Basic mis-understandings around Women as speakers

This comes from the discussion relating to CU's but is not specific to CU's.

In the comments I notice several common mis-understandings that I want to address here.

Attacking Male Speakers

Comments like this from BWAHOA go to great lengths to show that the men who speak at CU's are good men. However, that misses the point. Saying that a Christian group should have both women and men as speakers is not saying that there is something wrong with the men. It is not criticising the teaching of the men. It is not saying the men do not have varied views.

You do not need to defend the male speakers. They are not being criticised by a campaign to honour your promises and do what is right by having women as speakers.

Anytime will do

One comment points out that even Bristol CU has had women speakers in the long distant past. It also asks how often you need to have women speakers implying that you only need one in the past to be enough.

My view is that if you are to claim that you believe in equality then you need to be demonstrating a commitment to balance. I don't mean a legalistic 50% balance , or a balance exactly matching the gender balance of the University. However, in terms of basic visibility I can't see how less than once a term could be said to demonstrate a commitment to equality. Also it is not just about how many but where and what. If you have a main event in your year and never have a woman lead that instead only allowing them to speak at smaller meetings then you are not demonstrating a commitment to equality.

Issues

A typical mis-understanding is to say of an all male speaker list: "So the speakers list for the last 3 months is either UCCF staff workers or Church leaders, and a total mix of people on the egalitarian/complimentarian discussion."

Two things are fundamentally wrong with this:

a) An all male list of people cannot be "a total mix of people on the egalitarian/complimentarian discussion." That would be an oxymoron.

b) The understanding is the implied view that when women speakers come they will be speaking about egalitarian issues. Wrong. If there is a commitment to equality then the women who speak will be speaking about a full range of issues with the same authority and respect given to male speakers.

Insults

"they might be busy with a whole lot of other stuff, stuff that might be significantly more important than what a blogging methodist minister thinks which isn't based in reality"

It is a fundamental mis-understanding to think that I will read the phrase "blogging methodist minister" and feel anything other than complimented. 

University CU’s and women speakers (SW Region)

For the first time last night I saw a tweet from the University CU celebrating having a woman speaker.

"Tonight: FREE PUD + SUPERMODEL @TracyTrinita talks on Pursuing Wealth + Fame, 7 30pm Claverton Rooms @UniofBath @UCCF @TheOCCA #Food4Thought" the original tweet is here.

It is a start, although sad if having been a supermodel is a requirement to be invited to speak if you are a women. I wonder how many male models they invite to speak at the University of Bath CU. 

So here I start with reviewing the CU's around the UK (South West Region only in this post). I'll continue to update this as people tell me more.

South West Region

It seems sensible to start with the South West region as it contains both Bristol and Bath CU's (the former as the CU that raised the issue for me and the latter as the first with a tweet mentioning a woman speaker that I saw).

The team leader for the UCCF in the South West is Dave Bish who I know through his blog The Blue Fish Project and through discussions about Newfrontiers.

Here is what I have found so far about the CU's listed on the UCCF Website in this region.

  • Bath CU. UCCF page, Own Website, Twitter
    At the time I checked their website is entirely focused on their events week which was happening at the time I checked. Their 2013 events week included two women speakers Tanya Walker and Tracy Trinita.
  • Bath Spa CU UCCF page, their blog
    They have a blog and I have looked back over several pages of archive but I can't spot any women speakers. There are some male speakers listed but not all events have the name of the speaker included. [Update] Dave Bish has tweeted about Anna Harcourt speaking at an event.
  • Bristol CU UCCF page, their website
    The CU where the issue came to my attention last year when their policies were widely publicised. At the time I checked they have details of their mission week and some events this term but there are still no women speakers at any events on the website
  • Cornwall College, Falmouth Marine School Christian Union UCCF page, their website down, Twitter
    No information available online that I can find. However, comments below indicate that they have had Becky Pippert as a speaker. According to the UCCF there are three CU's in Falmouth but they appear to share the same website. [Update] Thanks to comment from Andrew below I have found and added their twitter account which mentions women speakers.
  • Duchy College, Wadebridge Christian Union UCCF page
    I have not found information available online about what they do.
  • University of Exeter CU UCCF page their website Twitter Facebook
    Their website gives no details of speakers.
    UCCF hosted an event in Exeter with Becky Pippert, see Dave Bish's blog post
    This tweet indicates they have had at least one woman speaker.
  • Exeter College Christian Union (in Exeter, not Oxford) UCCF page
    I have found no information available online
  • University of Gloucestershire Christian Union UCCF page Website Facebook Twitter
    I could not find details of speakers at their CU Meetings other than a couple of references to mens names. [Update] "Anon" in a comment points to this tweet from November 2012
  • Penwith College Christian Union UCCF page 
    No information available online that I can find.
  • Plymouth University Christian Union UCCF page, their website facebook twitter
    I could not find details of speakers at their CU Meetings other than Glen Scrivener was the key speaker at their mission. [Update] Tanya in comment below reports women speakers recently.
  • Truro College Christian Union UCCF page Facebook Twitter
    Looks like they had a woman from Christian Aid to speak at an event in December.
  • University College Plymouth St Mark and St John Christian Union (Marjon) UCCF page Facebook
    I coiuld not find any speaker details. The comment below from Tanya indicates that Cat, a UCCF Staff Worker, has been a speaker here.
  • University of the West of England Christian Union UCCF page their website Facebook Twitter 
    I couldn't find any speaker details online

I think that is now all the CU's in the South West Region covered. I am interested in corrections and more information, so if you can give me links to first hand information about any of these CU's and their attitudes and actions relating to women speakers I would appreciate it.

I have plenty of people saying there is no problem with CU's and women speakers. However, there are also plenty of people saying there is a problem. Therefore I really need evidence either way not just accusations or defences.

Note that I have informed the UCCF by email before writing this page and have given twitter mentions to most of the CU's as well as the UCCF and Dave Bish. I have had no response from any of them so far.

Actions speak louder than UCCF press releases

Back in early December I wrote 42: UCCF contradicts itself on Women speaking looking at the inconsistances in the updated press release from the UCCF.

Now over two months later I wanted to follow up on what actual progress has been made.

Sadly it is not looking good.

First, the UCCF have removed their press release from their website. So the link is now broken. It is always a concern when organisations try to re-write history. Unfortunately, I didn't keep a copy of the full text although I included several quotes in my post 42: UCCF contradicts itself on Women speaking. [Update: the updated Press Release is available from the Google webcache here]

Second, according to the Bristol CU website they have not yet had any women speakers, nor at the moment any planned. See their flyer and events diary. They are also in the process of rewriting their history as well. Their original statement has now been moved off their home page to the bottom of their About/Vision and Beliefs page. Currently it reads:

Bristol CU statement on Women Speakers

Bristol University Christian Union (BUCU) deplores the recent exaggerations and misrepresentations in some parts of the media of its position on women's ministry in the church. It is well known that Christian churches differ on this question. BUCU is not a church, but a student society, so it has never had a formal policy on women's ministry. 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. In line with our basic position throughout that process, which has not been widely publicised, 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.

BUCU Executive Committee 05/12/12

See also: http://www.uccf.org.uk/student/news/uccf-statement-on-women-speaking-in-christian-unions.htm

Given that the UCCF have cleared their tracks and there being no visible progress towards having Women speak at the Bristol CU, I am compiling a web page detailing every CU and all I can find out about their practices relating to having Women as speakers.

So far I have only found one CU with documentation of having women speakers. Well done Bath CU for inviting Tanya Walker and Tracy Trinita to their Food for Thought events week 18th-22nd February 2013.

I have only explored some of the CU's in the South West region of the UCCF so far but will work my way through them all. Unfortunately, at least so far, the UCCF have not responded to my requests for information.

So actually it is not so much "Actions speak louder than UCCF press releases" more "Inaction speaks louder than UCCF press releases" as the UCCF and CU's continue to exclude women and support inequality.

 

9th Anniversary

Tonight we have been remembering the 9th anniversay of Mum's death. My original post was written two days after: Mum has died.

When I got the phone call with the news I was on a silent retreat weekend with SEITE as my of my ministerial training. In fact I was in an evening silent Communion Service being led by Rev Inderjit Bhogal and had to slip out to take the call.

I remember driving home from Kent and then we all went straight down to Emsworth to join the rest of the family, getting there very late on the Saturday evening.

Today we had a quiet meal with just the 3 of us left at home and we were reminising. Pleased that our youngest, who was 6 at the time, was able to say that all his memories of his Grandparents were good even though he lost 3 of them (all to cancer) that year.

Newfrontiers, self-delusional to the end

According to The Road to "Elder" ado: Farewell, Newfrontiers UK "At the turn of the year, Newfrontiers UK, the UK part of the "apostolic sphere" of Terry Virgo, formally ceased to exist in it's previous form."

So Newfrontiers has ceased to exist.

However, this hapens in a typically self-delusional way. The post delights in saying "WE NEVER WERE A DENOMINATION".
Yet:
Denomination from Merriam Webter "4: a religious organization whose congregations are united in their adherence to its beliefs and practices"
or
"1.
a religious group, usually including many local churches, often larger than a sect: the Lutheran denomination." dictionary.reference.com
I say typical because Newfrontiers play these kinds of games with definitions all the time.
For example I have been told many times that Newfrontiers believe in equality. Yet the equality that they believe in is consistantly not equal
  • Wives should submit to the headship of their Husbands
  • Women can never be elders in the Church
  • Many of them place additional restrictions on women such as not allowing them to preach in Church or teach men.

They claim this equality in just the same way as they claim to not have been a denomination, by playing with defintions. Equality is about value they say, not about role. Yet nothing tells us publicly more about value than the roles you permit and such a defintion is actually a redefintion of equality:

[mass noun] the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, or opportunities:an organization aiming to promote racial equality Oxford Dictionaries

Now that Newfrontiers apparently does not exist (although recognising that this may simply mean that Newfrontiers have redefined the word "exist") it will be interesting to follow what happens with the new Apostolic Balls. NB fed up of redefining words they have decided to create new phrases "Apostolic Spheres" is the current favoured one, but as they contradict Scripture by requiring all their Apostles to have balls (yes a reference to Junia in Romans 16) I figure "Apostolic Balls" is more appropriate.

Someone for David Cameron to listen to

I have just been visiting someone that I think it would be good for David Cameron to meet. A lovely lady in her 90's. One of her daughters recently died and we were talking about a whole range of things from her life.

She started talking about her husband who died many years ago. I thought of David Cameron when she described her husbands war experiences and how they affected him. In his Christmas speech our Prime Minister mentioned ""Indeed, God's word reminds us that Jesus was the Prince of Peace." Odd words to preceed talking about service men and women who are at war. Odd words from a Prime Minister who travels to oppressive regimes in the Middle East to sell arms.

I wish he could have heard this lovely lady on the subject of peace.

She described how after the war her husband would sob in her arms as he could not escape memories of standing on the bodies of his comrades, of seeing them die.

She said war solves nothing.

If only our government listened to people like this lady. People who have been trough tough times and come out knowing that violence only breeds hatred and more violence. The only answer she said is love.

What is more, that is of course what Jesus said and lived as well. The politicians of the day killed him for it. Today they simply twist his words to justify their terrible actions.

David Cameron, get in touch if you want me to introduce you to a lady who will help you understand the consequences of your choices.

UCCF contradicts itself on Women speaking

The UCCF have quietly updated the following news release UCCF: The Christian Unions – Student – News – UCCF Statement on Women speaking in Christian Unions.

I have added paragraph numbers below, otherwise this is taken from their website on 8/12/12

[1]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 spirit and intention of the UCCF Basis of Faith 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.

[2]The Bristol CU is utterly committed to reflecting the core biblical truth of the fundamental equality of women and men as they resolve this matter. This is a sensitive issue and the recent email exchange has revealed the internal processes of an undergraduate CU trying to think their way clear on a subject that Church denominations around the world have struggled with.

UPDATE – 07/12/12

[3]UCCF should like to stress that the choice of any speaker is made by each individual; student run CU. UCCF does not have preferred speaker lists or undesirable speaker lists. Neither do we take a view on the complementarian/egalitarian debate. UCCF has staff and students in both camps and everywhere in between; we therefore cannot have a policy of ‘No women speakers’ nor a policy of ‘you must have women speakers’.

[4]UCCF continues to support students as they lead CUs in a manner that reflects the unity and purpose of our Basis of Faith.

In particular the following 2 sentences (last of para 1 and last of para 3) seem to directly contradict each other:

it would be wholly against the spirit and intention of the UCCF Basis of Faith 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.

I understand this to mean that if a CU decides on a policy of no women speakers then they will have only been ablke to do so against the UCCF Basis of Faith and against the advice of UCCF staff. In other words UCCF has a policy that their staff will advise against a policy in a CU of no women speakers.

Yet in the update

we therefore cannot have a policy of ‘No women speakers’ nor a policy of ‘you must have women speakers’.

we see the UCCF now claiming that it cannot have a policy that CU's must have women speakers.

In summary the UCCF now say that have not got a policy that CU's must have women speakers so how can they still say that not having women speakers would go against their Basis of Faith and the advice of their staff?