The Salvation Army (TSA) states that it has about 27 thousand officers (minsters), and about 1.5 million soldiers and junior soldiers (members, or salvationists) in 2021 (statistics – The Salvation Army International, salvationarmy.org). It claims about 430,000 members in the U.S.A. (2021 Annual Report, salvationarmyannualreport.org).
The Church of the Nazarene (COTN) reports that it had about 2.6 million members worldwide in 2020 (General Secretary releases 2020 statistics, Nazarene.org). There are about 611 thousand members in the USA and Canada (ibid). The state with the greatest number of adherents was California in 2010. The state with the highest percentage to state population was Idaho in 2010 (Church of the Nazarene, thearda.com).
We are considering these two denominations together because of their roots. Both have a historical connection with the Methodist/Wesleyan Church.
1. William Booth (1829-1912), Catherine Booth (1829-1890), and The Salvation Army. Here are some details about William Booth prior to TSA. He was born in Sneinton, Nottingham, England. His parents struggled with money. They provided little religious training. His father insisted that he and his siblings attend church, but rarely went himself. His mother told him, “Be good William, and all will be well.” His teen years were eventful. He became a pawnbroker apprentice for six years. His father died. He became a member of the Methodist church.
In 1849, he moved to London. He worked as a pawnbroker. He also became a “lay preacher.” In 1855, he married Catherine Mumford. She had been reared in a Methodist home. She grew up reading the Bible. She was also a feminist. She encouraged her husband to preach. He was ordained a minister by the Methodist New Connexion (Methodist Reform Church) in 1858. In 1859, Catherine wrote a pamphlet, Female Ministry: Women’s Right to Preach the Gospel. She began to preach in 1860, telling her husband that she had something to say.
William and Catherine left the Methodist New Connexion (MNC). There had been disagreements with the Methodist, and later the MNC. William’s bringing the poor in the front door of the church house, instead of the side door, and giving the poor the best seats in the church house had stirred controversy in the Methodist church. His desire for the MNC to support him to do evangelistic work among the poor, instead of being assigned a circuit, and the MNC refusal to do so, frustrated him. He also disapproved of the MNC allowing producers and purveyors of alcohol to become members. Therefore, they became independent itinerant preachers in 1862.
In 1865, they started The Christian Mission. The work was centered in London’s East End. They used social programs, such as feeding the poor in soup kitchens, to open doors to their message.
In 1878, the name was changed to the Salvation Army. It was organized along military lines with military ranks. William Booth became its first General. Catherine Book held the rank of Commissioner, the second highest rank.
[Some of the works consulted for this history: The Story of The Salvation Army by Sian Ellis, britishheritage.com; The General Next to God: The Story of William Booth and the Salvation Army by Richard Collier; Handbook of Denominations by Frank S. Mead and Samuel S. Hill; William Booth, christianitytoday.com; William Booth, biography. yourdictionary.com; Who We Are, arizona.salvationarmy.org; William Booth, The New Standard Encyclopedia; The Salvation Army, The New Standard Encyclopedia; Catherine Booth, britannica.com; William Booth – Salvation Army 1953 Documentary, YouTube; What is the Salvation Army?, Ready to Harvest, YouTube].
2. Church of the Nazarene The COTN has its origin in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The church of the Nazarene came out of the Methodist Holiness movement and may be considered an effort to reform Methodist practices and teachings. One Nazarene source writes, “As time passed, the preaching and teaching of the doctrine and experience of the Spirit-filled life (Sometimes called entire sanctification or Christian holiness) began to wane within Methodism in the U.S. and Great Britain. Opposition even developed to those Methodist seeking to maintain a focus on the biblical call to holy living. This resulted in the organization of new denominations… About that same time (latter part of the 19th century), a holiness revival spread across the U.S. In addition to Methodist, the revival involved member of many Protestant denominations. Sadly, the holiness movement was not universally popular, and opposition… arose. Such opposition led groupings of holiness people to band together for mutual encouragement. The Church of the Nazarene was born in the context of this banding together of various small associations of local churches that had been formed to preach and teach holiness” (Our history – The Church of the Nazarene, snu.edu).
“The Church of the Nazarene” started out as a single church in California. “The Church of the Nazarene began to be organized in 1895 in Los Angeles, California, based on the doctrine of entire sanctification” (History of the Church of the Nazarene, learnreligion.com). Various mergers occurred in 1907 with eastern Holiness groups, and in 1908 with southern Holiness groups. October 13, 1908 is considered by many to be the start of the denomination (snu.edu). It was first called the Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene. In 1919, the “Pentecostal” was dropped because of it becoming associated with tongue speaking and Spiritual gifts (britannica.com).
[Some of the works consulted for this history: Our History – The church of the Nazarene, snu.edu; Church of the Nazarene, britannica.com; Church of the Nazarene, learnreligious.com; Founding/Church of the Nazarene, our beginning, Nazarene.org; Handbook of Denominations by Frank S. Mead and Samuel S. Hill; Church of the Nazarene: 10 Things to Know About Their History, christianity.com; History of Church of the Nazarene, History Media, YouTube, What is the Church of the Nazarene, Ready to Harvest, YouTube].
TSA: “There are three pillars which provide a secure foundation for Christian faith and practice. These three are: the teachings of Scripture… The direct illumination of the Holy Spirit… and the consensus of the Christian community… Each of these three foundational sources requires the authentication of the other two to ensure that gospel truth is maintained” (The Salvation Army Handbook 2020, chapter one).
COTN: “We believe in the plenary inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, by which we understand the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, given by divine inspiration, inerrently revealing the will of God concerning us in all things necessary to our salvation, so that whatever is not contained therein is not to be enjoined as an article of faith” (Church Constitution, Manual 2017-2021, Section 4 and 20.2).
Beliefs and Practices
TSA: “Salvation is made possible through God’s grace and is available to all people” (Handbook, Chapter seven). “We believe that we are justified by grace through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ… Those who come to God in true repentance and faith discover the overwhelming reality of his freely offered forgiveness” (Handbook, chapter 8).
COTN: “We believe that justification, regeneration, and adoption are simultaneous… and are received by faith, preceded by repentance” (Church Constitution, section 9.3). They have, at least in the past, led people to the mourner’s bench for salvation, a practice which originated with the Methodist and John Wesley (Mourner’s bench explained, everything.expained.today; Methodist History: The Mourner’s Bench, United Methodist Video YouTube). Waymon D. Miller said in a sermon in 1949, which was later printed in a booklet entitled Why I Left The Nazarene Church, “According to Nazarene theology, a person goes to the mourner’s bench to pray away his past personal sins. (And I remind you my friends, that I am speaking from personal experience…) This is the first blessing…But…they must return again to seek the second blessing. The first experience at the mourner’s bench prays them through to salvation from their sins…they have to return to the bench for …Adam’s sin. That is sanctification in a nutshell, according to their concept of it” (missionprinting.us).
TSA: “By God’s gracious provision the Holy Spirit works within us and calls us to holiness which is the privilege of all believers” (Handbook, Chapter 10).
COTN: “We believe that sanctification is the work of God which transforms believers into the likeness of Christ… We believe that entire sanctification is that act of God, subsequent to regeneration, by which believers are made free from original sin, or depravity, and brought into a state of entire devotement to God, and the holy obedience of love made perfect. It is wrought by the baptism with or infilling of the Holy Spirit, …empowering the believer for life and service” (Church Constitution, section 10). See above the words of Waymon D. Miller concerning the role of the mourner’s bench.
3. Loss of Salvation
TSA: “It is possible to cease to obey Christ and so forfeit our hope of eternal life” (Handbook, Chapter 9).
COTN: Hal Cauthron and Howard Culbertson of Southern Nazarene University answer, “God offers us a renewed relationship with Him based on Christ’s work on the cross. We choose to begin that relationship and we can choose to continue it or even – tragically – end it” (What we believe and teach, snu.edu).
TSA: “Unlike most other Christian denominations, The Salvation Army does not observe the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion. The Salvation Army believes it is possible to experience the inward grace of which the sacraments are outward signs, without need for the rituals themselves” (Worship Expressions, salvationarmy.org.au).
COTN: “Christian baptism is a sacrament signifying participation by faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and incorporation into His body, the church’ (Sacraments and Rituals, section 701). They baptize both infants and adults (Church of the Nazarene Beliefs by Jack Zavada, learnreligions.com). They do not believe that baptism is necessary for salvation (More Questions and Answers by Jon Twitchell, whitehorsenazarene.org).
5. Lord’s Supper
TSA: see Above
COTN: “The Communion Supper… is a sacrament which proclaims His life, His sufferings, His sacrificial death, and resurrection, and the hope of His coming (Sacraments and Rituals, section 701). I did not find a statement about frequency.
Both emphasize moral living and a sanctified life. Both encourage abstinence from alcohol, tobacco, and drug abuse (Alcohol, Tobacco & other Drugs, Salvationarmy.org.nz; The Covenant of Christian conduct, section 29.5, 29.6). Both are pro-life (Positional Statement: Abortion, Position Statement: Euthanasia, salvationarmy.org; The Covenant of Christian Conduct section 29.5, 29.6, 30; 30.1). TSA seems to be softening on its stance against LGTBQ (nondiscrimination, salvationarmy.org). COTN has not (The Covenant of Christian Conduct, Section 31). Both are opposed to gambling (Positional Statement: Gambling, salvationarmy.org; The Covenant of Christian Conduct, Section 29.2).
7. End Times
Neither have a binding position an eschatology (Handbook, Chapter 11, Not An Escape, holinesstoday.org).
TSA: It is a top-down organization. Corps (congregations) are grouped into divisions, and divisions into territories with the international headquarters in London, England under the General. The national headquarters in the U.S.A. is in Alexandria, Virginia (Salvation Army Organization, brasscraft.com; USA National, salvationarmy.org).
COTN: “The government… is representative, and thus avoids the extremes of episcopacy on the one hand and unlimited congregationalism on the other” (Preamble to Church Government, Section one). Local churches are arranged into geographical districts, and districts into regions. The Church headquarters is in Lenexa, Kansas (Church of the Nazarene, Christianity.com; britannica.com).
TSA: The phrase “on the wagon” is believed to have come from TSA’s work. Evangeline Booth, William Booth’s daughter, drove a hay wagon through the streets of New York encouraging alcoholics to get on the wagon and ride to TSA (The True History of the Phrase “on the wagon,” The Salvation Army USA, YouTube). COTN: Their name comes from Jesus being called a Nazarene (Matthew 2:23). Their being called Nazarenes come from the word of Tertullus at Caesarea (Acts 24:5), in opposition to Paul.