YWCA abandons its Christian name
In a controversial move, the YWCA in England and Wales has adopted a new name which has dropped all reference to the organisation's Christian origins.
One of the UK’s oldest charities has dropped the word Christian from its name to become Platform 51. The controversial move by the Young Women’s Christian Association sees the 155-year-old organisation become more associated with departure boards at railway stations.
According the organisation in England and Wales which caters for the welfare of young girls the new name was chosen to reflect the fact that 51 per cent of the population are female. In an apocryphal-sounding comment the YWCA/Platform 51 have stated that the original name “no longer stands for what we are or what we do.” And that would indeed seem to be the case.
Mike Judge, Head of Communications at The Christian Institute (CI), said: “It was the Christian character of the YWCA that made it great. It is a shame that it’s turning its back on those values.”
The rebranding also appears to put the England and Wales branches of the charity at odds with the other branches across the globe. In India The president of Mumbai YWCA Gulobi Fernandes said: “Our name in India remains intact. Not just India, the world YWCA has not changed its name. It is only the UK group [in England and Wales – Ed.] that has been renamed.”
The decision to change the name will be a subject of debate at the organisation’s next world council meet scheduled in July 2011.
In March 2003 the YWCA in Scotland became an independent organisation. The Scottish YWCA’s web site states: "Founded by Christian women, our roots lie equally in feminism and in faith. We respect our heritage and embrace the multicultural society in which we live. This is reflected in the cultural, racial, spiritual and ethnic diversity of our staff, trustees, supporters and the young women with whom we work. The values which underpin our work are shared by people of different faiths, cultural backgrounds and philosophies."
In a climate which is becoming increasingly hostile to the Christian faith Charities which hold to a Christian ethos and ethic are finding it increasingly difficult to access public funding. Commenting on this development the CI’s Mike Judge has stated: “Many believe there is an anti-Christian bias among those who decide which charities get state funding.”
In 2009 it was revealed that a charity in Scotland was planning to drop the word church from its title, saying that it created “unnecessary barriers” to accessing public funding. The chairman of Perth-based Churches Action for the Homeless (CATH) said he had been told “off the record” that their perceived religious identity has made it more difficult for them to receive grants.
It would seem that this latest development is yet another example of an organisation which was founded on Christian values departing from its roots to become just another secular social welfare agency. Over the years Barnardos Homes, National Childrens Homes (renamed Action for Children in 2008) and the Samaritans have all become secular, with some becoming anti-Christian. In a similar manner there are younger Christian organisations who are extremely vulnerable if signficant funding comes from public sources.
The dependence on public funding and the politically-correct pressures of our age could place any such agency in a dilemma i.e. compromise with the PC agenda and subvert the Christian message or lose charitable status and essential funding .
See article 'He who pays the piper....'
The YWCA began in 1855 through the vision of two women, Mary Jane Kinnaird and Emma Robarts. Mary Jane Kinnaird opened the first hostel, a ‘Home for Girls’ in London. The hostel was particularly intended for Florence Nightingale’s nurses returning home from serving in the Crimea. She later opened the first ‘women’s club’ in England a room in Pall Mall where seamstresses and mill girls gathered for Bible classes.
Emma Robarts formed prayer circles for girls who were working in service. These groups had to meet at 9.00pm when the girls’ working day was finally over. The young women also learned reading and writing.
In 1859 ladies’ meetings began in Edinburgh and Kelso that later formed the first branches of the YWCA in Scotland. A Glasgow YWCA followed in 1874.
In 1877 the two parts of the movement (hostels and prayer circles) joined and in 1878 the Earl of Shaftesbury became the first President of the united YWCA. At this time there were already 21 YWCA branches in Scotland.