BRISTOL UNIVERSITY’S Christian Union (BUCU) has ignited controversy over allegedly “banning” women from speaking at their weekly meetings and away weekends, unless they do so with their hus- bands.
The Huffington Post UK claims to have seen the email circulated by BUCU president Matt Oliver that sparked the controversy. According to the Huffington Post article, the email, allegedly sent by Oliver to all BUCU members, said they “decided that women would not teach on their own at our weekly CU meet- ings, as the main speaker on our Bristol CU weekend away, or as our main speaker for mission weeks… but a husband and wife can teach together in these.”
The story was quickly picked up by Bristol student publications (The Tab and The Epigram) as well as national media outlets including The Guardian and The Times.
The Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship (UCCF) issued a statement on 5 December saying that although many churches across the UK have a policy against women preachers, the UCCF has no such policy.
“CUs are at liberty to invite speakers (male or female) who will maintain the unity reflected in the Basis of Faith, but it would be wholly against the spir-
it and intention of the UCCF Basis of Faith and the advice of UCCF staff if an individual CU devised a pol- icy not to have women speakers for some or all of their events.”
The Bristol CU has said in a statement, issued the same day, that they “deplore” the way that their posi- tion on women in the church has been exaggerated and misrepresented in some parts of the media.
The statement goes on to say that BUCU is “not a church, but a student society, so it has never had a formal policy on women’s ministry,” and that they are “utterly committed to reflecting the core biblical truth of the fundamental equality of women and men.”
In a column written in The Guardian, Joel Lewis says the statement from BUCU doesn’t answer the right questions. He says “the statement emphasizes the lack of a ‘formal policy’ on the issue. This is noth- ing to boast about, as it simply means that they have made no commitment not to discriminate against women in practice.”
But whether or not BUCU’s lack of a policy on women teaching condemns them or not, it appears the damage has been done. Pod Bhogal, Head of Communications for the UCCF, said this controversy has undoubtedly harmed the perception of Chris- tians.