A Resolution honoring the Accessible to All mandate in the mission of the United Church of Christ
Becoming a Church Accessible to All
Date Submitted: November 6, 2004 Conference Executive Committee
SUBMITTED BY: Minnesota Conference United Church of Christ
SUMMARY OF INTENT:
The Minnesota Conference calls on United Church of Christ Conferences, Associations, congregations, seminaries, campus ministries and colleges, camps, covenanted ministries and all other UCC organizations to become accessible to all; to embody a philosophy of inclusion and interdependence; and to support and implement the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 — as called upon by the General Synod resolution passed in 1995, “Concerning the Church and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990″, calling the UCC at all levels to embrace the spirit of the ADA.
Holy Scripture confirms that all human beings are created in the image of God. God calls us to be in right relationship with God and with one another. The ancient practice of hospitality, extravagant welcome, is presented in the Bible as a mandate for God's people. This mandate requires that every body be included in the work and witness of God's people on earth. The UCC Statement of Faith (1981) affirms and testifies that God has created all persons in God's own image. The Biblical vision of the Great Messianic Banquet is of all gathered at a table dedicated to serving all. Barriers that diminish the access of any diminish the wholeness of all.
BACKGROUND AND SUPPORTING STATEMENT:
Whereas medical and scientific advances continue to reduce the death rate from infections, injuries, and other conditions, and more people survive to continue life with some disability and close to twenty percent of the US population identify themselves as having some level of disability, and over the age of eighty the percentage is much higher, so that all members of United Church of Christ congregations will be touched by a disability in some way at some time in their lives, and*
Whereas the overwhelming majority of people with disabilities want to exercise choice in where and how they live, work, play, worship and serve; and
Whereas implementing the spirit of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 calls upon the church to take specific measures within each ministry of the church.
TEXT OF RESOLUTION:
Therefore be it resolved by the Twenty-Fifth Synod of the United Church of Christ that Conferences, Associations, Congregations, seminaries and colleges, campus ministries, camps, covenanted ministries and all other UCC organizations embody the philosophy of inclusion and interdependence, embark on study and reflection activities about disabilities, disabilities rights, and ways congregations are able to become accessible to all (A2A), remove or overcome barriers to welcoming and including all people in the work and witness of the United Church of Christ, and to support and implement provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
Acknowledging the uniqueness of every congregation and organization, we urge that these communities consider a progression of ministry and concern not only "to" or "for" people with disabilities but also ministry "with" and "by" people with disabilities.
We are aware that individuals who have lived with disability for some time say the real limitations to living, moving about, working and relating to others are not their particular impairments but the barriers they encounter in the social and physical environment.*
Recognizing that discrimination against people with disabilities is complex, pervasive, and sometimes well-intentioned, and remembering that the United Church of Christ seeks to be multicultural, multiracial, open and affirming and accessible to all, this Twenty-Fifth Synod urges Conferences, Associations, congregations, seminaries and colleges, campus ministries, camps, covenanted ministries and all other organizations of the UCC to develop both short-range and long-term accessibility and inclusion plans, which may include some or all of the following activities:
a) Establish Conference level Inclusion Task Forces charged with needs assessment, planning, and education;
b) Join the National Organization on Disability's Accessible Congregations Campaign;
c) Continue to make improvements in UCC buildings and facilities to achieve full physical accessibility;
d) Encourage local churches to establish Inclusion Committees and/or Inclusion Coaches to help conduct any accessibility or inclusion evaluation and modify existing curriculum and practices when needed.
e) Seek out and befriend mentors in the disabilities community, keeping in mind the slogan, "Nothing about us without us".
f) Consider ways to invite/include people with disabilities to participate in and lead worship services and other programming. This may involve hiring professional support or acquiring specialized technology (i.e. sign language interpreters, TTY phone devices, etc.)
g) Call clergy with disabilities and employ staff with disabilities.
h) Become advocates for people with disabilities by becoming familiar with the ADA and other legislation that affects children and adults with disabilities, contact local advocacy groups for information and expertise.
i) Utilize study/action process designed by the UCC Disabilities Ministries called "Any Body, Everybody, Christ's Body" to become a congregation that is accessible to all (A2A).
j) Support and utilize UCC Disabilities Ministries resources.
So be it.
The Americans with Disabilities Act defines an individual with a disability as a person who:
a) has an impairment that substantially limits a "major life activity"
b) has a record of such impairment, or
c) is regarded as having such impairment.
"Major life activities" include functions such as walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, bathing, and dressing oneself, performing manual tasks, learning, working.
Examples of impairments include, but are not limited to, such diseases as conditions as visual, speech, and hearing impairments, spinal cord injury, amputations, paralysis, muscular dystrophy, epilepsy, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple chemical sensitivity, Alzheimer disease, diabetes, asthma, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, cerebral palsy, [schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, depression, post-traumatic stress], specific learning disabilities, cancer, mental retardation, HIV and AIDS, spina bifida, attention deficit disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome, tuberculosis, cystic fibrosis and post polio syndrome.
Impairments may be readily obvious or "hidden" and not so apparent. The condition may be static or progressive. It may be congenital or the result of later disease, accident, or injury. The person might be any age - a tiny child or a teenager, middle aged or quite elderly.
A "record of such an impairment" might be an earlier diagnosis of cancer that is now in remission, a past hospitalization for a psychiatric illness that is now well managed with drug therapy.
A "person regarded as having an impairment" might be someone with scars, a birthmark, or facial difference.
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