Catherine Booth has strongly contributed to the expression and development of Christianity. Through developing the organisation The Salvation Army, Booth addressed discriminatory issues present in the Christian church such as the inequality of women and exclusion of the lower class. Booth has influenced, and still continues to influence Christian society by displaying female equality in the church, workplace and home.
Her charity work through The Salvation Army altered Christianity’s perspective of assisting all people in need and not distinguishing between “deserving” and “undeserving” poor. Booth adapted her church to make it more holy, sacred and appealing to all in society, she placed emphasis on accepting the poor so that more people can go back to god. Catherine Booth influenced the Christian Church’s belief of women’s rights. During her lifetime the Christian Church believed it was heretical to allow a woman to preach and teach adults.
Booth began her work preaching in her home, then teaching in the Dockland parishes of Rotherhithe and Bermondsey1, and conducting evangelistic rallies. She was convinced that women had an equal right to preach and teach. This is displayed in her brochure “Female ministry; or woman’s right to preach” where she stated “Why should a woman be confined exclusively to the kitchen and the distaff, any more than man to the field and workshop. ”2 Booth also pointed out that the first people who proclaimed the news of the resurrection of Jesus were women.
Therefore, due to the strong leadership roles of women in Jesus’s life, women have as much responsibility for the gospel as men. During her work of preaching, Booth received much criticism from Christians and the church, but she also challenged a lot of minds and became a role model for female ministry. Booth was a full and equal partner in establishing the well know organisation, The Salvation Army, which was initially known as The Christian Mission3.
Due to her strong role in creating this charity Booth was proclaimed with the title “Mother of an Army”. Yet again, the salvation army received much censure from the government and Christian variants such as the Church of England for allowing women to have the same rights as men. Lord Shaftesbury, an evangelist and politician in her time stated Booth was an “elevation of women to man’s status”4. The impact and influence of the Salvation Army and it’s strong role of women let the Church of England to fear another schism in Christianity.
When Catherine married William Booth in 1865 he initially disagreed with her beliefs of equality, especially in the church. Although, it wasn’t long before the couple announced their relationship as equal5, William even stated in relation to Catherine’s role in the Salvation Amy “the best men in my army are the women. ”6 Catherine Booth was, and continues to be an example of female equality in the church, workplace and home. Her actions in the 19th century influenced further Christian developments such as the feminist theology in the 20 and 21st century.
Booth’s example continues to change and develop Christian beliefs in female equality; the majority of Christian churches now express women as equal and support their contribution in religious practices. Through her strong belief and acts on social justice, Catherine Booth has developed the expression of social justice in Christianity. She displayed how normal people, normal Christians can help and impact others by adhering to the two focus’ of social justice, direct aid and raising awareness to change unjust structures.
Booth has always had this passion for social justice; when she was a child playing in her yard she watched the arrest of a drunken man. Instead of running away in disgust, Booth went and kept the man company, holding his until they reached the jail7. Moral stories like Catherine’s continue to influence many people of a significant Christian belief, accepting and helping people. Through the work of the Salvation Army Booth approached the direct aid focus of social justice by establishing food for million shops and improving work conditions for women and children.
She was distinct from the other charities and churches of her time, as she did not distinguish between “deserving” and “undeserving” poor. This is evident through her successful campaigns, focusing on the raising awareness area of social justice, against the use of yellow phosphorus in matching making factories. Other campaigns included the injustice of “white slavery” (prostitution of young women) which resulted in raising the age of consent from thirteen to sixteen years, and supporting the temperance society. 8 Catherine Booth stated “It is a shameful scandal on those Christians andlords who keep their tenants in buildings unfit for dogs. ”9 Booth’s passion for social justice has contributed to the expression of Christianity by displaying Jesus’ love for those in need and not distinguishing between the poor. In doing so, she has also influenced the way Christianity is perceived, this is evident through the high regard which the Salvation Army is now perceived in wider society. Booth’s passion for social justice also developed a determination to initiate a more accepting and holy church in the Christian community.
She abandoned the Christian denominations that she saw as too immutable and middle class, and reached out to those who were excluded from these churches. In the Salvation Army churches, Booth placed an emphasis on holiness and went against the use of sacraments such as communion and baptism. To promote and attract the poor and needy to the church, the salvation army used popular music and theatrical styles such as those that were used in America, this form of ministry was more accessible and appealing to the poor and lower class. 0 The result of Booth’s campaigns were shown in a 1882 survey; on one weeknight 17 000 people were recorded to be worshiping with the salvation army in comparison to 11 000 involved in ordinary church. 11 This statistic challenged other Christian variants to alter their own forms of worship. The goal of the salvation army continues to be the promotion of the Christian faith. 12 By inspiring people to go back to god, Booth remains an important figure in Christianity.
She encouraged the Christian church to accept people over all social classes into their ministry, and now in modern times the church supports and helps the unfortunate in developing their faith in god. Catherine Booth’s impact on the development and expression of Christianity was immense. The acceptance and freedom of women and the lower class in Christian society is greatly due to Catherine Booth. She still continues to influence and contribute to Christianity to this day through her past examples of female equality and social justice. The Salvation Army remains Booth’s legacy that assists all people in developing faith in god.