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Student federation reopens North America office

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A UMNS photo by John C. Goodwin

United Methodist Ken Guest serves as chairperson of the World Student Christian Federation's executive committee.
June 2, 2006

By Linda Bloom*

NEW YORK (UMNS) — United Methodists are applauding the re-establishment of a North America regional office for the World Student Christian Federation.

“It’s been one of the priorities for the WSCF in this quadrennium to re-establish the office here,” said Ken Guest, a United Methodist who serves as chairperson of the federation’s executive committee and is a member of the U.S. trustees.

Guest officiated at a May 31 federation lunch in New York where the Rev. Brandon Gilvin, a minister of the Christian Church USA (Disciples of Christ), was introduced as the new regional secretary for North America. The regional office is based in Toronto.

Methodists have been involved in the federation since its founding in 1895 by John R. Mott, a U.S. Methodist and Nobel Peace Prize winner, and Karl Fries of Sweden.

A dwindling of the Christian student movement in the United States led to the shuttering of its office nearly 30 years ago. In recent years, North American involvement in the federation has been represented by the Student Christian Movement of Canada — “a vibrant and dynamic voice,” according to Guest — and a U.S. council of six denominations, including United Methodist, Presbyterian, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Episcopal, Disciples of Christ and United Church of Christ.

Tamara Walker, a staff executive with the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, said the new regional office is “terribly important” and provides young Christians in North America with “a vehicle to mobilize around.”

Credit for the revival of the regional office, she said, goes to “those people in their 20s who had a vision for making it happen” and the 65-year-old-plus supporters or “senior friends” of the federation. “It’s a multigenerational force.”

The Board of Global Ministries remains a major source of North American support for the organization, which is headquartered in Geneva and has other regional offices in Hong Kong; Beirut, Lebanon; Budapest, Hungary; Nairobi, Kenya; and Buenos Aires, Argentina. Support also comes from the United Methodist Church’s campus ministry programs and Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

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The Rev. Brandon Gilvin

“ For over 100 years, WSCF has been involved in the cutting edge of theology, politics and student life,” the federation’s Web site states. “WSCF member movements challenge students to make their faith real in study, prayer and action.”

Diverse movement

Michael Wallace, an Anglican from New Zealand who serves as the federation’s chief executive, told lunch participants that the student movements belonging to the federation are extremely diverse and range in size from about 12 students in the Singapore group to “more than a million students in Egypt affiliated with the movement.”

The federation observes a “Universal Day of Prayer for Students” each February, which provides “an act of solidarity as well as an act of worship,” according to Wallace. The organization also has distributed some 40 grants for national projects this year. The Syria student movement, for example, offers an Internet café designed specifically to give women students safety and privacy.

Gilvin said he hopes the North American regional office can help students interpret faith and action in their own context and bring a global vision of ecumenism to that context — “mainly where it is we come from and what it is we’re doing.”

The 30-year-old Kentucky resident has a background in religious studies and creative writing and previously worked in communications and advocacy for the All Africa Council of Churches in Nairobi.

More information can be found at, the federation’s Web site.

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or

Brandon Gilvin
"What does it mean to be North American?"
Ken Guest
"See a broader vision."
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