Ecumenical Disability Advocacy Network – Day 2

Today was the second and final meeting day of EDAN North America. There is so much to think and process that there is surely more to this day than what will be included in this blog. I would have to say that key words for today were pioneers, power, process, and voice.

As we sat around the conference table today brainstorming about how to assist the churches and religious institutions be more inclusive of people with disabilities (PWD) there was much said and much felt that was not voiced in the space given our limited time together and the need to complete task oriented goals. Nonetheless this was a very fruitful day and I believe our work done today will multiply in the time ahead.

There was recognition today that the work that we do as professionals with disabilities, and all that goes on behind the scenes in relation to our professional development and even our  professional being is in so many ways pioneering. We may not always have the accommodations we like, we may not find the world as kind or welcoming as we would like but in some ways just by being who we are by advocating for change where we find the need to do so we are pioneering a way for PWD who come behind us. How can we institutionalize our work so it becomes a legacy rather than a path that gets grown over when we move on professionally?

In all institutions, but particularly in the church, there is also the issue of power. Who holds power, who grants access to power, and how to get invited to the table. That’s a big issue, these are big questions. Questions that I think may Christians do not like to think come into play in the structures of the church. But we are not so nieve. There are church and ecumenical power structures to work with, and around. I found the need to mention the fact today that even Jesus, at times challenged the status quo in unexpected ways–if someone takes your cloak as collateral for a debt, give them your shirt also  so you are naked…for in Jesus’ context it was not shameful to be naked but to see another naked. So yes there are processes and power structures to gain access to, to share our stories and unique lens of the gospel with, but neither are PIONEERS WITH DISABILITY willing to sit passively by in the churches forever, having our human right to inclusion within the Body of Christ continually ignored. We are educated, articulate, armed with the gospel and we expect a seat at the table, along with an Aaron-like interpreters when needed. We are a part of the body and we have the agency that we need to make our part known.

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