Friday, 7 January 2011

Controversy! Or not, as YWCA changes its name

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The YWCA in England and Wales, founded in 1855 as the Young Women's Christian Association, has changed its name to Platform 51 for what sound like fairly unremarkable and understandable reasons:
"During the 156 years since we were founded, we’ve had to evolve to reflect changes in society and the needs and expectations of women. This is true not only of the work we do, but also of our name. Our original name no longer stood for who we are or what we do and people often confused us with another charity."
It would seem that the charity, which "works with girls and women of any age or background" and lobbies "for changes in the law and policies to help all women", felt that the Christian aspect of its name wasn't inclusive enough. As it explains on its website:
"Our new name more accurately represents us: 51% of people are female, and girls and women use us as a platform for having their say and for helping them into the next stage of their lives."
Although, having said that, the charity's name hasn't explicitly featured the word "Christian" since 2002, when it formally adopted the simple YWCA acronym. So no big deal then? Not in the eyes of the Daily Mail, which manages to spin a few hundred words out of the change to Platform 51. The new name, it suggests, is proving controversial:
"The decision to drop all mention of Christianity from the charity’s name and purposes drew criticism from religious groups yesterday."
Note the plural. So there must be a few different religious groups getting upset about this, then? Well, just the one, actually. Here's what Mike Judge of the Christian Institute, an evangelical lobbying group that hardly represents mainstream Christian opinion, told the Mail:
"Many believe there is an anti-Christian bias among those who decide which charities get state funding. It was the Christian character of the YWCA that made it great. It is a shame that it is turning its back on those values."
Forget the century and a half of helping vulnerable women. Having the word "Christian" in its name was what made this charity great. It's an outrage! Or is it just another failed attempt to manufacture a "Christianity being marginalised" controversy where no such thing exists?
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