Friday, January 12, 2007

Christian Unions - the plot thickens

There's an interesting article at Ekklesia that claims that Exeter's Evangelical Christian Union sued the students' guild after the ban was lifted. (Ekklesia: Evangelicals sued despite removal of university 'ban') Some points that stand out include:

ECU council member, Ben Martin, brought the suit on January 5 and announced it to the media. He has now admitted however to the Times newspaper, that the religious group had been informed by the Guild that the temporary ban had lapsed and that all privileges had been reinstated.

In a press release he was previously quoted as saying that if the Guild reversed its decision and reinstated the CU as a full society, then he and others would meet with the Guild and look afresh at how its Equal Opportunities policies related to religious societies.

He has now told the Times that he feels the ban would be imposed again, despite the Guild's assurances that no decision had been taken. "Based on the experience of the past nine months, the ECU has no confidence or trust in the integrity of the Guild," he said. "We received no formal written confirmation of anything, all we had was a mobile phone conversation."

In October the ECU was temporarily banned while the Guild carried out an audit into their membership rules. The audit was completed and the suspension expired on December 12, the day before the university Christmas holiday. The ECU claims it was not told that this had occurred until January 4.

Jemma Percy, President of the Student Guild, insists that the ECU knew the ban was temporary and that the Guild was willing to discuss the situation with the ECU before taking any action. "We were happy to negotiate, and continue carrying on a constructive dialogue," she said. "We made an offer to skip all the back-and-forth letter writing steps and call in someone external that all of us agreed on to review the case. We only became aware of this suit through the media."
Also of note is that Ekklesia has published a report "United We Stand? A report on current conflicts between Christian Unions and Students' Unions" (be warned it's a pdf) looking at the current rows and exposing many myths in the media coverage.

The report raised questions about the role of Evangelical lobby and campaign groups external to the Evangelical Christian Union, and their agendas. It suggested that their involvement could be escalating the conflict rather than contributing to its resolution.
So is the escalation at Exeter really the genuine wish of the members of the Evangelical Christian Union or is it being spurred on by outside bodies, such as the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship?

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