“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

We are not teaching our pastors/leaders what to do

I have visited and read about many different ministries for persons with various disabilities. Often these ministries are not integrated. That is, they are separate from the larger congregation. They do their own thing almost entirely separate from the rest of the church. Occasionally representatives from the ministry will perform a song or intersect with the congregation in ways that are comfortable for the congregation. I could write another whole post about these opportunities which have a large downside. The ministries themselves do good work in attempting to help those with various disabilities come to understand the things of the Lord related to the plan of salvation, Bible memorization and Christian behavior. All of these are good things. But as I look on these kinds of ministries it is clear to me that they are not fully addressing what disability is. Disability is not just something housed in individuals who have some type of impairment. It is also a characteristic of the environment. It is also a form of discrimination. But I don't think that leaders of ministries or church leaders/pastors understand this.

I had an interesting conversation with a church leader recently. In that conversation it became clear that aspects of disability ministry aimed at changing the culture of the church in terms of its acceptance of persons with disabilities down to simple things like trying to facilitate their being chosen as friends was not something that she had thought about. She was about sharing the Gospel, and helping those with disabilities to come to faith in Jesus; both really good things. However, the response of the congregation to those with disabilities in terms of loving and accepting them wasn't something she had really thought about. When I shared about the social isolation often experienced because people are not chosen as friends, it caused her to pause as if this was a revelation. Almost as if this was not something that should or could be expected of people. Do you get that? The expectation from the leader was that there would not be social interaction between those with and without impairments. Perhaps we in ministry have taught congregations and leaders that fact by the way we have designed ministries, or perhaps our ministries reflect the fact that we have bought that lie. Either way, we cannot continue to do ministry in that way. We need to choose a different path that will no doubt lead to confrontation if only in a confrontation of perspectives.

We might hear things like, "I thought you wanted it this way!" reflecting the way in which we have segregated those we claim to serve.
We might hear things like, "We can't do that because that is not the way things are done!" reflecting our discriminatory traditions which we have chosen not to confront and are therefore complicit in.
We might also hear something like, "You are absolutely right. I feel like I need to come to repentance (see previous post). Can you help us to move in that direction.

Our leaders, I believe, really don't know what they should be doing in large part because we have not had the confrontive, in a positive way, conversation about the cultural change that needs to happen. Our being complicit in segregation does not facilitate the change in church culture that is desperately needed.


1 comment:

Ophelia Polk said...

I find it very hard to comprehend the disability right act in the church. I do understand that like most people we do not address an issue or concern that does not directly affect us. As a pastor or a leader in the church it can be difficult to expect every person to have a passion or a fire for disable ministries. I know that God has given many people a calling to a particular group thus they have been trail braziers of awareness and bridging the gap. I find this to be affect however it means the process is slow. My personal experience in my church with those of disabilities that we are called to love people therefore, if God places a child or person with a disability in our church it is our goal to meet their needs. God is all about meeting the needs of his people so we strategies and come along side the parent to provide support. It difficult for me to separate my love for people my love for the disabled. I think they are one in the same. However, if I did have someone with sever disability I would make every effort to help befriend them. I think its not wrong for people to be unaware or be criticized for not having full understanding. We often do not understand what we do not personally experience. I am grateful the the passion of this ministry to make known the things that are hidden to some.