After a 7 year ban on women speakers, Bristol CU has made the progressive (Ed: ha ha) decision that they are in fact allowed to teach within CU settings. There is a catch though: they cannot be the main speaker at an event or at a weekend away, though if they are lucky enough to have left the singles shelf, then they may teach alongside their husband (lucky them!). This decision proved all too much for one member of the committee, who felt it was so liberal that he had to step down from the committee altogether.
After reading the open letter on the UoB FemSoc facebook page, my first thought was pure outrage. This had to be shared, I thought, so I posted it on to my profile as a facebook note under the unashamedly provocative title “Bristol CU: Misogyny in Action (ps: you disgust me!).
You will not be surprised to learn that the first people that responded to the posts were men. I was told that “I had no business bossing the CU around”, that my “outrage was fake and contrived”. It was assumed by these men that I had no theological comprehension of the issues and that “spiritual questions like these are not for the worldly-minded” and that it was merely “left-wing piffle”.
Even last night, when I raised the topic up with friends, they told me that people outside of the church had no right to speak in the matter. Obviously, I had had quite enough of this nonsense, explaining that actually not only was I brought up in the fabulous institution that is the Church of England, but that also my mother is a lay preacher. So they could take their assumptions and stick it. (Ed: If anyone would like me to go into the deep theological reasons for why it is perfectly acceptable to have women teaching in church, I am happy to discuss these issues further – but only if you pay for the drinks!)
The reason I feel strongly about this issue is because I believe that the church does have a strong influence over society today. After the decision of the House of Laity last week to deny women the chance to be bishops, it was clear that there was heartbreak not only in the Christian community but in the wider world as well. Students have always been leaders of pro-equality movements and so to have a Christian Union, who could be such a force for good social change, be so backwards in their ideas of equality is a real shame. How can a CU possibly hope to be accessible to all if it denies 50% of the student body the opportunity to speak?
It sends out an appalling message to people everywhere, that a woman’s voice is only worth something if it is coupled with a man’s. The CU needs a serious rethink of its priorities if it has any hope of getting students on board with the important message: Smile, Jesus loves you.