Friday, February 24, 2017

News and notes from AMD, 2/24/17

"Can you read my lips": a captioned video that demonstrates what it's like to be Deaf

Putting faith to work: helping people with disabilities find employment

Positivity Only movement and disabilities

Accessibility isn't a problem only at conferences. We are grateful to the Disability Ministries Committee for providing guidelines for inclusion.

Standing Up for what I Need (is it the same in preaching?)

It's time to retire "able-bodied"

Laura Bratton, who spoke to the AMD last year, has written a book about her life story of being born sighted and then becoming blind as a teenager. The theme of the book is overcoming adversity with grit and gratitude. The goal for the book is to empower people  facing challenges to continue living a full life with meaning and purpose.

UMAMD logo with the UM Cross and Flame and several disability symbols
This newsletter is generally issued weekly by the
United Methodist Association of Ministers with Disabilities,
a caucus of the United Methodist Church.

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Friday, February 17, 2017

News and notes from AMD, 2/17/17

GCORR: increasing equity

Inclusion is not a luxury

America's new ministers (could this open door for disabilities?)

Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies 8 (open access)
Catherine Willits, The Obfuscation of Bodily Sight in Julian of Norwich

UM Disability blog: UMC article 4 amendment

Advocacy: AAPD on ACA and Medicaid

CFP: Pedagogy and Disability
The Journal of Religion and Disability is planning a special issue on Pedagogy and Disability to appear in October 2017. Our guest editors for this issue are Dr. Meghan Henning (University of Dayton) and Dr. Kirk VanGilder (Gallaudet University).

We are seeking submissions for this issue from scholars who have researched and presented in this area. This special issue will focus on a broad range of issues related to pedagogy and disability including, but not limited to;

• Universal classroom design for physical space,
• Universal design principles for teaching activities and classroom conduct,
• Integrating disability studies content into the curriculum of various disciplines,
• Developing disability studies courses and programs,
• Strategies for teaching with a disability,
• Inclusive pedagogy for learners with disabilities.
• Experiencing religious studies/theology classrooms as a student with a disability
• Technology and teaching strategies
• Online teaching and disability inclusion
• Implementing experiential or community engaged learning and the disability studies classroom
• Developing graduate level courses around disability, the body, and religion and or practical ministry
• Pedagogy that engages more than one learning style
• Integrating content on the body and healthcare into the curriculum of various disciplines

We are looking for submissions in the range of 5000 words in length. Submissions should be received by July 15, 2017.

Send your submissions to and


Click here for a list of events of interest to people in disability ministry.
UMAMD logo with the UM Cross and Flame and several disability symbols
This newsletter is generally issued weekly by the
United Methodist Association of Ministers with Disabilities,
a caucus of the United Methodist Church.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

UMC Article 4 Amendment

This year, Annual and Central conferences of the UMC will be voting on an amendment to Article 4, Paragraph 4 of the constitution. Through the Commission on Status and Role of Women we offer the following information about the amendment, and, in particular, its effect on people with disabilities.

Note that the vote will be yes / no. No amendments to the proposal are allowed.

The proposed amendment regarding membership reads as follows:
In the United Methodist Church, no conference or other organizational unit of the Church shall be structured so as to exclude any member or constituent body of the Church because of race, color, national origin, ability or economic condition, nor shall any member be denied access to an equal place in the life, worship, and governance of the Church because of race, color, gender, national origin, ability, age, marital status, or economic condition.

What do these changes mean?

  • ABILITY: adds ability to the list of categories constitutionally protected from exclusion in the Church; the Church cannot discriminate based on a person’s physical or mental circumstances. Adding this word to “The Constitution” means that a person may not be denied membership privileges based on their abilities or limitations (abilities are God-given gifts vs. skills which are learned behaviors).
  • GENDER: adds gender to the list of categories constitutionally protected from exclusion in the Church; the Church cannot discriminate against a person because they are male or female. Throughout The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, gender is used when addressing fair treatment of both men and women; this language is consistent with The Discipline.
  • AGE: adds age to the list of categories constitutionally protected from exclusion in the Church; the Church cannot discriminate based on a person’s age, particularly the very young and the very old. Reminds us that the Church is a multi-generational community; all ages are important.
  • MARITAL STATUS: defines status as “marital status”, adding it to the list of categories constitutionally protected from exclusion in the Church; the Church cannot discriminate against a people because they are single or married. These words prevent unfair treatment of a person based on their marital status.
  • *Note: this amendment is not about transgender, homosexuality or polygamy.

If you have any questions, please contact the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women, United Methodist Women, the General Commission on Discipleship, or the DisAbility Ministries Committee of The United Methodist Church

A captioned video is available with succinct explanations and illustrations.

Friday, February 10, 2017

News and notes from AMD, 2/10/17

UM Disability blog: Deaf Ministry

What's behind Americans' hearing loss (uncaptioned video)

Theology, Bible, and Disability overview

Loving or persecuting?

Autism care and race

Not Dead Yet Day of Mourning (March 1)

Advocacy: marriage penalty for people with disabilities

Miriam Spies,  a minister of the United Church of Canada, is conducting research about ministers with disabilities and their congregations. If you are interested in helping, contact at

Click here for a list of events of interest to people in disability ministry.
UMAMD logo with the UM Cross and Flame and several disability symbols
This newsletter is generally issued weekly by the
United Methodist Association of Ministers with Disabilities,
a caucus of the United Methodist Church.

Click here to join this e-mail list.
Visit us on the web or Facebook.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Deaf Ministry: Making New Connections

Deaf Ministry: Making New Connections
By Rev. Leo Yates, Jr.

WHAT? WHO’S MISSING FROM OUR PEWS? The Jones and the Smith families are here. It's the Deaf and hard of hearing people that are missing.  

When we, as concerned viewers seeking inclusion take a careful look around the sanctuary, we’ll likely realize that Deaf, hard of hearing, late-deafened, and Deafblind people are the ones missing. We try to be faithful to the mission of The United Methodist Church (UMC), which is to make disciples for transformation of the world; however, this has been a challenge for many of our churches, as many of us have been losing members. Thinking strategically, we need to be thinking outside the box in order to turn this trend around. Reaching out to new populations that will bring new vitality and focus to the faith community is needed. And we don’t have to go far: many churches may have a Deaf community on their doorsteps and not even realize it. According to an older National Council of Churches report (1997), approximately 10% of Deaf people go to church, while obviously many more feel the church doors are partially or completely closed to them.  

Deaf ministry is an umbrella term for being in ministry with or being inclusive of Deaf, hard of hearing, late-deafened, and Deafblind people and their families. Some of us likely realize that Deaf people have their own culture that is made up of values, beliefs, similar experiences, and a shared sign language that takes part within a Deaf community. When one sees a capital “D” in the word Deaf, it indicates the cultural aspect of the word deaf. Historically, the church has been an extended community for Deaf people, in particular, in the mid to late-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. The church is where Deaf people would gather for social gatherings, worship, and for missional reasons. Though this community has lost numbers, it is still occurring in some areas of The United Methodist Church, such as Pasadena, Maryland, Dallas, Texas, and Shreveport, Louisiana.

When one considers reaching out to the Deaf community, it's necessary to identify what your church's motives are. For example, having a paternalistic motive is unhealthy and is usually a red flag that will drive away Deaf and hard of hearing people. An all-too-common example of this is not seeing Deaf people as equals, but as a group of outsiders to be converted and ministered to. On the other hand, a genuine desire to be inclusive with an equal opportunity to be a part of the life of the church, an opportunity that would reach beyond coming to worship on Sundays, is a far more desirable reason to reach out.

A Wesleyan approach to community building is to do what John Wesley, the father of the Methodist movement, did—go to the people. This would include learning about Deaf culture by attending Deaf events in the community, learning the (sign) language, and realizing that not all Deaf people are the same. Remember, it's about building genuine, loving relationships, not saving souls (the Lord does this). Mark 7:31-37 describes Jesus healing a Deaf man. In this story, Jesus uses the word, “Ephphatha” that is, “Be opened” (v. 34). Who is to say that Jesus wasn’t actually speaking to the deaf man’s community and telling them (and us) to “Be opened” to this man and include him in their community. For our congregations, perhaps 1 or 2 deaf or hard of hearing people is who we'll have as well. And, that's okay.

The General Board of General Ministries (GBGM) has a Deaf and Hard of Hearing Ministry committee that offers ministry ideas, grants, and consultation to churches. Also, the United Methodist Congress of the Deaf has jurisdictional leaders who can also offer suggestions and possible resources.

In the book, Deaf Ministry: Ministry Models for Expanding the Kingdom of God (2015), the author recommends using a multicultural framework when growing one's congregation that honors each other's culture within the same faith community (Zuniga, Nagada, & Sevig, 2002). Suggestions include:
1. Sustained communication: explore and develop empathetic connections, and find strength and value in each other's perspectives. Each language group must have equal access to communication (e.g., having interpreters, assisted listening devices, and/or captioning).
2. Consciousness raising: encourage individuals to recognize, question, and broaden cultural understanding from various cultural groups (e.g., sharing cultural norms without oppressing the other cultural group).
3. Bridging of differences: build connections across differences and have a commitment to social justice. It's about building understanding and collaborative ties (e.g., having different cultural expressions within worship).
4. Social justice perspective: maintain a social justice perspective that fosters conversations between various social groups, including periodic reflection (e.g., have a social justice committee that connects to the annual conference board of church and society).
5. Faith: include God in interactions; this would include incorporating moments of grace that assist the church's relationship with God to be the primary focus, not the only focus, but the primary focus (read John 15:17).

There are a number of recommendations for how to begin a Deaf ministry.
1. Prayer: ask God for guidance on what type of Deaf ministry your church should do. Deaf ministry is more expansive than worship on Sundays.
2. Enlist leadership support: having the pastor's support will often help get ministries off the ground.
3. Gather a team: a team is the heart of a successful ministry.
4. Begin small: begin with the people and resources God has provided. Perhaps some fundraising is needed in order to pay a sign language interpreter or to hire a Deaf person to teach a sign language class. 
5. Educate the team and congregation: hold a study about Deaf ministry that may include the book Deaf Ministry: Make a Joyful Silence or invite a Deaf person(s) to teach your team sign language (be willing to pay the person for their time).
6. Include Deaf people into the church: include them in leading worship (e.g. leading the congregation in the Lord's Prayer).
7. Adjust as the ministry grows: re-evaluate the ministry periodically and adjust it where it needs to be adjusted.

Perhaps your church already has a Deaf ministry. Wonderful! Perhaps you're looking for ways to expand it. Suggestions for this include:
1. Include your Deaf ministry on your church's website.
2. Offer a sign language class so several or many people can be familiar with basic conversational phrases (Deaf and hard of hearing people want to talk to more than just the interpreter).
3. Teach the church greeters and/or ushers basic sign phrases (e.g. Welcome, good morning, happy you're here, and bathroom).
4. Work closely with a nearby college ASL program and offer silent dinners at your church.
5. Invite a Deaf choir or a signing choir to perform during worship.
6. Do an outreach ministry by extending your church's hospitality to the community (e.g. bring meals to a habilitative day program in the area or adopt a group home with people with disabilities).
7. Connect to your state or local government Deaf agency. Some have newsletters or email announcements.
8. Subscribe to other Deaf ministries' newsletters so you can be included in any news and stay informed of any locally-held events.
9. Revamp the church's newsletter to include Deaf-related articles (e.g. an article about hearing screenings).
10. Do an outreach to the Alexander Graham Bell Association chapter, or a similar group, in your state that might include providing baked goods and drinks at their chapter meetings. There are MANY hard of hearing and late-deafened people (those who lost their hearing later in life) in everyone's community. Not all hard of hearing people and late-deafened people are a part of the Deaf community. But, that's okay! Some use sign language, while others do not.

There are many more possibilities than just these ideas; what's important is to begin with prayer and see what vision God has for your faith community. Deaf ministry is about rethinking what the church can offer and how it can connect to Deaf and hard of hearing people in your community.

Zuniga, X., Nagaa, B.R.,& Sevig, T.D. (2002). Intergroup dialogues: An educational model for cultivating engagement across differences. Equity and Excellence in Education, 7-17.

About the writer: Rev. Leo Yates, Jr. is a provisional deacon serving in the Baltimore Washington Conference. He serves on the United Methodist Committee on Deaf and Hard of Hearing Ministries.

Friday, February 3, 2017

News and notes from AMD, 2/3/17

"The Universal Benefits of Disability Culture" from the Longmore Institute. PDF.

Stigma, mental health in first responders

Venus, Mars, and hearing loss

Think Inclusive: Disabled and loved by God

UM Disability blog: Walking on Water

UM Disability blog: (followup) conversation with representative's office

R-word day tool kit

AAIDD opens nominations for Henri Nouwen Award:

Advocacy: Accessible Instructional Materials in Higher Education Act


Click here for a list of events of interest to people in disability ministry.
UMAMD logo with the UM Cross and Flame and several disability symbols
This newsletter is generally issued weekly by the
United Methodist Association of Ministers with Disabilities,
a caucus of the United Methodist Church.

Click here to join this e-mail list.
Visit us on the web or Facebook.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Reflections on a conversation -- Beth DeHoff

In a previous post, Beth DeHoff shared a letter she sent to her representative about health care and insurance. Today, she writes about the meeting which came about from that letter. 

(A reminder: the UMC identifies health care as a basic human right and advocates for universal coverage.)

I was describing the devastating effects that blanket repeal of the ACA and block granting Medicaid would have on my family and son to my congressman's staff member today. We carry insurance on our son. Medicaid is only secondary. But it allows for us not to be bankrupted by co-pays, deductibles and uncovered expenses as we nearly were before Kyle got his waiver. Likewise, without the ACA, Kyle hits his lifetime max quickly and loses insurance, and can't find other insurance due to significant pre-existing conditions. A block grant of Medicaid cuts funding; if he loses his Medicaid waiver, he loses his nursing care after school and one of us, his parents, loses our job to care for him.
photo of Beth's son, Kyle

I told this staff member all this and told him most families of children of any age with disabilities depend on these programs to function, to work, and to not depend on welfare, but that most of us simply cannot afford to lose these supports and stay afloat. He said there are probably some families in that position. I said no, not some, most. I said unless you happen to have a lot of money going into your life with your child with disabilities, you cannot make it without supports. Cutting these programs threatens kids' lives and families' livelihood.

My congressman's staff member said my congressman, Todd Rokita, is primarily concerned with controlling the federal deficit and needs to see how health care can address these needs while saving money or remaining budget neutral. The thing is, all these folks with health care needs without insurance will have desperate families, showing up at ERs without insurance or the means to pay. Health care costs will rise. Premiums will rise. Programs like food stamps and WIC will see more clients, more demand.

I can make the fiscal arguments. I can remain open to better solutions. I can not care what they call it or who takes credit for it if they can figure out a truly "better way." I sincerely hope Rep. Rokita and his colleagues can be open to the additional information I'll send, and truly work for a solution that doesn't tear down but preserves and even builds up public health. If so, I'm happy to help and report their good work. 

What I cannot do is morally justify seeking debt reduction through cuts on health care and coverage, especially not on the backs of children, youth and adults with disabilities, on the backs of senior citizens in long-term care, or on the backs of pregnant women in poverty. Maybe it's easier because these people largely lack a voice. But that's wrong, plain and simple. And no matter the obstacles, I will not give up helping to give my son and others a voice, and to remind my elected officials of the real lives from which they often are so far removed, and the real consequences of their decisions on their most vulnerable constituents.

Beth DeHoff, MPH, works as a family support coordinator in Indianapolis. She is a member of First United Methodist Church in Mooresvile, IN, and co-leader of the Indiana Conference Disability Ministries committee. She has been a member of the UM Disability Ministries Committee and Speedway UMC Special Needs Ministry. Her son Kyle has Down syndrome, autism and is a leukemia survivor.
Reprinted from Broken and Chosen with permission of the author.