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The Church and People with Intellectual, Physical, Psychological, and/or Neurological Disabilities

We call United Methodists to a new birth of awareness of the need to accept, include, receive the gifts of, and respond to the concerns of those persons with intellectual, physical, psychological, and/or neurological disabilities, including their families.

Because the experience of disabilities is included in all racial, social, sexual, and age groupings, and this experience is common to every family and at some time in every life;

And because a large part of the ministry of our Lord focused on persons with conditions such as intellectual, physical, psychological, and/or neurological disabilities;

And because the body of Christ is not complete without people of all areas of life, including people with all types of disabilities;

And because there exist inadequacies in the church and in society with regard to concerns for the rights of people with disabilities, utilization of talents, and their full participation within the life of the church and society;

And believing that the church is most faithful to the teachings and example of Jesus when it expresses love in concrete ways in a mutual ministry with those who are marginalized, neglected, avoided, or persecuted by society;

And believing in the legacy of John Wesley, Phillip Otterbein, and Jacob Albright, who held that vital piety flows into compassionate ministry;

And knowing that prevailing societal norms unduly glorify the conditions of youthful beauty, mental alertness, and material affluence to the exclusion and avoidance of those whose disabilities put them outside these norms,

Therefore, we pledge ourselves to:

Accessibility:

1. Renew and increase our commitments as a church to the development of a barrier-free society, especially in the many facilities of the church and parsonages. To indicate the seriousness of our intent, we must set time limits to ensure the greatest physical accessibility in the shortest feasible periods and extend our policy of not providing funding through or approval by United Methodist agencies unless minimum guidelines are met, which include but are not limited to:

a. providing adequate access to sanctuary pews, altars, chancel areas and pulpit, classrooms, and restrooms;

b. providing curb cuts, ramps with at least a 1:12 inclination or platform lifts; and

c. providing facilities with equipment and supplies to meet the needs of persons with visible and hidden disabilities, including persons with vision and/or hearing impairments.

2. All meetings of The United Methodist Church should be welcoming and accessible to people with disabilities. General church agencies, jurisdictions, annual conferences, and districts should nominate people with disabilities to their boards and committees and enable their full participation.

3. All United Methodist churches are asked to conduct an audit of their facilities to discover barriers that impede the full participation of people with disabilities. (See ¶ 2533.6, 2012 Book of Discipline.) Steps should then be taken to remove those barriers. The Accessibility Audit for Churches is a recommended resource available from the General Board of Global Ministries.

Awareness:

1. Sensitize and train local church pastors to the needs and opportunities for ministry with people with disabilities and their families.

2. Lead the local churches in attitudinal change, to the end that the people called United Methodists are sensitized to the gifts, needs, and interests of people with disabilities, including their families.

3. Take advantage of the great opportunities for our church to work cooperatively and ecumenically with others who are addressing these issues and extend an active invitation to work jointly where possible.

4. Suggest one Sunday each year as Disability Awareness Sunday to sensitize people to our accessibility concerns. (See ¶ 265.4, 2012 Book of Discipline.)

Adequate Resources:

1. Provide resources through the church at all levels, including curricula, for persons with various disabilities, so that each individual has full opportunity for growth and self-realization with the community of faith and the society at large.

2. Strongly recommend that all curriculum material be so designed that it can be adapted to meet the needs of people with disabilities; that curriculum material portray people with disabilities in leadership roles within church and society; that curriculum material reflect the Guidelines for the Elimination of Handicappist Language as produced by the General Council on Ministries.

Affirmative Action:

1. Include in all our efforts of affirmative action the concerns and interests of people with disabilities, particularly in the active recruitment and encouragement of persons with disabilities for leadership roles, both clergy and lay, within the church and its agencies, in hiring practices, job security, housing, and transportation.

2. Urge the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry to monitor annual conference boards of ordained ministry so that people with disabilities are given equal treatment in the steps to ordained ministry.

3. Strongly urge that our schools of higher education and theological training provide specialized courses for faculty and students in the awareness and appreciation of gifts, needs, and interests of people with disabilities. This includes the emphasis of accessibility and equal employment in these institutions, as well as those in the larger society. Accreditation by the University Senate should be withdrawn from institutions where persons who are disabled are excluded, either from attendance, services, or employment.

4. Strongly urge local churches to conduct needs-assessment surveys. Such a survey would suggest to a local church what particular actions must be taken to fully include people with disabilities within the life of the church.

Advocacy Within the Church:

Implement within each annual conference methods of recruiting, sensitizing, and training persons as advocates to work with and on behalf of people with disabilities on a one-to-one basis and to enable them to achieve their human and civil rights as well as to assume their rightful place in the life of the church and community. Each annual conference should also develop the larger concern of advocacy for people with disabilities to enable them to achieve appropriate housing, employment, transportation, education, and leisure-time development.

Advocacy Within the Society:

While there is much to be done within the church to make real the gospel of inclusiveness with regard to people with disabilities, there is a world society that also must be made aware of the concerns and needs of these persons. We urge the church and its people to stand alongside people with disabilities and to speak out on their rights in society. These rights include access to jobs, public transportation and other reliable forms of transportation, adequate housing, and education. We are people under orders to minister to and with all God's children. We are all a people in pilgrimage! We have too often overlooked those of God's children who experience life in different ways from ourselves. We pledge ourselves to an inclusive, compassionate, and creative response to the needs and gifts of people with disabilities.

Barrier-Free Construction for People With Disabilities:

Be it resolved, that church monies from agencies of The United Methodist Church beyond the local church be granted, loaned, or otherwise provided only for the construction of church sanctuaries, educational buildings, parsonages, camps, colleges, or other church-related agencies or facilities that meet minimum guidelines in their plans for barrier-free construction;

That local churches utilizing their own funds or funds secured through lending agencies and institutions beyond The United Methodist Church be urged to make adequate provision in their plans to ensure that all new and remodeled church buildings shall be of barrier-free construction;

That local churches be urged to adapt existing facilities through such programs as widening doorways, installing ramps and elevators, eliminating stairs where possible, providing handrails, adequate parking facilities, and restrooms so that people with disabilities may take their appropriate place in the fellowship of the church; and

That the appropriate national agencies provide technical information for local churches to assist in providing barrier-free facilities.

ADOPTED 1984
AMENDED AND READOPTED 1996, 2004
READOPTED 2008
AMENDED AND READOPTED 2012
RESOLUTION #3304, 2008 BOOK OF RESOLUTIONS
RESOLUTION #122, 2004 BOOK OF RESOLUTIONS
RESOLUTION #110, 2000 BOOK OF RESOLUTIONS

See Social Principles, ¶ 162I.

From The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church - 2012. Copyright © 2012 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.