Dr. Samuel Kabue, coordinator of the Ecumenical Disability Advocates Network says, "The inclusion of persons with disability is not an option but a defining characteristic of the Church."
Members of EDAN, a program of the World Council of Churches, met in the Netherlands to develop a new statement with the working title "Gift of Being: Called to be a Church of All and for All."
The new document aims to build on the WCC interim statement on disability "A Church of All and for All" issued in 2003, the WCC said in a statement.
It is founded on the premise that even a decade later, persons with disabilities experience marginalization both in societies and in the church communities themselves.
The meeting, held from 12-15 October at the Mennonite Conference Centre at Elspeet, included staff members of the EDAN, the WCC Faith and Order Commission and the WCC Commission on World Mission and Evangelism.
Hosted by Professor Hans Reinders of the Free University of Amsterdam, the meeting initiated theological reflection on both disability and the place of disabled persons within the life of the churches as part of just and inclusive communities.
CHURCHES ON ISSUES OF DISABILITY
Dr. Kabue, coordinator of EDAN, said, "Churches have moved on issues of disability in the last 10 years, but there are still continuing challenges that must be addressed. The new statement from the EDAN will give churches a fresh momentum to address the issue of disability."
During discussions on the WCC's new mission statement Kabue said the issue of disability poses a clear challenge to the churches in terms of its unity, mission and witness.
"The communion of the churches in unity and diversity is impaired without the gifts and presence of all people, including persons with disability.
"The mission of the church is to proclaim God's reign of justice and peace and is less than credible if the churches do not actively and visibly receive the diverse gifts of all its members, including persons with disability," he said.
At the meeting, Rev. Gordon Cowans, EDAN's Caribbean coordinator, drew attention to the working title of the document. He said since "life is a gift, every life has intrinsic value."
Fadi El Halabi, a Maronite Christian from Lebanon and EDAN's Middle East coordinator, said, "The new document from the EDAN will challenge churches in the Middle East to address disability from a theological perspective and find new ways of making the church an inclusive community at all levels."
EDAN will finalize its statement in February 2015 and will present it to WCC governing bodies for approval.