Readers write: June 13, 2022 issue

June 8, 2022 | Opinion | Volume 26 Issue 12
(Graphic by Betty Avery)

Point: When words don’t make sense, conversation is at risk
God didn’t create you wrong” feature, Feb. 21, page 4.

The only challenge I have with the gender-identity conversation is the use of pronouns that, for most people, are plural, but are intended as singular by others. They/them/their, for me, doesn’t make sense in a conversation.

As an affirming person, I am sure I can learn to use plural pronouns for single individuals; however, I wonder if we can’t come up with a new pronoun that would refer to individuals who fall outside of the cisgender world?

I understand that the world is a harsh place for many people who fall outside the cisgender world, and I want to do as much as I can to make this world a kinder, gentler place for all people.

The easier we can make it for cisgender people to understand and communicate with non-cisgender people, the sooner they will be able to fully engage with all people in a meaningful way. Understanding or accepting people who fall outside of the mainstream are two very different things. One may accept unconditionally, yet not understand.

Words matter. When words or terms are used that our brains have difficulty synthesizing, our ability to understand is diminished. It would be best to make this as easy as possible for all stakeholders.

As a cisgender person, it is difficult/awkward to refer to one person as more than one person.
—Charlie Smith, Allan, Sask.

Counterpoint: Allyship requires work

I’m grateful to hear allies asking questions about being more inclusive of LGBTQ+ persons.

This issue isn’t as easy as finding new pronouns or being grammatically correct. Other gender-neutral pronouns, like xe/xem/xyr or ze/hir/hirs, do exist, and many people who use these experience hostility or the refusal of others to learn them.

In contrast, there is the singular they, which has been in use longer than the singular you, and was used in Shakespeare’s works. Language continues to change like it has always done. While singular they can be confusing, it is already commonly used–even among non-LGBTQ+ persons. Try this example: “Someone forgot their jacket.” “Oh, I hope they find it.” Many people find it hard to use the singular they in reference to LGBTQ+ people but already use it in similar conversations. This question often becomes a way to undermine or derail conversations of LGBTQ+ welcome.

Allyship has always been about learning new things, respecting others, and being willing to examine biases and habits. The use of the singular they is another place where allies are asked to similarly push themselves.

Many people who use the singular they hear this question as implying that rigid language rules and unwillingness to learn new things are more important than LGBTQ+ mental health and dignity.

Thank you for being willing to push yourself, in order to stop giving the message that arbitrary language rules are more important than trans persons’ well-being.

—Steph Chandler Burns, Kitchener, Ont.
The writer is a queer pastor and theologian with a master of theological studies degree from Conrad Grebel University College, Waterloo, Ont.


Couple share their pain of losing a son to suicide
My cousin couldn’t manage the pain” reflection, May 16, page 30.

Amy Rinner Waddell’s cousin got it right. Pain clinics are a waste of time and money.

Our son, whose middle name is also Richard, went through all the sessions recommended by Work Safe B.C. after being injured in a logging accident. He battled nine years with Work Safe B.C to get the appropriate help and compensation.

He had a wonderful wife, who cared for him and tried to keep up a normal household as much as possible. He loved his family but chose to end his pain by ending his life, believing that they would have a better life.

He didn’t live to see his daughter become a very successful woman and marry a wonderful man. He didn’t live to see his special-needs son become a Special Olympics athlete in  powerlifting. He missed these memorable family experiences.

Living with non-stop pain and no hope for getting better or improving your condition can only really be understood by a person in similar circumstances.
—Dick and Margaret Hildebrandt, Campbell River, B.C.
The Hildebrandts are members of United Mennonite Church of Black Creek, B.C.


What is the real ‘division between us and God’?
Christ in you” column, May 2, page 10.

I am writing about Pastor Troy Watson’s statements regarding our oneness with God and what he considers is the only division between us and God.

Isaiah 59:2 tells us that sin separates us from God. We are separated from God until we repent and believe in Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross to pay for our sins. As II Corinthians 5:21 puts it: “He made him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.”

Watson also expressed, according to Ephesians 3: “The mystery of the Gospel is that we are all one with God and humanity.”

I think it’s important to note that, in the Book of Ephesians, Paul was talking to a body of believers who received Jesus as their Saviour by placing their faith and trust in him. Paul says: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). In light of that, Paul was able to tell the Ephesian church that “we are all one” because they were a body of believers who were united in Christ.

I can’t think of a more concise passage of the Bible than Romans 8: 9-17, where Paul lets us know what is required for oneness with God. In verse 9, he writes: “[Y]ou are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to him.”
—Elaine Fehr (online comment)


Loss of Steve Heinrichs ‘so very upsetting’
Indigenous relations work revamped, reduced,” May 30, page 14.

This is so very upsetting. Steve Heinrichs is an amazing ambassador for Mennonites and for Christians. His passion, intellect and ability to gather and change others’ thoughts and actions regarding Indigenous-justice issues cannot be replaced. The relationships he has cultivated with Indigenous Peoples are invaluable. This is a huge loss and a major setback to Indigenous-Settler relations.

It looks bad for Mennonites of all stripes. I am greatly saddened by this massive step backwards in reconciliation efforts by the church.
—Rhonda Carriere (online comment)

Devolving national leadership to regional churches was a mistake that I feared would lead to bad decisions like this.

Regional churches will not take up the slack, except for possibly B.C., because the half-timing, devolving of responsibility—the kind way of gradually terminating programs—functions regionally as it does nationally. Half-time often means full-time work with half pay, or it serves to augment income for someone whose “real job” is elsewhere. This is no recipe for success. Perhaps I’m wrong on this, but starving a program to balance budgets is cyclical. The skinnier the program, the less the interest in investing in it.

If the consortium of regional churches felt unable to live with Steve Heinrichs’s courageous but unique engagement with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s effort and the climate change agenda so closely linked to it, I’d remind them that the Apostle Paul wrote a number of epistles from prison, and Jesus was crucified. I’m sorry, but a decision tainted by a resistance to change and an insistence on “niceness” makes me very angry and ashamed.
—George Epp (online comment)


‘God loves the person but hates the virus’
Congregant feels unwelcome because she’s ‘not jabbed or masked’ ” letter, May 16, page 9.

It’s not the letter writer who is unwelcome in her church. It’s the danger she embodies by being unvaccinated and not wearing a mask, that isn’t welcome.

Likewise, when someone has been drinking, it’s not the person who is unwelcome on the highways; it’s the danger they represent to others. As soon as that person is sober, they can go back on the highway.

As soon as the letter writer gets vaccinated, I suspect she can go back to her church. God loves the person but hates the virus.
—Mark Morton (online comment)

(Graphic by Betty Avery)

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A call for new language for nonbinary pronouns is out of touch with the state of the conversation. We've had neopronouns—a category of alternative pronouns that do not express gender, such as ze and zir—for decades (some as far back as the 1860s), and there are people who use them, but the abuse they receive for using neopronouns is even greater than the abuse those of us who use singular they receive.

If someone is confused by my use of they/them pronouns, elucidating it for them is an opportunity to have a conversation about the false gender binary, providing opportunity for even greater understanding.

I've never found a lack of understanding to be the source of the bigotry I experience on a regular basis as a queer Christian. Even in cases where those harming me are factually wrong, I've never been able to use facts to convince them to stop harming me.

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