Updates on Women Speakers in CU’s in the South West

I have been updating my blog post 42: University CU's and women speakers (SW Region) as I have received comments from people (some polite for which my thanks, some not so polite which I have not ignored).

There is good news.

All the CU's in the South West Region of the UCCF that people have given me information about (with the exception of Bristol) have had women speakers.

There are some CU's (4 at the moment) where I still have no information and I hope that people will help fill in those gaps to show that these are having women speakers. Finding these is time consuming and often requires local knowledge about individuals twitter accounts etc.

There is bad news.

Nobody has yet given any details of Bristol CU allowing women speakers.


I will continue to update this region and will add other regions as I get time. Personally I think it is helpful to have an evidence based list of which CU's are currently having women speakers rather than unsupported claims that they either do or do not. I hope that those claiming there is no problem outside Bristol will be proved right although simply ignoring the many voices saying there is a problem is not helpful.

One outstanding issue is that simply demonstrating that a CU has had at least one woman speaker is not a guarantee of equality. To my mind there are at least three issues that need to be addressed for that to be the case.

  • Frequency. I would suggest that if there are fewer than two women speakers per term then it is hard to claim much of a commitment to equality.
  • Authority. For there to be equality there needs to be Women speakers with a range of authority and "status" to match the male speakers. I suggest it does not mean equality if the women who speak are all UCCF relay workers while the men are Church leaders.
  • Events. The events where people speak matter. For example a small Bible study and a main mission week event are not the same. That is not to say Bible Studies are unimportant but it is to say that unless you have women speakers at the full range of your events then there is not equality.

I don't know how you could monitor this and I certainly don't intend to. However, I think it is important to recognise the significant limitations that only noting that a woman has been invited to speak has. 

13 thoughts on “Updates on Women Speakers in CU’s in the South West

  1. Tom

    Not a massive gripe but a quibble – why are different events not equal? Is god more impressed with a big event than a small study? What about cu’s of 8 or less people?

  2. Dave

    I had trouble thinking of how to word that one.
    It is not about the size of the CU but about it’s range of events.
    If you invite women speakers to only certain types of events or to speak on only some issues then there is not equality.
    [Update] I have updated the post. I hope it is clearer now.

  3. anon

    More likely to find female relay and uccf staff than female church leaders… Which is hardly uccf or the CUs fault…
    Half of uccf staff are women whereas its only 20-40% in church leadership…

  4. Rhflan

    Tim, I think that size *does* matter (ha!). It’s not really an issue of what God thinks though, b/c it’s not as if God Himself speaks audibly from heaven saying who is going to speak at what event/meeting. Rather it’s the leadership at these individual CUs that are deciding who will be the speaker. If women are *only* allowed to speak at small gatherings that no one knows about, unless they are already involved with the CU…well…that looks kinda fishy, to be honest. It might not be the intention, but it certainly comes across as women are somehow ‘second class’ and are not good enough to speak at main events.
    Dave, I have a question: are CUs really the only option for a ‘Christian group’ on a university campus? Out of high school I attended a small university that had at least 7 different Christian organisations (those are just the ones that I could remember off the top of my head). If CUs are the only option on British university campuses, I wonder if that is part of the problem. From what I’ve been reading of this (here and elsewhere), it seems obvious that there are those in leadership within the UCCF and various CUs who are complementerians, who don’t see it as a secondary issue. There are obviously others in leadership who are egalitarians. Perhaps, if nothing else, it would be best to have two groups. One for those who believe having a penis is a requirement for preaching/teaching, and one for those who don’t.

  5. Dave

    It depends. Larger universities often have a range of Christian Societies.
    Part of the problem is that CU’s try to position themselves as “The” Christian Society.

  6. Rhflan

    “Part of the problem is that CU’s try to position themselves as “The” Christian Society.”
    Ah, I wonder if this is the real issue then. If they just admitted that they are one of many options, and that you can love Jesus and follow Him and not necessarily be affiliated with them in any way, it probably wouldn’t be as big an issue if they said “Oh yeah, women can speak at our meetings! I mean, we had that one pastor’s wife speak 8 years ago!” ;)

  7. Andrew

    I suppose the point is that in all the CUs you’ve received information do have women speak, and real egalitarian and complementarian men and women on the ground gladly, graciously, generously agree to work together though they differ, by not making it an issue to divide over… And consequently they unite evangelicals on campus for mission with out need for two societies – why divide if you can unite?
    Looks to me that the UCCF do what they say, not considering gender when it comes to speakers (or employment of gospel ministers) just commitment to their central beliefs which are intentionally minimal and inclusive as evidenced at many recent CU meetings, conferences etc.
    As far as I understand at Bristol that hadn’t been worked out particularly well for a time, though students from a range of churches happily worked together. A progressive leadership tried to move to a better position, lost their nerve and landed on an unhelpful position. The UCCF helped them sort it out and their policy is now what it should be.
    Online information or not I suspect women will speak at CU events this term and beyond, and if not I’m assuming disorganisation more than malice or conspiracy.
    None of which stops people saying or doing stupid things and hurting other Christians at times. In fact attempting to unite across tribes probably makes such things more likely, but worth while nonetheless to attempt unity.
    I say we cheer them on as they seek to make Jesus known and learn to stand with other believers along the way, clashing and growing together and loving one another, and not holding their occasional blunders against them – learning is messy.

  8. Yr Ieithydd

    Short version of my experience (may well get blogged more fully). ABerystwyth CU 1997-2001. No women speakers for either English or Welsh CU. Strong influence from 2 local churches (one English, one Welsh) which were no women speakers. BEcause it was a ‘secondary’ issue, it was deemed better not to cause a split by inviting a female speaker. CU president was also always male in both cases. PRevious committee chose the next was status quo was maintained. I think there was attempt to keep balance between two main churches (charismatic anglican and cessionist baptist0 on English CU committee. VIce president and secretary always female, and my impression was they did a lot of the actuall work. COme to thinkg of it Iwas never entirely sure what the position of the Charismatic Anglican church was on women’s ministry. I went to the other Anglican church which had a female priest in my first year as an NSM and there was an odd comment from the Rector (of the Benefice which included both those churches) in his Ash Wednesday sermon/Rector’s annual report (odd combination Iknow) after it was known she was leaving (being married to a Methodist minister meant stationing was already known) about them not seeing eye to an on a certain issue. In fact thinking about it, after she left, we probably didn’t have many sermons from women ourselves, except possibly when we had joint services with the Methodists, though that was often their male minister.
    SEmeser abroad autumn 1999. I was in Galway, CU equivalent body very small, two female presidents (one RC!) WOmen, inc UCCF/iFES Ireland staff worker spoke, as did some of the group on alpha course. ALpha weekend had two charismatic Catholic speakers. IFES Ireland weekend at Ovoca, female staff worker spoke very powerfully. WAs struck at time by difference of attitude.
    Cambridge postgrad 2001-6. I had some contact with my College CU (Fitz) but never attended a CICCU teaching event and only one CICCU event (to hear what they were saying about RCism).. In my first year, (01/02) one of the MethSoccers who was involved in both MethSoc and CICCU organised for the then CICCU president (male) to come and talk to MethSoc in our coffeeeeeeee social spot on a Sunday evening. ONe of the two points that evening when I had to breathe deeply to keep my temper was his explanation that whilst they didn’t have a policy of no women speakers, because some members had an issue with women speaking, it just so happened that the speaker each week happened to be malebecause no-one could object to that individual speaker. He honestly didn’t see how anyone could have an issue with this..
    As a sacremental anglican the issue of women speakers wwas not the only thing which kept me out of great involvement in CU (which i did have some benefit from). I have a whole series of issues with the DB and could never sign it. I suspect that the DB does have an impact in these debates. ALthough women speaking is regarded as a secondary issue (like baptism of all ages or those able to make a verbal decision) on which proper Christians can disagree, I suspect the majority of those churches who take issue with women teaching men could sign the DB whereas a lot of those in churches/denominations for whom this is not an issue could not. THis reduces the pool of women who speak in church who can speak at CU meetings. It may also be part of a tribal issue — it’s dodgy liberals (i.e. those who can’t sign the DB) who let women speak so letting women speak is a step towards dodgy liberalism (or being unsound).

  9. Blue, with a hint of amber

    That is a really good post Yr Ieithydd
    “This reduces the pool of women who speak in church who can speak at CU meetings.”
    That has been my point all the way along.
    My experience of is Aston University 1997-2001
    Two years with a female president (one when I was on exec) and several female speakers.
    Interestingly enough, I think the CUs which would probably more conservative in this area would also be the ones who were more conservative on charismatic issues.

  10. Dave

    Yr Ieithydd: “This reduces the pool of women who speak in church who can speak at CU meetings.”
    BWAHOA: “That has been my point all the way along.”

    2 responses
    a) If you have made a public commitment to equality then even if it is harder you put enough effort in to make sure that you have women speakers.
    b) If you claim to be for “ALL” Christians but you discover your Doctrinal Basis is preventing lots of Christians from being speakers for you then logically you would either review that Doctrinal Basis or cease to claim to have a vision and strategy of uniting All Christians. Clearly can’t have both.
    Of course it can’t be that difficult to find women to speak. As people have been pointing out we currently have no evidence in the SW region for any CU’s apart from Bristol not having women speakers. It is unlikely that there are no women speakers able to get to Bristol when they can manage to get to Bath for example.

  11. Dave

    “Two years with a female president (one when I was on exec) and several female speakers.”
    Several women speakers in 2 years? How many is several? How does that fit with my points in the “Next” section of this post?

  12. Blue, with a hint of amber

    Forgive details being sketchy Dave but it was more than a decade ago.
    Our CU did not have many external speakers. I think that was because we were at a smaller university and were a fairly small group. We were perhaps 60 on average, whereas other CUs are well into many hundreds.
    But we did have a female staff worker, and later a female relay worker, and two female presidents during that time, so because speaking was mostly internal (students) women spoke regularly.
    Thinking back to the major churches whose students composed the CU, I don’t think any of them were led by women then, or are now, including several egalitarian churches.
    Point B Dave, it does not say unite all Christians full stop, it says unite all Christians around the “core truths of the gospel” which UCCF defines in its basis of faith.


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