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Pressure is often placed upon PWD to accept miraculous healing. If healing does not take place, it is confirmed that they indeed are sinners. One PWD captures his experience as follows:. I have been a member of various churches in which healing services have been held from time to time. I have never felt free to attend such gatherings because I think my attendance would be read in an ambiguous way. The contemporary church continues to raise questions about a PWD seeking to enter the ministry. Suggesting that certain physical disabilities are a disqualification for the ministry, Lev. According to Govig 95 , "this text is a barrier to the ordination of people with physical impairments.

It is applied literally to forbid PWD from preaching. It is believed that disability may hinder one's performance as a minister Mwangi, According to Wilkes , another reason for barring PWD from the ministry is because the priesthood is a very public role. It is performed "before the congregation" or "in front of the congregation.

It is clear that the notion of sin and impurity are themes that continue to be used to define disability. Having established this, what then is the role of the church in Kenya in terms of the protection and promotion of the rights of PWD? The following story, given by a visually impaired person, is given to illustrate the exclusivity of the church with regard to PWD:. Clutching his ragged clothes around him, Kamau traced his steps slowly and steadily through the corridor to the main entrance of the church.

It was Christmas day and the pews were overflowing with people. As the congregation stood up to sing, Kamau made his way through the celebrants. Suddenly, a rough hand gripped him and dragged him out. Remorse and shame filled his heart and choked his voice. He sat down slowly cupping his head in his hands. Many churches have socio-economic development programmes, such as schools and medical facilities, though very few churches have specific programmes for PWD.

This peripherization by churches of PWD has been noted by scholars Bartley, ; Wilkes, ; Bach, ; Muller-Fahrenholz, and Kabue, , who have suggested that churches have participated in discriminating against PWD and have not fully integrated them into the mainstream of the church and society at large. Njoroge does not see PWD as a problem; rather, it is the attitude of the church that is the issue.

She argues:. Masakhwe makes a scathing attack on the church in Kenya. He acknowledges that the church has been a key model in supporting people with disabilities but also notes that the church has also glossed over serious issues that affect PWD, and hence becomes part of the very problem afflicting PWD.

The church has been very vocal on issues of human rights but it has not embraced disability and the concerns of PWD in its human rights crusade and agenda with the same vigour, even if disability issues are human rights issues as well.

Disability in the body of Christ.

He attributes this attitude to the negative portrayal of the PWD in the Bible, as persons who are lacking or as sinners who must be cleansed and healed. Although it has been suggested that churches discriminate against PWD, it is also important to recognise that the church was the first institution both globally and in Kenya to start providing welfare services to PWD. Special schools for children with disabilities were pioneered by churches. Luke's School for the Deaf in Embu. The Catholic Church has also started a number of special schools in the country, such as St. Lucy's School for the Blind at Egoji.

The Methodist Church has a school for the deaf in Meru. They have called on Christians to re-examine their attitude towards PWD and promote their well-being. The church has taken it upon itself to work with the Mentally Handicapped Association of Kenya to address the violation of the rights of people with mental disabilities in Kenya. Christianity teaches that all people are equal James In Gen. The Bible teaches us that Jesus Christ came into the world so that people would have life in abundance John This implies the enjoyment of all human rights such as education, employment, and worship.

Christ's mission involved curing the afflicted, feeding the hungry, and healing PWD Matt , Mk Jesus Christ gave a special place to them in His ministry because they were oppressed and marginalised in their community. He showed love and compassion for them and was concerned about their physical and spiritual well-being Matt. The apostles also followed this tradition Acts Consequently, the church finds its true identity when it fully integrates itself with these marginal people, including those who suffer from physical disabilities.

The contemporary church in Kenya as the bearer of Christ's ministry and message has a mandate to follow His example. The church is consequently expected to take care of PWD, who usually suffer neglect and discrimination in society. The churches must increasingly become aware of the needs and problems of the handicapped in our society and endeavour to provide programmes, physical facilities, learning materials, opportunities and resources, and where possible involve the handicapped in participating fully in the church and community life on the understanding that the handicapped need appreciation not pity.

According to Wilkes 40 , the church is being pushed and pulled by the emerging presence of PWD in the community and the challenge by individuals and groups of the disabled community. Because of this and a deeper theological awareness, the church is now moving toward a new sense of acceptance of PWD in the mainstream of both church and community life. They are an integral part of the church and the society and are essential for the wholeness and unity of the church.

Consequently, it is imperative that church leaders develop an inclusive world view so that PWD are sought out with the gospel and welcomed into Christian fellowship, and so that the church of Christ becomes an effective catalyst in bringing about change in cultural attitudes towards people with disabilities.

A Creational View

The church as a whole "must recognize the spiritual and material needs of PWD and their families, and respond in a Christ like manner" Govig, To ignore the existence of disabilities is to deny reality; to ignore people with disabilities is sinful. One of the missions of the church is to facilitate the integration of disability issues into the whole spectrum of the life of the church and society while at the same time giving adequate attention to those special and unique areas necessary to equalization of opportunities.

One of these areas includes advocacy in disability human rights concerns. This means working with the churches towards participation and inclusiveness of PWD in the spiritual, social, and development life in church and society and advocating for the general improvement of services for persons with disabilities.

The church must become an advocate for and with them. Unfortunately, discriminatory practices against PWD in the church and society contradict these teachings. Churches are generally expected to advocate for the human rights of the marginalised and oppressed members of the society. By their very nature, churches are expected to work towards the attainment of equal opportunities for all people in the pursuit of creating an equitable and participatory community.

Churches need to identify with the problems faced by PWD and endeavour to create enabling environments in which PWD can participate equally with persons without disabilities in the social, economic, cultural, religious, and political life of society. Swain and Cameron observe that PWD want the same chances and opportunities in life as people without disability.

They too want to gain an education and employment, to live in affordable accessible housing, to have relationships, and to be able to make their own decisions about the issues that affect their lives. This paper offers four conclusions. First, traditional Biblical and theological perspectives on disability give the impression that disability is a tragedy and a punishment or curse from God for sin. Several texts in both the Old and New Testaments adduce to this. Second, in recent years there have been theological discussions on disability that are liberative and empowering to PWD and, while also grounded in Biblical texts, work in opposition to traditional theological interpretations of the Bible.

These include images of God, such as the one proposed by Eiesland, in which God is imaged as having a disability.

Are You Unleashing the Gifts of the Disabled Among You?

The Disabled God values embodiment in all its diversity and provides a profound example of inclusion, love, and acceptance. Third, traditional theological perception of disability has often led to PWD facing discrimination and the subsequent violation of their rights. Because of the shame often associated with disability, some families tend to hide their disabled members and do not take them to school. Finally, the church in Kenya has a role to play in the promotion and protection of the rights of PWD. Traditional Biblical and Theological Perspectives on Disability Eiesland identifies three theological themes that have created obstacles for PWD.

In Isaiah , Israel is compared to the blind and the deaf: Hear, you deaf; look you blind, and see! The most significant passage showing the metaphorical use of disability is the story of the vision of Isaiah in the temple: Go and say to these people: "keep listening but do not comprehend. In addition, the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to Aaron, saying, none of your offspring throughout their generation who has a blemish may approach to offer the bread of his God. According to Rayan David did three things to restore Mephibosheth and show the world his rightful place: The restoration of self-esteem — all the time Mephibosheth had experienced an attitude of rejection, but now David shows him kindness.

The restoration of his identity — after having lived at the mercy of a generous man, Machir, Mephibosheth now has been restored to his rightful inheritance. Not only were his material possessions restored to him, but also his title. He was restored to the status of a prince.

Australian Catholic Bishops Conference

The restoration to society — He, who was rejected by his own grandfather's servant, has now the opportunity to be among the king's family. The Disabled God Apart from inclusive Biblical perspectives on disability, there have been discussions in theological circles about a disability liberation theology that collaborates with human rights ideologies, notably as this collaboration encourages the recognition of each person's inherent dignity, regardless of one's race, religion, or impairment.

The Healing Narratives in the Gospels and Disability Apart from examining the image of God, the healing narratives in the Gospels also gives insight into viewing theology as liberative rather than discriminatory. Christ announced his mission in the synagogue in Nazareth as follows: The spirit of the Lord. Biblical and Theological Interpretation of Disability and the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Kenya The foregoing traditional and contemporary Biblical and theological views on disability have a bearing on the way in which society responds to the presence of PWD in Kenya, and in particular how they impinge on their rights.

When asked about the reaction of people without disability towards them, one PWD narrated his experience: As a wheel chair user due to polio, I have encountered an attitude of outright rejection whereby I am normally the object of pained and evasive glances. One PWD captures his experience as follows: I have been a member of various churches in which healing services have been held from time to time.

The Church in Kenya and Disability Rights The following story, given by a visually impaired person, is given to illustrate the exclusivity of the church with regard to PWD: Clutching his ragged clothes around him, Kamau traced his steps slowly and steadily through the corridor to the main entrance of the church.

She argues: the problem is not that we have people who are deaf, mute and blind and with other disabilities among us, rather the churches and church related institutions are usually deaf, mute and blind towards our concerns and needs. The National Council of Churches of Kenya NCCK, summarises this expectation as follows: The churches must increasingly become aware of the needs and problems of the handicapped in our society and endeavour to provide programmes, physical facilities, learning materials, opportunities and resources, and where possible involve the handicapped in participating fully in the church and community life on the understanding that the handicapped need appreciation not pity.

Conclusion This paper offers four conclusions. Works Cited Bayingana, E. Bach, U. Geneva: WCC. Barker, K. New International Bible Version Study. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. Bowe, F. Handicapping America. New York: Harper and Row.


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Centre for Disability Rights and Education and Advocacy Clapton, J. Ecumenical Disability Advocates Network, Eiesland, N. Nashville: Abingdon Press. Encyclopaedia Judaica , Vol 4 Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House. Encyclopaedia of Religion New York: Macmillan. Esomonu, L. Rome: Giovanni Canesteri Vicegerates. Fahrenholz-Muller Partnership in Life: The Handicapped and the Church.

Gill, C. Cromwell ed. New York: Haworth Press, pp. Government of Kenya Economic Survey. Nairobi: Government of Kenya.

Scripture - The Bible and Disabilities - Disability Ministries of the United Methodist Church

The Kenya Demographic Health Survey , Govig, S. Grant, C. Nashville: Abingdon. Hull, J. Blindness and the Face of God. Unpublished manuscript. Kabue, S. NCCK, Nairobi. Masakhwe, W. Melcher, Sarah J. National Council of Churches of Kenya There probably is no other population in the world than the disability community that fits this descriptor better.

People affected by disability throughout history have been cast aside by society. People affected by disability suffer more abuse and neglect than almost any other people group. Because of their perceived weaknesses they are often never given an opportunity to use their giftedness within the Body of Christ or even outside the Church. The world of disability is a reality that is often overlooked by churches. Let me share with you some eye-opening statistics.

The Kingdom of God is one that is meant to be upside down. When Jesus formally starts his public ministry Luke he declares that he came for the poor, oppressed, and those affected by disability. Jesus did what he said he would do. Jesus even takes time to correct his disciples of their poor theology when it comes to disability. Jesus declares that there is a divine purpose for disability. Disability is not meant to be viewed as a negative. Disability rather is an opportunity for witnessing the power of God.

For when I am weak, then I am strong. Disability was both created by Jesus Exodus and embraced by him Luke It is the desire of Jesus for church leadership to embrace the world of disability. The very word "disability" might suggest that the entire range of human experience can be neatly divided into two camps: the "able-bodied" and the "disabled. In reality, human beings are all differently-abled. We do not all have the same intelligence, athletic ability, flexibility, vision, or mobility Moreover, we are all dependent on each other in varying and complex ways; none of us can live without our relationships with others.

Yet by dividing the world into the "able-bodied" and the "disabled," those who see themselves as "able-bodied" may be tempted to reassure themselves of their "normalcy," and obscure from themselves their deep dependency upon others in society as a whole, and even more importantly, within the body of Christ. In reality, both "wholeness" and "disability" acquire their full meaning only within the shared contexts of communities of persons.

People sometimes only recognize and identify a "disability" in comparison to others whose experience differs from theirs. In this specific sense, the very notion of disability is a relative and communally shaped concept. But at a deeper and more important level, persons with disabilities find wholeness in the shared experience of community. We experience wholeness, ultimately, when we find a place in community marked by contentment, acceptance, mutual caring, and love. These communities are always diverse and dynamic, made up of people with changing experiences, changing capacities to participate in community, and changing relationships within community One of the most helpful biblical categories to assist the church in reflecting on its welcome of persons with disabilities is the biblical discussion of "welcoming the stranger.

But at another level, persons with disabilities are indeed strangers to their more able-bodied neighbors. People with disabilities often awaken feelings of loss or discomfort in other, more able-bodied people. In this more particular sense, persons with disabilities are "strangers" to more able-bodied people. Their experience of the world is different and alien in profound ways. Persons with disabilities often do not "fit" into the normal patterns of social life.

A Gospel-Driven Response to Disability

They are often marginalized, excluded, made to feel inferior and unwelcome. In this respect as well, they are often treated as "strangers" in the midst of the church. Throughout Scripture, there is a powerful mandate to welcome such strangers. This is a challenge, not to persons with disabilities, but to the church that often struggles to recognize and welcome them as full members of the body of Christ In Jesus' gripping account of the final judgment narrated in Matthew f. Jesus declares, "I was a stranger, and you welcomed me" Matthew Here we come to the crux of the matter from a spiritual and theological perspective: Insofar as persons with disabilities are strangers in the midst of the church that is, insofar as they embody what may seem alien to their more able-bodied neighbors , they also represent--as all strangers do--the presence of Jesus in the midst of the church.

The more the church grows in its capacity to welcome such persons who are strangers, the more deeply the church will welcome and serve Jesus. This is not merely pious rhetoric. Welcoming the stranger, in biblical parlance, is an exercise in welcoming whatever it is that threatens us about our own humanity We all know, at the deepest level, the precariousness of our own embodied existence, our own vulnerability to loss. And almost all of us, if we live long enough, will experience some sort of disability, as our bodies grow more frail. Persons with disabilities thus can assist the church to discover more deeply and powerfully the mystery of its own embodied existence, the diverse ways in which we are "fearfully and wonderfully made" Psalm The ability of the Christian community to welcome persons with disabilities, and the ability of persons with disabilities to live joyfully in the midst of the church, will be an important measure of the church's ability to live fearlessly and joyfully in the midst of a broken world, as it awaits the restoration of the whole creation.

As the church welcomes persons with disabilities, it will thus necessarily confront more deeply the mystery of its own embodied existence. Our bodily existence is indeed complex, and full of paradox. Paul speaks of our "mortal bodies," subject to the power of death and beset by weakness Romans , ; 1 Corinthians f. At the same time, Christians celebrate and affirm the resurrection of the body.

Bodily existence is not something for this life alone.