Bristol University Christian Union bars women from teaching

A university's Christian Union is being investigated after ruling that women are not allowed to teach at its main weekly meetings.

Bristol University Christian Union also made it clear that women will only be able to teach as principal speakers at away weekends and during its mission weeks if they do so with a husband.

Coming just a fortnight after the Church of England's General Synod voted against allowing women to become bishops, the stance of the Christian union has caused consternation at the university.

The students' union said it took allegations of discrimination very seriously and would be investigating to make sure its equality policy was adhered to.

At the centre of the controversy is an email from the president of BUCU, Matt Oliver, that sets out when women are allowed to teach.

The email says: "We understand that this [women teaching] is a difficult issue for some and so decided that women would not teach on their own at our CU:Equip meetings [its principal weekly meeting], as the main speaker on our Bristol CU weekend away or as our main speaker for mission weeks."

It says a husband and wife can teach at the latter two events and adds: "This means that women are able to teach (including on their own) in any other CU setting.

The story made headlines in the Bristol student papers. The Tab reported: Christian Union Decide Women Should Be Seen Not Heard.

Epigram said: Christian Union Bans Women From Speaking at Meetings.

In the readers' comments beneath the Tab's article one person claimed women had not been allowed to teach for at least seven years. The reader said allowing women to speak in certain settings was actually a step forward.

It appears that the Christian Union was considering letting women teach at all meetings but after one of its senior members resigned in protest decided that they should only be allowed to do so in certain settings and so put out the controversial memo laying out the position.

Oliver was not available for comment on Tuesday night. The Christian Union said it had "no formal position on the role of men and women in the church", adding: "We respect those of our members who hold strong Biblical convictions in this area and seek to find the most practical way of expressing this inclusivity."

Alessandra Berti, vice-president welfare and equality at the students' union (UBU), said: "We have been made aware of a communication from the Bristol University Christian Union, and we would like to assure our members and the general public that UBU and the full-time elected officers are investigating the issue further in consultation with the groups involved. In particular we will be making certain that our equality policy is properly adhered to in all cases.

"The University of Bristol students' union takes allegations of discrimination very seriously. UBU has an equality policy which explains that we prohibit discrimination on grounds of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief (including lack of belief), sex and sexual orientation in line with The Equality Act 2010 and as one of our key values of equality and diversity."

The university declined to comment, saying the matter was being dealt with by the students' union.