The life of evangelical churches and their spiritual leaders has been portrayed in some recent films and series. Can they help us start conversations?
The European Evangelical Alliance honours the work of a platform that offers “training of ministry workers and leadership, provision of a biblical perspective on disability, and mobilization of prayer and support”.
Thérèse Swinters, Facilitator of the European Disability Network (EDN), has been honoured “for her ground-breaking work over the past 15 years” by receiving the European Evangelical Alliance Hope Award 2019.
The award was presented to Swinters on 12 June 2019 during this year’s General Assembly of the European Evangelical Alliance (EEA) in Bad Blankenburg, Germany.
The HOPE Award is presented annually by EEA´s Hope for Europe Networks Roundtable to “a person, group or project in Europe embodying both the message of biblical hope and values such as partnership, networking, transformation, and integrity”.
With the presentation of the award, the EEA aims to “increase awareness especially across national borders of initiatives which in turn can inspire further 'actions of hope'”.
In 2019, the EEA honours Thérèse Swinters for her “persistent building of the Disability Network and her gracious handling of the able people along the way”.
The mission of the EDN includes the promotion and support of evangelization among and by Europeans with disabilities, the provision of a united European voice of disability ministry and the support of its partners. Among its responsibilities, EDN has committed itself to the “training of ministry workers and leadership, the provision of a biblical perspective on disability, and mobilization of prayer and support”.
ATTITUDE OF BELONGING NEEDED, NOT SEPARATION
During the Hope Award Ceremony in Bad Blankenburg, Martina Koeninger, leader of the “Perspectivforum Disability” in the German Evangelical Alliance, shared some thoughts about disability in the Christian world in Europe.
Koeninger, who is part of EDN´s steering group, reminded the audience that “we need the attitude of belonging and not of separation, that's what inclusion means”. With regards to the Hope for Europe Networks she emphasized that “all different networks should have at least 10- 13% of members with disability if they want to reflect the actual situation in society and not leave certain persons on the outside”.
Against the background of this year’s Hope Award Ceremony focusing on disability, the European Evangelical Alliance launched a new resource titled “Disability and the Church: Looking for a theology of Inclusion”. The paper that was commissioned by EEA’s Theological Commission and the European Disability Network aims to assist national Evangelical alliances as well as the members of the Disability Network in developing a theological reflection statement and practical strategies for the full inclusion of people with disabilities in Christian life and worship.
“Often churches and pastors find themselves asking questions about disability, such as how to understand inclusion in the image of God or what an inclusive reading of the way the Bible speaks about disability might look like”, the EEA said.
The paper emphasizes that approaching these questions generally requires “a willingness to move away from a view that what we choose to identify as disability can only be understood as a result of the Fall, and therefore of sin”.
It also indicates important further work currently underway to ensure a firm foundation for Christian disability theology in the person of Christ and the cross and thus helps churches to make progress on disability and inclusion.
The new resource is available here.