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
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."