United Methodist Congress of the Deaf
United Methodist Association of Ministers with Disabilities
July 1, 2022
This is a joint press release from two caucuses of The United Methodist Church - the United Methodist Congress of the Deaf (UMCD) and the United Methodist Association of Ministers with Disabilities (AMD). UMCD celebrates and promotes Christian leadership and discipleship of United Methodists who are Deaf, hard-of-hearing, late-deafened, and Deafblind. AMD supports and advocates for United Methodists in any ministry with disabilities or differing abilities, so they are fully included in the life of the church.
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With the upcoming episcopal elections scheduled for November 2-5, both the UMCD and AMD assert the need for episcopal candidates who have demonstrated their willingness to be advocates for accessibility and the full inclusion of persons who live with any disability (physical, neurological, mental or other) or who are Deaf, hard-of-hearing, late-deafened, or Deafblind. With 1-in-4 U.S. adults having a disability and 1-in-3 U.S. adults, 65 years of age or older having hearing loss, accessibility and inclusion ought to be important considerations among all United Methodists.
Also, with episcopal elections taking place at a critical juncture in the life of the denomination, Jurisdictional Conferences should have communication access such as live captioning AND sign language interpreters for persons who are viewing the conferences via livestream, said William Deters, the president of UMCD.
Similarly, Rev. Dr. Hank Jenkins, a deacon, and Rev. Jonathan Campbell, an elder, who serve as co-chairpersons of AMD, expressed a need for Jurisdictional Conferences to be held in venues that are accessible, so persons with disabilities, whether visible or invisible, can better participate in these conferences. As part of the efforts for diversity and representation amongst the conference speakers and leaders, both caucuses encourage the program and worship planners to include speakers with disabilities or differing abilities and/or who use American Sign Language.
Historically, persons with disabilities, as well as persons who are Deaf and hard-of-hearing, have been excluded or overlooked as speakers, which often reinforces ableism and audism. Both able-bodied persons and hearing persons need to recognize that they typically hold the power in these public settings, and that neglecting to offer (consistent) accessibility and (visible) inclusion reinforces isolation and exclusion that prevents persons from living out their full potential as members of faith, said Rev. Dr. Leo Yates, a deacon serving as the Accessibility and Inclusion Coordinator of the Baltimore-Washington Conference.
LaSander Saunders, the vice president of the NEJ chapter of UMCD, commended the two caucuses for insisting there be accessibility and inclusion and added that we need to change the system to better affirm and support inclusion.
* For inquiries, contact Rev. Dr. Leo Yates.
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