10 June 2014
Disability: the elephant in the church?
Survey of disabled churchgoers to help churches be inclusive
Two thirds of people surveyed said they feel awkward when they speak to disabled people, either because they worry about being patronising, they feel awkward or they are concerned they will say the wrong thing. Is disability the elephant in the church?
Gordon Temple, chief executive officer of Alliance member, Torch Trust, said: "The truth is, many of us just don't know what to say when we meet a disabled person, particularly when we know that the disability is permanent, chronic or life-limiting. The light social chitchat we normally adopt for encounters with people after the morning service somehow doesn't seem appropriate.
"We are helping many take a big step forward in valuing people who need to know that God loves and cares for them and that their disability is no barrier to them becoming valued and contributing members of their local church."
The Enabling Church day conference at the beginning of this month, run by Churches for All, addressed these genuinely challenging issues head on, giving insights and confidence to help people talk to people with disability or chronic illness.
Roy McCloughry, national disability adviser for the Church of England, said: "Jesus spent a lot of time with disabled people and crossed cultural barriers to include them in his work and ministry. The Church should be thinking more about these issues and recognise that they are central to the gospel and not peripheral. We need to ensure our churches are inclusive and that we are working towards a society more inclusive of everyone too."
Christian disability charity and Alliance member, Through the Roof, is looking for disabled people and parents of disabled children to participate in research which will help to inform churches on how to become fully inclusive.
The Lausanne Committee for World Evangelisation identified disabled people as one of the world's most unreached people groups, with up to 95 per cent never having the opportunity to hear the gospel, and sadly the picture is not much better in the UK than anywhere else in the world.
Now Through the Roof is conducting research into disabled people's experience of church in order to ensure there are sufficient resources.Training resources developer Ros Bayes explains: "We want to hear the views of as many disabled people as possible, and from these I will compile a list of the most prominent issues which disabled people are raising about their experience of church.We want our churches to be places where disabled people truly belong and their gifts are recognised and utilised."
If you would like to contribute to this research, and you are a disabled person or the parent of a disabled child, you can do so by answering the following four questions:
1.What one thing do you wish churches knew?
2.What's the most important thing your church could do for you/your child?
3.What things do you wish your church would allow you/your child to do for them?
4.What positive benefits does your/your child's disability add to your/her/his relationship with God?