Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Officership in the Salvation Army : a Case Study in Clericalisation

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posted on 2021-11-08, 08:20 authored by Hill, Harold Ivor Winston

This thesis attempts an historical review and analysis of Salvation Army ministry in terms of the tension between function and status, between the view that members of the church differ only in that they have distinct roles, and the tradition that some enjoy a particular status, some ontological character, by virtue of their ordination to one of those roles in particular. This dichotomy developed early in the life of the Church and can be traced throughout its history. Jesus and his community appear to have valued equality in contrast to the priestly hierarchies of received religion. There were varieties of function within the early Christian community, but perhaps not at first of status. Over the first two or three centuries the Church developed such distinctions, between those "ordained" to "orders" and the "laity", as it accommodated to Roman society and to traditional religious expectations, and developed structures to defend its doctrinal integrity. While most renewal movements in the Church from Montanism onwards have involved a degree of lay reaction against this institutionalisation, clericalism has always regained the ascendancy. The Christian Mission, originating in 1865 and becoming The Salvation Army in 1878, began as a "lay" movement and was not intended to become a "Church". By the death of its Founder in 1912 however it had in practice become a denominational church in all but name and its officers had in effect become clergy. At the same time it continued to maintain the theory that it was not a church. The first three chapters explore this development, and the ambiguity that this uncertainty built into its understanding of ministry. In the Army's second century it began to become more theologically aware and the tension between the incompatible poles of its self-understanding led to prolonged debate. This debate is followed firstly through published articles and correspondence mainly from the period 1960-2000, and then in the official statements produced by the organisation. Separate chapters attend to the way in which this polarity was expressed in discussion of the roles of women and of auxiliary officers and soldiers of the Army. The culmination of this period of exploration came with the setting up of an International Commission on Officership and subsequent adjustments to the Army's regulations. The conclusion argued however that these changes have not addressed the underlying tensions in the movement's ecclesiology, between the "radical reformation" roots of its theology and the hierarchical shape of its ecclesiology, and attempts to explore future possibilities for the Army's theology of ministry. In retrospect it may be seen that The Salvation Army recapitulates in microcosm the historical and sociological processes of the Church as a whole, its history illustrating the way in which pragmatic measures become entrenched dogma, while charismatic revivals and alternative communities are reabsorbed into the structures of power and control.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Religious Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Art History, Classics and Religious Studies


Veitch, Jim