Now Processed: Advisory Council on Church and Society Records
The Advisory Council on Church and Society Records have been processed as Record Group 540, and the guide to the records is now available: https://www.history.pcusa.org/collections/research-tools/guides-archival-collections/rg-540.
The processed collection totals 211 boxes. The collection's scope chiefly covers the history and actions of the Advisory Council on Church and Society (ACCS), its staff, and its predecessor entities as they worked to guide the Church in its responses to the social, political, and economic issues of larger and secular society. The materials are primarily in English with some items in Spanish.
In 1934, committees of both the Board of Christian Education (BCE) and the Board of National Missions of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (PCUSA) established the Department of Social Education. In 1936, its name was changed to the Department of Social Education and Action, and it was administered by the BCE and advised by the interboard Counseling Committee on Social Education and Action. The Department's purpose was to encourage, guide, assist, and sometimes lead the Church in making faithful, obedient, and pragmatically effective responses to the social, political, and economic life of the times. The Department pursued this purpose through social research, social education, social strategy, and social action. The Department's program was determined by social pronouncements, which the Department, the Counseling Committee, and the Standing Committee on Social Education and Action prepared and presented to the General Assembly.
After the formation of the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (UPCUSA), the Department of Social Education and Action was renamed the Office of Church and Society (keeping that name from 1960 to 1970). The Office of Church and Society was assigned the responsibility of helping the Church to speak and act with theological obedience and pragmatic effectiveness within and upon the structures and forces of secular society. The Office conducted research to better understand the constantly changing nature of contemporary society, counseled with secular agencies and entities to learn from them, and represented the Church in society at large. The interboard Counseling Committee on Church and Society advised the Office staff in their continued study and analysis of social issues and reported to the General Assembly through the Standing Committee on Church and Society. All these entities worked together to develop and present statements on social issues (social pronouncements) to the General Assembly each year.
In 1971, the Office of Church and Society was renamed the Department of Church and Society (using that name from 1971 to 1972). The Department of Church and Society remained under the administration of the BCE until the boards were reorganized in 1972. At that time the Department of Church and Society was renamed the ACCS, after which it reported to the General Assembly Mission Council (GAMC). Like its predecessor entities, the ACCS's purpose was service to the prophetic witness of the Church. The ACCS prepared background studies and policy recommendations on matters of Christian social concern for consideration by the General Assembly. The ACCS's Executive Committee served as the point of strategy and agenda formulation and created ad hoc task forces for specific tasks and studies.
The collection contains three series.
Series I, Dean Lewis Files, circa 1916-2002, contains materials created, collected, and maintained by Dean H. Lewis. Lewis worked in many roles throughout his career in the Church, including as secretary of the Office of Social Education and Evangelism (OSEE; of the Division of General Lay Education, BCE), as secretary of the Office of Church and Society, and as director of the ACCS. The files are arranged alphabetically by folder titles and cover a wide range of subjects and topics, some examples of which include: abortion, economic systems, education, extremism, farm workers, health care, mission design, peacemaking, religious liberty, the Sanctuary Movement, sexuality, South Africa, and the Vietnam War.
Entities represented in the files include the ACCS (and its predecessor entities), the Ecumenical Development Cooperative Society (EDCS), the GAMC, the General Assembly, Ghost Ranch (New Mexico), the Krisheim Institute on Social Involvement (KISI), the Mission Design Committee (MDC; of the General Assembly Council), the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. (NCCC), the Presbyterian Panel (of the Support Agency), and the OSEE.
There are files pertaining to numerous committees, subcommittees, strategy groups, and task forces, organized to discuss specific topics. Some examples are as follows: Central America, Christian Obedience in a Nuclear Age (CONA), Health Costs and Policies, Homosexuality, Just Political Economy, J. P. Stevens Plants, Migration Issues in U.S./Mexico Relations, Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI), Peacemaking, Religious Liberty and Church-State Relations (RLAC), Medicine and Human Values, Seminary Consultation Planning Committee (SCPC), Sexuality and the Human Community, Small Family Farms, Social Policy Implementation Review (SPIR), Social Witness Implications of Reunion (SWIR), Structure Review (GAMC), and Transnational Corporations.
There are also files of ACCS and its predecessor entities' staff, including Dean H. Lewis, Clarence Cave, Clifford J. Earle, and Dieter Hessel.
Series II, Other Operation and Subject / Topical Files, circa 1938-1977, contains materials created, collected, and maintained by other ACCS staff, as well as its predecessor entities' staff, including Robert D. Bulkley, Ellis H. Butler, Margaret E. (Maggie) Kuhn, Howard C. Maxwell, Robert E. Raymond, H. B. (Ben) Sissel, and Gayraud S. Wilmore. There are files of the Presbyterian Service Committee for Religious Objectors' communications with conscientious objectors; files of the Commission on Race and Religion (CORAR); and research files on a variety of subjects and topics, including aging, economic life and economics, international affairs, metropolitan society, and race and race relations.
Series III, Audiovisual Materials, 1960-1988, contains audiocassettes, a media kit, open reel audiotapes, and a videotape chiefly documenting meetings of the ACCS and its committees and task forces.
Click here to access the guide to the Advisory Council on Church and Society Records and read more about the contents of the records.