Most people realize the work of Volunteers of America is a ministry, but few know that we are also a church.
We don’t have services or sacraments on any regular basis. We don’t keep a membership roll and our preaching is done in small groups and one-on-one sessions instead of from a pulpit. But our commitment to the teachings and example of Jesus goes back to our founding.
Volunteers of America founders Ballington and Maud Booth embraced the evangelical movement of the late 1800s. They came to the United States on a mission from Ballington’s father, the founder of the Salvation Army.
When they split from the Salvation Army in 1896, one of the organization’s first actions was to commission ministers to spread the work of the gospel.
In the first year, they founded 140 posts. Each had a meeting house for daily worship services that doubled as a soup kitchen and venue for whatever other services were offered. In many cases, the volunteers often slept in the buildings.
Salvation of souls was always the goal for these early Volunteers of America posts. But the founders knew the physical issues of food and shelter often got in the way of people’s spiritual development.
As the organization became more professional in the 1950s, we also had to choose a particular legal standing. Leaders chose to be considered a church because it seemed to be the best fit description for the faith-based movement.
What has developed since is a “cathedral of the open air” that would allow members to worship with their own congregations on Sundays and do the work of Christ during the week.
Former Board member Don Webb put it this way: “He clearly intended that any church claiming to be of Christ would above all want to be like Christ, and, in God’s love, try to serve those who need help. … But we Methodists – Catholics, Baptists, whatever – do need our own nurturing in faith! So on Sundays, we go to our own Mother Church.”
Today we welcome people of all faiths to share in our ministry of service, to uplift their neighbors and serve God by serving others.
The Cardinal Doctrines
Commissioned ministers affirm that their personal Christian faith is in harmony with the cardinal doctrines of Volunteers of America. These are found in Article VII of the Volunteers of America Constitution of 1896.
- We believe in one supreme God, who is “from everlasting to everlasting,” who is infinitely perfect, benevolent and wise, who is omnipotent and omnipresent, and who is creator and ruler of heaven and earth.
- We believe in a Triune God –The Father, Son and the Holy Ghost. We believe these three persona are one, and while separate in office are undivided in essence, co-equal in power and glory, and that all men everywhere ought to worship and serve this Triune God.
- We believe the contents of the Bible to have been given by inspiration of God, and the Scriptures form the divine rule of all true, Godly faith and Christian practice.
- We believe that Jesus Christ, when upon earth, was truly man and yet was truly God—the Divine and human being blended in the one Being, hence His ability to feel and suffer as a man and yet supremely love and triumph as the Godhead.
- We believe that our first parents were created without sin, but by listening to the tempter and obeying his voice fell from grace and lost their purity and peace; and that in consequence of their disobedience and fall all men have become sinful by propensity and are consequently exposed to the wrath of God.
- We believe that Jesus Christ, the only begotten son of God, by the sacrifice of His life, made an atonement for all humanity, and that by whosoever will call upon Him and accept his overtures of grace shall be saved.
- We believe that in order to be saved it is necessary (a) to repent toward God; (b) to believe with the heart in Jesus Christ; and (c) to become regenerated through the operation of the Holy Spirit.
- We believe that the Spirit bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God, thus giving the inward witness of acceptance by God.
- We believe that the Scriptures teach and urge all Christians to be cleansed in heart from inbred sin, so that they may walk uprightly and serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness all the days of their lives.
- We believe the soul shall never die; that we shall be raised again; that the world shall be judged by God; and that the punishment of the wicked shall be eternal, and the joy and reward of the righteous will be everlasting before the throne of God.