Guide to the Records Pertaining to the Second Assembly of the World Council of Churches

Collection Title: Records Pertaining to the Second Assembly of the World Council of Churches
Dates: 1950-1955
Identification: 55/20
Creator: World Council of Churches
World Council of Churches. Assembly (2nd : 1954 : Evanston, Ill.)
Extent: 3 Boxes
Language of Materials: English
Acquisition Information: The materials in this collection were acquired by the University Archives, probably through James Alton James, prior to June 1, 1974. The Addition to these records are a combination of two acquisitions. One was donated to the University Archives by Northern Illinois Conference of the United Methodist Church on October 31, 1995, as Accession number 95-187. The second was donated by Carlyle E. Anderson on November 11, 1998, as Accession Number 98-205.
Processing Information: Kevin Davis; 04/15/1987. Additions processed by Eric Salcedo, April, 1999.
Separated Materials: Nothing was separated from Boxes 1 - 2. From the additions: A few duplicate articles were discarded. Two photographs were placed in the University Archives' General Photographic Files. A film of Second Assembly events was transferred to the Archives' audio-visual collection as MP-253; one box of slides was placed in microfilm drawer #1, Room 109; nine commemorative bookmarks and two medallions were transferred to the Archives' Artifacts Collection (see description below).
Conditions Governing Access: None.
Related Materials: Users of these records may wish to refer to the James Alton James Papers (Northwestern University Archives' Series 11/3/16/4). Included in these papers is one folder documenting James' involvement with the Second Assembly.
Repository: Northwestern University Archives
Deering Library, Room 110
1970 Campus Dr.
Evanston, IL, 60208-2300
Phone: 847-491-3354

Biographical/Historical Information

The World Council of Churches, founded in 1948, is an international interdenominational ecumenical organization of orthodox and protestant Christian churches. The Council's main purpose is to work for Christian church unity and renewal. It offers member denominations a forum in which they can discuss issues and work together in a spirit of tolerance and mutual understanding. The governing body of the Council is its Assembly. The Assembly meets every six years at various locations throughout the world and appoints a large central committee which in turn chooses an executive committee of twenty-six members. The committee of twenty-six works with specialized committees and six co-presidents to carry on work between Assemblies.

The Second Assembly of the World Council of Churches was held between August 15th and August 31st on Northwestern University's Evanston campus. The Chicago American (8/18/54) billed the Assembly as "the most important gathering in the University's 103 year history." The man responsible for bringing the World Council to Northwestern was James Alton James, a retired member of the University's Department of History and former Dean of the Graduate School. Active in church life, James served as a delegate to the Council's First Assembly held in Amsterdam in 1948. James learned that the Second Assembly would be held in the United States on a college campus and decided Northwestern would be the ideal location. Upon his return from the First Assembly, James worked for several months to secure the approval of the Council's Central Committee for the Northwestern site. After approval was granted a local Committee of 100 was formed to take care of housing, transportation, and general arrangements for the delegates when they arrived. University and City of Evanston officials worked closely in planning for the Second Assembly.

The plenary sessions of the Second Assembly were held in Northwestern's new McGaw Hall. In fact, the main reason for constructing this building was to provide a space large enough for the plenary sessions. Worship services were held at the First Methodist Church of Evanston. Assembly delegates roomed in University dormitories and in most fraternity, sorority, and independent houses as well as in the Northwestern Apartments. Many private homes in Evanston housed 600 of the more than 1200 accredited visitors. The Assembly received national press attention when United States President Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered a special convocation address on August 19th, 1954, and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree by the University.

Scope and Content

Boxes 1-2: The records pertaining to the Second Assembly of the World Council of Churches span the period 1950-1955. They comprise an artificially created collection of materials derived from three separate University Archives’ accessions. The records document Northwestern's involvement in the planning of the Second Assembly and its role as host. The records are divided into seven categories: correspondence; housing records; records of special convocation ceremonies; newspaper and periodical clippings; plenary session addresses; printed programs and agendas; and publications.

The correspondence files, dating between the years 1950 and 1954, are arranged chronologically. They consist of incoming letters and carbon copies of outgoing letters to and from University President J. Roscoe Miller, University Vice-President/Director of Public Relations J.J. Gerber and his successor A.C. Van Deusen, and Director of University Housing Willard J. Buntain. Included with the correspondence is one folder of "crank letters" addressed to the University President.

The housing records date from 1954 and consist of housing lists indicating building and room assignments of Assembly delegates, accounting ledger sheets, and meal menus.

Materials relating to the special convocation ceremonies are divided into three separate files. At the convocation ceremony of August 16th honorary degrees were awarded to the five World Council of Churches' Presidents and to the World Council of Churches' Central Chairman. The records include a full text of remarks, a printed program, seating charts, and mimeographed announcements concerning the ceremony. At the August 19th ceremony President Eisenhower was awarded a doctorate. The records from this event include Dean of Students Joe W. Miller's file pertaining to security and planning arrangements with memoranda, itineraries, and security maps included. These records also include a full text of President Eisenhower's speech and other remarks, printed programs, and a photographic print of a certificate presented to the President by the Evans Scholarship Foundation. Records concerning the August 27th World Council of Churches plaque presentation ceremony consist of a full test of remarks, a portfolio illustration of the plaque design, and related correspondence.

The newspaper and periodical clippings date from the year 1954-1955. The clippings are from the Evanston Review, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, other national newspapers, and Northwestern University publications.

The plenary sessions addresses are arranged chronologically by date of session. They comprise an incomplete set of mimeographed full-texts of addresses delivered between August 15th and August 27th.

The printed program and agendas are for church services and social events held during the Assembly. Also included is a copy of the official handbook of the Assembly.

Publications include two types of brochures: promotional and evaluative. The promotional publications consist of historical background on the World Council of Churches, study guides used prior to the Assembly meeting and brochures advertising the Assembly. The evaluative publications are booklets and brochures assessing accomplishments of the Second Assembly.

Addition, Box 3: This addition to the Records of the Second Assembly of the World Council of Churches, comprised of one half-size box and spanning the year 1954, documents the daily activities of the Assembly and its special convocation ceremonies held at Northwestern University between August 15 and August 31. Records include correspondence, newspaper and periodical clippings, plenary session addresses, and printed programs.

The bulk of the records consist of newspaper and periodical clippings, covering the daily events and speakers, including extensive coverage of President Eisenhower's visit. Other materials include copies of papers presented to the assembly and plenary sessions, pamphlets, programs, autographs, and one letter from G. Bromley Oxnam, Bishop of the Methodist Church of the Washington, D.C. area and a president of the WCC to Meredith Emily Anderson.

Records are arranged chronologically when possible.

Bookmarks [?], Accession #98-205: Each bookmark features an arrangement of three ribbons and four metal pendants. One metal pendant joins the three ribbons together and presumably fits into the area between the cover and headband of a book at the spine. The remaining pendants hang singly from the bottom of each of the three ribbons. The hanging pendants on each bookmark include a cross, a seal from the Second Assembly of the World Council of Churches, and an anchor. The seal features on one side the following:

World Council of Churches - Second Assembly / Northwestern University - Evanston 1954 / [the Greek word] OIKOUMENE and a representation of a cross in a boat on waves.

On the other side are:

+ Christ + The Hope of the World / Evanston, IL, 1954 and reliefs of the First Methodist Church of Evanston and of McGaw Memorial Hall at Northwestern University.

Four of the bookmarks include royal blue ribbon and silver plate pendants; four have light blue ribbon and possibly bronze or copper pendants. A fifth light blue and bronze/copper bookmark is incorrectly assembled and carries two crosses and a seal rather than a cross, anchor, and seal.


Corporate Name

Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.)--History

World Council of Churches. Assembly (2nd : 1954 : Evanston, Ill.)


Christian union--Congresses

Container List / Contents

  • Addition
    • General Correspondence, n.d.Box 3, Folder 1
    • Ecumenical Studies, Intro Leaflets No. 1-4, 6, 1954Box 3, Folder 2
    • Papers Presented, June - Aug. 1954Box 3, Folder 3
    • Service Programs, Ticket Stubs, Leaflets, Aug. 1954Box 3, Folder 4
    • Clippings, Sun Times, Aug. 15 - Sept. 2, 1954Box 3, Folder 5
    • Newspaper Clippings, Aug. 14 - Sept. 1, 1954Box 3, Folder 6
    • Periodical: Life, Aug. 30, 1954Box 3, Folder 7
    • Periodical Clippings, n.d.Box 3, Folder 8
    • Promotional Materials (in poor condition), 1954Box 3, Folder 9
  • Correspondence: President J. Roscoe Miller, May 1950 - Nov. 1953Box 1, Folder 1
  • Correspondence: President J. Roscoe Miller, Jan. 1954 - June 1954Box 1, Folder 2
  • Correspondence: President J. Roscoe Miller, July 1954 - Aug. 1954Box 1, Folder 3
  • Correspondence: President J. Roscoe Miller, Sept. 1954 - Nov. 1954Box 1, Folder 4
  • Crank Letters, 1954Box 1, Folder 5
  • Correspondence: Vice-President/Director of Public Relations J.J. Gerber, 1950-1952Box 1, Folder 6
  • Correspondence: Vice-President/Director Public Relations A.C. VanDeusen, Sept. 1952 - July 1954Box 1, Folder 7
  • Correspondence: Vice-President/Director Public Relations A.C. VanDeusen, Aug. - Nov. 1954; Aug. - Nov. 1955Box 1, Folder 8
  • Correspondence: Director of Housing. Willard J. Buntain, 1949-1954Box 1, Folder 9
  • Housing Records, 1954Box 1, Folder 10
  • Convocation Ceremony, August 16th, 1954Box 2, Folder 1
  • Convocation Ceremony, August 19th, 1954Box 2, Folder 2
  • Convocation Ceremony: Joe W. Miller, Dean of Students’ Records, 1954Box 2, Folder 3
  • Plaque Presentation Ceremony, August 27th, 1954Box 2, Folder 4
  • Newspaper Clippings: Evanston Review, 1954Box 2, Folder 5
  • Newspaper and Magazine Clippings, 1954Box 2, Folder 6
  • Plenary Session Addresses, Aug. 14-29, 1954Box 2, Folder 7
  • Printed Programs and Agendas, n.d.Box 2, Folder 8
  • Publications: Promotional, 1954Box 2, Folder 9
  • Publications: Evaluative, 1954Box 2, Folder 10