Sept. 27, 2004
By Linda Bloom*
NEW YORK (UMNS) -
When Ken Guest attended the recent assembly of the World Student
Christian Federation in Thailand, he was struck by the diversity of the
Ken Guest is chairperson of the World Student Christian Federation.
of the students, representing 70 to 80 nations, had never traveled out
of their home country before, he told United Methodist News Service.
"These are not the elite, these are not the children of well-placed
government officials or wealthy families," he explained.
particular young people had come to the federation’s 33rd assembly in
August to take advantage of its reputation as a training ground for
young church leaders and as a forum to discuss significant world issues
with their peers.
more than a century old, the World Student Christian Federation has
long enjoyed Methodist support and involvement. The United Methodist
Board of Global Ministries remains a major source of North American
support for the organization, which is headquartered in Geneva and has
regional offices in Hong Kong; Beirut, Lebanon; Budapest, Hungary;
Nairobi, Kenya; and Buenos Aires, Argentina.
an assistant professor of sociology and anthropology at Baruch College
in New York, became involved with the federation when he worked as an
executive with the Board of Global Ministries. At the assembly in
Thailand, he was elected chairperson of the organization - the first
North American to hold that position since the 1970s.
a lot of the leaders of the ecumenical movement and even our church
agencies have come out of the Christian student movement," he said. One
of his goals is to reclaim and strengthen that history. He believes the
movement continues to have "incredible potential to influence the lives
of his tasks will be to continue seeking new ways to finance the
federation’s work. "All the ecumenical funding patterns are changing,"
Guest explained. Former big donors, such as the German churches, have
less income than in the past, he noted.
centennial endowment fund established in 1995 to help with grants for
international programs has raised $1.1 million so far, and the
federation’s U.S. trustees have started a "second century" campaign.
"Senior friends" or alumni of the organization are being encouraged "to
enable this generation of students to have the same kind of experiences
that they’ve had," he added.
Guest participated in assemblies in France in 1990 and the Ivory Coast
in 1995, the Thailand event in August reminded him of "how unique and
rare an opportunity" such gatherings are.
the diversity of students, he said he appreciated the richness of
theological differences apparent at the assembly and concern over issues
such as the effects of globalization and HIV/AIDS. His small-group
discussion on globalization included students from India, Poland,
Mexico, Singapore, Italy, Ecuador, Bangladesh, South Korea, Lebanon,
Sweden and the Philippines.
many of the assembly participants were female, concern arose over the
lack of women in leadership roles. "What became clear was there was an
absolute commitment to having women in a leadership position, but it
would require a slightly longer process to find the right person," Guest
said. A search process was begun to name a woman as a federation vice
chairperson by the end of the year.
work on gender and women’s concerns also is a goal of the new executive
committee for the next four years. Other goals include engaging in
biblical and theological reflection, encouraging the federation’s
student focus, securing organizational and financial viability,
exploring how to be a global community and expanding global programs,
and enhancing the visibility of the World Student Christian Federation.
also is key in North America, represented by the Student Christian
Movement of Canada and a U.S. council of six denominations - United
Methodist, Presbyterian, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America,
Episcopal, Disciples of Christ and United Church of Christ. "They’re
working to rebuild the student Christian movement here in the United
States," Guest said.
Guest, other new federation officers are Udan Fernando of Sri Lanka,
vice chairperson, and Youhanna Kamal of Egypt, treasurer. Michael
Wallace of New Zealand was appointed as the new chief staff executive.
More information about the federation is available by contacting Guest at email@example.com.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org ·