Yale Divinity Library
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|Call Number:||RG 247|
|Title:||National Student Christian Federation Archives|
|Physical Description:||29 Linear feet|
|Physical Description:||Total archival boxes: 68 boxes; one oversize box ; Total linear feet: 29'|
|Summary:||These records document the administrative and program history of the National Student Christian Federation. The NSCF was a Protestant Christian federation of denominational student movements, the Interseminary Movement, and foreign and home mission boards from Protestant churches. It was also the United States member of the World Student Christian Federation, and a related movement to the National Council of Churches in Christ in the U.S.A. The organization was created in 1959 when the Interseminary Movement, the Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions, and the United Student Christian Council merged into one organization with the goal of creating an ecumenical community of concern on the college and university campus. These records include correspondence, meeting minutes, and reports illustrating the work of the NSCF.|
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Gift of Princeton Theological Seminary Library.
Information about Access
This collection is open for access.
National Student Christian Federation Archives, Record Group No. 247, Special Collections, Yale Divinity School Library
The National Student Christian Federation (NSCF) was a Protestant ecumenical federation that existed between the years 1959-1966. It was the U.S.A. member of the World’s Student Christian Federation (WSCF) and a related organization to the National Council of the Churches in Christ in the United States of America (NCCCUSA). The NSCF’s purpose was to create an ecumenical community in which college students could participate in Christian fellowship, join in the mission of the church, and witness to the world. They achieved this goal by producing Bible study guides and literature on the missionary task, holding conferences such as the 19th Ecumenical Student Conference on the Christian World Mission, and programming events and materials for the WSCF Life and Mission of the Church program.
The NSCF was formed in 1959 when the Interseminary Movement (ISM), the Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions (SVM), and the United Student Christian Council (USCC) merged into one ecumenical organization, which had “related movement” status within the NCCCUSA. There was impetus for this merger when the NCCCUSA wanted to reorganize its Department of Christian Higher Education. Prior to merging, the SVM, USCC, and Interseminary Movement were affiliated with different departments within the NCCCUSA. Since all three organizations worked with college students it was logical from an administrative standpoint to combine them. The “related movement” status within the NCCCUSA meant that NSCF was a unit in the larger organization yet able to have autonomy regarding direction and public statements. It also meant that NSCF had to abide by the NCCCUSA’s fiscal and personnel policies. Once the organizations joined together the SVM changed its name to the Commission on World Mission. The ISM name also changed to the Committee on the Interseminary Movement.
The NSCF was formed as a federation of member movements and agencies. Member movements included such groups as the YMCA, YWCA, Methodist Student Movement, and the Interseminary Movement, which was made up of eight regional councils. The “agencies” were primarily Protestant denominational departments that had been involved with USCC as well as denominational foreign and home mission boards that had engaged with the SVM. Smaller national churches that did not have a presence at universities, as well as students who wished to develop their own movement, were also encouraged to join NSCF. In 1963, the NSCF constitution was amended to include a membership status of “related organization”. The YMCA and YWCA switched their member status to related organization to denote their nondenominational character. The Young Friends of North America (a Quaker organization) were able to join as a related organization through this amendment too. They had been participating at conferences with “observer status” prior to the amendment. The related status meant organizations had representation at the General Assembly, but they could not vote on matters.
Participation in the NSCF occurred on three levels: attending the General Assembly meeting, holding a position on any of the NSCF’s commissions or committees, and attending programs such as conferences and work camps. The General Assembly met once in a year, and all members (except related organizations) voted on the direction, policies, and committee membership of the NSCF. In its early years much of NSCF’s programming revolved around the WSCF Life and Mission of the Church (LMC) program. This program was intended to strengthen theological and mission ideas within the WSCF, and impart knowledge in these areas to the new generation. NSCF accomplished this goal by publishing material and promoting conferences along themes the WSCF had established. For example, the 1963-1964 LMC theme was “The Word, the World, and the Sacrament,” and the 19th Ecumenical Student Conference incorporated this in its program planning. This quadrennial conference (from the SVM tradition) featured Father Alexander Schmemann, an Orthodox minister, as the main speaker. After the LMC program ended in 1964 there was a shift in programming. By this time, students had more representation within the NSCF. This resulted in seminars and programs on social and political concerns such as apartheid in South Africa, Latin American issues, and the peace concern.
Throughout its life, the NSCF struggled to find direction and define itself to the constituents it served. Part of the problem lay in a lack of cooperation within the NSCF. Initially, the NSCF was a merger in name only. The Commission on World Mission (CWM, formerly the SVM), the Interseminary Movement, and the United Student Christian Council retained their same programming goals and staff. In addition, all three groups kept separate budgets. The NSCF Budget and Finance Committee attempted to keep all accounts reconciled, but it was ultimately up to the departments to spend and raise their own money. Upon creation of the NSCF there was an attempt to merge the Study Department of the USCC and the Literature and Study Committee of the Commission on World Mission into one new unit called the Commission on Ecumenical Study and Strategy (CESS). This did not happen, as much of the work of the CWM’s Literature and Study Department revolved around publishing materials that focused directly upon the missionary vocation. In addition, it took the NSCF two years to activate the CESS. When the CESS started working, its goal was to produce Bible studies and promote the World Student Christian Federation’s Life and Mission of the Church program. At the NSCF General Assembly in 1962, the CESS recommended splitting into two committees and dissolving itself. The new committees were the Inter-movement Council, which focused on student concerns and the Committee on Program and Study Secretaries, which would continue the Life and Mission of the Church work. This type of bureaucratic problem plagued the NSCF. On February 7-9, 1962, a Development Consultation took place in St. Louis, Missouri. The consultation focused on new ways in which all committees and commissions within the NSCF framework should work together and come to term with financial problems. Overall, the NSCF was not meeting its budget, particularly the Committee on the Interseminary Movement, which had stretched itself too thin between planning a Triennial Conference and coordinating a new theological publication. (By 1963, the ISM would close the national office within the NSCF operations and exist only in the form of regional groups.) A group of students led by Rebecca Owen presented a statement explaining their wish for the NSCF to be more responsive to the student-lay community and take their concerns seriously. The committees and commissions pledged to unite staff and budget and allow the General Secretary to direct the entire organization.
The NSCF also faced a problem of communication in making itself known to the students whom it sought to serve. Students learned about programs and goals of the NSCF primarily through denominational agencies and mission boards, which were interested in promoting their own interests first and NSCF second. Since these were the same denominations and mission boards on which NSCF was dependent for financial contributions to sustain its budget, there was a potential for tension if the NSCF were to push for more exposure. In addition, students who did know about the NSCF were frustrated because they felt their concerns were not being heard. The creation of the Inter-Movement Council in 1962 gave students a place to work within the NSCF structure. Out of this Council, concerns for civil rights, Latin American issues, and peace concerns were expressed to the General Assembly. In 1964, Leonard Clough was hired for the General Secretary position. This was a turning point for the NSCF as he encouraged more collaboration within the organization. From this point there was also an increased emphasis on making the NSCF more of a student movement. At the 1964 General Assembly participants voted to suspend the NSCF constitution for one year and to include more student representation on the Central Committee. The Assembly also approved a Student Administrative Secretary who would be based in the New York office working within the administration. (This position was never filled, as the Central Committee felt funding should go to programming.) The Commission on World Mission, the Committee on Ecumenical Service Projects, and the Committee for Christian Work Among International Students (committees of the NSCF) were encouraged to meet on the same day and place in order to improve communication and cooperative work. The General Assembly Hearing Group cautioned that it did not go far enough, asserting that real structural changes were necessary in order to make the NSCF an effective, ecumenical organization. The 1964 General Assembly also saw NSCF taking steps to create a relationship with the secular organization Students for a Democratic Society, as political and social concerns were of high importance to the students.
By the next General Assembly in 1965, structural changes had taken place, such as reduced staff and administrative expenses, to free up money for student-directed programs. The Commission on Ecumenical Voluntary Service Projects was transferred out of the NSCF and into the NCCCUSA’s Division of Christian Unity. Social concerns such as apartheid, the Vietnam War protest movement, and Latin American concerns took precedence during the 1964-1965 year. Clough called upon the General Assembly to either reconsider a new, flexible structure for the NSCF, or end the federation. From his perspective, NSCF needed to become a grassroots student movement, rather than a federation of organizations. During this time period, students were drawn to such grassroots groups instead of joining in established denominational student groups. In order to change, NSCF needed to be a student movement involved in mobilizing instead of reflecting. Ultimately, this led to the NSCF evolving into the University Christian Movement in 1966.
Scope and Content
Series I: Creation of the NSCF represents the negotiations and discussions that occurred between the Interseminary Committee Movement, Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions, and the United Student Christian Council. These files contain proposed by laws, constitutions with reactions to these documents, minutes, and reports.
Series II: Organization and Policy Records contains material related to the administrative duties, policy, and procedures of the NSCF. The types of records found consist of constitutions, organizational charts, staff memos and minutes, and detailed office procedures.
Series III: Administrative/Governance Committees houses the records of the Budget and Finance Committee, Central Committee, Executive Committee, Inter-Movement Council, and Personnel Committee. Materials in these subseries consist of memos, minutes, and reports. Subseries contain their own scope and contents note.
Series IV: Commission on World Mission comprises administrative and programming records. The CWM was known as the Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions prior to the NSCF merger. The goal of the CWM was to inform college students about the missionary task and vocation. Initially, the CWM kept its programming the same, but as the sixties progressed they became more intertwined within the other commissions and committees of the NSCF such as the Committee on Christian Work Among International Students. Records found in this series are correspondence, drafts of publications, memos, minutes, and field staff reports defining the work of the CWM. Subseries contain their own scope and contents note.
Series V: Committee on the Interseminary Movement focused primarily on graduate students at seminaries. The national office related to six regions: New England, Southwest, Southeast, Midwest, West Coast, and Middle Atlantic. The two major jobs the CISM carried out were programming for the Triennial Conference and the publication of The Interseminarian. Facing financial difficulties and lack of student interest, the CISM closed its national office in New York City on June 30, 1963. A new inter-regional council took its place, and requested their relationship to the NSCF to be dissolved. The regional ISM were still part of the NSCF even though the national direction was no longer present. Records in this series comprised of correspondence, memos, minutes, reports, and materials relating to the National Council of Churches Faith and Order Commission.
Series VI: Civil Rights Committee and Activities represents the NSCF's concern of political and social action. The NSCF was very much an organization of its time. Materials found in this series consist of correspondence, meeting minutes, and reports.
Series VII: World Student Christian Federation Materials are divided into two subseries. The first subseries contains WSCF minutes, reports, and publications sent to its member movements. The second subseries contains NSCF materials directly related to WSCF programming, particularly the Universal Day of Prayer.
Series VIII: Program Committees houses the records for committees responsible for programming. The Commission on Ecumenical Studies and the Committee on Program and Study Secretaries produced materials such as Bible Studies and other literature for the WSCF Life and Mission of the Church emphasis. The Committee on Christian Work Among Foreign Students addressed the needs of international students in the college Christian community. The Committee on Christian Peace Concerns, Latin America Concerns Committee, and the South Africa Concerns Committee were organized out of the Inter-Movement Council to address student social and political concerns. Materials found in this series consists of correspondence, minutes, and reports. Subseries contain their own scope and contents note.
Series IX: Conferences contains materials related to the various conferences planned or sponsored by the National Student Christian Federation. The General Assembly was the annual conference of the NSCF in which all member movements met to vote on programming and direction for the upcoming year. The 19th Ecumenical Student Conference has the sponsoring name of NSCF attached to it, but it is related to the Commission on World Mission's (formerly Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions) quadrennial conferences. The Christianity and the Law Conference had previously been coordinated by the USCC, and continued with the NSCF administration for a short time. NSCF being the North American member of the WSCF meant they cosponsored and sent delegates to WSCF conferences in the area such as the WSCF Latin American Conference in Mexico City, Mexico. Records consist of correspondence, minutes, reports, promotional materials generated for planning conferences.
Series X: Publications and Printed Materials houses publications such as books, papers, newsletters, journals, and circular documents created by the NSCF, WSCF, and organizations that participated in the NSCF.
Series XI: Members and Related Organizations contains conference materials, meeting minutes, papers and reports from organizations that were members and related members to the NSCF.
Series XII: Oversize Materials consists of materials in a larger format such as account ledger pages, and the newsletter Wind and Chaff which was published by the NSCF.
Organized into twelve series: I. Creation of the NSCF, II. Organization and Policy Records, III. Administrative Committees, IV. Commission on World Mission, V. Committee on the Interseminary Movement, VI. Civil Rights Committee and Activities, VII. World Student Christian Federation, VIII. Program Committees, IX. Conferences and General Assemblies, X. Publications, XI. Members and Related Organizations of the NSCF, and XII. Oversize Materials.