Disabling Mission, Enabling Witness: Exploring Missiology Through the Lens of Disability Studies
In recent decades churches have accommodated people with disabilities in various ways. Through access ramps and elevators and sign language, disabled persons are invited in to worship. But are they actually enfolded into the church's mission? Have the able-bodied come...
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In recent decades churches have accommodated people with disabilities in various ways. Through access ramps and elevators and sign language, disabled persons are invited in to worship. But are they actually enfolded into the church's mission? Have the able-bodied come to recognize and appreciate the potential contributions of people with disabilities in the ministry and witness of the church?Benjamin Conner wants to stimulate a new conversation between disability studies and Christian theology and missiology. How can we shape a new vision of the entire body of Christ sharing in the witness of the church? How would it look if we "disabled" Christian theology, discipleship, and theological education? Conner argues that it would in fact enable congregational witness. He has seen it happen and he shows us how.Imagine a church that fully incorporates persons with disabilities into its mission and witness. In this vision, people with disabilities contribute to the church's pluriform witness, and the congregation embodies a robust hermeneutic of the gospel. Picture the entire body of Christ functioning beyond distinctions of dis/ability, promoting mutual flourishing and growing into fullness. Here is an enlargement of the church's witness as a sign, agent, and foretaste of the kingdom of God. Here is a fresh and inspiring look at the mission of the church when it enfolds people with disabilities as full members.
Benjamin T. Conner is visiting assistant professor of Christian education at Union Presbyterian Seminary and director of the Capernaum ministry for adolescents with developmental disabilities in Williamsburg, Virginia