The History of SCM

The Student Christian Movement came into being in 1889 as a loose network of students dedicated to missionary work overseas. It rapidly broadened its aims and membership to become the largest student organisation in Britain. The values of openness, inclusiveness, radicalism and an open and challenging approach to the Christian faith were as important in the early days of the movement as they are now.

SCM was instrumental in bringing about the Edinburgh Missionary Conference in 1910. The conference marked the beginnings of the modern ecumenical movement, and also played a vital role in the formation of the British and World Council of Churches. The National Union of Students (NUS) was formed in 1922, with the movement's encouragement and help.

During the late fifties and sixties the movement threw itself into the social and political questions of the period with a zeal unparalleled in other religious quarters. SCM’s annual conference in 1973, Seeds of Liberation, was a life changing event for many that attended.

In the seventies and eighties there was a radical restructuring and a renewed commitment to concentrate on the mainstream of student life. The result was a stronger organisation with many more groups, from a handful in 1975 to over 70 in the 1990s.

At this time in its history SCM serves a very different kind of student population. Changes in higher education and tightening financial pressures mean more demands on students' time. While SCM is a national organisation, there is a strong focus on the grassroots level of the movement, and we endeavour to support local groups through training and providing resources.

There's a comprehensive archive of papers and materials from the whole of SCM's history stored in the Cadbury Research Library at the University of Birmingham. Researchers and other interested individuals are welcome to access these materials. Please contact the SCM office for further information.