Liz’s Christian Union Story

Yesterday evening I posted a BLOG inviting people to share their stories of university Christian Unions, in less than 24 hours I have received seven stories.  Over the next few days, I hope to share these people’s stories with you.  If you would like to share your university CU, email me at befreeuk at gmail dot com.


Here is Liz Clutterbuck’s story


I only became involved in CU in my second year, largely thanks to a housemate being very involved (she became president – as a woman – which was good). During this second year, I went on the only single gender event I can recall from my time in the organisation: a girls’ weekend focused on the contents of the classic “Relationship Revolution”. (The gender implications of that book is a whole other story!)


I actually appreciate the safety of single sex groups, for sharing stories & praying together. But, it was on this girls’ weekend away that I had my very first experience of a woman announcing that women shouldn’t lead churches. It wasn’t anyone in leadership, just a girl I got talking to over breakfast who asked what my parents did. When I told her they were both ordained, she replied “oh, I don’t believe in women’s leadership”. Literally my first ever encounter with complementarianism, having been brought up in the pretty liberal & inclusive Methodist church. 


It stunned me that an intelligent woman, who had got into a world class university, had such views. Luckily she was in the minority, and we did have both a female president & UCCF worker, but I was concerned that no one else seemed to find her views odd! Poor, naive, 18-year-old me! 


Fast forward 10 years & I was a student worker in a central London church, working with students from colleges including LSE. In my first week of the job, I was hosting a UCCF training event at my church, when a relay worker asked “so why do you think God is calling you into leadership?”, it took me a couple of moments to realise that she meant “why do you think God has called you – a woman – to lead.” It set the tone for the next 3 years, where, as an Anglican ordinand I was determined to show them just how normal women in leadership is! 


(You can follow Liz on Twitter @lizclutterbuck)



Stories from University Christian Unions

Tonight on Twitter there were various conversations that occurred, motivated by these flyers that are being handed out at Freshers week in Chester University and LSE…



Putting aside the clear lack of understanding about their audience, these events include men/”guys” eating meat, playing FIFA and crazy haircuts.  Women/”ladies” get tea and… more tea.  I know that CUs have mainly had a rather problematic approach to gender theology (they’re usually either implicitly or explicitly complementarian) but strongly sex segregated events and groups do seem to be a new thing.


After seeing these flyers, some people began sharing their experiences of university CUs, with regards to gender, and a few other issues regarding sexuality and catholicism.  So…  I suggested it may be good for these stories to be shared!


If you, or anyone you know, has a story about a university CU that you would like to share, please email me 600-700 words sharing your story and letting me know what name you want it to be shared under and then I’ll get it up on my blog.  Email befreeuk (at) gmail (dot) com.


Just to be clear, I don’t want to be hating on CUs, I’m sure for a lot of people they have been an important part of their journey in faith.  Rarely is anything entirely bad and I know that my experience of faith communities is that God has used them and grown me through them, even if some (or even many) aspects of them have been difficult/painful/frustrating.  Sharing our stories enables others to makes sense of their story and gives us a way of shaping what is going on for us, both in the past, now and hopefully, in the future!


By sharing these stories, especially when there is enough distance from them to describe the longer term implications, perhaps we can encourage CUs to make different decisions and hopefully those who are still hurting or damaged can know that they are not alone!


Thanks in advance for getting involved!!!