The World Student Christian Federation’s General Assembly is a global networking, training and leadership event that takes place every four years. The GA draws representatives from each of the more than 100 national Student Christian Movements affiliated to the Federation for a week to ten-day live-in conference and business session which focuses the direction of the global movement for the following four years.
The General Assembly is the most representative expression of WSCF’s life. Its functions are:
- To gather students from around the world to share stories of God's work in their lives and their work in God's world
- To review and assess the situation of the member movements, the regions and the world-wide situation of the Federation
- To re-envision the mission of the WSCF and its 105 national movements for the quadrennium to come
- To call forth a new generation of ecumenical student leaders
GA participants and history
General Assemblies or General Committees of WSCF have taken place since the World Student Christian Federation's foundation meeting in 1895. The current four-yearly General Assembly involves student and youth delegates (mostly between 18-35 yrs) from every national Student Christian Movement of the Federation, along with WSCF Executive Committee, Officers, Inter-Regional and Regional staff. This includes, Chairperson, Vice-Chairs, Treasurer, General Secretary, Global Women’s Co-ordinator and Regional Secretaries for the Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Middle East, Latin America and Caribbean and North American regions.
The delegates and their national movements
GA delegates come from 105 national Student Christian Movements (SCMs) which range in theology and ecclesiology from very radical independent Student Christian Movements to traditional church-based student and youth Christian movements.
For example, SCM in the Philippines is a radical Catholic activist movement, in Canada and Australia, SCMs are very theologically progressive and may contain post-Christian elements. In Sri Lanka and Mexico SCMs involve socially and politically engaged Protestants and Catholics and non-Christians are welcome in many movements.
In the Middle East, some movements are the Oriental and Eastern Orthodox Churches’ youth and student divisions, and in Senegal and Uganda, the SCMs are youth departments of mainstream Protestant/Evangelical churches. In other countries SCM members come predominantly from Pentecostal churches.
WSCF’s Student Christian Movements range in numbers from very small (20 members in Singapore) to very large (around 65,000 in Indonesia, around a million in Egypt).
Delegates as ecumenical leaders
Most young people who will be attending the GA have risen to some level of leadership in their national movements or regions, which is why they have been selected to be there. This means that theology is already being experienced in praxis by these people at the cutting edge of ecumenical life. There will be a delegate from Myanmar SCM who was there during the riots and doing relief work through SCM after 2008’s catastrophic cyclone. There will be a delegate from the SCM in Zimbabwe, whose leaders were arrested and illegally detained after the SCM national office was ransacked in June 2008 - because of the SCM’s advocacy for peace and democracy. An SCMer from the Philippines will be there, from a movement which is on the front edge of solidarity and human rights advocacy in the Philippines today, and the southern Sudanese delegate will have been part of the movement’s interfaith efforts in reconciliation and peace-building in the townships of Southern Sudan. Alongside these examples, there will be many young people from movements who are doing their best to be active and thinking student Christians in a variety of less extreme contexts.
WSCF members and the Bible
Our members range in understanding of Biblical inspiration and authority,
hermeneutics and interpretation - right across the spectrum from literalism to divine inspiration to very broadly defined approaches to Biblical texts and their role in faith. What is theologically radical and previously unheard of to some, will be well known by others. Our Bible Study programmes take into consideration feminist, liberationist and ecological approaches to Biblical theology alongside many other cultural and theological perspectives. WSCF is very strong on lay people and young people "doing theology" and "being church" and believe in our capacity to engage with the questions and challenges of Biblical analysis and theological reflection on real issues at a high level.
WSCF, faith and justice
A significant thing that all SCMers have in common is a strong and urgent sense of the connection between faith and justice, between our responsibilities as Christians and our responsibilities to care for the most vulnerable in society, culture and the world. That is what sets SCMs apart from other Christian youth organisations, even though we understand how to live it out very differently in different movements, in different parts of the world.
Student Christian Movement programmes
Some movements are theologically driven and politically focused (for example working a great deal on promoting people-centred positive political change, on human rights advocacy, or on gender justice). Some movements focus more on community development (ie. HIV-AIDS destigmatisation/health training, peace-building & reconciliation). Some movements focus more on faith and theological development (ie. ecumenical prayer and worship, encouraging searching and promoting spirituality, theological and Biblical study) and most movements aim to achieve a balance. One way of understanding this balance is to prgoramme SCM life to move between “Student” (study & analysis, issues in tertiary education and youth/student life), “Christian” (Biblical analysis, theology, spirituality, prayer and worship) and “Movement” (advocacy and political action, development, movement building).
All SCMs build up the civil society of their localities and nations through the development of the SCMs themselves and through youth leadership training. Many SCMs carry out movement building and development programmes through a direct relationship with the global Federation through the Ecumenical Assistance Programme, which also provides emergency support to movements in political, war and natural disaster crisis situations. SCMs produce generation after generation of highly engaged, theologically and politically astute social, political and religious leaders for their countries and regions and many have continuously done so since the founding of the Federation in 1895. Many leaders of the current ecumenical movement and the founding leaders of the World Council of Churches in 1948, came from SCMs and the World Student Christian Federation.
Formation and Training
General Assemblies function as a sharing, planning, formational and educational experience for WSCF’s student delegates, officers and staff. Delegates are exposed to the life and work of the host country and region’s Student Christian Movements, through local speakers and facilitators, interaction with local churches and through “exposure trips”. Expriential learning visits (or Exposure trips) take delegates out into the community to interact with the ministries engaged in by the hosting Movement and their local partner churches, ecumenical organisations, people’s movements and NGOs. The assembly is also resourced by an international group of scholars, activists, facilitators and Bible study leaders who shape their input on the Assembly’s theme, drawing on diverse perspectives, movement experience and academic fields.
The General Assembly is a great opportunity for youth cultural exchange through sharing of performing arts and liturgical traditions, as well as through conversation, working together and interaction amongst the assembly's participants.
General Assembly content
Each General Assembly takes a theme, which focuses the content and direction of its keynote speeches, forums, ecumenical and confessional worship, seminars, small group work and Bible studies. All aspects of the Assembly’s life promote and celebrate the diversity and integrity of the member movements, confessional traditions and their multitude of cultures.
Men’s and Women’s Pre-Assemblies
As part of WSCF’s commitment to gender justice, General Assemblies are often preceded by Women’s and Men’s Assemblies. The function of gender assemblies is to raise awareness of gender issues in the Federation and focus on a specific theme for training on gender issues. The gender pre-assemblies also provide the opportunity for gender analysis of the organisation, programming and decision-making processes at the General Assembly and resource delegates to respond sensitively to the gender dynamics in group process and decision-making when the Federation meets at its highest level.
Decisions and resolutions
The General Assembly often speaks out on contemporary issues as the collective voice of the Federation. WSCF General Assemblies issue resolutions on urgent political situations that affect WSCF’s members in different parts of the world.
General Assembly business
The assembly hears reports from the previous four years and sets out the objectives and priorities of the Federation's programme and policy for the upcoming four-year period. The General Assembly’s quorum must include representatives from at least half its member movements and the voting delegates should be balanced in terms of student and gender representation. Each General Assembly is required to elect WSCF's global officers and Executive Committee and to appoint global staff. The General Assembly must agree changes to the constitution of WSCF and new movements may only be approved for affiliation by vote of the General Assembly. Between General Assemblies, the WSCF officers, staff and Executive Committee implement the directives and policies agreed on by the Assembly.
For more detailed information on the legal structures and working regulations of the General Assembly, please go to the WSCF Constitution and ByeLaws.
List of WSCF Global Meetings 1895-2008
1st 1895 Vadstena, Sweden.
WSCF General Committee Meetings (1897-1964)
2nd 1897 East Northfield,USA.
3rd 1898 Eisenach, Germany. 4th 1900 Versailles, France.
5th 1902 Sorö, Denmark.
6th 1905 Zeist, Netherlands.
7th 1907 Nikko, Japan.
8th 1909 Oxford, England.
9th 1911 Constantinople, Turkey.
10th 1913 Princeton, USA.
11th 1920 St Beatenberg, Switzerland.
12th 1922 Peking, China.
13th 1924 High Leigh, England.
14th 1926 Nyborg Strand, Denmark.
15th 1928 Mysore, India.
16th 1932 Zeist, Netherlands.
17th 1935 Chamcoria, Bulgaria.
18th 1938 Bièvres, France.
19th 1946 Bossey, Switzerland.
20th 1949 Whitby, Canada.
21st 1953 Nasrapur, India.
22nd 1956 Tutzing, Germany.
23rd 1960 Thessaloniki, Greece.
24th 1964 Embalse Rio Tercero, Argentina.
WSCF General Assemblies (1968 -)
25th 1968 Otaniemi, Finland.
26th 1972 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
27th 1977 Colombo, Sri Lanka.
28th 1981 San Francisco, USA.
29th 1986 Mexico City & Oaxtepec, Mexico.
30th 1990 Chantilly, France.
31st 1995 Yamoussoukro, Cote D'Ivoire.
32nd 1999 Beirut, Lebanon.
33rd 2003 Chiang Mai, Thailand.
34th 2008 Montreal, Canada