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Evangelical Union votes 71-1 against changes to controversial membership requirements

Alexandros Tsathas reports.

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An extraordinary general meeting of the Evangelical Union (EU) has seen the organisation formally reject proposed changes to its constitution that would remove a mandatory faith-based declaration for new members.

In a secret ballot, members voted 71-1 opposing the proposed changes, well short of the two-thirds majority required for constitutional amendments.

A packed Holme Reading Room heard over an hour of speeches from members who supported the declaration, most claiming it is inextricably linked to the society’s identity. Not a single speaker spoke in favour of its removal.

“I’m really glad that the membership has voted in favour of this, to maintain the identity of the EU as a group of Christians who believe that Jesus Christ is lord,” said EU President George Bishop about the result. “The executive has a clear mandate now to continue to advocate on the issue.”

The University of Sydney Union (USU), which funds the clubs and societies program of which the EU is a part, previously imposed a March 31 deadline for the removal of the declaration from the EU’s constitution, or else it threatened to deregister the society. Recent developments now make this unlikely.

Bishop told those in attendance that the deregistration process had “stalled” after the EU was contacted by the USU on Monday, who were reconsidering their ultimatum.

President Alisha Aitken-Radburn confirmed the USU had contacted the EU after being approached by the University on the matter. An independent legal service provided by the University will hear submissions from both student organisations and present their findings at the USU board meeting on April 1.

Until then, both sides are to remain locked in standoff.

“The EU will continue to act in good faith and awaits the USU’s clarification of reposition,” said Bishop.

Aitken-Radburn told Honi the USU had been “demonised” by the mainstream media and that “the USU has never intended to be antagonistic towards the EU”.

She stressed the USU did not have malicious or discriminatory intentions and that all its decisions “have been guided by constitutions and regulations”.