James and Margaret Goff Papers
Scope and Contents
The James and Margaret Goff Papers contain materials gathered and produced in the course of the Goffs' work, particularly in the areas of religious liberty and religious implications of social development in Latin America. The papers provide first-hand perspective on major shifts taking place in Protestant missions in the later 20th century, including the nationalization of Latin American churches and the rise of liberation theology. The collection is strong in documenting the Goffs' early career in Colombia (1947-1969), the pivotal period of their research assignment in Cuernavaca, Mexico (1969-1973), their work in Nicaragua (1981-1986) and their retirement activities (1986-2000). Material from their years in Peru (1973-1981) is scarce. James and Margaret Goff were fraternal workers (missionaries) serving under the United Presbyterian Church in the USA (PCUSA after 1983), in Latin America (Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Nicaragua) from 1947 to 1986. They served as interpreters of Latin American liberation theology to a Protestant Anglophone audience, translating and distributing important religious documents to church leaders in North America.
The Document Service partially preserved in Series I was a defining element of the second half of the Goffs' career as fraternal workers. Believing that the reports of missionaries in Latin America tended to reflect the political right exclusively, the Goffs began their translation and documentation service "to let the church in the English-speaking world hear from the Latin American Christian Left." They began the service in 1969, shortly before their departure from Colombia. Soon, they were selecting, translating when necessary, editing, mimeographing, and circulating these documents to a mailing list of several hundred people. The series also included, at times, original papers written or solicited by the Goffs specifically for the document service. In most cases the documents are accompanied by a cover letter by the Goffs.
The collection of the Goffs' mailings available in Series I is incomplete. It features materials produced during the Goffs' service in Cernavaca from 1969 to 1973, with one mailing from Nicaragua (concerning the 1984 election) and a few from New York (1988-1989), which consist primarily of relevant clippings from US periodicals rather than original Latin American material. Documents from the Goffs' periods in Peru are not available. There are apparently some gaps in the Mexico-era documents, although the service was not strictly monthly, so a skipped month does not necessarily represent a missing document.
The Writings and Translations of Series II are divided into five subseries: a) Writings by the Goffs; b) Writings by others, c) Occasional translations by the Goffs; d) Other publications by the Goffs; e) Publications by other documentation services.
The writings of the Goffs include both published and unpublished essays and reports. Longer works by the Goffs, including James' dissertation The Persecution of Protestant Christians in Colombia (1968), and In every person who hopes ... the Lord is born every day: a book of Latin American Faces and Places (1980) are available in the Library's cataloged collection.
The writings of others collected by the Goffs in the course of their work include essays and articles, and are representative of the type of materials that the Goffs circulated through their document service. Most are in English, but a few Spanish items are also included.
The "occasional" translations of the Goffs are those not apparently undertaken for the purpose of their Document Service. They include both English to Spanish and Spanish (or Portuguese) to English. Two of translations were undertaken by the Goffs' children under supervision of their parents; most of the rest are co-translated by James and Margaret.
While the Goffs' Document Service was the most prolonged manifestation of their aptitude for editing and publishing, it was not the only one. Their work in this area began with their editing of Colombian Clippings, the newsletter of the Presbyterian Church in Colombia. The press releases that James Goff issued as press secretary of CEDEC are noteworthy documents revealing the fruits of his research into religious persecution in Latin America. Finally, after their retirement, the Goffs co-founded and edited Friendship Findings, the newsletter of the Pomona Valley-Nicaragua Friendship Association from 1990 until James' death in 1994 (see memorial issue, September 1994), with Margaret continuing as solo editor for another year.
As publishers of their Church and Social Change Document Service, the Goffs were both purveyors and collectors of documentation on the social and rleigious climate of Latin America. Their received mailings and solicited documents from organizations and individuals writing on their themes of interest, and drew from these resources in compiling their mailings. The publications of other documentation services in Series II primarily represent the Goffs' period in Mexico. Of particular note are the publications of CIDOC and of ISAL, from which the Goffs often drew materials for their documentation service, and with which they worked closely.
The Goffs' Correspondence available in Series III is in many ways an extension of their professional writing life evidenced in Series I and II. Much as James Goff would attach a "Dear Friends" cover letter to a significant item and mail it to the 800 subscribers in his document service, he would circulate essays and clippings to smaller groups or to individuals when he believed they would be of interest. His letters to colleagues often exhibit the same detailed analysis as his writings for publication. His concern about social change in Latin America repeatedly prompted him to write to publications and religious and political leaders in the United States in an effort not only to educate them, but to convince them to change their policies toward Latin America. Correspondence can be found throughout this collection, not only in Series III; where correspondence is directly related to other items in the collection it has been kept with those items rather than isolated in this series.
Series IV, Sermons and Talks, includes notes and manuscripts form the public speaking of James Goff (with one talk by Margaret Goff in 1994). The majority of this series consists of notes (in Spanish and English) for sermons and prayers from James' ministry at several churches in Colombia (in some cases, order of service bulletins are also included.)
Series V, Activities, reflects the spectrum of ministries, studies, and projects that the Goffs undertook during their long career. This series includes, among other things, materials related to their involvement with the Presbyterian Mission in Colombia, the Presbyterian Church of Colombia, CEDEC (including the 1966-1967 Protestant censuses), the 1969 Crisis in the Nation Redeployment, LAD/LAWG conferences 1969-1973, WCCE "Encountras" 1971, and various activities from their retirement. Collected materials, correspondence, and notes from the research and activities of the Goffs appear in this series.
Among many items of interest in Series V is the extensive documentation of the conflict surrounding the 1971 Bogota seminar on "Mission and Development," which was denounced by CEDEC. This material highlights tensions that existed over the relationship between missionaries and local church leaders, and between Marxism and Christianity. (See also the Wilbur Kuhl correspondence in Series III for reactions to this conflict back in the United States.)
Series V, Activities, also includes documentation related to editorial projects undertaken by the Goffs, although in several cases the final documents are not available. In 1969-1970, James Goff reproduced and circulated evidence about human rights violations in Brazil on behalf of ISAL, which did not want its name associated with the project for fear of repercussions for its informants. The correspondence and some background documents about this project are preserved, although the mailings themselves do not seem to be extant. Similarly, this collection holds correspondence, minutes, background documents, and partial drafts for a white paper that James Goff edited for the UPCUSA Task Force on US-Cuba Relations in 1972, but the final document is not present here.
The Collected Materials of Series VI provide further evidence of the Goffs' life-long activitiy as collectors and disseminators of ideas and information. They include conference materials, organizational materials, newspaper and magazine clippings, and subject files amassed by the Groffs. Of particular note in the conference sub-series are the paeprs from the CICOP (Catholic Inter-American Cooperation Program) conferences from 1965, 1970, and 1971.
Series VII, Personal Items and Memorabilia, is a small collection of photographs and other miscellaneous biographical items. Included is a handwritten dictionary, in English, in James Goff's hand, from the 1950s.
Series VIII, added in 2010, includes resource materials related to Latin American countries and issues. These materials were formerly housed in a resource center established by the Goffs and by Davie and Joy Napier at the Pilgrim Place retirement community in California.
Conditions Governing Access
The materials are open for research.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Gift of the Goff family.
- I. Document Service
- II. Writings and Translations
- III. Correspondence
- IV. Sermons and Talks
- V. Activities
- VI. Collected Materials
- VII. Personal Items and Memorabilia
- VIII. Addendum - 2010
34 Linear Feet (94 boxes and 3 Oversize)
Language of Materials
This collection contains materials gathered and produced in the course of the Goffs' work, particularly in the areas of religious liberty and religious implications of social development in Latin America. The papers provide first-hand perspective on major shifts taking place in Protestant missions in the later 20th century, including the nationalization of Latin American churches and the rise of liberation theology. The collection is strong in documenting the Goffs' early career in Colombia (1947-1969), the pivotal period of their research assignment in Cuernavaca, Mexico (1969-1973), their work in Nicaragua (1981-1986) and their retirement activities (1986-2000). Material from their years in Peru (1973-1981) is scarce. James and Margaret Goff were fraternal workers (missionaries) serving under the United Presbyterian Church in the USA (PCUSA after 1983), in Latin America (Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Nicaragua) from 1947 to 1986. They served as interpreters of Latin American liberation theology to a Protestant Anglophone audience, translating and distributing important religious documents to church leaders in North America.
Biographical / Historical
James Ernest Goff was born January 6, 1916 in San Antonio, Texas. Margaret ("Peg") Louise Pollard Goff was born August 3, 1916 in Berkeley, California. The Goffs both graduated from the University of California at Berkeley, Margaret in 1938 (Dietetics) and James in 1939 (Electrical Engineering). They were married in 1941. In 1942 James graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary with a B.Th. and was ordained in the Presbytery of Los Angeles. During World War II, he served as a chaplain in the U.S. Naval Reserves (1942-1946). James received Th.D from San Francisco Theological Seminary in 1965.
In 1947 the Goffs were appointed by the United Presbyterian Church in the USA Board of Foreign Missions to serve in Colombia as missionaries, or fraternal workers. They took with them their two small children, Frederick (b. 1943) and Harriet (b. 1945); their third child, Charles, was born in 1951.
For the next twenty-one years the Goffs served with the Colombia Mission, the Presbyterian Church of Colombia, and CEDEC (the Confederación Evangélica de Colombia, an Ecumenical group of Protestant churches and ministries) in a variety of capacities. James served as principal of Presbyterian schools in Barranquilla and Bogota, Colombia, resigning in 1966 to make room for a Colombian principal. He also served as interim pastor for several Colombian churches. James began working for CEDEC in 1951, investigating religious persecution in Latin America. This research included a Study Tour of South American countries in 1955. The press releases he issued as press secretary for CEDEC (1952-1963) and his 1965 Th. D. dissertation for San Francisco Theological Seminary ("The Persecution of Protestant Christians in Colombia, 1948-1958, with an Investigation of its Background and Causes") provide valuable documentation on this subject. James also conducted comprehensive censuses of Protestants in Colombia in 1966 and 1967 (the latter including Venezuela) in connection with his CEDEC work.
In the 1950s Margaret chaired the publicity committee and worked in women's ministries of the Presbyterian Colombia Mission. She was active in Christian education, and taught in the schools of which James was principal. Toward the end of their period in Colombia, the Goffs were instrumental in establishing an Ecumenical Community for Theology and Christian Education (COMTEC, or Theological Community, for short) in Bogota, with Margaret as president and James as librarian and publicist.
During the second half of 1968, James participated in the "Crisis in the Nation Redeployment," a response by the United Presbyterian Church to the race riots that shook American cities in the late 1960s. Fraternal workers serving in other countries were called back to the United States to provide an international perspective on the nation's racial tensions and to consult with US churches seeking a faithful response to the crisis. James returned for the redeployment to the Synod of Southern California. In addition to speaking in churches and contributing to crisis team reports, he was involved in securing the participation of the Synod in the legal defense of thirteen Chicano men indicted in Los Angeles over walk-outs staged at area high schools.
After their furlough in the summer of 1969, the Goffs moved to Cuernavaca, Mexico, home of CIDOC (the International Center for Documentation, founded by Ivan Illich). The Goffs were assigned to conduct research and writing projects and to organize seminars for missionaries/fraternal workers under the auspices of the Latin America Department (Latin America Working Group as of 1972) of the Division of Overseas Ministries of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA. The Goffs also served as liaisons for the NCC with CIDOC and were involved with the activities of the Center. The Goff's "document service", which they had started in early 1969, was a major focus of the research/writing branch of their assignment during this period.
In 1970-1971, Margaret organized the "Encuentros" leading up the international meeting of the World Council of Christian Education in Lima, Peru in July 1971. Delegates to the WCCE meeting were first sent to one of seventeen Latin American countries for discussion and study of Christian education in that local setting before gathering for the meeting in Lima. Margaret traveled to each of the participating host cities to make arrangements and gather information for participants.
In 1973, the Goffs moved to Lima, Peru, where James and Margaret became associate editors of English Language Latin American Press Service and Noticias Aliadas. In 1981, the Goffs moved to Managua, Nicaragua to work in the Antonio Valdivieso Ecumenical Center, which had been founded in 1979 after the Sandinista victory "to accompany Christians in the revolutionary process." The Goffs maintained a document center in Managua and served as interpreters of the social/political situation for visiting delegations. They also continued to produce their document service for subscribers in the US and Europe.
In 1986, the Goffs returned to the United States and served for three years as directors of the Central American Education Program at the Stony Point Center in New York. In 1989 they moved to Pilgrim Place, a retirement community for missionaries in Claremont, California. Though James Goff wrote in a 1973 letter, "retired missionaries are disassociated from the countries where they once worked and have little if any influence in mission policy," in the final years of his life he did his best to disprove his own characterization. The Goffs remained highly involved in Latin American affairs, especially Nicaraguan concerns. Much of their activism was through the organization Pastors for Peace, which emphasized both humanitarian aid and reform of U.S. policy towards several countries in Latin America. James returned to Nicaragua as an election observer in early 1990, and James and Margaret participated in a leadership summit on Cuba in Laredo, Texas in 1993. The Goffs were active in the Nicaragua-Pomona Valley Friendship Association and participated in founding a parallel organization, the U.S.-Cuba Friendship Association of Pomona Valley. James served on an advisory council for Siloe Church in Nicaragua until failing health forced his resignation.
James Goff died on July 23, 1994. Margaret continues to live at Pilgrim Place and to promote their interests in Latin America.
In the course of their work, the Goffs interacted with a number of organizations there were known by acronymns or initials. Following is a partial list of some of the prominent organizations that appear in this collection:
- CCIA - Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (affiliated with the World Council of Churches; Leopoldo Niilus, director)
- CEDEC - Confederación Evangélica de Colombia
- CELADEC - Commission Evangélica Latinoamericana de Educación Cristiana (Peru)
- CELAM - Conseuo Episcopal Latinoamericano (Roman Catholic)
- CICOP - Centro Intercultual de Documentación
- CLAI - Consejo Latinoamericano de Iglesias
- COEMAR - Commission on Ecumenical Mission and Relations (of the United Presbyterian Church in the USA; formerly the Board of Foreign Missions; later the Program Agency)
- COMTEC - Community for Theology and Christian Education (Bogota)
- CRC - Cuban Resource Center (New York)
- DOM - Division of Overseas Ministries of the NCC
- EPICA - Ecumenical Program for Inter-American Communicatin and Action (Washington, DC)
- IFCO - Interreligious Foundation for Community Organizations, Inc. (parent organization of Pastors for Peace)
- ISAL - Church and Society in Latin America
- LAD / LAWG - Latin American Department (to 1971) / Latin American Working Group of the DOM, NCC
- LADOC - Latin American Documentation Service
- LASA - Latin American Studies Association
- NCC - National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA
- NICA - New Interfaith Commitment for Action (San Francisco)
- NICCA - Nicaragua Center for Community Action (Berkeley)
- SODEPAX - Committee on Society, Development and Peace of the World Council of Churches and Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace
- Guide to the James and Margaret Goff Papers
- Compiled by Rachel Maxson, Martha Lund Smalley, Christine Luckritz, and Mary Richardson
- 2001, 2004, 2010, 2017
- Description rules
- Finding Aid Prepared According To Local Divinity Library Descriptive Practices
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English.
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