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People with disabilities include individuals who "have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which, in interaction with various attitudinal and environmental barriers, hinders their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others." To move churches toward reducing those barriers, last month the Christian Reformed Synod approved the following recommendation: “That synod encourage all Christian Reformed churches to adopt a church policy on disability and to appoint at least one person in the congregation to serve as a church disability advocate.”

Churches will experience many benefits if they adopt a disability policy and appoint a church disability advocate:

  • Obedience to God's call: Our Lord’s call to reach people with the gospel includes reaching the 15 to 20 percent of the population who have disabilities in addition to their family members and friends. Churches that seek to fulfill the calls of our Lord in Matthew 28:18-20 and Luke 14:13-14 will benefit greatly from committing to a policy and appointing an advocate.
  • Assistance for church leaders: Church advocates can provide direction to pastors, elders, and deacons not only to make the church building, program, and communication accessible but also to find appropriate assistance for persons affected by disabilities.
  • Effective support: Churches that have a church advocate and commit to a church policy on disability will be better able to provide assistance and prevent further harm for people who experience the often traumatic onset of disabilities.
  • Community leadership: Churches that have a policy and advocate are more likely to take the necessary steps to take their churches beyond the minimum requirements of the law, and lead their communities in engaging people with disabilities.
  • Fairness for all: When the apostle Paul urged the churches of Corinth to take up an offering for the impoverished church in Jerusalem, he argued that “your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness” (2 Cor. 8:14, ESV). Churches that commit to a policy on disability will make their buildings, programs, and communication accessible for all members (including those with disabilities), so that “there may be fairness.” In doing so, these churches proclaim that everybody belongs, and everybody has the opportunity to serve.

More than a third of CRC churches do not yet have a disability advocate. A Church Disability Advocate job description and a suggested Policy on Disability are attached. 

Does your church have a disability advocate? Do you know who he/she is? Would you like to do that? Has your church adopted a church policy on disability yet? What next steps does your church need to take?

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