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.


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.


"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. 

24 thoughts on “Basic mis-understandings around Women as speakers

  1. Blue, with a hint of amber

    They invite Church leaders to speak and it appears that the vast majority of those Church leaders are men. That includes the egalitarian Churches too.
    It just so happens their staff worker is currently a guy.
    Our staff worker back in the day was a woman, and regularly spoke.
    Nowhere have I implied women would speak about egalitarian issues. I would assume any female speaker would speak on whatever the subject was for that week, like all speakers do.
    What I did say was that the invite list seems to be about 50/50 in terms of what the church believes on this issue. But in Bristol at this time the majority of the egalitarian churches who would sign the UCCF basis of faith appear to be led by men.
    I have never said you have attacked male speakers. I was showing that those speakers are all local church leaders who represent a cross section of views on this issue.
    Your argument would hold water if they refused to invite a female UCCF worker and such like, but you have no evidence for that.

  2. Dave

    “Your argument would hold water if they refused to invite a female UCCF worker and such like, but you have no evidence for that.”
    There is proof of that. This whole issue started because in an email at the beginning of December 2012 an email was leaked from the Bristol CU saying that the committee had decided to allow Women to speak but only if accompanied by her husband.
    Try a google search
    Or read some articles about it from Epigram or the Guardian.
    Note that these refer to a UCCF press release that was subsequently updated to make it self contradictory (see my post) which has since been deleted (again see my post).
    So please note that my concern over this issue comes from a real situation, acknowledged by the Bristol CU and the UCCF that both the Bristol CU and UCCF said would change and that has not changed.
    It seems completely appropriate to examine carefully every CU as one CU has demonstrably
    - not permitted women speakers
    - not have changed that policy (as you have shown) despite making a public promise to do so.
    As Bristol CU have tried to quietly carry on with their old behaviour even after the events of December and their promises I hope it is obvious why vague comments that no other CU’s do this are not enough. There are plenty of people saying that the Bristol CU situation fits their own experience.
    As the UCCF do not wish to address this issue a detailed challenge to every CU seems the only option.

  3. Dave

    “I was showing that those speakers are all local church leaders who represent a cross section of views on this issue.”
    My point in this post is to make it clear that this is absolutely irrelevant.
    The only acceptable response to the issue is to demonstrate that women are speaking at the major meetings. That includes weekly meetings, special events, missions and event weeks. It means women speaking with equal authority to the men, so it is not balanced to have 5 men who are Church Leaders and one woman who is a UCCF relay worker.

  4. Blue, with a hint of amber

    My point is that if the local egalitarian churches who would subscribe to the UCCF statement of faith are led by men, and that is the pool from which they are inviting people, then that would go someway to explaining it.
    They invite their local church leaders. Who those leaders are, their race, their gender, their age, is a matter for those local Churches and the CU receives them.
    So a CU in Birmingham may have many more black preachers than a CU in say, Norwich.
    I agree this situation is different because of the email sent, but even then the exec of a CU will change every 12 months and with it different emphasise will come and go.
    For example our CU was very open to charismatic worship at the time I was there but a future exec backed away.
    UCCF has made it’s policy very public. That is completely backed up by their recruitment policies.

  5. Tim

    I wasn’t trying to insult you by calling you a blogging methodist minister – So I am glad you where not! I was trying to point out that in relation to UCCF or individual CU’s you are not someone to which they ‘hold account’ and not only do i think it is unrealistc for them to respond to you in haste and with complete records, I don’t think it is something you should expect or are due. This doesn’t stop them doing it of course, but if they dont you shouldnt be assuming guilt.
    It would be pretty stupid of me to think that you should find offense as being a blogging methodist minister when I am a reader and now commentator on your blog…
    I think Peter Kirk summed it up well in the previous posts comment section – to me you seem to be happily assuming that there is an equality issue amongst CU’s when it seems your proof points the other way.
    And you can keep coming back to Bristol – and sure that was a genuine issue – but why exactly are they not allowed to come out, after prayer and consideration with a new statement and deleate the old one – seems to make sense to me and shows a willingness to move forward on the issue.
    Are they unreedemable? Will you only accept the idea that they are when 50% of their speakers are women and they have released the list to you in full straight to your inbox every term?

  6. Dave

    It does not matter who the local Church leaders are. If you say you are going to invite women to speak then you invite women to speak. Full-stop.
    Thanks to UCCF updating and then deleting their press release they have no public policy at all. Just try finding one on their website.

  7. Dave

    Of course things come back to Bristol, they made a specific promise to invite women to speak and have not kept this.
    Are they unreedemable? Of course not, except they have as yet not changed their behaviour.
    I don’t see UCCF as accountable to me. If they were publicly taking this seriously then I would be celebrating that and not doing this. But why do you feel I should not be allowed to challenge an injustice that negatively impacts all Christians and Churches?
    You are playing with words in your comments. My point has consistently been that UCCF are free to choose whether to respond to me. But equally if they choose not to then it is ridiculous for people to tell me I must therefore be silent

  8. Rhflan

    Good thoughts, Dave. In regards to the ‘anytime will do’ idea, I think that if you have a church or parachurch ministry that, 99% of the time, has the same person preaching/teaching, and that person is the pastor or leader of the group…then I could see that it might be quite infrequent when a woman would speak, unless the pastor/leader is a woman.
    But when you have a situation where the pulpit is generally used by an invited guest, it does make you wonder why all the guests end up being straight, white, men.

  9. Blue, with a hint of amber

    Does it really come as a surprise that the speakers at a UCCF CU are straight?
    The CUs in Birmingham certainly have plenty of black speakers, because of the nature of the local Churches.

  10. Rhflan

    No, it doesn’t surprise me that speakers at a UCCF CU are straight, mostly b/c the more that I’ve been watching all this unfold over the past few months, the more I’m seeing a lot of similarities between what these CUs seem to believe and what New Frontiers believes, and I’m sure that NF isn’t a big fan of the homos either.

  11. Anom

    Yeah, too right!
    Newfrontiers is the only mainstream church movement that holds to a biblical understanding that sex is for a man and woman in marriage those outdated weirdo’s!
    Oh wait…what’s that evangelical alliance thing…and the majority of the denominations in the uk…
    Steve Chalks collum inches changed nothing
    Come on people, lets not use these as a newfrontiers bashing opportunity.

  12. Blue, with a hint of amber

    Rhflan – no, it wouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that any group which adheres to a basis of faith that looks like that of the EA or the UCCF would hold certain views on marriage being between man and a woman and all that emanates from that position.
    I assume that DaveW’s position would be based on his desire for total equality, but I am not sure how often he has ever really spelt that out, which is quite interesting as this main thrust of this blog is equality.

  13. Blue, with a hint of amber

    Dave, that link says “bringing together Christians of all backgrounds and uniting around the core truths of the gospel”
    Those core truths of the gospel are as defined by their basis of faith.
    The UCCF has always been the evangelical wing of student christian groups. The IVF (now UCCF) was formed out of, and in response to people being concerned about the more liberal position of the Student Christian Movement
    and are very open about why they have such a basis of faith

  14. Anon

    I’m a Christian,
    I also like to watch porn. I think it’s good for marriages and good for the human brain. I started when I was 12 and think all 12 year olds should be given the opportunity to do the same.
    I would like to teach this in a CU as I am a Christian, and some of the Christians there might agree with me and I thnk it would help them.
    I am a Christian and I don’t think Jesus rose from the dead, or died in fact. I think he is a myth and not central to the Christian gospel. I would like to teach that in a CU
    The end of where this argument is going is that biblical truth is objective and para church organisations should welcome any teaching on any matter. Paulmdoes his strongest rebuking against false teachers, they still exist today.
    BWAHOA did a great job covering what you missed out. A group like UCCF exsist to unite all Christians around core truths and historically have been a group happy to define those. It does not exists to give any Christian teacher a platform to teach what they believe. That is not equality, it is bad practice.

  15. Dave

    Do you realise that you have just compared allowing women to speak at a CU to allowing someone to speak about pornography!

  16. Blue, with a hint of amber

    You misunderstand me Dave.
    I mean you speak a lot about equality with relation to gender but I don’t think you spell out how this relates to your own position on sexuality, and how that might relate to church leadership etc.
    Whether that is a conscious decision I don’t know.
    But it seems like quite a big omission.
    The cynic could wonder if you choose not to speak about it because you know that could alienate some of your readers who would not hold your view.

  17. Dave

    I am pretty sure I have been clear that equality matters across every area of human diversity.
    However, just to be clear here. Equality applies to gender, age, ethnicity, culture, sexuality, disability etc etc
    The only qualification for Church leadership that matters at the end is to be called and equipped by God through the power of the Holy Spirit.
    Of course the way that Churches and individuals discern, explore, affirm and celebrate such a call and equipping varies and can be complicated.
    No I am not worried about alienating people :-) Try searching my blog for words such as homosexuality. I have written plenty about it.

  18. Blue, with a hint of amber

    Then I guess the question I have, is why don’t you focus on the issue of sexuality as much?
    For example, your long running commentary on newfrontiers regarding gender is well known.
    Why no commentary on any Church group on the issue of homosexuality?
    Despite it being a very public, media discussion just now, especially given the Steve Chalke article of a couple of months ago.
    It just seems to be an interesting omission, that such a huge percentage of churches would have exclusive policies relating to sexuality (nearly 100% of EA members) and yet you barely mention it.
    No attempt to name and shame, no trying to work out if a homosexual has been invited to speak, no commentary on their conferences looking for inferences on sexuality you can be offended by and warn others of.
    Does the issue of sexuality matter to you as much?
    And if that issue is far more widespread (which it is because thousands more churches have restrictive policies in that area) then why don’t you talk about it more?
    Just a genuine question. Within the whole area of equality you’ve zoned in on one strand.
    And within the whole swathe of church movements / denominations with a different view to you on gender, you have focussed in on newfrontiers. And now to a lesser extent UCCF.
    Why doesn’t the baptist position on homosexuality get any airtime?
    Or the FIEC position on gender?
    Or the EA position on sexuality?
    They are the ones who are the representative body of 500,000 people, therefore vastly influential, so why doesn’t Steve Clifford saying he “doesn’t agree” with Steve Chalke get a mention?

  19. Blue, with a hint of amber

    Or even making the question more generic.
    Do you believe Jesus is the Son of God? That He is divine?
    And therefore do you believe that Jesus being God is essential for human salvation?
    Can you know “Christ as Lord” if you do not believe He is God?
    In which case why are you not equally public in your condemnation/calling to account of your fellow Methodist ministers who do not believe that Jesus is God?
    In other words, why would you be more passionate and vocal about human equality than God’s deity?
    These are genuine questions. I am just trying to work out where some of this comes from.
    [Editor] I have responded in a separate post

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