What is the Face of the UK Church to Adults with Disabilities? (A Critical Investigation)

A dissertation submitted to The University of Manchester for the degree of Master of Arts in Mission (Unpublished) in the Faculty of Humanities (Cliff College: 2020)

Abstract

In 2004 it became a legal requirement for reasonable adjustments to be made to public buildings, including places of worship, to make them accessible. Access is just the beginning, invitation brings the prospect of diversity, and inclusion occurs when people have a voice. Belonging is achieved for disabled adults in the Church when their voices are heard. Literature indicates that the Church has been reluctant in its application of the law, seeking to meet the minimum standards rather than aim beyond access to inclusion, or even further towards belonging in the Christian community. The Apostle Paul describes the Church as the Body of Christ, in which those members perceived as weak or vulnerable are given the most honour. Through research the face of the Church as witnessed by disabled adults is found to generally provide access to buildings yet attitudes maintain barriers to the community. Disabled adults are often overlooked for ministry, and not encouraged, equipped or empowered to grow as disciples or in the discipleship of others. Provision for those who are unable to access a building (temporarily or permanently) is weak, however where a building provides poor access the research shows that there is often a better sense of inclusion in the life of a local church. Disability is not a subject that is often heard in churches, and inclusive language (which carries no cost) is lacking. Where you live has a bearing on access and belonging in a church community, as do different disabilities or conditions. Overall, research found the UK Church presents a face that is no better than society with regards to access and inclusion for disabled adults, and calls for change of mentality, from access to belonging.