Although we Christians find much about which to disagree, even date of Christmas (December 25 and January 6 being the most popular choices), we agree that the incarnation of our Savior must be celebrated. As I think about that unity among Christians, I give thanks to God for a very small way that I’m involved in a united work of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) with the Reformed Church in America (RCA). Their Disability Concerns ministry, led by Rev. Terry DeYoung, and I engage in this ministry together in a variety of ways. In celebration of this small aspect of Christian unity, I’m including some excerpts from a working agreement that was approved in 2008 by the RCA’s General Synod Council and the CRC Board of Trustees. This agreement highlights a value held by our denominations: the engagement of people with disabilities in the life of the church.
In 2007 the General Synod Council of the Reformed Church in America (RCA), through its staff, initiated conversation with the CRC about a possible partnership in disability ministry. At that time, the RCA had no formal structure for ministry with or for persons with disabilities, but recognized a growing demand for such a ministry and recognized the expertise already at work in the CRC.
Fruitful conversations followed. At their core, these conversations revealed a ministry where key opportunities and essential actions were common across denominational lines. More importantly, it showed clearly that cooperative efforts could yield benefits for both denominations and especially for the congregations of our denominations committed to ministry with and for persons with disabilities. Thus, our two denominations entered into a partnership agreement in hopes of sharing aspects of our ministry of inclusion of people with disabilities.
Together in purpose, the disability ministries of the CRC and the RCA will, individually and in partnership, help CRC and RCA churches to become hospitable, inclusive, and healthy communities that intentionally seek:
- To end the isolation and disconnectedness of persons with disabilities and their families;
- To nurture the spiritual lives of people with disabilities so that they become professing and active members of their churches; and
- To encourage the gifts of people with disabilities so that they can serve God fully in their churches.
While respecting the unique needs and resources of each denomination, the disability ministries of both denominations can be more effective by sharing knowledge, support, and resources; by building a broader network of relationships; and by allowing disability ministry to be yet another step in the increasingly fruitful shared ministries between our two denominations. Furthermore, the extensive experience of the CRC in disability ministry will benefit the RCA as they grow their own fledgling ministry—a gift the CRC is honored to give.