Council for World Mission Archive

Scope and Content

Records of the Council for World Mission (from 1977) and its predecessor bodies, including the London Missionary Society (1795-1966) and Commonwealth (formerly Colonial) Missionary Society (1836-1966). Also includes some material for the Congregational Council for World Mission (1966-1977), which reflects the administrative changes and restructuring leading up to the creation of the Council for World Mission in 1977. Records for this period have been arranged and listed as a continuation of the London Missionary Society material as in many cases changes to administrative structures took place gradually.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Council for World Mission (CWM) is a worldwide partnership of Christian churches. The 32 members are committed to sharing their resources of money, people, skills and insights globally to carry out God's mission locally. CWM was created in 1977 and incorporates the London Missionary Society (1795), the Commonwealth Missionary Society (1836) and the (English) Presbyterian Board of Missions (1847).

During the period after 1945, the work of the London Missionary Society (LMS) evolved from traditional mission fieldwork to a more democratic and decentralised structure based on the development of local churches and local church leadership. This response was brought about not only in answer to so-called 'decolonisation' but also to social and political change and demographic shifts in the post-war years. In 1966 the LMS ceased to exist as a Society and merged with the Commonwealth Missionary Society to form the Congregational Council for World Mission (CCWM). The Presbyterian Church of England joined with the Congregational Church of England and Wales (a constituent body of CCWM) in 1972 to form the United Reformed Church. Its foreign missions work was incorporated into CCWM, leading to a name change in 1973 to the Council for World Mission (Congregational and Reformed). The CWM (Congregational and Reformed) was again restructured to create the Council for World Mission in 1977. This structure was more internationalist, reflecting greater ecumenism and church independence, and the end of Western dominance in the mission field.

In May 2003 the Council for World Mission was incorporated as a company limited by guarantee, and registered as a new charity in June 2003. A new constitution came into effect, which established a tri-annual Assembly and new governance structure.

In 2012, CWM’s secretariat relocated from London to Singapore. CWM is now administered as an international charitable organisation and a company limited by guarantee, registered in Singapore as CWM Ltd. A new constitution for the UK-registered charity, now known as Council for World Mission (UK), was voted by its Trustees immediately preceding the Assembly's June 2012 meeting in Pago Pago (American Samoa).

The CWM Assembly is now held once every 4 years. The Council, which is comprised of 32 member representatives, meets once a year at the Annual General Members Meeting. The Board of Directors is currently comprised of 12 or 13 members, and manages the affairs of the entire CWM community. There are 3 regular Board of Directors meetings a year.

CWM has a presence in 6 regions: Africa, Caribbean, East Asia, Europe, Pacific and South Asia.


The collection is arranged by the constituent parts of the organisation - papers of the Council for World Mission; papers of the London Missionary Society comprising one main accession, 1795-1940, and three accruals, 1941-1950, 1951-1960, and 1961-1970, and papers of the Commonwealth Missionary Society, 1836-1870.

Access Information

Candidates' papers and other records containing personal information such as minutes are subject to access restrictions in compliance with the Data Protection Act. Otherwise, papers are unrestricted.

Restrictions Apply

Acquisition Information

Deposited at SOAS, University of London, on permanent loan by the Council for World Mission in 1973. Further deposits made between 1988 and 2012.

Other Finding Aids

A guide to the CWM collection was prepared by the Rev C. Stuart Craig, published by SOAS in 1973, and revised in 1980.

An unpublished guide to the CWM/LMS papers, 1795-1940, was prepared by Hannah Lowery in 1994. This has been subject to a number of revisions and is available on the SOAS Archive Catalogue and in the Special Collections Reading Room, SOAS Library.

Unpublished lists for the three accruals to the collection, 1941-1950, 1951-1960 and 1961-1970 and detailed lists for certain sections of the London Missionary Society papers, including early missionary correspondence (to c.1899), journals and missionary deputations, 1795-c.1900, reports, 1866-1939, candidates papers and missionary portraits, are available in the Special Collections Reading Room. A separate handlist has been prepared for the papers of the Congregational Missionary Society (CWM/CMS).

Since 1999, records for the CWM archive have been added to the catalogue database and can be seen on the SOAS Archive Catalogue at

Alternative Form Available

The main accession of London Missionary Society papers, 1795-1940, and the first accrual, 1941-1950, have been published on microfiche by IDC Publishers (now Brill). Copies are held at a number of research libraries around the world.

Archivist's Note


Conditions Governing Use

For permission to publish, please contact Archives & Special Collections, SOAS Library in the first instance

Copyright held by Council for World Mission unless otherwise indicated.


Further accruals to the Council for World Mission archive are expected on a 10-yearly cycle as records become open to researchers.

Related Material

SOAS, University of London, also holds the Council for World Mission Library of c.13,000 books and pamphlets, and papers of the Presbyterian Church of England Foreign Missions Committee (Ref: PCE) and Women's Missionary Association (Ref: PCE/WMA). A separate catalogue for the Presbyterian material is available. Items in the CWM Library have been catalogued onto the SOAS Library catalogue, available at All items have the classmark prefix 'CWML'.

The collection of artefacts and oil paintings formerly belonging to the Council for World Mission (collected largely by the London Missionary Society) have been donated to the National Maritime Museum, London, and the Dr Williams' Library, London. Earlier donations of artefacts were made by the London Missionary Society to the British Museum, London. Please contact these institutions direct with enquiries.


Papers from the CWM archive have been used in the compilation of the following official histories: 'The History of the London Missionary Society, 1795-1895', by Richard Lovett (Oxford University Press, 1899); 'A History of the London Missionary Society, 1895-1945', by Norman Goodall (Oxford University Press, 1954), and 'Gales of Change: Responding to a Shifting Missionary Context. The Story of the London Missionary Society, 1945-1977', edited by Bernard Thorogood (WCC Publications, Geneva, 1944).