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  • The Witness of the Student Christian Movement: Church ahead of the Church
  • Susan Allister
Robin Boyd . 2007. The Witness of the Student Christian Movement: Church ahead of the Church. London: SPCK, pp. 188, Pb, £14.99. DOI: 10.3366/E1354990108030074

This is a delightful, sensitive, personal, and important book. The first eight chapters retell the Student ChristianMovement's (SCM) story from its pre-beginnings to the present day. Although the title suggests the British SCM, Robin Boyd's focus spreads to the World Student Christian Federation (WSCF) and its manifestations in many different countries.

From an unabashedly ecumenical perspective, Boyd describes the core and essence of what the SCM and the WSCF are, and traces them chronologically through their structures, language, and people, celebrating their purpose and influence. The resulting broad picture never lacks in [End Page 95] fine detail, which is provided by a series of sympathetic anecdotes and prosopographical vignettes.

When considering the SCM's 'Storm' of the 1960s and 70s, Boyd daringly articulates mistakes made, arguing that the SCM floundered when it 'neglected its supply line' (pp. 152), its core of critical engagement with the Bible and the Church.

The final three chapters highlight the SCM and WSCF's great impact on World Christianity (particularly on Edinburgh 1910 and the World Council of Churches). Boyd re-emphasises the significance of their trail-blazing and prophetic role, including struggles for racial and sexual equality, and their centre of gravity moving South. Here Boyd brings in a hope for the SCM and WSCF's continued purpose in the future.

One painful aspect of the SCM's history is its broken relationship with the Inter-Varsity Fellowship (now Universities and College Christian Fellowship, UCCF), and its world-equivalent, the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES). The divide between ecumenism and evangelicalism this represents, Boyd argues, is one of the most pressing problems facing the World Church today. He sees the SCM as the prodigal younger brother returning home, his humility and repentance coupled with a new world-knowledge. The UCCF and IFES, he argues (not always sympathetically), also need to change, and must move beyond propositional narrowness if a re-united witness is to be possible.

Reading this book feels like experiencing the SCM as it once was: the Christ-centred intellectual rigour coupled with the sense of humour of its conferences, the sometimes-eccentric characters who helped to shape and direct it. But it is more than this: Boyd engagingly challenges today's Church to take today's SCM and its message and witness seriously. [End Page 96]

Susan Allister
University of Edinburgh


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 95-96
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Archived 2009
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