Rev. Hank Jenkins, co-chair of the United Methodist Association of Ministers with Disabilities, delivered a keynote presentation entitled “Ministry Through a Disabled Lens” on Saturday, September 28, at the General Church gathering of United Methodist Deacons. The event was hosted by the Southeastern Jurisdiction Order of Deacons at the Lake Junaluska Conference Center in North Carolina and focused on the theme “Serving with Holy Boldness.”
Rev. Jenkins introduced listeners to the field of disability theology, paying particular attention to what it means to be created in the image of God, the importance of relationships, the vulnerability of humanity, and the idea of a “Disabled God.” In the presentation, Jenkins reviewed the work of disability theologians Thomas Reynolds and Nancy Eiesland and encouraged those in attendance to be more mindful of their inclusion of and attitudes toward people with disabilities.
He concluded the talk by offering both practical and attitudinal changes congregations can make to become more accessible, including emphasizing inclusion over programs; ensuring current programs and meetings are accessible; conducting an accessibility audit; training staff, greeters, and volunteers how to directly engage people with disabilities; considering language; and asking about the needs of people with disabilities in their faith community.
Rev. Jenkins’ talk was one of four keynote presentations and a panel discussion that took place over the weekend. Other speakers included deacons Margaret Ann Crain and Martina Efodzi and Bishop Ken Carter of the Florida Annual Conference. Approximately 120 people attended from the various annual conferences of the United States.