Disability Concerns. What's That About?

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Disability Concerns was formed within the Christian Reformed church out of a passion for justice and a deep desire for healthy relationships among people with and without disabilities. Over the years, DC staff and key volunteers have written statements, approved by various Synods or delegated for approval to its representatives, that shape and guide our ministry as we go about our work. 

  1. Mandate. The Office of Disability Concerns (DC) strives to promote and foster relationships, communities, and societies where everybody belongs and everybody serves by assisting churches, agencies, institutions, and leadership within the Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church in North America to: 
    1. think and act in keeping with the biblical call regarding people with disabilities.

    2. break barriers of communication, architecture, and attitude.

    3. establish ministries with, for, and by people with disabilities and their families.

  2. Vision. Since 2009, CRC DC has been working in close cooperation with the Disability Concerns office of the Reformed Church in America (RCA). Our vision together can be summarized briefly: “In healthy churches, ministries, and communities, everybody belongs, and everybody serves.”
  3. Mission. DC’s mission is to bring about the full participation of all people with disabilities in the life of the church, and the full participation of the church in the lives of people with disabilities.
  4. Five-year plan. DC’s five-year plan for 2014 to 2019 has four parts:
    1. Network – Strengthen the network of advocates both in quantity and quality.

    2. Awareness/education – Help churches prioritize the full inclusion of people living with disabilities.

    3. Resource/Consultation – Provide churches with the tools they need to engage with and minister with people with disabilities in congregation and community.

    4. Ministry promotion – Enhance and promote the future growth and development of Disability Concerns for the purpose of serving communities and societies more effectively.

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I have been involved in Disability Ministry for a very long time and have a disability as well, in the area of mental health. I have advocated for disabilities specifically in this area and have been extremely disappointed by the response of the Christian community in specifically this area. Church Advocates seemingly are not equipped to make an impact on the Christian community to really reach out and do what is needed to provide the necessary supports. Mental health in the Christian community is still very much a stigma and there is a real, seemingly lack of willingness to change. It requires a lot of work which tends to create more barriers. The AODA which is supposed to help those of us with disabilities is not being taken seriously, thus creating the continued barriers. We continue to lose out. 

I continue to think that Disability Concerns can better equip the churches especially in the mental health area. The churches desperately need to know what and how to minister in this specific area. 

The churches are really good at removing barriers re physical accessibility, sound loops etc. But the barriers and stigma surrounding mental health remains huge. There is much work to be done. I have yet to see the willingness. 

Guide

Hi Harold, I have appreciated all your work in disability advocacy over the years. It's hard work and slow-going. I hear your frustration. People can quickly grasp why an elevator or ramp may be necessary for physical accessibility, though sometimes will balk at making changes to a church building or spending a lot of money to make these changes. But changing buildings is easy compared to changing attitudes. Attitudes change much more slowly for at least a couple reasons. None of us are fully aware of our own underlying assumptions about people who live with disabilities and mental illnesses. It's hard to change a prejudice if you are not even aware of the prejudice. In addition, as we become aware of prejudices, we may rationalize that these prejudices are justified and appropriate, then cling to them. I'm not trying to justify the slow pace of change or resistance that you have experienced. But people can and do change. I've seen it. I believe there is hope, and the hard work of advocacy you have done over the years is bearing fruit and will continue to do so.