Bristol University Christian Union (BUCU) has issued a statement which says they will extend invitations to both women and men to speak at any of their events without exception.
The society sparked international reaction after an email from UBCU President Matt Oliver to society members explained that women would not be able to teach on their own at weekly CU: Equip meetings, as the main speaker on BUCU weekends away or as the main speaker for mission weeks.
The email to members went on to clarify that during these events a woman would be able to teach if she was accompanied by her husband and said that women were allowed to teach on their own in all other CU settings.
The story attracted widespread coverage from local and national newspapers (see The Post, The Huffington Post UK, The Guardian, The Telegraph) whilst bloggers and Twitter users were keen to share their thoughts.
Well-known atheist and author of The God Delusion Richard Dawkins re-tweeted the story to his 500,000 followers and commented that ‘A “theology” that can justify such nonsense has no place in a university.’
BUCU have issued a statement this evening stating that they will now be extending speaker invitations to both genders without exception.
‘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.’
The society’s statement explained that ‘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.
It went on to say that this latest decision is ‘In line with our basic position throughout that process, which has not been widely publicised’.
It has emerged that a ban on women speakers was not a new occurrence at BUCU and had been their practice for a number of years. A recent internal conflict regarding the role of women in the society prompted a committee member to resign and for BUCU to clarify their position on the matter to their members, which included a ban on women speakers in certain situations.
The BUCU statement said that it ‘deplores the recent exaggerations and misrepresentations in some parts of the media of its position on women’s ministry in the church’. They reiterated that they have ‘never had a formal policy’ on the issue of women’s ministry as BUCU is a student society and not a church.
The Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship (UCCF) – the umbrella group for Christian Unions across the UK – issued a statement earlier today which said that ‘Many hundreds of churches across the United Kingdom have a policy of not having women preachers’ but that the UCCF has ‘no such policy’.
‘It would be wholly against the spirit and intention of the UCFF ... 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.’