This week, we decided to add pronouns to our website. Whilst we have always been big supporters of correct pronoun usage, we didn’t have these up on the site before, and this article is going to explain why we made the change, and what other changes you can expect. But first, if you haven’t already then you should listen to Alicia and Mark’s talks from our conference this year. These two emotional and heartfelt speeches massively influenced this move, as well as opening our eyes to new perspectives we hadn’t fully considered before. Yes, we are learning alongside you.
Gender-Inclusive vs Gender-Neutral.
Alicia’s talk brilliantly and beautifully outlines the issue with Christianity and gender-inclusive language. She talks about how some Christians think that gender-inclusive language, such as changing mankind to humankind, or brothers to brothers and sisters, goes against the true meaning of the Bible. In fact, this belief has fundamentally shaped the Bible as we know it today. On the other hand, gender-neutral language would be changing all pronouns from him/her to them. This is the move from “So God created mankind in His own image” to “God created humanity in God’s own image”. Different people have different views on which of these is the most correct, or the most God-honouring, citing arguments such as historical context, classical interpretation, and essentialism.
We are not going to weigh in on this, but we are going to encourage discussion and exploration. One of the best things about our team is that we agree and disagree on different points, but our core is that this is an open and loving space for all. We let our contributors decide whether they use gender-neutral language, but in an attempt to externalise our love and support for people of all genders, we will be moving towards fully gender-inclusive language where possible. This means moving towards more gender-inclusive scripture and celebrating gender diversity amongst our contributors and readers.
Loving to Love vs Loving to Save.
If you’ve read any articles or papers by the evangelical church on the topic of pronouns and gender-inclusivity, you will have come across this argument. Effectively, these papers argue that we should use the correct pronouns for people in order to welcome them into the church where they might eventually meet Jesus. This is not the time or place to discuss Biblical fundamentals, so I will keep this short. Our Church Too is not a church, nor a place where our end game is to convert people to Christianity. We love and celebrate Jesus, we talk openly about our beliefs, and we are trying to create a safe and loving community, but that’s as far as this goes. We love and accept you for you, because Jesus would, no strings attached. We aren’t driven, as churches are, by one established and researched belief about what Christianity means, or what it takes to save a soul. We don’t even have one driving theology. We are loving to love, not loving to save.
The Personal is Political.
We have not shared our contributor’s pronouns before this point for one simple reason: we don’t want to force people to tell stories they aren’t ready to tell. For some people, their pronouns are deeply personal and they might not feel ready to share. Deli’s talk from the conference has opened us up to be sensitive about people’s experiences, and not paint everyone with the same brush. Alternatively, some people may not want to share their pronouns because they haven’t come out to their family and friends. These are valid and respected positions; we will not be forcing anyone to share their pronouns on the site. But, Mark’s conference talk challenged us to take a different approach to supporting the queer community. Sometimes hiding parts of ourselves and not talking about things in the name of acceptance is the wrong move (if you listen to Cynthia’s talk from the conference, you can hear more about this). Instead, we should be celebrating our diversity, and creating a space where we stand together. The choice to not share pronouns is just as political as the choice to share them, and so we weren’t really maintaining neutrality, we were hurting people, and this had to change.
The Trevor Project recently found that respecting a person’s pronouns led to a 50% decrease in suicide attempts. This is not a trivial thing for us to debate, it’s not an interesting theological question. It’s important, and our behaviour towards pronouns has real and important effects. We hope that the church will also start to take this seriously.
Our Church Too is constantly shifting and adapting. We don’t claim to have all, if any, of the answers, and we definitely don’t have everything figured out. What we do have is a growing, diverse community that we want to love and support well. So we continue to ask for your patience and love, as well as your vigilance and willingness to point things out to us. If we say or do something that you have questions or comments about, please let us know. We can only grow if you water us.