Sunday, December 03, 2006

Consider it pure joy

Things are just beginning to heat up for students in the UK. Christian Unions have existed for ages - 75 years at Southampton, more like 150 at Cambridge... and of course the Wesleys set up the "Holy Club" at Oxford in the 18th century! In the last couple of months four CUs have seen varying degrees of backlash from their student unions/guilds, or their host universities, for a variety of reasons:
  • There have been criticisms that CUs should rename themselves as "Evangelical Christian Unions" because leaders, committee members and speakers have to agree to the UCCF Doctrinal Basis. The DB that all CUs adhere to is deliberately written to be both Biblical on all primary issues, but silent on most secondary issues, in line with the UCCF conviction that 'CU is not a church'. In that sense it is 'evangelical', but only in the true Gospel sense, not the pejorative sense.
  • Another problem for some student bodies is that CUs are not subscribing to equal opportunity policies in terms of gender, faith and sexuality. For example, most CUs don't have women presidents, there are in general very few GLBT members of CU - especially in leadership - and not a Muslim in sight :o)
  • The issue of sexuality discrimination came to a head in Edinburgh recently when the GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender) society wanted to ban the CU from running the UCCF's "Pure" course, because it recommends literature that believes homosexuality can, and should, be "cured". They set up a protest group on Facebook, which attracted some 1500 members, some of whom have called for the CU to be thrown out of the Student Guild for apparently suggesting such things. The University - on whose premises the course was to be run, eventually allowed it only if alternative literature was provided.
The Times has a good mini-section on its website with various articles about most of the issues above.

Overall, CUs still enjoy a good relationship with their university. Certainly here at Southampton, we are able to use facilities of both the SU and the University without charge and without opposition. Individually, too, nearly everyone we meet is supportive of what the CU does. Some of the CU's activities - especially giving out hot drinks to students leaving the Cube nightclub on Friday nights, have resulted in both good evangelism and good relationships. Only when we run mission weeks or do extensive tracting and questionnairing do students begin to resent the CU's evangelism.

I think the challenge facing us as a CU in Southampton - and more widely - is to learn how to speak the truth in love. Unfortunately, many members of the CU see their responsibilities starting and stopping at attending the weekly meeting. How can we engage with the student culture to share the Gospel with those around us? Surely we have to speak as well as act - and with our friends more than with "randoms"... I know this is true for my own relationships.

Maybe in the next 10 years there will be a wider backlash against religion in universities. That would be a great shame - university is supposed to be a time of learning and widening one's horizons, and the opportunity to explore Christianity has been crucial in the conversion of many a student.

Let's pray for CU members, that we may be bold in our lives and actions. Pray also for student unions and non-Christian students, that we might not offend them with anything except Christ crucified, and especially for sensitive situations as I've outlined above.


kerux said...

Chill -
Thanks for this... and we will be praying. Do keep pressing on, brother! You may find that most of your fruit is harvested much later in life.

amac said...

hey Chris, i appreciated hearing bout what's going on ur side. God bless ur ministry!