The Salvation Army and Communion: Do I Look Like Christ?

Salvation Army communion and baptism


The Salvation Army does not practice Communion or baptism. It sees Christ in all aspects of life, especially in our mission to the world.

The Salvation Army and Communion: A History

In its early days, God led The Salvation Army not to observe specific sacraments including Communion, sometimes known as the Eucharist or the Lord’s Supper (amongst other names) and baptism. God helped us to see the danger in relying on external rituals to signify the experience they point to.

A Sacramental People

However, Salvationists are a sacramental people. We find God living and at work not in bread and wine or water but in our every day life experiences. We celebrate his presence in our own lives and the lives of others by connecting them with the earthly life of Jesus.

A Sacramental Mission

We also find God in our mission. We believe that when our lives bring grace, healing and reconciliation to the world around us, then Christ can be seen. One of my most cherished Salvation Army songs, written by General Albert Orsborn, reminds me:

My life must be Christ’s broken bread,
My love his outpoured wine,
A cup o’erfilled, a table spread
Beneath his name and sign,
That other souls, refreshed and fed,
May share his life through mine.

2 My all is in the Master’s hands
For him to bless and break;
Beyond the brook his winepress stands
And thence my way I take,
Resolved the whole of love’s demands
To give, for his dear sake.

3 Lord, let me share that grace of thine
Wherewith thou didst sustain
The burden of the fruitful vine,
The gift of buried grain.
Who dies with thee, O Word divine,
Shall rise and live again.

Albert Orsborn (1886-1967)
© The General of The Salvation Army.

Used By Permission. CCL Licence No. 135015
Copied from The Song Book of The Salvation Army
Song Number 610

The Salvation Army and Communion: A Myth?

In a discussion on The Salvation Army and Communion, a Salvationist once dismissed our radical approach to sacramental mission as mythology that surrounds the original decision not to practice Communion and argued this song was not an adequate explanation as to why The Salvation Army does not practice Communion or baptism.

A Broken and Outpoured Life

I disagree. In our mission to Love God and Love Others, Christ can be seen. My life is sacramental, my life is Christ’s broken bread and outpoured wine when it is centred on Christ and when it reveals and offers to others the unexpected grace he has shown me and longs to show to them. Christ is seen when I speak on behalf of God. Christ is seen when my lifestyle reflects him. Christ is seen wherever you see compassion for the lost, lonely and vulnerable. Radical love for the marginalised in our society is an image of God.

Experiencing Christ in our Mission

The Salvation Army would never suggest Christians should not practice Communion or baptism, if they help them connect with God. But we do testify that we can see, smell, hear, touch and taste Christ in our mission to the world as we share God’s grace with those around us.

Photo by James Coleman on Unsplash

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2 thoughts on “The Salvation Army and Communion: Do I Look Like Christ?”

  1. So, are we to ignore the commandments of Jesus Christ Himself?
    1 Corinthians “this do” and “oft” and “in remembrance of me” are not merely suggestions.
    Jesus Himself was baptized, and he commanded us to “repent AND be baptized”.
    He also said, “I’f you love me, you will keep my COMMANDMENTS”.
    How can the SA justify replacing these with “traditions of men”?

    1. Hi Theo. Do what in remembrance of me? Hold a Passover meal? Turn eating bread and drinking wine into a church ritual and do it once a week or less? Or remember me every time you eat and drink together? Jesus was baptised, but the gospels also tell us that Jesus himself did not baptise anyone (John 4). The most important thing for Paul as far as the disciples in Ephesus were concerned (Acts 19) was that they be baptised with the Holy Spirit which supersedes John’s baptism of repentance. The Salvation Army certainly endorses and emphasises the baptism of the Holy Spirit. What is the Eucharist/Communion, etc. in ritualistic terms if not “traditions of men”. The Salvation Army (and I) do not condemn brothers and sisters in Christ for having these rituals, and interpreting Jesus’ words in that way, but we do believe we are called to show that Jesus’ followers do not need to rely on outward signs of inward grace. In Christ. Rob

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