The Disability Ministries Committee of the UMC, UM Association of Ministers with Disabilities, United Methodist Committee on Deaf and Hard-of-hearing Ministries, and the United Methodist Congress of the Deaf join in welcoming the announcement by the General Board of Church and Society of a proposed revision of the Social Principles. Specifically, we celebrate the inclusion of Section H under “The Political Community: Basic Rights and Freedoms,” which affirms the humanity of all people with disabilities and acknowledges the need to remove the barriers, physical and attitudinal, that prevent people with disabilities from full participation in the life of our church.
The Social Principles have a long history in Methodism, which prizes social holiness as a visible part of one’s commitment to a life of striving for perfection in love. This is well-communicated throughout this proposed revision, and we especially applaud how well it is stated in this section pertaining to all people with disabilities.
We are hopeful that the members, clergy, laity, associates, conferences and agencies will join us in supporting the removal of all barriers and gaining the benefits of the contributions of people with disabilities in all of our congregations, districts, annual conferences, jurisdictions, central conference, and General Conference.
We support the approval of these revisions at the 2020 General Conference. The entire document can be read at: https://www.umcjustice.org/who-we-are/social-principles-and-resolutions/revised-social-principles (this site includes a contact address for questions and responses).
H. People with Disabilities
We affirm the full humanity and acknowledge the gifts of people living with disabilities. We call for the elimination of all barriers that prevent people with disabilities from participating fully in the life of local congregations and the broader society. Though no one term has gained universal acceptance throughout our global connection, “people with disabilities” refers to a broad group of people living with distinctive cognitive, physical, developmental, sensory, neurological, intellectual, and psychological conditions or challenges.
We lament that the church has often stigmatized and discriminated against people with disabilities by imposing labels with negative connotations, by failing to make space in church life for the full range of God’s people, and by interpreting words such as “blind,” “lame,” and “deaf” in pejorative ways. Because of this, people with disabilities are frequently dismissed or undervalued, both in the church and in civil society.
In response, we call the church to acts of repentance, to earnest listening, and to a collaborative ministry with people with disabilities so they can contribute their wisdom and gifts to the mission and ministry of local congregations and other church bodies. We likewise call on civil society, business, and government leaders to work toward the removal of all barriers and to provide opportunities for those with disabilities to make their unique contributions to the entire society. We call for the protection of the rights of all people with disabilities, including the rights to health care, employment, education, housing and transportation, and to freedom from discrimination.