The most recent issue of Reformed World, the WCRC’s theological journal, is focused on the intersections of church and disability.
“Over the centuries, people with disabilities have been silenced, and often this has been truer in the church than in the world in which we live, serve, and witness. Scripture does not support this injustice, but the church has been reluctant to recognize it or act on it,” wrote Terry DeYoung, guest editor, in the journal’s introduction.
“Certainly, there are regional and cultural distinctives in how people with disabilities are viewed and treated; for example, in some parts of the world, disability is viewed as a curse for wrongdoing or a matter of shame for the individual or family members. But the call of the church to move toward justice for marginalized people, full inclusion, and greater belonging for all God’s children is not and should not be subject to the winds of cultural realities,” DeYoung wrote.
The edition features eleven essays, with two-thirds written by people with disabilities. The essays cover three topics: Theology and Scripture, Church Ministry and Practice, and Ecumenism and Theological Education.
For instance, in her essay “Disability Questions about Embodiment and Resurrection,” Talitha Cooreman-Guittin explores the theology of the promised physical resurrection, writing, “All of this is to say that there are scriptural arguments in favour of maintaining disabilities in the afterlife. Again, we don’t know what our bodies will be like in the afterlife. However, the way we think about our bodies in heaven has consequences for how we consider them here and now.”
In his essay “Reformation Messages to the Church: Voices of Disability in a Pandemic,” Gordon Cowans argues, “The church’s vocation is to be the sign and servant of God’s design to gather humanity and all of creation into communion under the lordship of Christ (Ephesians 1:10). The church will only be able to live this vocation when it learns to appreciate the presence of and the gifts from all its members.”
Anjeline Okola, in “Disability and the Ecumenical Movement,” explores the “journey of the disability work in the World Council of Churches members and how this has led to disability discourse in churches and in theological education,” also covering how “this has given the ecumenical movement an opportunity to benefit from a variety of perspectives that have given voice to the rich and diverse theological meanings of the human experience of disability.”
“If you count yourself among those wanting to welcome the full participation of people with disabilities in your church, read and share the articles in this issue of Reformed World. Then search out various people with disabilities in your midst, ask them what barriers are keeping them from participating in your church and its ministries of justice, inclusion, and reconciliation, and then invite them to be teachers, leaders, and change agents. Many of us are eager to join you in responding to God’s call,” wrote DeYoung.
This and previous editions of Reformed World are free to download through this link: wcrc.ch/theology/reformed-world.