August 1 to 10, 2008
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Every four years WSCF holds a General Assembly as the most representative expression of the WSCF’s life. Its functions are:
Your sons and daughters shall prophesy (from the Book of the Prophet Joel)
“I shall pour out my Spirit on all humanity. Your sons and daughters shall prophesy... and your young people shall see visions.”
The theme from the prophet Joel is quoted in the story of Pentecost found in the Acts of the Apostles chapter 2. The text emphasises the role of youth in the dreams of the early church and the sense of optimism experienced at Pentecost. By choosing this theme, we seek to connect WSCF with the prophetic tradition and to express a sense of optimism, vision, strength and purpose for this General Assembly and the coming quadrennium.
The General Assembly participants will be divided into small groups that will meet each day for Bible study. These groups will remain the same throughout the programme and serve as a place where participants can share deeply and reflect upon all they are learning. A core of WSCF’s heritage is engagement with the Bible as a source of truth and inspiration and theological reflection of the realities we experience in the world.
We will worship God, creating space for the Holy Spirit to speak and move, acknowledging our common belief in Christ and confessing our need for God’s presence and action in our community.
Our times of worship also serve as exposure to the many churches, cultures and traditions that we represent.
Our goal in worship is to express and experience the unity that we have in Christ and to open the riches of different regions and denominations to the participants.
Commissions of the GA will meet several times over the course of the GA. The purpose of the commissions is to provide opportunities for GA participants to be informed about and discuss particular topics that WSCF has identified as priorities. From these discussions each commission will be asked to consider how the insights they have reached can be included in WSCF’s strategic plan for the coming quadrennium.
Each commission will report back to the plenary with concrete recommendations for the Federation’s life and work for the next four years. Recommendations from commissions will be specific, measurable, realistic and timely.
One of WSCF’s great legacies and on-going commitments is the formation of leaders with an ecumenical vision. What this means changes as the world changes and the heart of this commission will be examining the question of Ecumenical Leadership Formation. We know, for example, that the Church, the world and the ecumenical movement have changed greatly in the past 50 years; therefore, the questions we respond to, the methods of communication we use, the presuppositions we operate with and the support systems within the Church and ecumenical movement need to change accordingly. In addition, it is clear that current ecumenical leaders need to be prepared to dialogue and work with people who have no confession or with people from other religions. Topics: Ecumenical Movement, Inter-faith Dialogue, leadership training, recruitment, programmes, scholarships, internships, ecumenical education.
From its founding in 1895 until now, WSCF has been engaged with the needs of the world and actively partnering with others who set out to make a positive difference in the world. This partnering happens through projects on local levels, by standing in solidarity with others who are protesting against injustice (as in, for example, recent statements issued by WSCF in solidarity with the people in Burma/Myanmar and Zimbabwe) and through advocacy work on the international level. We would like to make our partnerships stronger and our advocacy initiatives effective and well communicated within WSCF. This commission will look at case studies of past initiatives; learn from experts in the field and work to set priorities for WSCF’s advocacy and solidarity agenda.
Topics: Empire, political engagement, global trade, international systems, NGOs, people’s movements, UN engagement, HIV/AIDS, migration, climate change, advocacy, protest, organising, politics of development, Ecumenical Assistance Programme.
Upon hearing the words ‘bible’ and ‘study’ these days, many young people are uninspired and some even suspicious. WSCF maintains the conviction that these words, especially when used together (Bible study) are instead challenging, liberating and instructive. WSCF would like to re-inspire this and coming generations of students to read and study the Bible and to engage in informed theological discussion. To do this, we need to equip our members with tools for Biblical study and with the tools and understanding that the Christian faith, spirituality, the Bible and theological reflection hold relevance for all areas of life. We also need to understand the reasons for the change in student perception about Bible study and think together creatively about how we might take the lead in perception changing about Biblical and theological reflection in our environments.
Topics: Bible study, theology, spiritualities, worship, engaging with the church, young people and religion, youth in the church, development of doctrine, contextual theologies, theologies of liberation, women doing theology
At first glance this commission might seem like only ‘buts and bolts’; in actuality, the need to develop concrete skills and tools only makes sense if a clear and strong vision is in place—both are key for good leadership. As WSCF continues to develop, we would like to do all in our power to give skills to students, so that they may in turn use them and give them to others in their movements and their communities. This commission will focus on many kinds of capacity building and will work to define the needs of our SCMs (that will in some areas overlap and in some areas differ), articulate a vision of what we want to be achieving within every level of WSCF (local, national, regional and global), and give some practical training that participants may use immediately in their local, national and regional contexts.
Topics: communications, movement organisation, publications, governance, administration, fundraising, financial management, personnel management, Senior Friends relations, archiving, global-grassroots connections, recruitment, leadership training, schools programmes, connection with churches, strategic alliances
A priority for WSCF is to take seriously women and women’s issues and to be proactive about integrating women fully into all aspects of the Federation’s life, enabling this change to shape and re-shape the organisation. By the beginning our General Assemblies with Men’s and Women’s Assemblies, we seek to create a space in which each group has permission, facilitation and safety in reflecting on their respective positions, issues, and roles and also to consider how to best engage with and support the other.
The Women’s Pre-Assembly is designed to highlight issues of gender justice for women participants, to empower women in WSCF in general, and to provide training for the female participants so that they are prepared to take part fully in the General Assembly. For more than a century WSCF has been committed to women’s empowerment. One aspect of this commitment is to hold a Women’s Pre-Assembly.
As well as community building and reflection on the theme: ‘Your young women shall see visions’; the Women’s Pre-Assembly may include a trip to the capital city Ottawa. In Ottawa we hope the delegates will meet with two female senior friends who are senators as well as the Governor General and attend a session in the Senate House on women’s empowerment.
The aims of the Men’s Pre-Assembly are to build community with men at the General Assembly, to start a process of personal reflection (micro) and political analysis (macro) on the position of men in SCM/WSCF, the church, personal relationships and society and to contribute to a WSCF vision of masculinity and gender relations. The Bible study theme will be men and masculinity in the Bible. A thematic focus will be on men and violence. Small group discussion topics include: men and violence, men and sexuality, men and sexual violence, men and family, men and work, boys and violence, violence against women, increasing violence in society, models of power, gender and power, gender and church (including Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant, Pentecostal approaches to men and church) and ‘How gender sensitive is WSCF?’
Montreal has much to offer as a living case study of the many and various complexities, gifts and problems found in contemporary North American society. WSCF has relationships with people and communities involved in many initiatives in environmental justice, Indigenous issues, youth culture, and immigrant and refugee issues. There is nothing that teaches so well as exposure to living realities, and so GA delegates will supplement conversation and analysis with visits to local people and projects.
Montreal is an important hub for immigrants and refugees coming to Canada, and therefore issues of multiculturalism and assimilation, the exploitation of immigrant labour, the trafficking of sex workers, political representation of ethnic minorities at the local, provincial and federal levels are all issues that can be explored programmatically in Montreal.
Montreal is in close proximity to Indigenous/First Nations communities and senior friends have offered to help make connections with these communities. The communities bear witness to the history of racism in North America and are faced with the constant struggle to maintain a unique cultural identity and to negotiate their roles in the dominant culture. In addition, in Canada many of these communities are working to reclaim land taken during European settlement and have won reparation settlements regarding church-sponsored residential schools—actions that have challenged Canadian churches to take responsibility for a legacy of racial oppression.
The growing multicultural reality of Canada has brought the question of interfaith dialogue into the limelight. There are a number of organisations in Montreal with which we can co-operate to learn more about how people of different faiths are engaging one another in the public arena, as well as on more intimate, grassroots levels.
Environmental justice is an issue that is gaining great momentum in North America. Civil society organisations, student groups and other organisations are engaged in raising awareness of this issue in Montreal and are very accessible to the assembly. Montreal was also the host of a 2005 conference on Climate Change, giving us the opportunity to hear directly from local representatives on the results of that meeting.
Urban life in North America brings with it many challenges, especially for youth. Montreal offers a context in which to examine higher education as tuition costs skyrocket and young people encounter drug and alcohol addiction, sexuality issues and domestic violence.
WSCF’s rich history lives partially through its former members (senior friends). We are acknowledging this fact by hosting a senior friends event that will run parallel to the General Assembly. At this event, there will be the opportunity for senior friends to reflect on where WSCF has been, where we are now and where we are heading in the future. (An event within this event is a reunion of the Student Conference held in Turku, Finland in 1968.) WSCF realises the value of engaging with senior friends as fully as possible in order to strengthen the Federation’s work in the most energetic and effective way possible. This may range in a spectrum from senior friends providing advice and support to local movements to helping WSCF build a solid financial base by contributing to our endowment to contributing experience and talent as resource people or strategic advisors. Bearing this in mind, we believe it will be inspiring to both students and senior friends to encounter each other in a meaningful way, and will create occasions for this interaction at the General Assembly.
We will review the situation of the member movements, the situation of the regions, the work of the Executive Committee, and the worldwide situation of the Federation. We come together:
For the duration of the assembly there will be a space allocated for each national SCM to present highlights from their life and work. Movements are invited to share details of their programmes and activities, their history, their vision and share publications and products (e.g. tee shirts, posters, etc) with GA participants. There will also be an opportunity for WSCF’s partner organisations to showcase their work.
The WSCF General Assembly is rotated among the six regions of the Federation. North America has been scheduled to be the hosting region for 2008. The assemblies that have been held in the region are: 1897 East Northfield, USA; 1913 Princeton, USA; 1949 Whitby, Canada; and 1981 San Francisco, USA. As it has been almost 50 years since the last assembly in Canada, and as such there is great excitement for a Canadian-hosted assembly in SCM Canada and amongst Canadians with strong connections to the WSCF.
Student Christian Movements, WSCF Centennial Fund, WSCF Inter-Regional Office, WSCF Regional Offices, WSCF Trustees in Canada, WSCF Trustees in the US