I have read post after post, blog after blog about General Conference 2019. I would like to add something different to the conversation.
There is another marginalized group that has long experienced alienation and rejection at the hands of the Church, a church that claims to recognize their humanness, and that they are God's beloved, but that fails to manifest the love of God or show the ways they love these neighbors.
I am talking about people with disabilities, who sometimes cannot even find a way in to church, who more often have no bathroom they can manage to use at church, who are rejected as leaders in congregations by inaccessible chancels and/or discriminatory attitudes, who are asked questions by Boards of Ordained Ministry that are not about theology or ministerial practice but "How will you baptize an infant?" "How will you have enough stamina to do what a pastor must do?" and more that display the ignorance of the questioner above determining the readiness of the candidate. I am talking about people who struggle with mental health challenges and find, not love and acceptance, but fear and rejection in the hearts of those at Church.
I have heard far too many stories from people with disabilities who are not allowed to work with children or teach Bible studies. I have even heard that some people with disabilities are refused needed help at church. I have heard from people who face disbelief that God cannot possibly have called them to ministry because of their mental illness or their differences. The most heartbreaking account was that people at church told a person with a disability, "No one likes you and here's why!"
Please, while we are talking about the changes the UMC needs to make, can we remember that people with disabilities are also hurting and have been for a long time? Can we rebuild as a truly inclusive church, not just referring to our LGBTQ+ community but our disabled community? No one left behind ---a good motto that the Church ought to borrow permanently.
There is a vision here---a vision of the Body of Christ being complete and whole and shining like the sun in a dark world. Come! Let’s build a renewed Church together!
Sharon McCart, Deaconess
Chair, DisAbility Ministries Committee of The United Methodist Church