7.7 million reasons to be more inclusive: new resource looks at how and why
Almost five million Australians are living with a disability, and 2.7 million are informal carers for someone living with a disability. Yet, the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelisation has identified people with disabilities as one the most unreached people groups in the world. Sadly, one of the greatest challenges they face is from communities that don’t make them feel included.
A church’s theology influences the ways people living with disability are perceived and incorporated into the life of the church. It affects how they belong.
Part five of Baptist Care SA’s series on biblical justice ‘Belonging Together on Earth’ further explores the theology of belonging. Written by Reverend Scott Higgins*, it is a free resource which has a focus on people with disabilities and their carers.
There are wonderful examples of church communities who have taken conscious steps to be inclusive. Gwen’s Pantry, which operates from Edwardstown Baptist Church, serves the community by assembling free food hampers for locals who are struggling with unemployment, homelessness and isolation. They also employ people living with disabilities and their carers to deliver food donations to local schools. Gwen’s Pantry has become a communal space where people of all walks of life gather to socialise and support each other.
This nurturing of safe spaces where diversity and friendship is embraced is at the heart of inclusion. It is not just about programs, but about the language we use and the culture and accessibility of our churches.
“Everyone has different needs. Just because I use a wheelchair doesn’t mean that I have “special needs” in inverted commas. My needs are the same as yours, I just need a little bit of assistance to get some of my needs met.” – Jorja Denton, Baptist Care SA workshop presenter.
If you would like to learn about how your church can become more inclusive of people living with disabilities, visit https://baptistcaresa.org.au/belonging-together for your free ‘On Earth’ resource, or email the Baptist Care SA’s Church Support Team at email@example.com
**Reverend Scott Higgins is a social justice and ethics consultant, educator and writer. He worked for Baptist World Aid Australia for over a decade, where he founded the Catalyst Program and the acclaimed Ethical Fashion Guide reports. He has since founded A Just Cause and initiated Converge, an annual gathering of Australian Baptist leaders who lobby Federal Parliamentarians on social justice