Seeking and Serving the Truth: The First Hundred Years of the World Student Christian Federation

Article excerpt

Seeking and Serving the Truth: The First Hundred Years of the World Student Christian Federation.

By Philip Potter and Thomas Wieser. Geneva: WCC Publications, 1997. Pp. xi, 307. Paperback $22.50/SFr 27.50/14.50.

Institutional histories are usually boring to all but participants in the events or organization described. But not this one. Nineteenth- and twentieth-century student movements and particularly the WSCF have played such a key role in the modem missionary and ecumenical movements that anyone interested in those subjects will find something to learn here. Nonspecialists will find it a lively, readable narrative. Scholars will appreciate the careful organization of a wealth of confusing data and a balanced interpretation of both controversies and continuities. There are several appendixes, including a brief bibliography, but unfortunately no subject index.

Philip Potter chaired the WSCF from 1960 to 1968 and was general secretary of the World Council of Churches from 1972 to 1984. Thomas Wieser was a leader in the Swiss and American Student Christian Movements from 1946 to 1960 and later the WCC staff person in charge of the influential study known as the Missionary Structure of the Congregation.

The story they tell underlines the contrast between the first twenty-five years and developments in the last generation. The federation was born in the confident years of Western missionary and imperial expansion, when student YMCAs spread around the world as centers of evangelism, Bible study, and missionary recruitment (the Student Volunteer Movement) as a deliberate effort to enlist for Christ the leaders of the next generation. …