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

(106 Posts)
ecclesvet Tue 04-Dec-12 20:56:42


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.

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

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