February 4, 2018
Last month representatives from the DisAbility Ministries Committee of The United Methodist Church and the co-chairs of the United Methodist Association of Ministers with Disabilities caucus met in Atlanta at the Global Ministries (GM) office to discuss the future of the committee. GM staff attending were General Secretary Thomas Kemper, Executive Director of Global Health Dr. Olusimbo Ige, and US Health Program Manager Sabrina Rodgers. Also present were Bishop Peggy Johnson (Pennsylvania Episcopal Area) and David F. Watson, Academic Dean and Associate New Testament professor at United Theological School.
After decades of being our source of financial support, Global Health (a division of GM) announced last August that they had decided to end our funding as of May 31, 2018. We thank all of you who have since expressed support and offered help. We want you to know the hopeful outcome of this recent meeting.
Thomas Kemper explained a possible plan to restructure the Disability Ministries Committee. The basis for the change is threefold:
- Global Ministries/Global Health is not a good fit for us.
- We have already made connections and worked with a number of other boards and agencies.
- The Book of Discipline states that annual conference disability concerns committee will work with jurisdictional accessibility associations to share information, and those jurisdictional associations currently do not exist.
Our vision is that we belong to the entire denomination and not just one agency. This has moved closer to reality with the proposal of this plan. This is what it looks like so far:
- The hope is that the DMC might become an entity that has an appointed bishop to oversee it. This needs to be approved by the Council of Bishops. If it is approved, the appointed bishop would become the chair and be better able to advocate for us.
- Thomas Kemper plans to approach the Executive Secretaries of the boards and agencies we are working with to discuss a more collaborative way of funding us, based on the work we are doing.
- If they agree, the Council of Bishops could move to form the jurisdictional accessibility associations named in the Discipline. These associations would then have a positive impact on starting and sustaining annual conference committees.
We have always been a bottom-up movement. We have accomplished much, but we are not as well-known or as well-utilized as we would like. It's time to add a top-down approach so that support and action comes from both ends. Just like we don't get very far with a congregation unless the pastor and/or other church leaders are on board, we need this top-down piece to be able to have greater impact.
This plan is still in formation. There are still a number of unanswered questions but the door to further discussion is open and the Holy Spirit is very much present.
Yours in service to Christ,
Chair, DisAbility Ministries Committee of the United Methodist Church