Disabled people are being regularly and routinely excluded from church life, a disability expert has said.
Interviewed on Premier Christian Radio, Dr Gordon Temple, Chief Executive of Torch Trust and Executive Officer of Churches for All, which supports disabled people, told Premier’s Andy Walton that he often receives texts from disabled people to say they’ve had enough: “They say, ‘I’m not sure I can cope with church anymore because I’ve been there, I sat at the table and nobody spoke to me.’"
His comments come ahead of a major conference which will examine disability and church life.
“When coffee’s served afterwards, yes, somebody will go fetch them a cup of coffee but then they go off and talk to somebody else and leave them like a lemon standing in a room full of people who are having a happy conversation in which they’re not included”, Temple said.
In a four-page spread, the Independent on Sunday recently flagged up Britons’ attitudes to disabled people with the headline, ‘The well-meaning Brits who shun disabled people.'
But Dr Temple said such attitudes to disabled people shouldn’t apply in churches: “What opportunity we have in church to model something quite different that recognises the intrinsic value in everyone that God made and to treat them in a way that we would treat anybody else, and welcome and embrace them in the life of the church. If we fail to do that then we not only miss an opportunity but we really undermine the Gospel message which is the love of Christ."
Dr Mike Townsend, Chair of the national pan-disability Christian ministry Through the Roof and a trustee of Torch Trust, RNIB and Guide Dogs, whose guide dog, Tom, has elicited horror on appearing in churches, said: "All disabled people should have that option of enjoying church and being part of the Christian and spiritual experience."
Kay Morgan-Gurr, an adviser on disability, told Premier there were a lot of practical hurdles: “Actually making it happen is a lot more hard work and a lot of creative thinking.”
The Enabling Church conference is for church leaders, anyone involved in shaping any aspect of church life and anyone with an interest in or involvement with disability and disabled people. It is at Friends Meeting House in London on 7th October. Registration is £25. To book, visit www.premier.org.uk/enablingchurch