Disabling Mission, Enabling Witness
In recent decades churches have accommodated people with disabilities in various ways. Through access ramps and elevators and sign language, disabled persons are invited in to worship. But are they actually enfolded into the church's mission? Have the able-bodied come to recognize and appreciate the potential contributions of people with disabilities in the ministry and witness of the church?
Benjamin Conner wants to stimulate a new conversation between disability studies and Christian theology and missiology. How can we shape a new vision of the entire body of Christ sharing in the witness of the church? How would it look if we "disabled" Christian theology, discipleship, and theological education? Conner argues that it would in fact enable congregational witness. He has seen it happen and he shows us how.
Imagine a church that fully incorporates persons with disabilities into its mission and witness. In this vision, people with disabilities contribute to the church’s pluriform witness, and the congregation embodies a robust hermeneutic of the gospel. Picture the entire body of Christ functioning beyond distinctions of dis/ability, promoting mutual flourishing and growing into fullness.
Here is an enlargement of the church’s witness as a sign, agent, and foretaste of the kingdom of God. Here is a fresh and inspiring look at the mission of the church when it enfolds people with disabilities as full members.
"Benjamin Conner has written a groundbreaking book that seeks to install a disability perspective to mission studies. The book also suggests that missiology might bring some insights to disability studies. Using examples from the world of the Deaf and the cognitively disabled, as well as other disabilities, Conner has written an enlightening but also soul-searching work of importance."
"As a Quaker and disability scholar, I found this to be a fascinating and useful read. Among other important topics, Conner provides an excellent discussion of evangelism with Deaf people and people with intellectual disabilities. The author helps us understand both the challenge and the opportunity of a fully inclusive church."
"Ben Conner is an important emerging voice within the field of disability theology. In this book he once again opens up fresh space for reflection on disability and how it relates to the theology and mission of the church. This is a significant book that not only reveals Conner as a top-notch practical theologian, but, if read and acted upon, will truly make a difference to church and society."
"Ben Conner's books, like this one, are a rare gift to the field with their combination of profound theological insight and concrete ways to make Christian practices more welcoming to people with intellectual disabilities. Especially lovely in this book is his amplification of the perspectives of people often considered merely the objects of mission; by centering their voices and experiences, he breathes new life into ancient concepts. I was surprised and delighted by what engaging, emotionally poignant ideas came out of this dialogue between missiology and disability studies, ideas I will hold on to in both my theology and praxis for years to come."
"This accessible volume does one of the best things that good scholarship can do: it puts two disciplines in conversation with each other and invites them to listen, learn, create, and ultimately act in ways that have the potential to make the world a better place. After reading this text, one wonders why these discourses had not engaged each other sooner, given their overlapping areas of interest as well as the potential for synergy and new growth. Not only does this book make significant contributions to the individual fields of contemporary missiology and of disability studies, this work also has immediate and concrete applications in churches and beyond and could be a fruitful model for other [dis]abling projects as well. Beyond all this, the narrative serves as a reminder of what it means to be a true community of faith, at once contextual and interdependent, empowering and inspiring us to encounter each other more fully."
"Disabling Mission, Enabling Witness provides a critical lens for examining both disability studies and mission studies that is long overdue. Conner has gone beyond a superficial call for mission to people with disabilities and Deaf people, and engaged disability and Deaf studies scholarship with mission theory. This project not only advances scholarly knowledge, but also provides frameworks for how the church can more fully engage in the mission of God."