The Salvation Army: an A.A. Source
Article One

Dick B.
© 2010 Anonymous. All rights reserved

It took many years of research before I was able to find and discuss the many strong links between the Salvation Army and Alcoholics Anonymous. And the links were of several different types:

• The Salvation Army work with drunks and derelicts is legendary, and very successful as well. My introduction to their work first came through the pages of Harold Begbie, Twice Born Men (NY: Fleming H. Revell, 1909). This early book became very popular in an A.A. predecessor, the Oxford Group; and it was widely read by early AAs. In short, it discussed the outreach and successes in the slums of London. It laid out a pattern which offered the drunks and derelicts a new life in Christ, a Bible background to guide them, and an insistent challenge that, when well, they help others as members of “God’s Army.” And I will discuss it in another Salvation Army article shortly.

• The evangelical approach of the Salvation Army as it existed at the time of early Alcoholics Anonymous, and the program as described at the Yale Summer School of Alcohol Studies by Envoy J. Stanley Sheppard of the Salvation Army, is summarized below in this article.

• Then there is the Salvation Army, its Adult Rehabilitation Centers (“ARCs”), and its program of today—the description of which I leave to their own writings and people. But it is the County of Maui Salvation Army here in Hawaii which is enabling us to partner with them at their local outpost in Lahaina. This partnership will enable us effectively to bring to their leaders and those adherents who are not involved in an Adult Rehabilitation Center program a preceding introduction through their local outpost study group. And we may also be able to train recovery leaders there or some who return from an ARC so that these returnees are challenged to serve others in a typical Salvation Army manner. And this is a work-in-progress planning effort right now.

But I feel that Christians in recovery and those whom we have seen at the group in Lahaina can be helped throughout Maui through our partnership to consolidate: (a) Bible study, (b) prayer, (c) conversion to God through Jesus Christ, (d) Christian Fellowship such as that which existed in early A.A. and in First Century Christianity, and (e) the still-dominant 12-Step principles and practices such as those found in Alcoholics Anonymous today. And we will discuss that in another article also

This article—the one dealing with the Salvation Army of the 1940's—will present for view the valued work of the Reverend Howard J. Clinebell, Ph.D., in his thorough study of counseling for recovery and prevention using psychology and religion. See Howard Clinebell, Understanding and Counseling Persons with Alcohol, Drug, and Behavioral Addictions: Counseling for Recovery and Prevention Using Psychology and Religion, rev. and enl. ed. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1984).

Dr. Clinebell (now deceased) was Professor Emeritus, School of Theology at Claremont, California. He spent many years studying the Salvation Army, Rescue Missions, Alcoholics Anonymous, and various Christian recovery approaches and programs.

His Understanding and Counseling study makes these important points about the Salvation Army:

". . . the Salvation Army has put its recovery principles into this series of nine Christ-centered steps paralleling some of the important Twelve Steps of A.A.-modeled recovery programs:

1. The alcoholic must realize that he is unable to control his addiction and that his life is completely disorganized.

2. He must acknowledge that only God, his Creator, can recreate him as a decent man.

3. He must let God through Jesus Christ rule his life and resolve to live according to His will.

4. He must realize that alcohol addiction is only a symptom of basic defects in his thinking and living, and that the proper use of every talent he possesses is impaired by his enslavement.

5. He should make public confession to God and man of past wrong-doing and be willing to ask God for guidance in the future.

6. He should make restitution to all whom he has willfully and knowingly wronged.

7. He should realize that he is human and subject to error, and that no advance is made by covering up a mistake; he should admit failure and profit by experience.

8. Since, through prayer and forgiveness, he has found God, he must continue prayerful contact with God, and seek constantly to know His will.

9. Because the Salvation Army believes that the personal touch and example are the most vital forces in applying the principles of Christianity, he should be made to work continuously not only for his own salvation but to help effect the salvation of others like himself." (Clinebell, Understanding and Counseling 188-89).

And if you looked at the original Akron A.A. program, founded in 1935 as a “Christian fellowship,” you could see in the foregoing the footprints of Akron A.A. leader and cofounder Dr. Robert H. Smith and of the program as it was summarized for John D. Rockefeller, Jr., by his agent Frank Amos in 1938. [See DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers (New York, Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1980, 131.]

It is this view of the Salvation Army in the 1940's which we present here in this article. It is this view which can help Christians in recovery better understand how they can be in 12-Step recovery programs today and still call on the role that God, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Bible played in the origins, history, founding, original program, and astonishing successes of the early A.A. “Christian fellowship.”

Please remember, the Salvation Army is only one of five principal Christian roots that impacted on A.A.'s founders and on its first program. But this mid-way description of the Salvation Army illustrates what the Salvation Army may have contributed then, and it offers some solid thinking to Christians in recovery today and to their leaders. In other words, the nine-point program mentioned above fits fairly congruously with the seven-point program of early Akron A.A. and even with the Twelve Step program published in 1939—as it was worded before the compromise with atheists and agnostics just prior to going to the printer. [For more information on this point, see our new four-session class, “Introductory Foundations for Christian Recovery,” on DVD (www,,]

Author's Bio: 

Dick B. is a writer, historian, retired attorney, Bible student, CDAAC, and an active and recovered A.A. member. He has published 39 titles and over 450 articles on the history of Alcoholics Anonymous and its Bible roots