The History of SCM

The Student Christian Movement (SCM) is the oldest student Christian organisation in Great Britain, having been formed in 1889. This means we have a long and rich history. Below is an outline of just some of the most notable things the movement has been involved in throughout its history.

In 1889 SCM began as a loose network of Christian students dedicated to missionary work overseas. It rapidly broadened its aims and membership to become the largest student organisation in Britain, later on having over 80% of Christian students in Britain being SCM members. 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 very influential during the early twentieth century, playing a part in the creation of several important conferences and organisations. The movement was instrumental in bringing about the Edinburgh Missionary Conference in 1910 (a conference that marked the beginnings of the modern ecumenical movement and played a vital role in the formation of the British and World Council of Churches), and was also involved in the formation of the National Union of Students (NUS) in 1922.

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 particularly notable and life changing event for many that attended.

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

Currently 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, as well as the opportunity for students to meet nationally through our regional and national events. In the last 10 years SCM has grown once again, with increases in membership and size of the staff team. 

 

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.