Update: Bristol University Christian Union performs U-turn on female speakers http://tinyurl.com/cojwb8j 
Bristol University Christian Union’s ban on women being the main speakers at its weekly meetings has been widely criticised, including by Christians. To many, the decision is not only unfair but also contrary to core Gospel values.
The students’ union is looking into the decision by this student society. Because women teaching men is “a difficult issue for some”, women are not allowed to be the principal speakers at their regular meetings, or at weekends away or mission weeks – unless part of a husband-and-wife team.
The Huffington Post UK reported that the society had stated that "Bristol University Christian Union has no formal position on the role of men and women in the church. 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." This reflects a common approach in some church circles that being inclusive means allowing some people to exclude others, if they threaten to leave if not allowed to do so – not something which fits easily with Jesus’ example and teaching.
“Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me,” he told the women who were the first disciples to see him after his resurrection, trusting them to let his male followers know the good news. Presumably some in the Christian Union would have disapproved.
In Romans 16, Paul urges his readers to welcome the deacon Phoebe, one of the women leaders who helped the early church to grow, and “help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a benefactor of many and of myself as well”. That would have probably got him into trouble too with some in Bristol’s Christian Union.
Active Christians who recognise that both men and women are called to share the message of God’s love for all, and who are grateful that the Holy Spirit’s gifts are not bounded by gender or ethnicity, may need to speak out more clearly against false notions of what is ‘biblical’. Otherwise people may get a damagingly false picture of Christianity.
© Savitri Hensman is a Christian commentator on religion and politics. She is an Ekklesia associate.