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.

35 thoughts on “University CU’s and women speakers (SW Region)

  1. Peter Kirk

    In December 2012 the very UCCF region you are discussing hosted Becky Pippert as main speaker for a regional conference in Exeter. She was also the speaker for the Falmouth CU conference, and may very well have visited other CUs in the region.
    Your Exeter CU link gives no details of any speaker, so it is no evidence at all of their attitude to women.
    I really don’t think you should have posted this, which is being retweeted around the world, before at least attempting to get complete information. In the post you seem to be implying that there is a widespread problem, when in fact you have no evidence for that anywhere except at Bristol.

  2. Tanya Marlow

    Hey there
    I’ve just stumbled across your website for the first time, and read this bit about south west CUs. I found myself wondering if perhaps you could do with more firsthand information about how CUs operate?
    Here’s a bit about me – I am passionate about encouraging women into ministry, and I used to minister alongside my ordained husband, first as a student worker, then as a community minister, then as Associate Director of a university-accredited Bibllical theology course. I have since become ill, and seek to minister more through writing nowadays. i have sought in all those positions to encourage women (and men) into exploring full time Christian ministry, whatever it looked like for them, according to their giftings/theological background and churchmanship etc.
    So I applaud your intentions at encouraging equal opportunities for women in ministry and affirming our equality in serving God together- I’m just wanting to suggest you tweak your methods of achieving this.
    I worked for UCCF, back in the day, and it seems to me that you are confusing two issues. As a UCCF staff worker, I spoke as a guest speaker wherever I was asked (and yes- I did speak at CU’s main meetings) and if a CU asked for advice on which speakers to invite or needed help or recommendations, i would gladly advise them. They didn’t always ask! But although I would encourage students to be balanced in the people they got to speak and to always invite people who would encourage them in their unique mission field of university, I would never dream of putting up some kind of ‘you must have this quota of women/conservative evangelicals/Methodists’ etc because that seems a little like heavy shepherding. I think that the students are best placed to work out what is good in their local context rather than just having one person dictating who to invite or not. In practice, it was usually the local church leaders of the various churches that the students were members of who exercised the most influence over the students on issues like women in ministry or charismatic gifts, not the UCCF workers – so if you have students at your church, I hope you’re aware of your responsibility!
    Uccf’s job (at least, it was when i was there) is to gather together anyone who wanted to unite around core gospel issues to reach out to the university to enable as many students as possible to know about jesus. the meetings where speakers are invited are just a tiny part of that, and the focus is all on getting the good news out to as many as possible.
    UCCF could, I suppose, be more heavy-handed and police things. They could insist that anyone who didn’t agree with women teaching or leading in churches wasn’t a member of the CU. But it would be a shame to exclude so many dear conservative evangelical or Anglo-catholic sisters and brothers when a united witness is so much more powerful proclamation of the difference of knowing Jesus to the non-christian students who are looking on. I know I really appreciated getting to know more conservative Christians when I was at university, and though we disagreed on theological issues, we all loved Jesus, and so we loved each other. People saw that we disagreed, and saw that what we had in common was stronger than our differences – they saw the difference Jesus made. Many became christians as a result. And that was a really exciting thing to be part of.
    There are problems with 18-21 year olds being immature and seeking to exclude others unnecessarily – definitely – but then again, i’ve seen church ministers do very similar to other churches they don’t like! Sometimes I think that CUs behave rather better than a bunch of ‘grown-up’ ministers of differing theological convictions thrown into the same room together – there is certainly a lot more love and forbearance, and mission accomplished.
    Is there a problem with CUs not inviting women speakers? Is it common? I don’t know, it might well be.
    I do know it’s always harder to find women speakers, as a rule, so a CU that’s fully committed to having women speakers may still only be able to find one or two per term that are available. This is a problem for all Christian organisations, not just CUs – you can tell this by the number of women who are asked to speak even on conferences like Spring Harvest, who i hope you would agree are very pro-women’s ministry! I was always looking for good female speakers to invite on my Biblical theology training course – and it was often hard to get them, either because they had taken a break to raise kids or just because i didnt know about them – a number of them used to be working for an organisation like uccf, but haven’t been able to find a church job since, so they fall off the ‘circuit’, and it takes a lot of detective work to find them again. Students tend to get speakers from the churches around- how many of the churches in your local area are led by women ministers?
    And we do tend to take career breaks – I used to be available for speaking, but I’ve had to turn down several invitations to speak in the past five years (at two different universities in the south west, as chance would have it!!) I’m good friends with the Plymouth staff worker, Cat, and I know she speaks regularly at Plymouth and marjons, as did her two (female) predecessors.
    When the whole Bristol CU thing blew up I remember that Amy Orr-Ewing tweeted to point out that she had been the main speaker at Bristol CU a few years back. Sharon Dircx, Tracy Trinita and Tanya Walker are all women I happen to know to be outstanding evangelists, (and it is extremely disparaging of both her abilities and a CU’s discernment for you to suggest that the only reason a CU would ask her is because she is an ex-model.)
    It’s certainly not an ‘institutional’ problem, because the decisions are made each year, by each the student exec, and the exec changes each year. It’s not coming from UCCF, because they model women in ministry very well: over 50% of their staff – including senior staff- are women (and treated no differently from the men) and at their last biggest national student gathering they had Becky Manley-Pippert as their keynote speaker, who has also been touring the country in CUs to prepare students for mission weeks. If ‘actions speak louder than words’ then what does this tell you?
    I don’t in any way want to be dismissive of your concerns, because I am very passionate about seeing women released into ministry and not encountering sexism. But it seems to me that you are picking the wrong target. It seems odd to be criticising an organisation with a higher percentage of female staff than any other Christian organisation I know. And it also seems odd to be targeting a bunch of young adults as they try to find available speakers from a clutch of busy male ministers and not-so-well-known women (whilst they do their degree, fall in and out of love, work part-time and do the other stuff that students do). So perhaps the most fruitful method of addressing a lack of women speakers (where it occurs) is to personally converse with the leaders of those influential conservative evangelical churches and persuade them biblically of the case for women in ministry – (in love and with humility, naturally.) Dialogue as minister to fellow minister: persuade, reason from scripture with all gentleness and respect?
    Blessings! Tanya

  3. Dave

    Tanya, for some reason typepad (the blogging software I use) decided your comment was spam. I get so much spam that I don’t manually check it.
    Anyway I have now made sure it is published.
    Peter, I have been trying for sometime to get responses from people in uccf, I will happily publish what is available. Can you point me to any links or first hand accounts?
    I am afraid that silence about speakers has been used as tactic by some to avoid publicity.

  4. Dave

    Thanks for the background.
    I’ll try to respond to your points.
    First, as regards methods I would be interested in your thoughts on my other post “Actions speak louder than UCCF press releases”. I have found UCCF very unwilling to engage on this issue making it very difficult to use different methods.
    We all come at things with our histories. I have been honest elsewhere on my blog that mine does include negative experiences of a CU when I was at University.
    If you read my blog you will see that there is no way that I would support heavy shepherding. I find it odd that you are comfortable with the UCCF enforcing their doctrinal basis which includes using it to exclude University Chaplains yet describe a policy on women speakers as heavy shepherding.
    You talk of how wrong it would be for the UCCF to exclude people who do not believe in women as Church leaders. Yet you ignore the way that this policy excludes others. Why is it more important to include those who reject women speaking than those who do not? You also sidestep the issue that CU’s as described by the UCCF are not Churches, most conservatives see restrictions on women speaking as applying to preaching in Church not outside it.
    As someone who was deeply hurt when told by a CU that I was not a Christian my views on exclusion and maturity obviously differ from yours.
    If this is not an institutional problem then maybe you can explain why the uccf have deleted their own press release from December on this issue.

  5. Rhflan

    I dont know that Dave is suggesting that they must meet some quota, but it does seem odd that if they really ARE okay with women, that they would have no women speakers (considering that approximately 50% of the population is female).
    I also dont understand why when people talk about ‘agreeing to disagree’ they almost always mean bowing down to the wishes of those who are more conservative/exclusive. If it really is a secondary issue, why wont those who oppose women preaching/speaking/teaching ‘get over themselves’ and just let women speak?

  6. Anon

    Your extensive research (how and why do you have the time to do this?) reveals that the information you want about the names of speakers isn’t found online, and/or that these Christian Union groups don’t consider having an up to date website very important.
    Perhaps they are too busy trying to “do their degree, fall in and out of love, work part-time and do the other stuff that students do” and telling their friends about Jesus…

  7. Dave

    Dear Anonymous,
    Like most people I always appreciate anonymous advice on how I should spend my time and what my priorities should be.
    Perhaps I find a couple of hours doing this late at night a good way to relax when I can’t sleep.
    Perhaps I believe that equality is an important response to the gospel and maybe I make it a priority because of the pain I see the lack of equality has and is causing among people I minister to.
    Perhaps I write because when those students are telling their friends about Jesus I want them to experience the Jesus I know who values all people equally regardless of gender.
    Perhaps I write because many people are put off Jesus by the way that Christians treat women.
    Perhaps I write because women I know have been attacked and hurt for asking these questions.
    Perhaps I write because the UCCF have tried to hide their history on this and have been unwilling to address the issue.

  8. Tim

    gotta admit dave – don’t see the point in this.
    Something i see often across your posts is your use of websites as unrefutable proof of a groups doctrine/practice. All this post prooves is that some CU’s don’t update their websites, some do, others have had women speakers and others haven’t
    Hardly groundbreaking. I belong to a church where men and women can speak from the pulpit and in many other enviroments – yet thinking about it in the last two months only men have. Doesn’t change our doctrine does it?

  9. Rhflan

    Well, FWIW, I’m glad that Dave is doing this. It was something that I was wondering about about a week ago.
    As a woman who is also a Christian, I always like to know where I ‘stand’ with various local churches, parachurch ministries, and Christian organisations. Why? Because I have come to the place where I believe that equality is an integral part of the Christian faith. I just don’t know that I really have the time in my life to deal with groups that think simply because I don’t have a penis I’m unqualified to preach or teach.

  10. Peter Kirk

    Dave, my point is simple, that the evidence you have is insufficient to come to any conclusions. In fact I would say that any claim anyone might make is “a big jump from the evidence so far” – unless that claim is the one I make, that you have demonstrated nothing.
    To summarise your lack of evidence: You don’t seem to have a full list of speakers from any CU. You have some partial lists with men speakers and others with women speakers or some of both. But you have no evidence that any one CU, except possibly Bristol, systematically refuses women speakers or even has a preference for male ones.
    To be fair, in your post you are not claiming that you have this evidence. But in your last comment to me it looks like you are making some such claim. So what exactly are you claiming to have evidence for?

  11. Dave

    My point is that for you to say there is no problem is just as big a jump as to claim that the problem has been proved.
    There are a significant number of things that concern me
    - the deleted press release from UCCF
    - the lack of any response from the UCCF. It is completely within their power to end the discussion by a simple list of speakers. It need not be complete. If they provided a list of the women who have been speakers are each CU in the last 12 months then the debate would be pretty much over.
    These two combined leave me concerned that the UCCF cannot demonstrate there is no problem and so are keeping silent in the hope the questions will die out.
    I am not normally a conspiracy theorist, but this is a concern.
    Also there are a significant number of CU’s in this list where there is a lot of chat on facebook and twitter about speakers and the only names mentioned as far back as I have gone are men. It is not at all conclusive but it is a worry and if makes it clear that even in the best CU’s equality is a long way off.
    Finally, there are the personal accounts of CU’s with no women speakers allowed and the personal accounts of those who question this being attacked. Consider Vicky Beeching as one high profile example and the way she was attacked in December. This behaviour indicates to me that there is a real problem here.
    So 3 strands that mean I believe there is a case to answer.
    By all means suggest to the UCCF that they publish a list, that they undelete their press release and we can start moving on.

  12. Andrew

    Your own comments thread (from Tanya) tells you that Plymouth and Marjons Universities in Plymouth have had women speakers recently. Tanya also says half of UCCF’s staff – active evangelists and Bible teachers – are women.
    I looked on Twitter and found Falmouth and Exeter have had women speak this week. Women called Cat, Sarah, Erica. Including Tanya and Tracy at Bath, that’s online evidence of women speaking at five University CUs and no evidence either way on Bristol, Bath Spa, UWE and Gloucestershire – which doesn’t mean they haven’t just that they’ve not put information online. Clearly no institutional problem.
    The UCCF blog appears to only hold its last few posts – I suspect the press release has been archived not deleted. Bristol CU presumably moved its post from its front page because it was their events week and not the most relevant information for visitors.
    Hard to imagine a mission agency is going to spend time collecting speaker lists for you.

  13. Dave

    I missed that part of Tanya’s long comment, I have added that to the page.
    Falmouth’s twitter account was not on the UCCF page which is why I had missed it. I have now updated the entry.
    I have looked through the Exeter Twitter feed back to mid December and can’t find the women speakers you mention. Link please.
    I do not see how you can claim that no information automatically means there is no problem. Until the Bristol policy came to light according to what we knew there was no problem there either.
    You seem to want it both ways. I shouldn’t look up things myself and the UCCF shouldn’t look them up for me. Why?

  14. Tim

    ‘You seem to want it both ways. I shouldn’t look up things myself and the UCCF shouldn’t look them up for me. Why?’
    look things up all you want – just don’t make the significant leap you are making in linking it to a widespread equality problem – a leap you have admitted to making – ‘My point is that for you to say there is no problem is just as big a jump as to claim that the problem has been proved.’
    Also – why should they respond? why should your conspiricy theory be top of their list?
    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 and something that many of your own readers see as fruitless (at this point)
    they might not keep central records of speakers
    in all possibility every CU has it’s own way of running/doing these things and it would be just impossible to respond to you in the way you wish
    If I was part of UCCF and a student leader came to me after reading this post and wondered how to respond I would say ‘forget about it, press on, spread the gospel, love men, love women, love students and love Jesus – No-one will be reading this blog post in 3 weeks and no one will be talking about Bristol CU next year – press on with the important things, this is a distraction and one mans poorly judged vendetta’
    They might be saying the same.

  15. Rhflan

    If I was part of UCCF and a student leader came to me after reading this post and wondered how to respond I would say ‘forget about it, press on, spread the gospel, love men, love women, love students and love Jesus – No-one will be reading this blog post in 3 weeks and no one will be talking about Bristol CU next year – press on with the important things, this is a distraction and one mans poorly judged vendetta’”
    Wow. I’m sure that there are many people that don’t want anyone to be talking about, or even remember, the fiasco with the Bristol CU next year…but I think that that is precisely the point that it needs to be investigated and still talked about.
    I was involved with a campus ministry in the US for many years, and overall it was a horrible experience (granted, it was for very different reasons than not allowing women speakers). That said, I could definitely see the leadership in the group that I was a part of saying something similar to what you suggested Tim, in an effort to ignore the issue and sweep it under the rug.

  16. Dave

    The whole point of this research is to find the extent of the problem and yes there is a problem. Made very visible in Bristol in December, in the reactions to women challenging that situation and in the perceptions of many people who have commented.
    I don’t think I have admitted to making any leaps. There is a problem and I am listening to everyone as I explore how widespread it is.
    I am not demanding that UCCF respond, I am just pointing out to people who are complaining that I am doing this in public and without all the facts that I have contacted the UCCF and they have chosen to not respond for whatever reason.
    As for readers thinking this is fruitless you are looking quite narrowly if you only focus on the people here wanting to vigorously defend CU’s rather than on wider groups such as on facebook and twitter.
    How sad that you believe asking questions and standing for equality is a “poorly judged vendetta”. How does my care to respond to comments and evidence fit with a vendetta?

  17. Tim

    But dave, your not asking questions – you are making leading remarks that seem to indicate your view that there is a widespread equality issue within CU’s when you have no proof to go on (I would day you have proof that displays the opposite in face)
    MY ‘response’ would not have been to brush an issue under the carpet – if there was a clear equality issue within the group of course it should be pursued – but if there isn’t then why waste time on blog junk like this that distracts from the CU’s primary aims.
    Hey – if you knew me – you would be surprised – I cant stand CU’s in many circumstances. But seeing them accused of stuff with little or no proof is just weird…

  18. Blue, with a hint of amber

    Taking another slant on this, when I was in a CU most of the speakers were local Church leaders.
    That might not be true now, but it certainly was then. Through the year various leaders of the local Churches whose students attended the CUs came and spoke, with a few from further afield generally known within the UCCF.
    And those local Church leaders would need to be willing to sign the UCCF statement of faith. I assume that is still the case?
    If you took a sweep of the evangelical churches in my town, as I assume that their leaders are the ones who would want to affirm the UCCF statement of faith, then I can only think of one or two female curates: the rest of the local Church leaders / vicars / pastors are men.
    Several of them would be totally egalitarian in their viewpoint, and very vocal about it, but are still men.
    Even if you widened it to the whole town and outside of just evangelical Churches, in something like 20 Churches there is only one female minister I can think of off hand.
    So that would certainly limit the options of a local CU here inviting a local Church leader to speak who was a female, regardless of any policy.
    So it kind of depends who they are inviting to speak and why?
    Bristol CU had Philip Jinadu in December from Woodlands Church – (I find this exciting as I came to faith at a Spring Harvest youth event he led with his brother in the early 90s!) That Church is definitely egalitarian.
    In December & February they have invited Brian Whittaker the staff worker (who could equally have been woman, it is just their staff worker is a bloke)
    Next up is Nathan Smith pastor of “Grace Church” which is SGM, so their elders will be men.
    And then Ed Haughton from Emmanuel Church which looks like a CofE “fresh expressions” type congregation, so definitely egalitarian.
    March sees Simon Walker from City Church Bristol (newfrontiers) and one speaker tbc.
    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.

  19. Dave

    Did you follow the story in December? I don’t understand how that reality fits with your statement “But seeing them accused of stuff with little or no proof is just weird.”

  20. Dave

    “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.”
    It is an oxymoron to say you have “a total mix of people on the egalitarian/complimentarian discussion” if they are all men.
    In December Bristol CU made an explicit promise to invite women speakers. That promise is still on their website. Explain to me how that promise is being kept.
    UCCF include in their core strategy “Together in the gospel: bringing together Christians of all backgrounds and uniting around the core truths of the gospel.” yet you focus on Churches that you define as “Evangelical” how can these fit together?
    Either CU’s are to bring together Christians of all backgrounds or they are just for ones you define as evangelical. Which is it?

  21. Peter Kirk

    Dave, I never said there was no problem. I said you had presented no evidence of a problem. Your approach is a bit like “Do you beat your wife? Unless you produce evidence that you don’t, I will insinuate on the internet that you do.” Don’t forget each CU is independent, and UCCF probably doesn’t have complete lists of speakers or the right to give away this information. As for their deleted press release, it is normal practice to delete out of date ones.

  22. Dave

    Sorry that we disagree on the approach. I feel mine is appropriate as this is not blank sheet of paper but many people have commented to me on their own history in this area. My starting point is that we do know some CU’s do not let women speak. I am delighted that at least in the South West region that is fewer than some expected.
    We disagree on both how normal it is to delete press releases (I frequently access ones from years ago) and also whether a press release from early December 2012 could be considered out of date.

  23. Andrew

    Here’s the tweet about Erica speaking at Exeter.
    Dave Bish tweeted about an Anna who spoke at Bath Spa this week.
    You didn’t update Marjons (st mark & st John’s) from Tanya’s evidence.
    That’s evidence of women speaking at 6 of the 9 uni CUs recently. And only an absence of evidence either way at the other three. On balance it’d seem your fears are unfounded.

  24. Dave

    I will put those updates in (out for Son’s 21st birthday today).
    My fears are not unfounded, they are based on the reality of Bristol CU. See my comment on my other post to be reminded of the history of that.

  25. Tanya Marlow

    Hi there. This is just to say I’m so sorry to hear that someone in a CU all those years ago told you that you weren’t a Christian. That person had no right to do that, and I can well imagine how hurtful that was. It is deeply hurtful to have your faith dismissed by another, or pronounced upon. I have also been deeply hurt by similar things said to me. I know that students are young and say stupid things, but that doesn’t stop it from carrying so much destructive power.
    I believe you are a Christian, and that you love God and are faithfully serving Him. (I know it seems ridiculous to say it, even typing it here, something so obvious, and I hesitate in case it comes across as patronising – but at the same time it can sometimes be really healing to have truth spoken from a ‘representative’ of the people that hurt you, however far removed I am from the original.)
    Blessings to you. T


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