'Making your church more accessible to the disabled does not make you inclusive'
That's the opinion of the Revd Glen Graham who was born blind and is minister of Salisbury Road Baptist Church in Plymouth
Speaking at the seminar organised by the BUGB Disability Justice Group entitled 'Overcoming Barriers to inclusion of Disabled People', Mr Graham said that improving accessibility for disabled people to attend services was welcoming, but just the first step of inclusion.
True inclusion would mean disabled people being equal at church and taking an active part in all aspects of church life from being church leaders to being part of the Baptist Union's structures.
Mr Graham went onto explain some barriers to inclusion. One of them was how the Bible can become a 'savage text' to misinterpret being disabled with sin and punishment. However the example of the way Jesus took the marginalised, like lepers for instance, and brought them into the middle of society showed the Bible could be a 'narrative of hope and inclusivity'.
He recalled times when people have prayed for him to be healed of his blindness, something he feels suggests that 'God has made an error'. He doesn't agree with this - he believes God made him blind for a reason. 'I'm not broke,' he said.
The Revd Martin Hobgen, minister of Limbrick Wood Baptist Church in Coventry, then highlighted how the ways able bodied people speak about disabled people can label them as 'different', instilling a culture of 'them and us'. Quoting from the book The Disabled God he said, 'Disabled people do not live different lives. They live ordinary lives differently.'