Archives of the Council for World Mission

By Special Collections, SOAS Library|6th March 2017|Collections & Research|0 comments

Since the early 1970s, SOAS Library has been custodian of the archive collections of the Council for World Mission. Comprising the records of the Council’s predecessor bodies – the London Missionary Society (1795-1966), the Commonwealth (formerly Colonial) Missionary Society (1836-1966) and the English Presbyterian Mission (1843-1972) – these archives are a unique historical resource for the study of Christian mission over the last 200 years, and are used by academic researchers, family historians, churches and communities from around the world.

‘The youth choir leads the procession from the Moffat Church (in background) to the print room’ [Moffat Mission Station, Kuruman, South Africa]. No date. © CWM

‘CWM 77’. CWM leaflet, 1977. © CWM

The newest addition to these collections are the archives of the Council for World Mission itself, from its creation in 1977 to recent times. The release of these papers coincides with CWM’s 40th anniversary celebrations in 2017.

Now comprising around 2,500 boxes of archive material and around 13,000 publications, these collections are remarkable for the virtually unbroken historical record they provide of a missionary organisation. They date from its beginnings in 1795 as a traditional British ‘sending agency’ of the colonial era, through the growth of independent churches, to CWM’s postcolonial model of partnership of churches in mission where missionaries go “from everywhere to everywhere”.

Today, the Council for World Mission is a worldwide partnership of churches with 32 members in 6 regions, namely, Africa, Caribbean, East Asia, Europe, Pacific and South Asia. CWM’s main secretariat is located in Singapore, with satellite secretariat offices at various stages of establishment located in Europe, Africa and the Pacific.

Amongst the range of work undertaken is the sharing of mission personnel between member churches through the  ‘Partners in Mission’ (PIM) programme. Mission partners are involved in theological education, pastoral ministry, medical and healthcare, including  HIV/AIDS care and counselling, project administration and community work. CWM’s Capacity Development and Research programme capacitates its members through training programmes, missiological research and scholarship. The Mission Development programme, resources member churches and ecumenical projects with funding and ideas, to develop innovative mission programmes to enable congregations to respond to local  and global contextual issues.

CWM postcard, ‘Take action, change and empower’ series. ‘Ten million women worldwide have been infected with HIV. In Zimbabwe, Sinothi Moyo of the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa is active in the Dombodema home-based care group which supports those affected by HIV/AIDS’. (Photo: Ana Gobledale), c.1998. © CWM

Archives of the Council for World Mission include:

  • Signed minutes and papers of key decision-making bodies
  • Annual reports and reviews
  • Reports of the CWM Assembly – an important gathering of member churches
  • Strategic documents and reports of organisational reviews
  • A large collection of publications produced by CWM, including magazines and newsletters, leaflets, reports, postcards, posters and educational resources
  • Videos & DVDs
  • Missionary personnel files, many of whom began their service with the London Missionary Society, and which form part of the continuous record of missionaries in service from 1795 onwards
  • Programme files, including correspondence with member churches on projects and funds, papers from regional roundtables and consultations, and specific programmes such as the Experience Enlargement Programme, Mission Education School and Training in Mission (TIM)
  • Correspondence with ecumenical partners, and files on joint projects and funding initiatives

The ‘Gang of Ten’. CWM Training in Mission Group, Selly Oak, Birmingham, 1981. The ‘Gang of Ten’ were the first group of TIM participants, who undertook the programme in 1981-1982. © CWM

 A catalogue of this material is now available online and material can be seen in the Special Collections Reading Room.

‘Dare to Dream 1795-1995. 200 Years of the London Missionary Society and the Council for World Mission. Souvenir Brochure’ (front cover). © CWM

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About Special Collections, SOAS Library

Broadly speaking, our collections reflect the British interaction with Africa, Asia and the Middle East over the last 250 years, and include archives of missionary societies, NGOs and campaign groups, and business organisations, as well as papers of individuals, including diplomats, campaigners, and academics. If you have any questions, or comments, please get in touch! email: tel: +44 (0)20 7898 4180

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