Just as psychologists have established criteria for diagnosing mental illness, we need criteria to identify when someone has slid so far down the path of moral unhealth that he would be called morally ill and in need of treatment. This approach would look for insights from various disciplines including theology.
The most common symbol for accessibility features an image of someone in a wheelchair—lifeless, helpless, passive. Temporarily able-bodied people tend to look at people who have disabilities that way, seeing need without recognizing capability and giftedness. A new icon pushes that stereotype aside.
It is important that persons with mental illness feel welcomed and supported within the faith community. As people of faith, we do this by loving unconditionally.
Churches can and should support men and women who sacrificed themselves for our countries. Frequently mental health issues are one component in the lives of veterans with disabilities, but pastors and church leaders don't always know how best to minister to these men and women.
We are a community where people with special needs—along with those whose needs are not so obvious—work together in leading worship and Bible studies, providing pastoral care, etc. We never “dumb down,” but instead find concrete ways to bring the words of Christ alive and apply them to our various life situations.
The language of creation replaces, and transcends, the language of loss, just as it does in life. The pastoral care-giver's question is not, “What have you lost? But “What’s it like?” and “What’s happening?”
Thirty-three percent of families changed their place of worship because their child with a disability was not included or welcomed into the life of the congregation. Of these families who left, some of them not only left their congregation, but left their faith tradition!
In 1985, I received a spinal cord injury. Now I can control my body only from the neck up. At the time of the injury, computers were mainly used in large offices. Few homes had them, and they were not linked together outside of an organization. Technology has greatly changed since that time, especially in what is now common, the Internet.
After finishing his Ph.D. cum laude, Herb Greenberg applied for 600 jobs, was offered 85 interviews, but when prospective employers found out he was blind, that number was reduced to three.
Deacons who serve well work hard at connecting with members of the congregation, organizing ministry, and finding appropriate resources. This final installment on deacons and people with disabilities suggests ideas for ministry and provides some resources to implement those ideas.
To minister well with people who have disabilities, we need to understand the wide range of disability and the ways in which all of us can unintentionally exclude people with disabilities from the life and ministry of our churches.
Diekema has identified for church leaders yet another gift that people with disabilities bring to their churches. They can challenge congregations for underestimating anyone who lives with disability, and they can serve as mentors to the entire congregation...
Tom Hoeksema and his wife, both white, decided they needed to visit Grace when their adopted African American son asked during a communion service at their previous church, “Do black people ever get to serve communion here?” The first time the Hoeksemas visited Grace, a member who had an intellectual disability walked up to them, reached out his hand in welcome, and said, “Hi, I like you!”
Don't get me wrong. I love our dog Marley. But I do not plan to see Marley again when Christ reappears and the heavens and earth are renewed. When he dies, he'll be gone except for our memories and our pictures.