Well, in case you missed it. At the start of this week, the Huffington Post, published the following little story:
A university’s Christian society has banned women from speaking at events and teaching at meetings, unless they are accompanied by their husband, it has been revealed.
The Bristol University Christian Union (BUCU) had originally decided women would be allowed to teach at meetings after their international secretary resigned in protest, but the group has since changed its policy.
Read more on Huffington Post.
The resulting “upset” in the news and on Twitter prompted the following strongly worded press release from Bristol CU via UCCF:
Bristol University Christian Union (BUCU) deplores the recent exaggerations and misrepresentations in some parts of the media of its position on women’s ministry in the church.
It is well known that Christian churches differ on this question. BUCU is not a church, but a student society, so it has never had a formal policy on women’s ministry.
In recent months, the Executive Committee have been exploring ways in which BUCU can best accommodate members with divergent and strongly held convictions, while expressing our unity as Christian believers. In line with our basic position throughout that process, which has not been widely publicised, the Executive Committee now wish to make clear that we will extend speaker invitations to both women and men, to all BUCU events, without exception.
BUCU is utterly committed to reflecting the core biblical truth of the fundamental equality of women and men.
Well. The story seemed to calm down after that. Then an interesting little article appeared on the Guardian:
Bristol University’s Christian Union has long been anti-women
‘Bristol University CU should have no qualms in letting us know how many of their presidents in the past 15 years have been women.’ Photograph: Alamy
Many former members of Bristol University Christian Union will be as despondent as I am that in the 15 years since the committee failed to nominate its first female president, its attitude to women is apparently unchanged. As a close acquaintance of some of the committee members of the time, I later found this decision was taken despite the committee agreeing that the woman in question was the best candidate and despite seeking the view of the external advisory board – who recommended that she be nominated.
The “ban” on women speakers was also in place at the time, but in just the same way it was not an overt “policy” of the CU and was certainly not set out in any of the society literature – or discussed at any meeting. You had to infer it from the schedule, and if you queried it you were told that it was to avoid “causing offence”.
Likewise, the unbroken lineage of male presidents only became apparent to me by virtue of my position as editor of the CU newsletter, which brought with it an archive of term cards identifying decades worth of prior executive committees. Many objected strongly to this, of course – and warned the CU that sooner or later it was inevitable that this undeclared stance would be made public, with the inevitable reputational consequences for both Bristol University CU and the national association of Christian unions with which it is aligned, the UCCF.
Read more on the Guardian website.
Personally, this was not an issue in the CU I was once involved in, so I’m a little confused by all of this. I never figured that having female speakers / leaders in a CU was ever a problem, or have I just not seen it, because I’m a guy?
Is this all one storm in a tea cup? Will it go away eventually?
Are we all a little sensitive about this issue, due to the women bishop vote the other week?
So many questions, I expect only in time will we really know the answer.