Friday, December 22, 2006

Response to rumours..

Response to unsubstantiated rumours about UCCF: The Christian Unions (issued 21st Dec).
Republished here:

There seems to be a number of wild and unsubstantiated rumours regarding Christian Unions and Students Unions. The following is an attempt to address some of these. Please e-mail the office at email@uccf.org.uk should you have any questions at all relating to the following.

1. That disputes between Students’ Unions (SUs) and Christian Unions (CUs) have a long history which spans decades.

Traditionally, CUs have always enjoyed good relationships with Students Unions. This has been (and continues to be) the normative state of affairs. However, there are some rogue SUs causing problems at the moment, but on the whole, CUs enjoy, and have enjoyed, good healthy relationships with SUs. There have been disagreements in the past, but this has not been “the norm”.

2. That a considerable number of mainstream Christians would have a problem agreeing with/ signing up to the Christian Union declaration of faith. That these beliefs would be characterised by academics, both within and beyond the churches as theologically ‘conservative evangelical’

Christians have been meeting over a set of creedal statements since the dawn of Christianity and the Declaration of Belief IS simply a summary of what all mainstream orthodox Christians believe. The purpose of a DB is to allow ourselves to unite with all Christians of all denominations who confess the core truths of orthodox, historic Christianity. This is why (unlike denominational chaplaincies) we have committee members from all the mainstream denominations in the UK and many from abroad.

3. That the penal substitution theory is rejected by much of mainstream Christianity.

This is simply not true! The orthodox position of the church today remains to be one where the death of Christ is understood to be one of Christ dying our death in place of us to take the punishment that we deserve in our place.

4. UCCF Staff Workers have discouraged students from getting involved with or joining their SUs in the past.

This is clearly not true, hence the disputes in Exeter and Birmingham to get the CUs reinstated.

5. CUs have been accused of being anti-intellectual and intolerant.

UCCF Christian Unions might not agree with all ideas but we tolerate all ideas. All CUs are encouraged to apply their God-given minds, intellect and wisdom to engage with the complex issues that students face today. CUs are often known on campus for robust engagement with a variety of idea’s and worldviews. For example, by holding debates on issues such as “Science v Faith”, “Is the Bible trustworthy”, “What about other religions?”

6. CUs are operated by an external organisation, UCCF

UCCF Christian Unions are 100% committed to student leadership as a principle. It is our philosophy that training, trusting and supporting student leaders empowers students now and develops leaders for the future. Student societies must be led by students. Student leaders have a right to be on campus and a place in the university or college community. UCCF do however provide help and support to CUs through Christian Union Staff Workers (CUSWs). CUSWs encourage CU members to get involved with a local church, provide training and other such resources.

7. CUs have been used to facilitate a wider, negative radicalisation

There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever to support this claim.

8. CUs may end up being used as pawns in the battle being raged by other Christian campaign groups

Again, there is no evidence to suggest this.

9. Conservative evangelical campaign groups should end their attempts to use coercive pressure in this situation.

This is not about conservative evangelicalism! Mainstream Christians and even non-Christians are outraged by the SUs actions at Exeter, Birmingham and Edinburgh. This is about freedom of expression, association and belief and the issues have raised widespread public concern. Both within the Christian community and beyond.

10. Greater efforts should be made towards practical mediation and conflict transformation.

UCCF Christian Unions would always look for constructive ways forward through negotiation and mediation where that is possible. However, this isn’t always possible.

11. CUs should think long and hard about how important they feel it is to belong to Students’ Unions

It is vitally important that CUs remain fully integrated and at the heart of Students’ Unions and campus life. University is a place that is characterised by folks who hold different views on many different things. It’s a marketplace of free ideas in which the CU has much to contribute and have absolutely every right to be part of. Why should CUs be removed from taking part in SU life simply because others don’t agree with their views?

12. Those who wish to belong to SUs should offer to open themselves up to free, fair and democratic elections.

CUs appoint their leaders in a way that is both democratic and fair, but we insist that it should be Christians who appoint their leaders, just as it would be appropriate for the Classical Music Society to insist that it’s leaders be able to play a classical instrument in order to lead the society well, maintain it’s integrity, vision and values.

13. If the Christian Unions continue to hold on to their doctrinal statement, they should consider changing their names.

It’s not appropriate for any group of individuals to tell another society or club to change its name just because they don’t like it.

3 comments:

  1. I mostly agree, except that I think point 2 is true. I know a considerable number of "mainstream Christians" who have a problem with elements of the Doctrinal Basis. I also think that both the phrasing and some of the content reflect distinctive emphases of conservative evangelicalism.

    I agree with the content of the Doctrinal Basis, but I also think there ought to be some mechanism within UCCF for the DB to be reviewed periodically, to ensure that what it contains is Biblical, essential to Christian belief (and not just "Conservative Evangelical" Christian belief) and phrased in a way that is acceptable to orthodox Christians.

    I think CUs at the moment are in tension between being Christian and evangelical in a broad sense and evangelical in the narrower sense of being for Christians from the tradition of Evangelicalism. The controversy at Exeter over the CU's name highlights this. Imposing a change of name is stupid and against freedom of speech and association and so on, and the idea that a Christian Union should be open to all is just plain ridiculous. But the argument that the CU should either be open to all Christians, or if it wants to retain a distinctively evangelical (in the narrower sense) Doctrinal Basis, would be better described as the Evangelical Christian Union, has rather more weight to it.

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  2. Interesting post. It reads like it has been shot from the hip! I presume the target is the think-thank Ekkelsia's report on the current CU-SU situation.

    The report is here.

    I could be wrong, but the UCCF response seems to tackle it blow by blow - although bowdlerising it somewhat.

    The Response makes some fair points, and I imagine Ekklesia's paper made uncomfortable reading.

    My own personal reflections (I'll be gentle!):

    On 1) I do recall similar problems at my own university about 12 years ago - although not reaching a legal pitch.

    Talking with SU folk (indeed with a Christian), the issue (on their side) seems to be about compliance with the ?1994 Education Act which requires SU resources to be administered according to predetermined rules (equal opps, a particular model of democracy, etc etc). Surely the beef then ought to be with the Act, not SUs, and not really about 'free speech'...

    On 2) As an orthodox Christian and Anglican priest, I am obliged (and happy) to assent to the Nicene Creed and the Apostles' Creed (affirming belief in the Divinity of Christ, Resurrection, Virgin Birth, etc...). It's always been a bafflement to me why one would need to add the DB.

    On comparing, say, the Nicene Creed with the DB, the DB seems to me to be more conerned with 'means' than 'ends' (i.e. not what a Christian ultimately believes, but how they reach those conclusions), and that seems to me to risk undermining the aim of "allow[ing] ourselves to unite with all Christians of all denominations who confess the core truths of orthodox, historic Christianity".

    On 3) I'd find it helpful if more emphasis was put on the word 'theory'. Penal Substitution, or any other formulation, are ultimately theories about a mystery.

    Many thanks.

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  3. Hi Mark and Caleb,

    Its a challenge as to what to do when misinformation is spread... either you sit back and let it get circulated or you make responses to particular errors..

    On creeds. It seems to me that all creeds respond to issues of their day - so Nicea is particularly concerned with the specific nature of the incarnation - in detail that might feel superfluous to us. But that was the dispute of the day. The truth of scripture or the atonement, for example, weren't so much under fire then (as far as I understand).

    UCCF's declaration of belief stands firmly in that same line or mainstream christian orthodox belief. But it has to face off against the voice of 20th Century liberalism in particular - and thus make a careful stand against attacks on the nature of the atonement, and of scripture. Even against that context the DB is very much in line with documents like the CofE's 39 articles, for example (although one could argue that the DB is less explicitly Reformed/Calvinistic than the 39 articles are).

    Problems repeat but in each generation we need to stand to affirm truth, and deny error, contending for God's glorious gospel of grace. Ultimately a stand for truth is about contending for the glory of Christ in our generation - and I'm convinced that includes very importantly that he was punished in my place, sacrificed for my sin... and that the canonical scriptures accurately and authoritatively reveal this to us.

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