Bristol University's Christian Union Bans Women From Teaching At Meetings

(106 Posts)
ecclesvet Tue 04-Dec-12 20:56:42
Pilgit Tue 04-Dec-12 21:31:14

I am speechless. Utterly speechless. Totally twisted version of Christianity. Are they not aware that some of the first evangalisers were women?

Nigglenaggle Tue 04-Dec-12 21:32:26

Pffft. What to say to this really? How did these people ever persuade women to marry them???

ChristmasFayrePhyllis Tue 04-Dec-12 21:35:43

It's disgusting but I am not particularly surprised as university Christian Unions, especially the UCCF affiliated ones (which I think Bristol is) are notorious for con-evo ridiculousness. The one at my own university wasn't quite this bad but they did all kinds of idiotic nonsense.

It's important to note that university Christian Unions usually by no means represent the majority of Christian students in an institution. They almost always have doctrinal statements that are designed to exclude Orthodox, RCs, High Anglicans and liberal Anglicans and Methodists from their leadership. They are anything but concerned with Christian unity, but they monopolise the term 'Christian' on campuses.

Pilgit Tue 04-Dec-12 21:40:28

apparently - this is a move forward and women haven't been able to speak at any function for 7 years!!! and the guy who left did so because he didn't want women to speak at all!! So the big question is - why are we only hearing about it now? They give christianity a bad name.

Pilgit Tue 04-Dec-12 21:41:36
Nigglenaggle Tue 04-Dec-12 21:50:29

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

SomersetONeil Tue 04-Dec-12 22:24:40

What do these people think is actually going to happen if women are 'allowed to speak'...?

Do they think the sky is going to fall on their heads? hmm

grimbletart Tue 04-Dec-12 22:28:07

Probably think it will make their penises drop off.

slug Tue 04-Dec-12 22:36:17

Time for one more visit here

TeiTetua Tue 04-Dec-12 23:56:41

Ugh. They're probably acting out I Corinthians 14:

34 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.

35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

Jesus would never have said this, I'm sure.

LRDtheFeministDude Wed 05-Dec-12 00:10:07

It's shite on many levels.

I don't advocate biblical literalism, but for them as do (who I sincerely doubt read MN feminism, but still ...), what about the bit with Mary in the upper room at Pentecost? Or the example of the Maries who didn't doubt Christ while Peter and Thomas did? Or Jesus insisting a woman like Mary should be listened to and telling other people off for not accepting her interpretation of what she should do?

St Paul was always a misogynistic whatsit.

ChristmasFayrePhyllis Wed 05-Dec-12 00:56:53

And Mary Magdalen, the Apostle to the Apostles, who was the first person to tell others that the Resurrection had happened, the women in the NT who were running churches, the women at the Last Supper etc etc ...

To be fair to St Paul, he did think that the world was about to end. He wasn't in the business of establishing a church that was going to last for millennia.

TheNebulousBoojum Wed 05-Dec-12 06:02:15

Paul was a fanatical Pharisee before he got knocked off his horse, and became a narrow-minded authoritarian Christian afterwards. He was such a PITA that he and Peter fell out and after a few years he ran out of people who would work with him.
Sadly, he wrote a lot that Christian misogynists love and use.
But the banning of women bishops has fed into this idiocy, numerous males will be doing the happy willy dance at women being put in their place

LRDtheFeministDude Wed 05-Dec-12 06:39:30

I never thought about that one phyllis - the world ending bit. I like that.

HolofernesesHead Wed 05-Dec-12 07:08:29

Phyllis is right about Christian Unions; it's sad, I used to be very involved with mine when I were a nipper, as well as with the chapel and its wonderful female chaplain. Lots of university CUs have become more conservative since then.

ChristmasFayrePhyllis Wed 05-Dec-12 07:15:33

I do actually like St Paul and I think it is a shame he is so out of vogue at the minute. But you have to read his letters in the context of him having been a Pharisee and importing all of that into the early church, the fact he was pretty out of his mind most of the time from the power of the Spirit, and, yes, thinking that the world was about to end in the next year or two. On top of the fact that he was one of the most exceptionally annoying people in the early church and was chippy about having his authority constantly questioned.

So, er, if you can get past all of that, I think he is pretty awesome actually. I think his letters are the most incredible picture of someone in the grip of the Spirit I know.

LRDtheFeministDude Wed 05-Dec-12 07:15:41

I think it might vary from place to place. My mum remembers the CU at her place being pretty fundamentalist in the 70s.

ChristmasFayrePhyllis Wed 05-Dec-12 07:19:47

Actually, make that one of the most exceptionally annoying people of all time.

LRDtheFeministDude Wed 05-Dec-12 07:22:46

I've got to say, St Paul's potential to annoy me pales into insignificance against the various priests who've insisted on lecturing me about how to interpret him. They don't have the excuse of having lived 2000 years ago.

peggyblackett Wed 05-Dec-12 07:23:45


But then double ugh at someone needing to use the word retard nigglenaggle

Pilgit Wed 05-Dec-12 07:25:28

nSt Paul and the council of Nicene has a lot to answer for. It was at the council of Nicene that the contents of the bible was decided upon - in its more of less current form (this depends on your denomination -the catholic bible is a couple of books longer, but that's neither here nor there for this purpose). At that time teachings such as this suited the cultural atmosphere and what the male leaders of the church wanted to achieve. Nowhere does Jesus echo this teaching. It is, therefore, St Pauls's interpretation based on his own prejudices and beliefs - i.e. it is human and therefore flawed and so can and should be re-visited in light of the times. Being able to do this has always been central to Christianity as it is recognised that any writing down of the 'word of God' is seen through human, flawed, eyes and should constantly be re-visited. The fact that there are Christians out there that don't do this and cleave to the teachings of someone other than Jesus is really frustrating! (i never thought the conversations around the dinner table as a youngster on theology would actually be helpful! DF was a seminary drop out, DM a scientist - both devout catholics and so theology was discussed - a lot)

LRDtheFeministDude Wed 05-Dec-12 07:30:21

I think the CU probably don't base which books they use on the Council of Nicea, I'd guess they use the Protestant decisions made later, but as you say, it's probably not that relevant here.

But St Paul who wrote stuff like the letters to the Corinthians lived in the first century and the council of Nicea happened in the fourth, so I don't follow the connection?

mummytime Wed 05-Dec-12 07:31:14

St Pauls wasn't as bad as you make out, and unless he had a split personality didn't mean for women to keep quiet (in the same book he exerts women to keep quiet, he also says that "when they speak they should have their heads covered" TM Mummytime translation).

However the UCCF is and has been for a long time full of women leaders. So I do find this shocking (after all I still remember going to a meeting about Men and Women in the Church, which really shocked a lot of ideas such as on feminism and homosexuality - far more pro than mainstream CUs).

LRDtheFeministDude Wed 05-Dec-12 07:34:35

Ooh, that is interesting mummytime.

It's the husband bit I find odd. For a university CU, I really don't get that bit? confused

Does anyone know Bristol university or CU, I'm almost wondering if they've been misrepresented. I live in hope.

ChristmasFayrePhyllis Wed 05-Dec-12 07:53:10

AIUI the canon of the Bible evolved fairly organically by consensus between different Xtian communities, and was largely in place by the end of the 2nd century in the Western church. The first church council to formally declare a canon was the Council of Trent in 1546. Nicea was about the Creed and squashing Arianism.

The husband bit is presumably modelled on the husband and wife teams who led churches in NT times.

LRDtheFeministDude Wed 05-Dec-12 08:16:43

People definitely argue about the canon and do draw up lists well before Trent; I'm not sure it was 'organic', since it was certainly formalized.

I can see the links between people (men) declaring they have authority to decide which bits go into the Bible and people in this CU decide women don't get to teach, since it's all a bit circular, but I tend to assume (maybe wrongly?) that this sort of CU is probably less about revisiting old theological controversies and more about finding a way to justify 'traditional gender roles' which they're assuming are therefore scriptural. I could be being unfair.

It just seems that a fair few Christian groups seem to imagine the Bible must promote the kind of gender roles the 21st century celebrates as 'traditional' (ie., 1950s-that-never-were) and don't really bother to check it out properly.

HolofernesesHead Wed 05-Dec-12 12:23:00

The first Roman canon of Christian Scripture was compiled in 190CE, way, way before Trent. Athanasius' Easter letter of 367CE (NB after Nicaea) was pretty authoritative in terms of defining the canon too.

Anyway, I am unashamed of my love for St Paul. As a Gentile Christian, it'd be incredibly rude of me not to love him. 'In Christ, there is no longer...male and female...' as he says.

TeiTetua Wed 05-Dec-12 13:30:09

'In Christ, there is no longer...male and female...' so anyone can speak in church, with anything on their head, right?

The Quakers have it right. God is inherent in everyone, so we must treat each other as if everyone is holy. We mustn't harm another person, and we mustn't assume superiority over anyone. There ought to be Quaker meetings alongside these so-called Christian groups.

SolidGoldYESBROKEMYSPACEBAR Wed 05-Dec-12 14:26:24

Thing is, while it's no surprise that a lot of Christians are misogynistic fucknuggets, I would be inclined to think that the University's remedy would be to encourage the less-misogynistic Christians to form a breakaway union of their own.
It's a kind of public/private/free speech issue as much as a feminist one, because if the University kicks these tossers into next week and pulls their funding, then the decision will be used as a precedent to sabotage any kind of women-only group or association.

Because these silly little sods and their imaginary friend and their superstitious shit should be percieved as a private members club that is not actually denying women-in-general or christian women anything they can't get elsewhere.

HolofernesesHead Wed 05-Dec-12 18:05:14

IMHO what needs to happen now is that the chaplaincy team needs to address the issue by hosting a discussion on the subject of women in religious leadership. Bristol has a large multifaith chaplaincy team with no doubt quite a range of experiences and viewpoints. So I'd open it up as a discussion, if I were there, and invite the CU to take part so that they can have the opportunity to contextualise their own beliefs, and try and understand how things might be understood differently by other believers. They might not come,'s always worth trying, and it'd still be v. valuable anyway.

ChristmasFayrePhyllis Wed 05-Dec-12 21:13:12

Sorry, I may have got it wrong on the canon - but what I meant was the Trent was the first council that specifically addressed the canon AIUI.

There are other Christian student federations aren't there? Student Christian Movement etc? I wonder if they have a presence at Bristol.

I just find it so utterly depressing that there's even a debate to be had on women's ministry. That we are such a controversy that people of good sense could be prepared to pander to this nonsense by hosting 'discussions' on women leaders. That isn't meant to be a go at you, Holofernes, by the way - it's just I'm very down about it all in general at the moment and I find it heart-breaking that we are still at this stage.

LRDtheFeministDude Wed 05-Dec-12 21:19:03

Oh, goodness, it's all incredibly arcane, isn't it? I'm quibbling because I am a horrible pedant and a (bad) armchair theologian and I think - with respect and amusement - that Holofernes is similar! grin

But yes, you're right, to get back on target, I would like to know what other Bristol students or student Christians made of it.

My mate is a postgrad at Bristol, who happens to be married to a woman and therefore unable to bring in her husband as sanction for her teaching hmm, and I want to know what she makes of it but not got a reply yet.

It is depressing. And I don't think the people debating it know the slightest bit of the theology/church history, do they? They're just being sexist.

HolofernesesHead Wed 05-Dec-12 21:58:08

Armchair theologian, absolutely! smile The comfier the better!

It is depressing that we need discussion of this, yes I agree Phyllis, but I'm quite Pragmatic, I guess. Tbf these CU members are young, probably from conservative evangelical backgrounds and gave never really had their views challenged, so on that basis I'd give them the benefit of the doubt and treat them like equal conversation partners in the hope that they'd see a different way...maybe I'm a pragmatist and an optimist! smile

LRDtheFeministDude Wed 05-Dec-12 22:00:33

grin I'm glad you didn't mind that, I thought I'd seen enough of your posts to now you were one of the fellowship!

I wonder if the CU are all young, though. Being rather cynical, I'd be interested to know how much of Bristol CU is run by (undergrad) students and how much by people who've long since ceased to be students.

I take your point, though.

HolofernesesHead Wed 05-Dec-12 22:14:37

Well, I was on the committee of my UCCF affiliated CU as a young scallywag, and tbh I think I was quite lucky with mine; we had Roman Catholics and Protestants (lots of Anglicans) of all stripes, so it was relatively 'union'ish, although the Orthodox churches didn't really get a look in. One of the things I did was to install a female President of the CU (I was Vice Pres), so I guess we were relatively progressive. Far from perfect, though.

Anyway, as far as I remember, the committee of a CU is the decision making body, and is pretty much made up of undergrads, so I think it's feasible that these people in Bristol are basically, well, young fogeys. I find so often that older people are so much more progressive than younger people; maybe that's the result of the 'university of life.' hmmm!

weegiemum Wed 05-Dec-12 22:17:13

I was involved quite heavily with the CU when at edinburgh uni. Very young, very dogmatic, very sure they were always right, never had had a female president, and with a bit of a holy persecution complex to be honest. Almost entirely undergrad and also a hotbed of seething sexual tension! This was late 80s/early 90s, but I doubt much has changed tbh. Packed with medical students, too, overwhelmingly from N. Ireland.

Dh's best friend from school went to Bristol and their CU was very similar to ours, at that time.

I wouldn't touch it with a bargepole now but I did make some very good friends there and my husband too

LRDtheFeministDude Wed 05-Dec-12 22:17:17

Oh, that sounds nice, yours, then.

It's of course possible the Bristol lot are Young Fogeys. OTOH I do know of CUs that were effectively run by people who weren't at university, so I'm not speculating without precedent.

The reason I'm suspicious here isn't so much their views, as the fact it's claimed they've made progress from the situation of 7 years ago. 7 years seems an awful long time in undergrad-years.

LRDtheFeministDude Wed 05-Dec-12 22:18:40

Whoops, cross post! grin

Sexual tension, weegie?! Gosh.

I know the sort of thing though - one of my good mates is ex CU and now a fervent athiest (among other things). Still just as dogmatic, though, in a different way. confused

weegiemum Wed 05-Dec-12 22:24:29

Notice that the decision has now been changed, women allowed to be anything.

LRD it was the most hormonal environment I've ever been in, and I taught in secondary schools! Everyone desperate to get married so they could have sex and pretending to be praying together when they were really snogging. Looking back, it's actually quite sad.

HolofernesesHead Wed 05-Dec-12 22:30:25

Weenie, that is so true! smile goodness, all that repression!

I thought that UCCF had become more hardline conservative evo in the wake of Steve Chalk's book in which he rejects penal substitionary atonement? I might well be wrong on that, though.

LRDtheFeministDude Wed 05-Dec-12 22:33:38

Oh, no ... that sounds so like a mate of mine, who is an absolutely lovely woman any man would be fortunate to know, and who's convinced she'll never marry and can't have sex before marriage. sad

It does trouble me.

LRDtheFeministDude Wed 05-Dec-12 22:33:57

What's penal substitutionary atonement, btw?!

HolofernesesHead Wed 05-Dec-12 22:50:25

Oh goodness, that's a can of worms, LRD! It's the belief that Hod punished Jesus instead of punishing us; hence Jesus' death on the cross. As an idea, it's - well, terrible, really!

HolofernesesHead Wed 05-Dec-12 22:50:53

God, not Hod! smile

ChristmasFayrePhyllis Wed 05-Dec-12 22:56:59

PSA is a particular doctrine of salvation/atonement - the idea that Christ's death was him voluntarily taking on the punishment of sinners in their place - as a substitution to appease God.

I resisted saying this further up the thread when LRD said that the husband and wife thing was odd, but I'm going to say it now - in my experience too, CUs are always OBSESSED with sex. The one in my college was constantly having talks about sexual purity and kept a lending library of books that were almost entirely about sex. And then they all got married the instant they graduated, so they could have sex. So perhaps lots of people at Bristol got married because they were all desperate to have sex and there are lots of married couples there ... ? <uncharitable Phyllis>

LRDtheFeministDude Wed 05-Dec-12 22:57:02

Oh, yes, I know. Not by that name.

It's Christ taking on the sins of the world, but from the point of view of a punishing God not a sacrificing Christ. It's a problem for us because God is outside time and omniscient, isn't it, and because we don't really understand the Trinity? Because He knew what He'd do to Himself, only he's outside time and knows it already, so it was done, in a timeless period coexistant with God making man with free will.

<confuses self mightily>

Thank you! blush grin

LRDtheFeministDude Wed 05-Dec-12 22:58:31

Cross post ... damn, I knew I should have gone to CU for sex! grin I had a lovely group of luvvie/stoner mates who wouldn't have known sex if it bit them. Bless them.

I did know a couple who married immediately after university but I can't really lecture since DH married me not much after he graduated.

Pilgit Wed 05-Dec-12 23:53:33

Apologies for my incorrect statements about the Nicene council - arm chair theologian and historian. <wanders off mumbling that she must get her facts straight next time>......

LRDtheFeministDude Wed 05-Dec-12 23:57:05

We'll sit on the same bench and the others can fill us in, right?

I think this makes me think of my issue with CU btw - IME they don't ever chat about different perspectives like Catholicism or Protestantism or all the different ones we all obviously have, they just assume they're right. I'm not keen.

MamaMary Fri 07-Dec-12 10:16:09

My CU was evangelical Christian but allowed women speakers and had several female CU presidents.

Bristol has a Sovereign Grace Ministries affiliated church and I would not be surprised if this is having an influence here. SGM is American but has a few branches in the UK. It is incredibly conservative and anti-women, but has all the trappings of young hip churches such as trendy music with bands, and some charismatic trappings too.

I agree that UCCF became more conservative after Steve Chalks book The Lost Message of the Cross in which he claimed the crucifixion was cosmic child abuse. I remember the controversy well. Chalk's thesis was seen as doctrinally wrong and there was a strong conservative backlash against it.

LRDtheFeministDude Fri 07-Dec-12 10:17:04

They've changed their minds, apparently, and now say women can teach whenever they like - it's in the Guardian.

Nigglenaggle Fri 07-Dec-12 22:36:50

Hmm quick change there....

HolofernesesHead Sat 08-Dec-12 07:27:37

I still think that they're probably young and naive, and had no idea of the reaction this would get from wider society. Undergrads can be very insular, esp in v. clearly defined groups like this one, and be oblivious to what the rest of the world might think of it.

SomeTiggyPudding Sat 08-Dec-12 08:03:40

Why do people expect religious people to make rational choices? They're religious. They don't do facts, they do belief.

LRDtheFeministDude Sat 08-Dec-12 12:17:44

Probably because many religious people do do facts, and it's usually hoped that universities produce people who can be rational in their daily lives even if they are religious. It's not ok to discriminate because you think a higher being told you to do so.

HolofernesesHead Sat 08-Dec-12 12:51:29

...whereas non-religious people don't do belief and only do facts? Yeah, right...that's exactly how it works. (Some religious people do do sarcasm. That's a fact, by the way, not a belief.)

LRD - your response is much more garcious than mine!

LRDtheFeministDude Sat 08-Dec-12 13:02:23

Yours is funnier, though.

I would like to be garcious.

HolofernesesHead Sat 08-Dec-12 13:51:33

grin Yes, Garcious would be a very good thing to be!

So, as we see on the evidence here adduced, some religious people aren't very good at proof-reading. Another fact! At this rate I'll be kicked out of the fellowship by tea-time!

LRDtheFeministDude Sat 08-Dec-12 14:08:45

Or, religious people make up words.

I prefer that theory.

MariaMandarin Sat 08-Dec-12 15:22:10

I don't expect much in the way of rationality from religious believers either, sorry. So many religions are anti-woman that I am not surprised by the Bristol Christian Union. I wish all religions could be different, but they aren't, and I don't see it changing any time soon. The arguments for equality have been won in society as whole. Religious institutions are the last bastions of organised sexism and homophobia.

LRDtheFeministDude Sat 08-Dec-12 15:48:45

'The arguments for equality have been won in society as whole. Religious institutions are the last bastions of organised sexism and homophobia.'

Speaking of irrational statements ... that's one.

It's just not true. You really believe the 'arguments for equality have been won'? Why?

MariaMandarin Sat 08-Dec-12 16:15:55

Discrimination on the grounds of gender or sexuality is prohibited by law. Except religious institutions are allowed to opt out.

LRDtheFeministDude Sat 08-Dec-12 16:22:31

That's only one facet, though.

Women are still not treated as equals, and homophobia isn't restricted to religious organizations.

MariaMandarin Sat 08-Dec-12 16:28:07

I didn't say that there was no sexism or homophobia except within religion. But the general principles of equality are widely accepted except within religion. I think the law reflects this.

LRDtheFeministDude Sat 08-Dec-12 16:34:40

Oh, sorry ... I thought when you said the arguments had been won elsewhere, and religious institutions were the last bastions of sexism/homophobia, that was what you meant.

Gender principles of equality aren't widely accepted, sadly. The law hasn't yet managed to do this, as you can see from the way women are politically, economically and socially disadvantaged.

MariaMandarin Sat 08-Dec-12 16:42:37

I think the argument has been won, yes. That doesn't mean that individuals always act in the way that they should. Religious organisations don't even pay lip service to equality. They are actively against it.

LRDtheFeministDude Sat 08-Dec-12 16:46:02

I see what you're saying. I don't agree though - there are plenty of places where the law doesn't really uphold women's rights, IMO.

I think you're generalizing pretty unfairly about religious organizations, too.

MariaMandarin Sat 08-Dec-12 16:48:52

Which religious organisations are supporters of equality? The Quakers and Unitarians are doing well in the gay marriage debate. But they are minor players.

LRDtheFeministDude Sat 08-Dec-12 16:50:55

Yes, but I think it's important to support even 'minor players', because IMO that's how you get things to change.

I think they're important, because they show that some people can and do combine their own religious beliefs with a belief in equality.

MariaMandarin Sat 08-Dec-12 17:05:58

I know that some individual people do combine their religious beliefs with a belief in equality, but the organisations themselves are not willing to do so. It's very difficult to form a rational response to such explicit discrimination. Especially when we all live in a society where we know that most people are aware, at least on a theoretical level, that discrimination on the ground of gender or sexuality is considered wrong.

LRDtheFeministDude Sat 08-Dec-12 17:20:34

But the groups you mentioned, those are institutions.

I take your point that most people are aware that discrimination based on gender is wrong (in theory), even if they don't follow that up in practice. But I think it misrepresents the situation to suggest this is so wildly different from some religious institutions, when the reality is that so many people act in a way that's not informed by the theory.

MariaMandarin Sat 08-Dec-12 17:37:56

I think it is fundamentally different, because religious organisations enshrine discrimination within their practice and doctrine. They do accept that discrimination is wrong. They are in favour of explicit discrimination.

HolofernesesHead Sun 09-Dec-12 14:40:01

Well, speaking as an Anglican who has had this conversation ad nauseum this month, 42 out of 44 dioceses wanted women bishops. There was a massive mismatch between what people in the C of E wanted, and how their representatives in Synod voted. Just to say that the C of E is misogynistic is way too simplistic and, largely, simply untrue. But let's not let the facts get in the way of a good prejudice, eh? Especially as we religious people are so irrational, incapable of holding a civilised discussion, and all...

MariaMandarin Sun 09-Dec-12 18:31:30

The facts don't get in the way, they fully support my point. The Anglican church is discriminatory towards women. Whether every Christian in the country wishes it wasn't so is irrelevant.

SomersetONeil Sun 09-Dec-12 19:21:25

But the C of E must be misogynistic if their representatives voted against women bishops... The criticism is of the Church; not of its congregation, necessarily.

Your representatives vote this way, then you (the Church) surely has to expect to be questioned on it.

TheFallenMadonna Sun 09-Dec-12 19:37:01

It was the representatives of the laity (the congregations) that voted against. A minority I believe, but not a small enough minority. The Church, as represented by clergy and bishops, were in favour.

HolofernesesHead Sun 09-Dec-12 19:43:34

But but but....does your thinking always apply?

Take the gender issue and religion out of it for a moment. Imagine a chocolate factory in which all employees are shareholders. They are asked if they want to start producing toffee as well as chocolate. 93% of them do. They have reps from each part of the factory, divided into three main areas. The factory owner decides they need a 67% majority for the vote to be carried, and for toffee production to begin. The reps vote, and in one of the three main areas, only 63% of the reps want the factory to make toffee (maybe they are dyed-in-the-wool chocolate traditionalists). In the other two areas, way over 67% say yes, and averaged across the three areas, the percentage of yes-votes comes to more than 67% easily, but because of the factory owner's clear directive that all three areas must have at least a 67% majority, the vote falls and no toffee is made. Meanwhile, 93% of the shareholder-employees feel very disappointed and slightly disillusioned. Some even think about finding a new job. The factory owner looks at the reps sternly and says 'We've got some explaining to do.'

Is this factory institutionally anti-toffee? Is that a fair assessment of the events as narrated above? Or are there other factors involved? (The more perceptive among you might notice a certain similarity between this hypothetical story and recent events...)

MariaMandarin Sun 09-Dec-12 20:40:00

93% of workers in the hypothetical factory might be sexist. It would still be illegal for the owners to discriminate on the grounds of gender.

These laws apply everywhere but in religious institutions.

HolofernesesHead Sun 09-Dec-12 20:44:44

Eh? Stick with the story as it is, forget gender & religion for a moment. Is the factory in the story anti-toffee? If so, in what way, and to what extent?

MariaMandarin Sun 09-Dec-12 20:50:17

Yes they are anti toffee!

They had to vote on whether to allow men and women equal rights. This should be a given. In fact it is upheld in law. But one that doesn't apply to the Anglican church or other religious institutions.

HolofernesesHead Sun 09-Dec-12 21:03:15

Even though 93% of them are pro-toffee and feel deeply misrepresented by the reps in the vote? Is it fair to call that 93%, the overwhelming majority of the factory, anti-toffee? Is it not more true to say that there is a small but very influential minority who positioned themselves so as to sway the vote in a way that patently does not represent the mind of the factory?

It's a bit like the Conservatives winning a staunchly Labour seat in an election due to some freakish factors and a whole lot of Labour apathy, then saying 'this is now a Tory area' when the overwhelming majority do not feel even slightly represented by the Conservatives.

Surely it seems to me that the more obvious point to be made here is not that the factory us inherently anti-toffee- of course it isn't - but rather, that its system of governance hives rise to some real problems.

MariaMandarin Sun 09-Dec-12 21:13:42

We are going in circles here.

I accept that many people within the church are not sexist. But the church, as an institution, is. Otherwise there would be no need for the vote. It would be automatic that men and women can both fulfill any role.

HolofernesesHead Sun 09-Dec-12 21:22:45

Well maybe Maria, in utopia. In utopia, the representation of women in the media would be 50-50, not 80-20 as it is here in the UK. In utopia, universities would not run freshers week courses called 'How not to get raped' as some do here in the UK. In utopia, the rich list would include as many women as men. In Utopia, female celebrities would not be judged by their approximation to a vacuous concept of beauty, and judged for their intellects and personalities. They'd be photograped fully clothed, as of course would the men.

I'd love to live in Utopia. But I don't. I live in the UK, with its many sexist institutions and interest groups, some of which are ancient and very, very slowly evolving. So what are our choices? Club together and buy an island in the Pacific and set up Utopia, or stay in the UK and make a difference to it's institutions and interest groups?

Nigglenaggle Sun 09-Dec-12 21:31:18

Well if you are right and Maria is wrong, can you name a secular institution that is permitted to vote on whether or not women are allowed to hold high rank within it. Forget about whether or not they actually do. Where other than the church are they outright banned?

HolofernesesHead Sun 09-Dec-12 21:38:36

The Freemasons? (joke)

The thing is, the historical situation us what it is. There are reasons why, in the past, most people thought women could not be high representative figures in the church. I cant ho back in tome and change that. But this attitude has changed hugely in the last few decades - social change has come pretty quickly, mostly through the monistry of female clergy, and we are now in a situation where 93% of parishes want female bishops. That would have been utterly unthinkable even 30 years ago. So big shifts have happened. The issue now is what to do with the remaining 7% (how to be faithful Christians to them) and how to organise church governance such that it really does what it's supposed to do,i.e. represent the people.

HolofernesesHead Sun 09-Dec-12 21:39:40

Aagh, bloody typos! Sorry!

HolofernesesHead Sun 09-Dec-12 21:45:31

Another figure for you: 42 of the 44 dioceses of the C of E have said yes to female bishops. Those against really are the minority.

And another thought: we inherit what we inherit. It would be sexist just to perpetuate the historical attitudes to women in the church, but it is profoundly not sexist to challenge what we inherit and seek to change it. Which is what the church is doing. So I can't see, in all fairness, how 'the church' can be deemed sexist. Regardless of my religious commitment, that's just not a fair assessment.

SolidGoldFrankensteinandmurgh Sun 09-Dec-12 21:51:20

OK, there are kind of two things to consider here. One is the activities of a student group that's about as important to most people as the Great British Two Sugars In Your Tea Not One Club. Christianity is not just a minority hobby ( It is a minority hobby when you add together all the muslims, sikhs, jews, hindus, pagans, atheists and jedis along with the nominalluy/culturally christian-weddings-funerals-and-bar-mitsvahs type) but a minority hobby with plenty of different branches, styles and clubs to join. Any woman who wants to be a Christian has access to loads of other places to go and do so. No one is being deprived of their human rights any more than people are deprived of their human rights when they can't go to a particular pub one night as it's hossting an invite-only birthday party.

The other issue is of course how much privilege should be given to silly superstitions, and to which ones. A woo-happy group with an imaginary friend shouldn't have any more rights than a group of football supporters exercising and dmanding loyalty to one football team over others. Unfortunately, from a rational viewpoint, all this guff about 'respect' and 'cuture' and 'tradition' always boils down to prioritising men's delicate feelings over the wellbeing of women and children.

Nigglenaggle Sun 09-Dec-12 21:58:05

Holo much of what you have said echoes my thoughts on 'feminism' in a more general sense. I think the church still does lag behind the rest of us a little. However, take your point.

I think one of the reasons that prejudice is still perceived to exist is that the people at the top at the moment are from a different era - equal rights in their youth did not exist and some of them struggle to adjust to it. I think alot of them are very much trying to though. Its just disappointing that this story involved young people.

HolofernesesHead Sun 09-Dec-12 22:02:10

We weren't talking about religious privilege, SGB. We were discussing whether or not the church of England is institutionally sexist after its vote against the measure which would enable the first women bishops to be consecrated. (the conversation has moved on from Bristol uni CU!) smile

NB that the C of E has already said a clear yes to having women bishops; this recent vote was about a specific measure to offer a settlement for those few who are against women bishops.

BoulevardOfBrokenSleep Sun 09-Dec-12 22:06:14

Holofernes, in your toffee-related example, I'd say that your factory owners have set up the voting system in a way that assumes toffee-making to be far more controversial than it actually is, and in a way that allows the factory to be held to ransom by the anti-toffee extremists to the embarrassment of all employees. grin

(Coincidentally, I've just been bemoaning to DH that DD is completely unable to divide 12 by 2, but is instantly able to tell me what happens if 12 chocolate buttons are shared between her and her brother. Perhaps all complex dilemmas should be related to confectionary...!)

HolofernesesHead Sun 09-Dec-12 22:09:30

Niggle, yes, you're right, the church does lag behind. Church people are often, by nature, pretty cautious about change. TBH, the strength of feeling on the issue of women bishops really is quite something when you bear this in mind.

Re the uni CU, well, yes, true, but if you look at the whole story, this CU inherited an anti-women stance and were actually trying to change it, but ballsed up by being too compromising towards the anti-women continent (remind you of any other religious group?) and have now retracted their compromise and have now adopted a pro-women policy. So the outcome is a good one IMO, even though it made them look bad in the process. Oh well, omelettes and eggs, and all that...

HolofernesesHead Sun 09-Dec-12 22:12:54

Boulevard, so true, so very, very true.

Re confectionary - I know! My dcs' school used to have Smarties Days based on the premise that no mathematical problem is impossible if you have a tube if Smarties to answer it with. They were on to a winner! smile

SolidGoldFrankensteinandmurgh Sun 09-Dec-12 22:17:12

Holo: It is about superstitions' privileged status to the extent that it wouldn't be newsworthy at all if it were a matter of the Stripey Socks Club refusing to allow women members yet despite superstition being irrelevant to most people, the antics of a superstitious organisation are still supposed to be taken seriously.

weegiemum Sun 09-Dec-12 22:21:13

Flip, you go away for the weekend and come back to find everyone talking about toffee and smarties?

<slinks away looking for chocolate orange >

HolofernesesHead Sun 09-Dec-12 22:22:46

Yes SGB, the church of England is very big and influential, and its influence is such that what it does makes a real difference to the UK. Its heart is in the right place, I'm convinced of that, and its people are....well, my family. That's why I'm happy to be in it despite its shortcomings, and see that we should do all we can to work towards a more inclusive way if being.

TeiTetua Sun 09-Dec-12 22:23:38

I don't know for sure that this is still an issue, but a few years ago this was presented as being related to the very conservative Anglicans in Africa. The Africans allegedly said that if there were homosexual priests or women bishops, they'd break with the Church of England over it. I can imagine the leaders in Britain being very unwilling to risk a public split with the Africans, which could be presented as racist on the part of the British--the Africans would be saying "As always, white people are telling us what to think". So rather than risk that, the bishops are holding back on reforms that most people in Britain think should happen immediately. Though it was a while ago that the idea of the African churches breaking away was being mentioned, and perhaps there are other factors now.

Back in October the dp and I spent a few days in the fine old city of York, and we took the tour of the Minster conducted by a volunteer guide. He told us that as of Dec 1--that's a week ago now--they'd be getting a new Dean, and she'd be the first woman ever to hold the post. He seemed to approve. (A dean is the senior cleric at a cathedral, and effectively the manager of the enterprise.)

HolofernesesHead Sun 09-Dec-12 22:24:09

Hi Weegiemum! (waves) smile

HolofernesesHead Sun 09-Dec-12 22:28:49

Yes Tei, there's allot of truth in that, the influence of the C of E goes far beyond the UK. There is some great work being done to nurture relationships and to aid understanding across the so-called liberal - conservative divide, across the Anglican communion worldwide. I am optimistic, still! smile

TeiTetua Sun 09-Dec-12 22:29:12
HolofernesesHead Mon 10-Dec-12 17:30:12

grin Tei! That's great news (about the Dean, not anyone choking).

LRDtheFeministDude Mon 10-Dec-12 17:58:06

SGB - fully agree with your post about the two things to consider.

maria - I honestly think if you believe that institutions other than religious ones are not explicitly discriminatory, you're being awfully generous.

Explicit discrimination, in my book, isn't just about saying 'we fully believe women are inferior to men' (FWIW, relatively few religious institutions say this - they'll dance around it in all sorts of ways because they know it's quite blunt, even for their own followers).

Explicit discrimination can also be things like saying 'well, we would have more women doing career x, but women choose to have babies, so ...'.

I also think that by focussing on 'explicit discrimination' as somehow different and more important than other kinds, you end up (not deliberately, and 'you' as in people, not you personally!) downplaying the covert tactics, which are in some ways much nastier and harder to deal with.

LRDtheFeministDude Mon 10-Dec-12 18:29:44

tei - I get your point, and I think you are right that is the thinking, about opposing homosexuality (and quite likely about women bishops too).

I like the argument Ayann Hirsi Ali puts forward (apologies if you know it and it's boring). She says (as I understand it) that while it is important for people to be aware of privilege, that mustn't become thing to hide behind, or a thing that stops us feeling able to say something is wrong. So, she's saying that people must not feel that they can't speak up if they think others are being hurt, just because it is happening in a foreign country or a different culture. Of course you might get it wrong, but you can be prepared to be corrected - it's better than not speaking up.

I think that the Anglican Church is worried about schism and I see a result of schism could be to end up with influential religious groups that were more vehemently against equality than before. But I think that it's a case where it's fundamentally right that women be equal and that homosexuals be allowed to marry, and that should not be an area for compromise.

HolofernesesHead Mon 10-Dec-12 18:34:55

Oh yes, that's so true. I was at a leading UK institution (not religious) and talking to their university talent-spotter person, who actually said 'We employ men and women, but women usually leave to have babies.' She (yes, she) even used the term 'attrition rate.' shock If that's not patriarchy in action, I don't know what is...

LRDtheFeministDude Mon 10-Dec-12 18:41:30

Right with you there! It is so depressing.

It makes sense to me though. Society is set up with a structure that disadvantages women (and of course many other groups). It makes sense that the structure becomes invisible rather than explicit, because it has become the norm.

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