Scripture Union History
Ripples over the ocean did not take long to reach sunny South Africa, a natural climate for CSSM’s outdoor evangelism.
In 1884 William Shripton, a member of the London committee, visited the Cape Colony, spent several months there and started a number of new SU branches. One of those was called the Acorn Branch, because it was run from Mowbray House, home of Mr and Mrs C F Cleghorn, which had an avenue of majestic oaks lining the drive way. Six years later Mrs Cleghorn reported to London that the branch was still going strongly, with no decrease in numbers.
By 1893 not only was there a large number of English speaking branches in South Africa, but the work had also spilled over into many Africa languages and Dutch.
At Nkanga in the Transkei there was a small branch run by Mr C S Green consisting of most of the little community, the African servants, the interpreter and his wife and the Bible woman. All of them had cards in Xhosa. The Butterworth branch in those early days had forty eight members, but, alas, two were reported to have died since the Union had started – a little touch indicating the intensely personal nature of the work.
Thus before the close of the century Scripture Union as a Bible Reading movement was deeply and broadly established in South Africa. The concept of membership was clearly understood. Membership meant belonging and carried with it the responsibility of “keeping up the reading of the daily portions”. Furthermore, membership gave rise to a sense of ownership and the obligation of propagating the activities of the movement. Wherever these principles have been operative in later history, success had been reported.
By 1900 SU had reached it majority. The first years of the new century produced a number of colourful characters who shone like bright lights in the early history of the movement.
SU in Over 130 Countries
From those humble beginnings, Scripture Union spread around the world. Today Scripture Union is active in over 130 countries worldwide, still working to introduce children and young people to Jesus and promote regular, serious Bible reading. The aims of SU are achieved in a wide range of ways appropriate to the country, culture and situation in each country. Movements in different countries or continents may run camps, school seminars, Primary and Secondary Bible study groups for students, produce Bible reading materials and other resources for churches, offer family counseling, education about AIDS, training for churches and children’s workers, and minister to urban children and youth or the handicapped.
SU is primarily a volunteer organization with a small number of staff who train, encourage and coordinate the many ministry workers worldwide. Scripture Union in each country is an autonomous organization. Scripture Union/USA, like each of the 130 movements, is governed by its own Council which meets three times annually. All Scripture Union movements and linked together by shared principles and a common calling.