A Community Including People with Disabilities
The following statement prepared in association with the Synod Disabilities
Working Group by Revd Dr Bill Loader was adopted by the Uniting Church
Synod of Western Australia September 1996
- That the Church become a community in which people with disabilities
are welcomed into full participation.
Behind the Vision
- We affirm God's love for all human beings irrespective of physical
or intellectual ability, race, gender, age or any other basis of discrimination.
- We affirm that in Christ we see this love in action, as he poured out
his life in brokenness for all people.
- We affirm that the Spirit of God seeks to bring forth the fruit of
this love in and through the Church.
- We believe that God's love for all human beings, acknowledges their
differences, upholds their freedom to make their own decisions, and cares
about their individual well being.
- We believe that in Christ we are called to live out God's love in ways
that value people with disabilities as people with their own dignity, differences,
and contribution to the community of faith.
- We believe that in the Spirit of love we can become a community in
which there is room for people with disabilities to feel at home to be
themselves and to participate in giving and receiving in their own way.
- We acknowledge God in Christ as a God who participates in our brokenness
and meets us in vulnerability, not as one who inflicts disability as punishment
or as test.
- We acknowledge Christ, an the one who is represented in the broken
bread and poured out wine of Holy Communion, and who was raised to life
with a body which bears the wounds of that brokenness, not as one who was
without pain and without limitation.
- We acknowledge the Spirit who broods over creation, travails in birth
that joy may come, and gives us the promise of hope in community, not as
one who passes over differences with neglect, denies pain, or sends people
into spiritual isolation.
- We affirm that GodÍs presence empowers the Church as the body
of Christ as it strives to bring about this community.
- We believe that we work in the presence and power of the resurrected
- We acknowledge that we are not alone in the task.
Explaining the Vision
- Participation entails inclusion Inclusion starts with access.
It means being able to gain ready access into places of meeting.
- It also means being able to be present in a way that affirms a sense
of belonging and does not convey the impression of being on the fringe,
on the outside or pushed out of view or out of attention. Actions which
have the effect of physically excluding or separating people can convey
a sense of not belonging. Sometimes the way we celebrate Holy Communion
can become a symbol of little or no communoin
- Inclusion entails acceptance Acceptance begins with a focus
on people, not on their disabilities or on what marks them out from others.
It entails acceptance of people and acknowledgment of their disabilities.
- People with disabilities have a right, like everyone else, to be met
for who they are as persons, not as objects. Making people objects of pity
or objects of wonder sets them apart and creates barriers. Treating people
as 'victims' or as heroes or should-be heroes fails to recognise that all
people are different. Not allowing people to take responsibility for their
actions denies people the independence of which they are capable and the
dignity of being accountable.
- Acceptance means compassion in suffering, support in achievement, vulnerability
in facing our common failures, and solidarity in creating a community where
every person experiences freedom to participate.
- Acceptance entails acknowledging interdependence It means acknowledging
the right of people to give and to receive. Removing from people the opportunity
to give and putting them exclusively in the role of the receiver denies
half their humanity. People with disabilities, like everyone else, have
a right to be free to contribute at the level of their choosing.
- It means communication which flows both ways, based on finding common
ground and at a level where no one is disadvantaged. Talking from above
or behind any person; talking in a manner which is inaudible; not taking
time to listen when people make the effort to communicate - such behaviours
disregard the dignity of others. People with disabilities, like everyone
else, have the right to open, sensitive, responsive, two way communication.
- It means becoming a community of mutual caring, support and encouragement.
This includes not only people with disabilities, but also the people who
live and work most closely with them. In such a community we can acknowledge
success and failure and come to terms with the strength and frailty of
our efforts in the context of GodÍs grace. We are all human. Ultimately
a caring community is one in which all participate in the giving and receiving
of love, a fellowship of the Spirit, the body of Christ, living in mutual
interdependence and nourished by the life of God.
- The vision entails a commitment to change A community which
wants to bring this vision to reality needs to care enough to develop strategies
of change. These include educational strategies within the community to
enhance awareness of the behaviours which create such a community and of
the spiritual values which drive them.
- A community committed to change will stand beside all persons and groups
of persons who because of their difference from the majority experience
discrimination, marginalisation and neglect. It will join in advocacy and
promotion of equal rights. It will engage in prophetic actions and strategies
to change its own community structures, attitudes and behaviours in the
light of the vision. It will also pray and work for change in the wider