Rev (Deacon) Andy Calder is responsible for oversight of Disability Inclusion for the Vic-Tas Synod. On ABC Radio National recently, he reflected on theology and practice of inclusion and exclusion of disability in the Church.
ABC Radio National
13 April 2013
David Routledge: ...Today we’re hearing Christians, Jews and Muslims reveal their experiences of inclusion and exclusion and we’re asking why people belonging to faiths that are based on love, compassion and community are so often blind to people with disabilities.
Andy Calder: ...When we consider that one in five people have disability and you look at faith communities, and I’m particularly talking about Christian faith communities and the ones that I represent, that same representation of percentage just isn’t there. So we have to ask the question, why might that be?
It’s a problematic term, this one, ‘inclusion’, and I struggle with it in terms of my own job title. But for me it’s not about a group of people who have all of the power and all of the wherewithal to include a so-called weaker group of people or individuals; rather, there is a strong onus, I think, on people like myself and all church people to look very closely and examine the structures, the attitudes, the prejudices, the theology that in fact is excluding of people’s participation.
And, you know, everybody’s enriched by the diversity. And I think congregations as they exist today are denied the gifts, the skills, the presence of people who historically have either been shunned or have experienced exclusionary practices. So I want to actually take this opportunity to, as a Uniting Church minister, to say a heartfelt apology to all people who have been at the raw end of such experiences within the Uniting Church. And we certainly want to redress that as far as we possibly can into the future...
Kerry Stewart: Is Jesus to blame here, too? I mean he certainly did a lot of miraculous cures, so would disabled people be better off if he’d just said, ‘Your life is perfect the way it is’?
Andy Calder: Yes, many people with disabilities have, or I have had conversations along those lines. And whilst the healing stories of Jesus are there for us to interpret for our day, we need to be very careful that they aren’t interpreted in a way that perpetuates the sense that healing is about the physical cure, that, rather, it is about people being restored to a full humanity, a full life in relation to other people: their friends, their family, those who they love, the wider community.