Fonds BC1473 - THE STUDENTS’ CHRISTIAN ORGANISATION ARCHIVE

Reference code

ZA UCT BC1473

Title

THE STUDENTS’ CHRISTIAN ORGANISATION ARCHIVE

Date(s)

  • 1930-2007 (Creation)

Level of description

Fonds

Extent and medium

146 boxes

Name of creator

(1894-)

Administrative history

In 1894, Miss A.P. Ferguson, principal of Huguenot University College, attended a seminal conference of Christian organisations in Northfield, USA. She was instrumental in getting the nascent international student Christian organisation to extend its operation into South Africa, and in 1896 the organising secretary, L.D. Wishard, visited South Africa and arranged an inaugural conference in Stellenbosch from 24 to 29 July. From this conference emerged the Students’ Christian Association (SCA) or Christen-Studentevereeniging (CSV) as it was known in Afrikaans.

The SCA spread quickly throughout the country, extending beyond the major universities to encompass schools as well as other tertiary education institutions. However, its history was dogged throughout by racial and cultural tensions, reflecting the wider socio-political realities within the country. Between 1915 and 1917, for example, a group of Afrikaans church leaders strove to establish a separate Afrikaans organisation, in order to give pre-eminence to the needs of Afrikaner students, but after considerable campaigning and negotiations, the parent body voted against segregation. Relations between white and black adherents came under the spotlight at a conference held at Fort Hare in 1930. The conference was organised by the African-American missionary Max Yergan, who headed the Bantu Section of the SCA at the time. Ostensibly organised to heal racial rifts, the conference elicited severe criticism from conservative sectors of the white churches and wider community.

As the degree and effects of racial segregation within South African society increased, particularly after 1948, the SCA, while remaining a constitutionally unified body, effectively operated along racial lines – English and Afrikaans speakers each had their own “sections”, as did black, coloured and Indian students. At a meeting held in January 1965, it was eventually decided to formalise this de facto situation; the original body was dissolved and reconstituted as four new organisations focused on tertiary institutions: the Students’ Christian Association (SCA), representing the (mainly) English speaking white student body; the Afrikaanse Christen Studentevereeniging (ACSV); the Association for Christian Students (ACS), which grew out of the original Coloured Section, and the Christian Student Movement (CSM), originally the Bantu Section. The Scripture Union (SU) was approached to take over the SCA’s work in schools.

The organisation was also beset, at times, with doctrinal controversies. These resulted particularly from the efforts of some leaders to position the organisation within the conservative evangelical tradition, while others proposed a more liberal ecumenical position.

In January 1992 representatives of SCA, SCM, ACS, ACSV, SU and Student Union for Christian Action (SUCA) met in Stellenbosch for consultations. Repenting of the “unbiblical” division that had occurred in 1965, they committed themselves “to a vision of a united ministry/movement in schools and tertiary institutions for the sake of our Christian witness in the world". After a process of negotiations ACSA and ACS reunited to form the Uniting Christian Students’ Association of SA (UCSA) and SCM and SCA reunited to form the Students’ Christian Organisation (SCO) in 1997.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Deposited with UCT Libraries by Mr Barry Haschick

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Accruals

System of arrangement

Since the collection did not originate from a single functional archive, it has not been possible to apply the principles of respect de fonds and respect for original order consistently. The papers have thus been arranged to reflect the chronological development of the organisation, in its various manifestations, and amid its network of affiliations and sister movements. Part One (series A and B) comprises records of the central governing organs of the SCA, viz. Council and the National Executive (Natex). Part Two (series C through G) contains records of the various sections that constituted the SCA prior to its dissolution in 1965. Part Three (series H through K) covers the period from 1965 to the early 1990s (the end of apartheid). Series L comprises historiographical and historical materials. Series M reflects the wide network of organisations of which SCA was a part, and series N is thematically arranged, the subject matter being typical of what one would expect to be of interest to a student Christian organisation. Part Four (series O through Q) contains a small number of documents pertaining to the period of reunification that coincided with the end of apartheid in South Africa.

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Finding aids

Only a high level record of this collection is currently maintained in AtoM. For a detailed list of contents, see http://atom.lib.uct.ac.za/pdfs/BC1473.pdf

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