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Bristol CU-turn on women speakers

07 December 2012


Tower: Bristol University

Tower: Bristol University

THE Christian Union (CU) at Bristol University said on Wednesday that it had changed its mind, and would invite women to speak at its meetings, after reports that they were only allowed to speak if accompanied by their husbands.

The Bristol University student newspaper, Epigram, reported this week that the president of Bristol University Christian Union, Matt Oliver, had sent an email to members saying that women's preaching was "a difficult issue" for some in the CU.

It had therefore decided "that women would not teach on their own at our weekly CU . . . meetings, as the main speaker on our Bristol CU weekends away, or as our main speaker for mission weeks. But a husband and wife can teach together in these."

Mr Oliver told The Huffington Post, a news website, that the CU had "no formal position on the role of men and women in the Church. We respect those of our members who hold strong biblical convictions in this area and seek to find the most practical way of expressing this inclusivity."

The story was picked up by several national newspapers and websites, and attracted a lot of attention on social media networks such as Twitter.

The national umbrella body, the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship (UCCF), issued a statement saying that it had no policy against women's preaching at CUs, and that, as an organisation, it "employs women and men in leadership positions on an equal basis".

It criticised the Bristol stance, stating: "It would be wholly against the spirit and intention of the UCCF Basis of Faith, and the advice of UCCF staff, if an individual CU devised a policy not to have women speakers for some or all of their events."

And the vice-president of welfare and equality at Bristol University Students' Union, Alessandra Berti, said that the Students' Union was investigating the issue, in particular to make certain that its equality policy was being properly adhered to.

Then, late on Wednesday, after the print edition of the Church Times had gone to press, the Bristol CU issued a statement saying that its 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."

The statement said that the Bristol CU was "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."


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