Student Christian Movement of Canada
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|Purpose||youth-led Christian ecumenism|
The Student Christian Movement of Canada (SCM Canada) is a youth-led ecumenical network of student collectives based in spirituality, issues of social, economic, and environmental justice, and building autonomous local communities on campuses across the country. It is part of the World Student Christian Federation.
In 1895, leaders from North American and European countries established and united national SCMs within the first international student organization, the World Student Christian Federation
In 1921, SCM Canada was founded and incorporated into the WSCF.
Like its international counterpart, SCM Canada has had a complex history of membership, influence, and activity since its inception. It has been part of the ecumenical movement, the turbulence of the 1960s student movements, the mid-20th century shift in balance of power from liberal to evangelical Christian conservatism, the pressures of maintaining unity across the spectrum of Christianity and the tension between a theological study focus and a social activism focus.
Since its founding, SCM Canada has taken stands on pressing social issues of its time, including support for the ordination of women, opposing internment of Japanese-Canadians during World War II; anti-war activities since the 1960s; and facing controversy for its solidarity with lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-identified Christians. Members were involved in the Canadian Social Gospel movement, which mobilized for a more just social order in Canada, including accessible health care, education, and social services.
Some projects the movement has undertaken include socialist work camps in the 1940s and 1950s in which students would work in unionizing factories during the summer and pool their resources in communal houses of prayer; summer solidarity projects between 2000 and 2002 exploring sustainable living in rural community; international solidarity exchanges with more militant SCMs in the Philippines and Nicaragua; and annual student educational trips they call pilgrimages.
The pilgrimage model started with a tour of radical labour and faith organizations in southern Ontario and the north-east USA. Today, SCM Canada travels every November to the gates of the US army base at Fort Benning, Georgia, to protest the human rights abuses of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC, formerly the School of the Americas).
SCM Canada was investigated by Canadian security services during the Cold War for alleged Communist infiltration because of its positions on economic justice and opposition to nuclear weapons. Some members were linked to the Communist Party of Canada, but the movement denied formal links.
Since the 1990s, SCM Canada has attracted a variety of students, but the network is considerably smaller than in previous decades when mainline Protestant churches were more prominent in Canadian life.
Politically, SCM tends to hold a number of converging political ideologies and outlooks in its ranks, including anarchist and feminist principles of decentralized organizing, liberal concerns with human rights and equality, and emphasis on praxis in integrating theories of social change, theologies, and leftist social activism. Liberation theology has had a major impact on bridging the movement's political and spiritual direction.
Spiritually, SCM members come not only from traditional supporters, the United Church of Canada and the Anglican Church of Canada but also Roman Catholics, Mennonites, some Evangelicals and some non-Christians. Styles of local worship range from contemplative meditation, to monastic styles, praise music and less tradition creative liturgies and ritual.
SCM Canada used to publish an independent magazine, All Things New, twice a year.
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- The local unit is considered the heart of the movement. Activities and styles vary widely, depending on who is involved. Local unit activities have included retreats, film festivals, anti-war and other activism, liberation theology Bible studies, LGBT and religion workshops, potluck suppers and social gatherings, student-led worship services, meditation, and popular education around justice issues of concern to the group. Local units can also vary widely in their identification with Christianity, interfaith, and the Church.
- Local unit members and its national board gather annually at a national conference, which explores current social or political issues from a Christian ecumenical perspective, and features the highest decision-making body of the movement, National Council, which operates on consensus decision principles.
- SCM Canada used to organize an annual pilgrimage to the gates of the US army base at Fort Benning, Georgia to protest alleged human rights abuses of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC, formerly School of the Americas).
- The movement also advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people's rights, which began in the mid-1990s with a popular pamphlet, Stop Homophobia in the Churches, which was updated and republished in 2007. In 2006, SCM Canada received a $100,000 US grant from the Liberty Hill Foundation to launch a Queer & Christian Without Contradiction campaign across Canada.
- In 2014, SCM along with the Beansprout Collective launched a three-day Festival called Cahoots Festival: Faith, Justice & DIY. Cahoots holds a series of workshops on social justice and faith issues. http://cahootsfest.ca/
SCM Canada is a grassroots organization composed of autonomous local unit collectives that associate with each other regionally and across Canada. The Canada-wide body of the movement is associated with regional bodies of the WSCF.
SCM Canada is currently the only student-led affiliate of WSCF in North America, although a North America Regional office was founded in 2007, and SCM-USA is currently being founded by a steering committee, following a regional conference held in San Francisco in January 2009.
The highest decision-making body in the movement is General Council, which convenes every spring at the movement's General Conference. The location rotates between regions. All decisions are made by consensus of all students present, regardless of seniority or experience, and are facilitated by the elected Co-Chairs to the General Board.
University students run local unit collectives, generally based on some form of consensus decision-making, facilitated by at least one Local Unit Coordinator or Animator (formerly local secretaries), although some groups are completely self-directed. Local units are often allied with campus chaplains, other social activist and/or spiritual/religious groups on campus, and local organizations beyond the academy.
Twice a year, SCM Canada used to publish an independent magazine. Each issue addressed a topic decided upon by the movement and included local unit reports, internal communication and discussions about the movement's direction.
SCM used to publish occasionally a theological journal, Epistle.
All SCM members who attend General Conference (usually every May) comprise the General Council of SCM Canada. General Council is the highest decision-making body of SCM Canada. The General Council elects and empowers a General Board of Directors to continue the Movement's business throughout the year.
The Board of Directors of SCM Canada is made up of two Co-Chairs, two regional coordinators (as explained above), and four coordinators who take on the role of various "Desks." These four Desks are the Outreach Coordinator, the Fundraising and Finance Coordinator, the Anti-Oppression Coordinator, and the Communications and Resources Coordinator.
One or two General Secretaries are hired by the General Board to administer, fundraise, assist in Canada-wide programs, and network local units and board members throughout the year. The General Office is currently in Toronto, Ontario.
SCM Canada is part of the North American Region of the WSCF.
The WSCF North American Region includes SCM Canada, Jeunesse Etudiante Chrétienne (Québec), the Lutheran Student Movement(USA), the United Methodist Student Movement (USA) and the U.S. Council for Ecumenical Student Christian Ministry. The North America Regional Office is located in New York, New York. The North America Regional Secretary is Luciano Kovacs.
The Inter-Regional Office of the WSCF is located in Geneva, Switzerland.
Allied Movements & Organizations
Ideologies & Philosophies
- Christian anarchism
- Christian communism
- Christian feminism
- Christian left
- Christian socialism
- Liberation theology
- Postmodern Christianity
- Progressive Christianity
- Social Gospel
- Social justice
- Student Christian Movement of Canada: celebrating 80 years of faith and social justice. | Catholic New Times (, 2001)
- Paul Axelrod, Making a Middle Class (McGill-Queen's University Press 1990), 129
- Catherine Gidney, A Long Eclipse: The Liberal Protestant Establishment and the Canadian University 1920-1970 (McGill-Queen's University Press 2004),106-111
- Catherine Gidney, "Poisoning the Student Mind?: The Student Christian Movement at the University of Toronto 1920-1965", Journal of the Canadian Historical Association, NS #8 (1997), 155-156
- <img src="http://scmcanada.org/images/webbanner4-504.gif"> | Student Christian Movement of Canada