Thursday, April 11, 2019

New co-chairs at AMD and statement on recommended language

The United Methodist Association of Ministers with Disabilities (UMAMD) announce that Rev. Jonathan Campbell of the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference and Rev. Hank Jenkins of the Missouri Annual Conference have been elected as co-chairs. Their term began April 1.

Rev. Jonathan Campbell is an ordained elder in the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference (GNJAC).  He is currently the pastor of Old First UMC in West Long Branch.  He previously worked at CUMAC-ECHO, a large feeding and ministry center, in Paterson as the Operations Director.  He serves the GNJAC as the Peace with Justice Coordinator. He enjoys preaching, teaching, and helping individuals find and deepen their faith through worship, educational opportunities, and mission. He is blessed to be the father of three amazing young men, Jeremiah (16), Nathan (13), and Christopher (10).

Rev. Hank Jenkins is an Ordained Deacon in the Missouri Annual Conference. He and his wife have been living in Oxford, England, for the past two years as she works as a research fellow at the University of Oxford. Currently appointed as a student, Rev. Jenkins is pursuing his Doctor of Ministry through Wesley Theological Seminary, focusing on holiness, effective ministry and engagement with the world. Before starting his D.Min., Rev. Jenkins served as a youth minister in the Missouri and Oklahoma Annual Conferences.

Rev. Campbell and Rev. Jenkins look forward to continuing the work of outgoing co-chairs Rev. Russell Ewell and Rev. Janine DeLaunay in advocating and educating for the ministries of people with disabilities.

The UMAMD would also like to announce the release of the following statement regarding recommended language for referencing people with disabilities. The UMAMD encourages all UMC church leaders to use this statement when publishing, speaking or preaching to or about people with disabilities:

Language for Persons with Disabilities

For centuries, words and terms have been used to identify people, for a variety of reasons and purposes. This is the same for persons with disabilities. We recognize the specific needs that a person diagnosed with a physical, sensory, neurological, mental health and any other condition may require. Old descriptors, such as handicap, mental retardation, mentally-ill, wheelchair bound, and hearing impairment, have a way of putting up attitudinal barriers toward our Christian brothers and sisters due to misconceptions about their abilities and their place within the body of Christ. Certainly, words, when used carelessly, hurt and injure others. When we identify someone by noting their disability first, the reference is often negative, and so is the attitude. By adopting improved ways of thinking and talking about persons with disabilities, we have an opportunity to exert a positive influence on their lives, as well as on our faith community and our denomination as a whole. We've seen the power of language on other groups.  Making vocabulary changes helps to remove harmful descriptors that can reduce attitudinal barriers for persons with disabilities. Our society has already shelved harmful words like cripple, lame, retarded, and deaf and dumb. Equally important is to be aware of words like disadvantaged, challenged, and defective.

Society as a whole means well by using euphemisms like “differently-abled” and “special needs,” but it is important to note society has and can continue to attach negative connotations to words as has occurred with the terms “disability” and “disabled.” This distortion of meaning helps fuel ableism in our society.  It is important to recognize that many persons with disabilities do not find anything wrong with the words disability and disabled because they refuse to accept the negative connotations. When it comes to labels affecting individuals, it is always best to ask the person what term he or she is comfortable using. 

The disability community is not of one mind when it comes to disability language, including the UMAMD. However, first person language is often preferred over descriptors alone. For example: a person who has bipolar disorder, rather than he/she is bipolar, or a person with a disability, instead of he or she is disabled. Identity-first language and person-first language are commonly based on personal preference and/or a sense of pride (e.g., some Deaf people feel proud to be Deaf because it has a rich culture with a language and history). 

Below are examples of person-first language the UMAMD would recommend when discussing persons with disabilities:

* blind and/or low vision
* sensory disability
* Deaf (refers to a culturally deaf person when using a capital D)
* hard of hearing (refers to those with some residual hearing)
* intellectual disability (instead of developmental disability)
* a person with Down Syndrome
* a person with cerebral palsy
* a person on the Autism spectrum
* a person with mental health problem
* a person with a substance use disorder (not “she’s an addict”)
* a person who uses a wheelchair

For a more comprehensive list, The National Center on Disability and Journalism has a glossary. It can be found at

1 comment:

  1. I would invite you to be more explicit in explaining that Deafness is a culture and not a disability. Are you ready to let go of audist assumptions?