders and Regulations for The Salvation Army was required reading for Salvationists.

Members & Clergy

In keeping with the military structure, Salvation Army church members are known as ‘soldiers’, while clergy are known as ‘officers’ who hold varying ranks.

Soldiers worship at their local corps (church) and mostly wear a uniform although, unlike officers, they usually only wear it during Sunday worship or whilst attending Salvation Army functions. Many people worship at The Salvation Army without becoming soldiers, and without wearing uniform.

Those holding positions of leadership within the corps are called ‘local officers’. Such positions include leadership of the band, songster brigade (choir), or other groups. Local officer positions are voluntary, unpaid, and are open to both men and women.

Salvation Army officers are full-time ministers of religion, trained and commissioned (ordained) by The Salvation Army. Their work involves all the usual duties of a minister, and can also include diverse roles in Salvation Army social service
programs or administration.

Officers have different ranks and wear uniform whenever they are ‘on duty’.

The world leader, or General, is elected from amongst the most senior Salvation Army officers in the world A group known as the High Council – made up of Salvation Army Commissioners – is summoned together for this purpose when necessary.


Adherent A person who regards The Salvation Army as his/ her spiritual home but has not chosen to make the commitment of 'soldiership' in The Salvation Army
Articles of War (Soldier’s Covenant) This is the statement of beliefs and promises which every intending soldier is required to sign before enrolment
“Blood & Fire” The Salvation Army’s motto, referring to the symbolism of the sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ and the purifying, illuminating fire of the Holy Spirit
Cadet A Salvationist undertaking theological and practical training for officership. The first cadets were trained in 1879
Candidate A soldier who has been accepted to enter training as an officer
Chief of the Staff  This is the leader second in command of The Salvation Army worldwide. He or she is chosen by the General
Citadel Used to refer to the property or church building where Salvationists meet for worship. Other terms used are 'fortress' and 'temple'
Colonel This is a rank appointed to Salvation Army officers on merit by the General
Command A smaller type of Salvation Army Territory directed by a designated 'Officer Commanding'
Commissioner This is the highest rank of a Salvation Army officer except General, and is appointed on merit by the General. Most Territorial Commanders are Commissioner in rank, although some are Colonels
Congress  Central gatherings held in divisions, regions, territories or internationally, attended by officers and their fellow Salvationists
Corps (pronounced ‘core’) A Salvation Army church, similar in concept to that of a parish, sometimes comprising several congregations
Corps Cadet A young Salvationist who undertakes a course of Bible study, Salvation Army doctrine and history, and practical training in his/her corps
Corps Officer Ordained Salvation Army clergy who leads a Salvation Army Corps
Corps Sergeant -Major (CSM)  Similar to the chief 'elder' or lay leader in other Christian denominations, the CSM is the chief local officer for public work who assists the corps officer with meetings (worship services) and usually takes command and responsibility in the corps officer’s absence
Dedication Service The Salvation Army's equivalent to a christening service, it consists of a public presentation of infants to God. It differs from christening or infant baptism in that the main emphasis is upon specific vows made by the parent/s concerning the child's/children's upbringing
Disposition of Forces / (‘dispo’)  A directory of contact details used within The Salvation Army mainly for Army officers, programs and centres
Division A grouping of districts, similar to a diocese in the Anglican Church. Territories are divided into Divisions, each of which has a number of Corps and social centres which are mostly run by officers
Divisional Commander (DC) The leader of a Salvation Army Division
Divisional Headquarters (DHQ) The administrative headquarters of a Division

Farewell Orders

The transfer of officers to new appointments
Furlough Holidays for officers
General The General is the officer elected (by the High Council) to lead The Salvation Army worldwide, and is based at International Headquarters in London. All appointments are made, and all regulations issued, under the General's authority
High Council A group called together on a needs-basis, the High Council elects the General in accordance with The Salvation Army Act 1980.The High Council comprises the Chief of the Staff, all active (as opposed to retired) commissioners except the spouse of the General, and all territorial commanders
Holiness Table see Mercy Seat
International Headquarters (IHQ) The General directs Salvation Army operations throughout 108 countries of the world through the administrative departments of International Headquarters (IHQ) in London, which are headed by International Secretaries
International Secretary An officer appointed by the General to supervise administrative departments at International Headquarters representing various parts of Salvation Army work worldwide
Junior Soldier A boy or girl who, having come to faith in Christ and signed the Junior Soldier's Promise, is enrolled as a Salvationist
League of Mercy Now known as Community Care Ministries, League of Mercy commenced in 1892 to respond to spiritual and social needs through visitation in the local community
Lieutenant -Colonel This is a rank appointed to Salvation Army officers on merit by the General
Local Officer A soldier appointed to a position of responsibility and authority in the corps, who carries out the duties of the appointment without being separated from his/her regular employment/lifestyle and without receiving remuneration from The Salvation Army
Major The rank of a Salvation Army officer who has completed further studies and 15 years service
Meeting Church service
Mercy Seat (penitent form, holiness table) A bench or table provided as a place where people can kneel to pray, seeking salvation or sanctification, or making a special consecration of their life to God's will and service
Officer Ordained Salvation Army clergy, who wear uniforms with red epaulettes indicating their rank
Orders and Regulations for The Salvation Army Effectively a 'Code of Conduct' for all Salvation Army soldiers and officers.
Order of the Founder (The) This order of merit marks meritorious Christian example and witness, and distinguished or memorable service
Order of the Silver Star (The) Inaugurated in the USA in 1930, and extended internationally in 1936, this order expresses gratitude to parents of commissioned officers in The Salvation Army
Outpost A locality in which Army work is carried on and where it is hoped a society or corps will develop
Penitent form see Mercy Seat
Promotion to Glory  The Army's description of the death of Salvationists, with 'glory' symbolising life after death in God's presence
Quarters This refers to the house provided for Salvation Army officers, their spouses and their families
Ranks Officers in The Salvation Army have different ranks. These include Cadet, Captain, Major, Lieut-Colonel, Colonel and Commissioner
Red Shield  A widely recognised Salvation Army symbol of caring service for those in need
Red Shield Appeal An annual financial appeal to the general public to help fund The Salvation Army's extensive social program
Salvation The work of grace which God accomplishes in a repentant person whose trust is in Jesus Christ. The deeper experience of this grace, known as holiness or sanctification, is the outcome of wholehearted commitment to God. Read more in Our Faith
SAGALA (Salvation Army Guards And Legion Association) A branch of work with children from The Salvation Army and the wider community, similar to girl guides/boy scouts
Salvationist member of The Salvation Army, whether an officer or soldier
Secretary Departmental head
Soldier Lay member of The Salvation Army (ie. church members who are non-clergy)
Songster Bridgade Salvation Army choir
Swearing-in The public enrolment of Salvation Army soldiers
Timbrel Musical instrument, similar to a tambourine
Territory For administrative purposes, The Salvation Army internationally is divided into world Territories. Usually each country forms a single Salvation Army Territory, but some where the Army is numerically strong are divided into two or more
Territorial Commander (TC) The leader of a Salvation Army Territory
Territorial Headquarters (THQ) The administrative headquarters for a Territory
War Cry The Salvation Army's official flagship journal, many issues of which are published in many countries. The War Cry was first published in 1879
Young People’s Sergeant Major (YPSM)  A local officer responsible for the young people's work, under the commanding officer


Here are a few commonly used abbreviations

CO  Corps Officer
CSM Corps Sergeant-Major
DC Divisional Commander
DHQ Divisional Headquarters
IHQ International Headquarters
TC Territorial Commander
THQ Territorial Headquarters
YPSM Young People's Sergeant Major
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