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U.K.'s YWCA Drops 'Christian' from Name

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By Katherine T. Phan, Christian Post Reporter
January 14, 2011|11:50 am

The British branch of the Young Women's Christian Association has dropped "Christian" from its historic title, citing its need to "evolve" to reflect the changes in society and the needs of women.

After 155 years, one of the U.K's oldest charities changed its name to "Platform 51," saying that the original name "no longer stood for" the organization's identity and purpose.

The YWCA England & Wales, which announced its new title last month, held a launch event in the Houses of Parliament Tuesday to celebrate the name change and launch a report on mental health in girls and women.

"Our new name more accurately represents who we are and what we do: 51 percent of people are female, and girls and women use us as a platform to have their say and as a place from where they can move into the next stage of their lives," the Oxford-based organization said in a December statement.

"Make no mistake, what remains the same is our passion to help girls and women as they take control of their lives."

In a statement sent to The Christian Post, World YWCA Communications Director Sylvie Jacquat said that YWCA will remain the "official and legal title" for all of the group's 125 branches worldwide.

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"We are encouraged to note that the association will retain its legal identity and name of YWCA England & Wales and will continue with its core mission of advancing the empowerment and well-being of all women and girls," she stated in a joint statement by World YWCA and YWCA of Great Britain.

Jacquat acknowledged that YWCA was founded on a Christian basis but serves those of all faiths. Furthermore, many of the volunteers of the global association come from many faiths, backgrounds and cultures, she stated.

However, she admitted, "YWCA England & Wales' change of operating name to Platform 51 has raised strong public debate."

A spokesperson for a British evangelical organization that promotes conservative Christian values in the public square was concerned that the YWCA's decision to re-brand itself lends further proof to the increasing marginalization of Christianity in the public sphere.

“Many believe there is an anti-Christian bias among those who decide which charities get state funding," Mike Judge, head of Communications at The Christian Institute, had stated earlier.

“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."

In 2009, the institute published a report in which it noted cases of discrimination against Christians and Christian groups in Great Britain. One case involved the Scotland-based Churches Action for the Homeless which considered dropping "church" from its name, saying its perceived religious identity could prevent the group from accessing public funding.

The YWCA was founded in the United Kingdom in 1855 by Lady Mary Jane Kinnaird and Emma Robarts to provide young women in London with the same spiritual and social support afforded to young men in the YMCA (Young Men's Christian Association).

Last summer, YMCA of the USA re-branded its title and logo to read "The Y."

 

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