A British university's student-led Christian Union is under investigation after an internal email was leaked dictating that women would not be allowed to teach at its weekly meetings.
Bristol University Christian Union's president Matt Oliver's email comes just two weeks after the Church of England's General Synod decided not to allow women to become Anglican bishops, the Guardian reports.
According to the Bristol Tab, Oliver's decision was meant as a compromise after the group's international secretary resigned because of discomfort over the possibility of female teachers.
Women can still teach at meetings, as long as their husbands teach with them.
The Huffington Post U.K. obtained Oliver's email, which states in part:
It is ok for women to teach in any CU setting... However we understand that this is a difficult issue for some and so decided that women would not teach on their own at our weekly CU meetings, as the main speaker on our Bristol CU weekend away, or as our main speaker for mission weeks.
Oliver also notes that CU members should "guard the way we all talk about it in the coming weeks, making sure we’re not gossiping."
The decision sparked protest when word spread to the greater Bristol community.
The Bristol University Feminist Society has said that religious groups should be held to the standards of gender equality, according to Epigram, Bristol University's Independent student newspaper:
The CU’s position seems to be implying that they have reached a compromise on the issue, however it is still hugely discriminatory, deeply offensive and sexist to women. They are suggesting that women have more worth as speakers if speaking with their husband while assuming that all women are interested in marriage, or men for that matter.
Grace, a third year biochemist and Christian, told The Tab that she was worried the email would "will mould many people’s opinions on Christianity."
"The Bible teaches that 'in Christ there is no male or female,' but all people are equal before God," she added.
Alessandra Berti, vice president of welfare and equality at the students' union, told the Guardian that they were aware of the email and would be investigating the issue.
"In particular we will be making certain that our equality policy is properly adhered to in all cases," Berti said. "The University of Bristol students' union takes allegations of discrimination very seriously. UBU has an equality policy which explains that we prohibit discrimination on grounds of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief (including lack of belief), sex and sexual orientation in line with The Equality Act 2010 and as one of our key values of equality and diversity."
The university declined to comment.
The Telegraph's Damian Thompson noted that the issue might be more complicated, however. In a thread on The Tab article, a commenter said the email may have signaled a loosening of the union's restrictions on female members.