Bristol University Christian Union – more

Well, after my earlier post on Bristol University Christian Union, here’s some more.

They’ve published a new statement which says this:

BUCU statement on women speakers
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.

BUCU Executive Committee
5 December 2012

So, first off, kudos to them for considering this quickly and issuing this statement. It goes part way to repairing the damage done to the reputation of the faith caused by further reports. Odd that they say they’ve not had a policy on women speakers whilst also moaning that such a policy has been misrepresented. However, it must at least be partially welcomed.

Question now falls to UCCF (the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship) which doesn’t really come out of today that well. Do they really condone groups who exclude women speakers or don’t they? They seemed to suggest earlier that it was a secondary issue which didn’t really matter. Are they prepared to say that such exclusion is against the gospel they believe in or not?

Does UCCF believe in “the core biblical truth of the fundamental equality of women and men?” 

Are they planning on including it in their doctrinal basis?

Would be good to know.

Bristol University Christian Union & Women Speakers

How timely is the story about Bristol University’s Christian Union in providing an object lesson for everyone with regard to the Church of England. It neatly illustrates the kind of thinking that Rowan Williams (and the “keep the church together at all costs” party) has been not merely tolerating but actively pandering to.

The local student newspaper has this quote, which sets out the local policy:

Having spent ‘a lot of time exploring this issue, seeking God’s wisdom on it and discussing it together’ the CU executive committee decided that it is not appropriate for women to teach alone at weekly meetings, or be the main speaker at the CU weekend away.

Women are also banned from speaking alone at the group’s mission weeks.

However, it’s not all gloom and doom: women are allowed to speak as a double act with their husbands. Those who are unmarried must remain silent.

You don’t need me, or anyone else to tell you how offensive this is to most people.

According to some reports, this is a softening of their stance – previously there were fewer circumstances where women were allowed to teach.

UCCF (the University and Colleges Christian Fellowship) which is the umbrella body for Christian Unions in University has hit twitter insisting that this is a local matter and not their policy – after all there are plenty of local Christian Unions where women can and do teach and lead.

Dear all – UCCF’s only requirement for CU speakers, leaders, etc is for them to be in sympathy with the DB [Doctrinal Basis] Please pray for us as we bring students – who put important but secondary issues aside – together to live and speak for Jesus at university.

Sounds reasonable, huh?

Well, it sounds reasonable until you ask yourself whether regarding women and men as having the same dignity as one another in the modern world is a secondary issue. I’d rather think it isn’t. UCCF appear very much to be saying that it is OK for people in their affiliated organisations to be beastly towards women, so long as everyone agrees to unite around a doctrinal statement – the doctrinal basis.

That does no credit to their organisation at all.

I know what I’m talking about when it comes to UCCF – I used to be on a Christian Union committee in the North of England when I first left home to go to college. The Doctrinal Basis is all and you can’t have speakers who don’t conform to it.

I once tried to get my local group to invite a rabbi to talk about the Holy Spirit in Judaism and they refused to have him on the grounds that he couldn’t sign the doctrinal basis and declare his faith in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour. (And that’s about the time I started to realise that there was a touch of the silly about the whole thing).

Anyway, my own view is that this all rather helpfully illustrates the kind of toxic theology that Rowan Williams has been trying for some time to force the Church of England to give a place of honour to. The idea that the Bible teaches this kind of “headship” that men have over women is hokum but it is hokum that a small number of people in the church believe. (Interestingly, it doesn’t seem to be an idea that Evangelical friends in the Scottish Episcopal Church coalesce around). Rowan Williams tried to get the Church of England to respect this kind of belief up to the point that any women bishops appointed would face the possibility of individual parishes being automatically able to opt out of their care in favour of a male bishop who shared their theological views.

It is a good thing this attempt has fallen. The Bristol CU debacle, though unpleasant in itself, is a helpful illustration of what was at stake.