A major conference is to examine the church's attitudes to disability and its failure to include disabled children and adults.
'Enabling Church', hosted by Premier Christian Media, will cover issues ranging from spirituality and disability, the mission of the Church and disability, healing and wholeness, hidden disabilities, and engaging with children with disabilities.
A recent survey by Premier Christian Radio highlighted the need for such an event. A survey of Christians, undertaken by ComRes, revealed that that almost half of those questioned believe that their church needs to make improvements to be more accessible to people with disability.
Two-thirds of churches said they would be grateful for ideas on how best to include people with a disability in church activities. Though much has been to improve access to church premises, disabled people still frequently feel alienated from church activities.
'Enabling Church' aims to dig deeper into the issues and to explore the way Christians understand disability and wholeness.
Theologians and commentators such have pointed out how the church's liturgies, theology and behaviours have been shaped predominantly by able-bodied people for hundreds of years. Professor John Hull is amongst those who have previously highlighted the need for the church to re-examine its approach to disability, and the way it interprets biblical texts.
Peter Kerridge, Chief Executive at Premier, believes that the conference can help church leaders to make a radical improvement: "Our attitudes and actions are shaped by our theology.
"There is clearly a wish to move forward and a desire to incorporate everyone in church activities. We need to start acting on this now, rather than let the issue fade. It's time we articulated a biblical understanding that truly embraces disabled people within the life of our churches. That is why we are holding the 'Enabling Church' conference."
Speakers at the conference include Rt Revd Michael Langrish, Bishop of Exeter, Jonathan Clark, Director of Premier Lifeline and Mind & Soul; Rev Malcolm Duncan, Founder and Director of Church and Community; Roy McCloughry of St John's College Nottingham. Dr Mike Townsend, Trustee of RNIB and Torch Trust, Chief Executive of Torch Trust; and Revd John Naudé, Vicar of the Church of the Good Shepherd, Crookhorn and Chair of Churches For All.
Most of the speakers themselves have disabilities, and have some direct experience of disability through their immediate family. All come from with in the church. Global disability advocate Joni Eareckson-Tada will contribute by video.
'Enabling Church' is taking place on 7th October in Friends Meeting House, London. Tickets cost £25 per person. To register visit premier.org.uk/enablingchurch or call Premier Response on 08456 525252