Sunday, July 14, 2013

Reflections on the United Methodist Ministers with Disabilities after the July 10-12th Meeting

Bishop Peggy Johnson attended the Ministers with Disabilities meeting, July 10-12, with EPA representatives, Rev.Dave Goss (left) and Rev. Paul Crikelair (right).

by Bishop Peggy Johnson

How wonderful they are….these sturdy, spirit-filled souls called by God.  They are often looked down upon by the able-bodied part of the Body.  Many are working hard at minimum salary churches, or asked to take disability benefits or early retirement.  Next to many of them are faithful spouses and sometimes faithful golden retrievers.  They are deaf, hard of hearing, blind, low vision, have mental health or mobility challenges.  They are young, mature, Caucasian, people of color, from all over the Connection and theologically diverse.

They are powerful beyond belief: insightful, spirit-filled, and familiar with life on the margins and have the unique heart that it brings.  Many are serving on Disability Committees in their annual conferences but rarely are asked to do other kinds of things.  Their identities are so much more than being the “disabled one.”  The church needs to wake up to their giftedness.
Bishop Johnson at the Ministers with Disabilities meeting with Peninsula-Delaware representatives, Rev. Bill Downing and Rev. Ruthann Simpson.

Pastors with disabilities work twice as hard as any other, endure countless careless comments, face skeptical personnel and review boards, and find that the accessible accommodations needed are often sadly lacking when they arrive at a meeting.  They are often gracious and forgiving.  Nonetheless, they are always pushing and encouraging the church to do better, often at their own expense so that the doors of the church can open wider, so that the one that follows them can have an easier road.

Pastors with Disabilities: you are a sign of God’s presence. The incarnated Christ’s nail-prints did not disappear at the resurrection and our bodily human frailty is still a paradoxical, God-inspired sign of the “power-made-perfect-in weakness” reality of how things really get done in the world.  All people, no matter our physical, mental or emotional state, are vulnerable to this mystery and dance between ability and disability, strength and weakness on an hourly basis.  May the church see that we are all a part of the disability community in Christ, who is our wounded, yet victorious Savior and comforter and power-giver.

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