Women Banned From Speaking at Bristol University Christian Union Main Meetings
The Christian Union at Bristol University in England has come under fire this week following the discovery of a leaked email written by the Christian Union’s president, Matt Oliver, which stated that no women would be allowed to teach at any meetings of the organization.
Stating that Oliver and the leadership of the Christian Union had spent “a lot of time exploring this issue, seeking God’s wisdom on it and discussing it together,” the Christian Union will not allow women to teach alone at weekly meetings, speaking alone at mission meetings, or act as main speaker. Oliver’s email said:
It is ok for women to teach in any CU setting… However we understand that this is a difficult issue for some and so decided that women would not teach on their own at our weekly CU meetings, as the main speaker on our Bristol CU weekend away, or as our main speaker for mission weeks.
Much like the United States, the UK has had a long history of exclusionary practices towards women, including granting women’s suffrage only a year before the US and frequently failing to recognize the achievements of women, such as Rosalind Franklin’s often uncredited discovery of the double helix. As result, due to the patriarchal nature of the Anglican church, Oliver’s decision is reportedly seen as a “compromise” in the wake of the resignation of the Christian Union’s international secretary due to the mere possibility of female teachers. Two weeks prior, the Church of England had rejected requests to allow female bishops into the church, leading some to also speculate that Oliver’s “compromise” was a reflection of this decision.
Grace, a 3rd year bio-chemistry student at Bristol University and a practicing Christian, described her distress at how “the CU action will mould many people’s opinions on Christianity,” while also noting that “firstly, the bible teaches that ‘in Christ there is no male or female,’ but all people are equal before God.
“Secondly, Jesus treated women as equals; encouraging them as disciples, and choosing women as the first witnesses to His resurrection at a time when women’s testimony was inadmissible in law.”
Upon learning of the leaked email, numerous equal rights and feminists groups at Bristol University began protesting, which in turn began to spread into the greater Bristol community. Allesandra Berti, vice president of welfare and equality at the students’ union, told The Guardian that the Christian Union’s potentially discriminatory policy would be investigated.
“In particular we will be making certain that our equality policy is properly adhered to in all cases,” Berti said. “The University of Bristol students’ union takes allegations of discrimination very seriously. UBU has an equality policy which explains that we prohibit discrimination on grounds of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief (including lack of belief), sex and sexual orientation in line with The Equality Act 2010 and as one of our key values of equality and diversity.”