Catching the vision for disability inclusion
Former Baptist Union General Secretary the Revd Jonathan Edwards shared tips to encourage leaders to embrace disability inclusion
Jonathan was speaking at an online event hosted by Christian disability charity Through the Roof.
Through the Roof supports churches and church leaders with free support and resources through its Roofbreaker project to enable Christian disability inclusion.
'Let's be clear,' said Jonathan, a disability adviser to several Christian charities, 'that having a vision for disability inclusion is simply about having a vision for the Gospel. The Good News is all about welcoming people irrespective of their background, abilities, inabilities, ethnicity, gender, or any other issue, so we're just talking about the Gospel.
'If we're faithful followers of Jesus then the doors need to be open to everyone.'
Jonathan spoke about how his own awareness of disability issues had been sparked in his teenage years when his youth leader deteriorated through Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
But he said that unless ministers have a vision for the inclusion of disabled people, 'it is going to be very difficult for us to make progress.'
He shared four tips to help:
Prayer is the key! Jonathan emphasised the need to pray about this issue and to listen to God: 'If you want your church leader to be more excited about disability inclusion, then start praying today.'
Personal insight and experience essential – many church leaders have no personal experience of disability. Anything we can do to help church leaders to connect with disabled people and their stories is important.
Encouragement is really important. Let’s celebrate when disability inclusion goes well in our churches – rather than criticising. An attitude of encouragement and awareness-raising can be more productive.
Giving practical support is important too. Having a Roofbreaker or disability champion in the congregation can be crucial here, and the resources that are available from Through the Roof will help a lot.