Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Student Societies

Latest update: Exeter CU takes Exeter Students' Guild to court. See here.

Nadine Dorries MP puts forward an 'early day motion' in defence of the Christian Unions, as follows:

"This House notes the valuable work and support provided to students by Christian Unions on University and College campuses across the United Kingdom, notes the constructive dialogue that exists between the majority of Christian Union societies and Student Guilds/Associations on campuses across the country. This House believes that a tolerant society should respect the rights of Christian Unions to their beliefs, believes Christian Unions are entitled to the rights of freedom of expression, freedom of belief and freedom of association. This House believes the leadership of Christian Unions should not be imposed with people who do not share their core beliefs."

This currently has the signatures of 35 MPs.

Briefing. 'Christian Union' societies at British universities are often anti-Catholic. However, the persecution of these groups because of their views on sexuality is a worrying sign, and seems to be becoming widespread.

Update: Essex Christian Union threaten legal action against the Student Guild, see here.
Edinburgh gay and lesbian groups ban Edinburgh Christian Union's chastity course; see here.

Report from 'Christian Concern for Our Nation'. University Cases In May of this year, Exeter Christian Union was forced to change its name to the 'Evangelical Christian Union', following pressure from the Student's Union, known as the Guild of Students. It was contended that the Christian Union was demonstrating cultish exclusivity, and so should attract the label 'evangelical' to describe its literal interpretation of biblical teaching. Such literal teaching was essentially being deemed to attract a label suggesting fundamentalism. This development came after one student approached the Guild and stated that the Christian Union was not accepting of all Christians. The Christian Union had retained its name for some fifty years previous to this. A letter was subsequently written in the student newspaper. The Guild stated that another person must be found to 'second' a motion changing the name from 'CU' to 'ECU'. An Annual General Meeting was held later in May. Even at this stage, the Christian Union was not fully aware of the case against them. The motion was carried by 54/50, and the Guild approved the motion. The CU was the forced to change its name to the Evangelical Christian Union.

The Christian Union then sought to reverse this decision by requesting a University referendum. Before this referendum, a hastily drafted equal opportunities policy was put forward by the Guild, stating in effect that any discrimination based on sexuality would lead to expulsion from the students union and a withdrawal of funds. At the same time, various posters were put up throughout the University supporting the vote to stop the name change from the 'ECU' to the 'CU', these posters were ruthless, misinformed and insensitive. A University referendum was subsequently held in October. The motion to change the name from 'ECU' to 'CU' was successful, but the Guild refused to ratify it. It was argued that the University rules state that a quorum of 10 per cent of students must be present for a motion to be carried. When less than 10 per cent of students are present, the Guild have the casting vote. They subsequently ruled that the 'ECU' should remain the 'ECU'.

Since that referendum, the Christian Union has been suspended, their student union bank account has been frozen, and they are not permitted to use any rooms or facilities within the Guild's jurisdiction for events or advertising. The issue is particularly pressing as the CU have an evangelistic mission on campus in just three weeks. They must now look for alternative advertising methods and venues.

The Exeter University Student magazine article on this issue can be found on page 2 of the following link: ·

In Edinburgh, the Christian Union has attracted criticism for adopting the "Pure" Course. This course advocates biblical teaching on sex and relationships. It states that sex is only appropriate within the life-long commitment of marriage, and that sex outside that institution is a sin. This clearly includes sex in both homosexual and heterosexual relationships. The result has been that the Christian Union has been described as homophobic. Gay activists have attempted to have the course banned before its commencement on Mon 23rd October. Following a misleading and distorted article about "Pure" on the front page of the Student Association newspaper, Gay activists launched their own "Stop Pure" campaign, setting up an internet-based forum. The Chaplain of the University had initially supported the teaching of the "Pure" course, but has since refused to support the Christian Union.

For further information on Edinburgh Christian Union please visit the following website:

These Christian Unions are in the midst of a real battle to boldly proclaim biblical truth. Please pray that they will be bold and fearless in declaring God's word.


Londiniensis said...

Here again I have serious misgivings, not about the fight, but about the grounds upon which you are choosing to fight it.

My own experience at university nearly forty years ago was that the "Christian Union" was strongly evangelical and exhibited disturbing elements of cultish behaviour, but was not overtly anti-Catholic (that dubious privilege was reserved to the Methodist Society). However, everybody in the student body knew that the CU was like that and in those pre-PC days no one would have dreamed of demanding a name change.

From a Roman Catholic - and I would imagine also from mainstream Anglican - viewpoint, I would have difficulty in averring that the CU "declares God's truth". They are just one step removed from the biblically fundamentalist and bigoted "crazy Christians" who give Christianity such a bad name in the United States (by, for example, supporting the dangerous nonsense that creationism be taught as a science subject).

Yes, this attack on the CU must be fought, but not as in solidarity with fellow-Christians proclaiming biblical truth (which they really are not) but on the Voltairean principle of "I disagree with what you say, but I defend to the death your right to say it" - i.e. it must be fought as an attack on the humane values (including free political and scientific discourse) which should underpin every seat of higher learning.

Tim said...

Some factual inaccuracies in this.

Actually, I typed all this out without realising you'd made a direct copy from Andrea Williams. (I recognised the tortured english in the second sentence is a giveaway.) Apologies for the length, but I've tried to give a clear and accurate rundown of the sequence of events below, but you also might want to look at these posts noting no fewer than 18 factual errors in the article's 400 words on Exeter.

To start with, what kicked this all off was a letter in Exeposé about how the 'Christian' Union actually banned most people who consider themselves Christians from being on the committee or being invited to speak at meetings, and stuff like that. This got considerable support from students, both non-Christian and Christian. The latter were understandably often upset at the idea of a "Christian Union" that excluded them. Some reported joining the society without realising its nature, at best wasting their money, at worst being made to feel like they were not real Christians by the society and its members, and also (to quote a methodist) "CU did give other Christians a very bad name"). I know I personally never realised the CU was not a broad society of all Christians until this debate kicked off. The (then) Christian Union wrote what they called an official response to this and another piece, which in fact had nothing to do with this issue. (I don't recall what the other article was; it may be more relevant to that one.)

I don't know what happened in the next couple of months, but it ended up with a motion being proposed to a Guild General Meeting that the CU be renamed. The CU can hardly complain that they were unaware of this, since it was well publicised. The Guild Council ratified this motion. At the next General Meeting, a motion was proposed essentially reaffirming the previous one, since the ECU had not actually complied with it. The ECU also tabled a motion reversing the name change. Strangely, both motions were passed.

Given this, the Guild Council decided not to ratify either motion, and put it to a referendum, the Guild's highest decision-making procedure. The referendum campaign led to complaints from both sides, though these never developed fully. As far as I know, one of the points on the pro-ECU name posters was the only time sexuality was directly brought up in this whole affair. The decision of this referendum was for the society to be named the ECU. The Guild Council ratified this result. (None of the GMs or the referendum were quorate.)

However, all the debate brought out another issue, which was that the ECU appeared to be in breach of the Guild's existing Equal Opportunities policy. This stated that any student had the right to join a society and any member had the right to stand for committee positions.

Two things happened. First, the Guild revised the EO policy so that it was more proactive, instituting an equal opportunities review. Second, the Guild Societies Association took action against the ECU for breaching the (existing) EO policy. It's my opinion that this latter move was a mistake, and the ECU should have been given more opportunity to change having had the breach pointed out to them. (Though maybe it wouldn't have made much difference, since they have opposed any change.)

Webmaster said...

Thanks again, Tim. NB plenty of people object to the use of the term 'Catholic' to refer exclusively to those in communion with Rome. This is based on a theological disagreement; we stick to the word and tell them where to go. The Evangelicals think they are the only Christians; well, we disagree, so what? There's no appelation controllee on disputed theological terms.

Tim said...

That may be the case, but Guild Societies can be subject to controls on their appellation, such as via Guild General Meetings. It's not a power that should be taken lightly, but the CU just upset too many people with its name and approach.
I do really wish that when the ECU was first renamed someone had set up a 'Christian Union' open to all Christians, and then seen the ECU argue why they had a right to the name then.

Pope Leo XIII's Prayer to St Michael

Holy Michael, Archangel, defend us in the day of battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust down to Hell Satan, and all wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen