By Rev. Leo Yates, Jr.
Re-posted with permission
Tuesday, November 26, 2019
Leaders of the DisAbility Ministries Committee (DMC), which is temporarily under the Council of Bishops, and from the caucus, the United Methodist Association of Ministers with Disabilities (UMAMD), met with the executive staff from the General Commission on Religion and Race (GCORR) on November 18, 2019. The meeting took place at the Bon Secours Retreat & Conference Center outside of Baltimore MD. GCORR met with the organizations’ leaders, some of which are deaconesses and deacons, to learn more about their distinctive work and to deepen the relationship with the disability community.
At the heart of the meeting was to plan for the DMC’s transition to GCORR, where the DMC will partner with GCORR in the overall work of institutional equity, vital conversations, and intercultural competency. The DMC’s primary focus continues to be on disability ministries, and GCORR and the DMC find these pathways to be integral to the work of both. The meeting provided a bridge for the DMC to begin working with GCORR starting January 1, 2020.
Bishop Peggy Johnson, the assigned bishop to the DMC from the Council of Bishops, began conversations with Erin Hawkins, the General Secretary of GCORR, at the Special General Conference this past February. Soon after, Rev. Giovanni Arroyo, GCORR’s Assistant General Secretary, continued the conversations with the DMC’s chairperson, Rev. Debbie Hills.
Everyone at the table heard presentations from the GCORR, the DMC, and the UMAMD, in part, to learn further about one another. This process helped to identify points of intersectionality between all three entities. Rev. Jonathan Campbell and Rev. Hank Jenkins are the co-chairpersons of the UMAMD. Campbell shared that the caucus is developing education and resource materials that focus on ableism. Also present, the Rev. Leo Yates, Jr., a consultant for Global Ministries’ Deaf and Hard of Hearing Ministries Committee, commended UMAMD for their work toward reducing ableism and said ableism is at the center of deep-seeded biases against people with disabilities.
With General Conference 2020 being around the corner, the leaders strategized to bring visibility to disability concerns, lobby for disability-related legislation, and support the wider church. Everyone agreed that a disability accessibility coordinator should be present at General Conference 2020, as there was not a coordinator at the Special General Conference in February. There was a consensus that having such a position works to better ensure accessibility, provides support, and helps to resolve barriers for persons with disabilities.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Bishop Johnson led a brief Communion service, assisted by Rev. Yates, a deacon, to remind those gathered that their work is holy work and glorifies God. It was hoped that Bishop Johnson would continue to be assigned by the Council of Bishops to the DMC at its new home with GCORR.