The Christian Union (CU) has sparked controversy over the decision to ban female speakers at some of their events.
A committee member has since resigned because he felt that women should not be allowed to teach in any capacity at the CU.
Following his resignation, the CU executive committee confirmed their stance on women speakers in an e-mail to their members.
President of the CU Matt Oliver wrote that ‘…this is a difficult issue for some and so [we] decided that women would not teach on their own at our weekly CU: Equip meetings, as the main speaker on our Bristol CU weekends away or as our main speaker for mission weeks.’
He went on to clarify that during these events a woman would be able to teach if she was accompanied by her husband. Women are also allowed to teach on their own in all other CU settings.
Despite members of the CU claiming that the issue was dealt with peacefully, the matter has angered some who see the decision as a violation of women’s rights.
As a result, UBU VP Welfare and Equality Alessandra Berti and VP Activities Martha West met with the society to discuss the issue.
The Bristol University Feminist Society has said that religious groups should not be immune from question or criticism with regards to gender equality.
‘The CU’s position seems to be implying that they have reached a compromise on the issue, however it is still hugely discriminatory, deeply offensive and sexist to women. They are suggesting that women have more worth as speakers if speaking with their husband while assuming that all women are interested in marriage, or men for that matter.’
One female CU member told Epigram that ‘I think that on paper this moved the CU towards having equal rights for women, although in practice I’m not sure how much difference it will have made.
‘On a personal note, I believe that Jesus was a feminist and that women should be allowed to teach… this is obviously an issue I have had to contend with as a member of the CU.’
The controversial decision comes shortly after the Church of England ruled that women would not be able to become bishops. The General Synod, a body which debates legislation for the entire Church of England, declined the motion to allow women to become bishops after it narrowly missed the two-thirds majority which is required.
A Christian student who has never been directly involved with the CU told Epigram that she was ‘saddened’ by the CU’s actions and expressed concern that ‘for many in the University [the decision] will mould opinions on Christianity.’
She explained that ‘Christ treated women and men as equal, encouraging them both to teach and lead for the Kingdom of God. So should the Bristol CU.’
The CU said in a statement that it ‘has 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.’
Every member of CU believes that all men and women are created of equal worth by God as those made in his image. We are committed to unity and diversity amongst all students in the CU.’
UPDATE 5.12.12: Bristol University Christian Union has issued a statement which says they will extend invitations to both women and men to speak at any of their events without exception. FULL STORY HERE.