Providing ecumenical leadership training programs on faith and justice for Christian students
Describe the need affecting community
Christian students and young adults are in need of ecumenical formation and leadership training to help them know and articulate how their faith informs justice work and to understand the interrelatedness of justice issues.
How will this Advance project help to address the need?
The WSCF provides unique opportunities for students and young adults to engage in critical thinking, ecumenical formation, leadership training, social justice activism, and bible and innovative theological reflection. This occurs through local, national and leadership training programs.
Describe the primary goal of the project
The major goal for the project is to mobilize and train Christian students and young adults to be agents of transformation in local communities and across the United States. Young adults trained through SCM and WSCF have historically become life-long church leaders and activists. The church and the ecumenical movement owe much to the WSCF, which has inspired ecumenical leaders for decades. The primary goal of this project reflects the raison d’être for the WSCF: the formation of ecumenical leaders who for the rest of their lives will put their faith into action consistent with social justice. At the Student Volunteer Movement 1959 Quadrennial conference in Athens Ohio, which the WSCF was instrumental in planning, a young Martin Luther King, Jr. was the keynote speaker. Following his speech, many students in attendance, including James Forbes, joined the sit-ins movement to desegregate restaurants in the South and became civil rights activists. By the same token, at the 2016 SCM-USA Leadership Training Program in St. Paul, MN, students joined a Black Lives Matters vigil to commemorate the killing of a 24-years-old African American, Jamar Clarke, by Minneapolis’ police. This was an outgrowth of a panel presentation by SCM students involved in the BLM’s movement. Following the WSCF North America Regional Assembly, one student in attendance decided to run for the Advocacy and Solidarity position on the WSCF North America Regional Committee and has become a driving force behind the Federation’s advocacy work. There are many similar examples to describe the primary goal of this program. SCM’s Leadership Training Program change students’ lives forever, transforming them into long-life Christian social justice activists.
Describe the change you would like to see in the community as a result of this Advance project
Social change occurs slowly. Although MLK Jr. achieved much in his life span, he did not come to see the end of racism. Social justice work is a life-long commitment. Training students to be public theologians for justice enables young people to be change agents in their lives. The hope is that students will bring their SCM education and skills to whatever career they will embark upon: in education, in medicine and health, in government, non-profit or the business sector. SCM ecumenical formation will inform ethical decisions current students will make in their professions and in their communities. Social change occurs both through personal choices through collective efforts. SCMers’s personal choices and collective actions will be evident in their individual and family lives and will determine change regarding peacemaking, racial justice, the environment, and other major societal issues. At the same time, social action brings about immediate results. Advocacy work can make a significant difference in people’s lives when students join current movements. Occupy Wall Street changed the country’s discourse on economic justice. Black Lives Matter has increased awareness on police brutality and white privilege. Through students’ activism in such movements, change on race relations and economic structures is much more likely to happen.