New disability justice strategy for The Methodist Church

The Methodist Church is creating a disability justice strategyas part of a project to make the Church its buildings and all itsactivities welcoming and accessible to all. Alison Parker isheading the project as part of her three-year work on equalitiesand diversity.

'Disability Justice is a serious matter,' says Alison, 'It canrange from simple practical matters such as making church buildingswheelchair accessible through to looking at the way we speak or thethings we do and how we are with people. The aim is not to makepeople feel guilty but to promote real change that benefits all ofus. There are local groups making these points within Methodism,but we need to make sure that the message reaches the wholeChurch.'

Alongside the disability justice strategy the Methodist Conferencein June this year will also receive report on Ministers and Deaconswith impairments.

The Revd Jonathan Kerry, Co-ordinating Secretary for Worship andLearning, says, 'we set up this project because people told us thatthe Methodist Church is doing a lot of good work on equalities anddiversity but 'could do better'. Alison will be listening to peoplewho may feel excluded and helping the whole Church to be better atbeing as inclusive as Jesus.'

Although Alison's immediate focus is on disability justice, thiswork is part of a larger campaign to address the ways in whichMethodist churches and people unconsciously and inadvertentlyprejudge others.

'Lack of physical access is just one visible way in which weinadvertently exclude some people, but we need to recognise thatthere are also invisible ways as well. As a Church we believe thatwe exist to welcome and support everyone.

'The goal is to stress how we can stand alongside one another tochallenge racism, homophobia, sexism and prejudice against thedisabled, the elderly or young people. We need to do more than justsupport the notion of equality: we must actively challenge our ownprejudices and those of the wider society.'

Alison is keen to hear from anyone who feels that they have beenexcluded or made to feel unwelcome in any way from a Methodistcommunity. She will report her findings to the 2007 MethodistConference, but she aims to stress that 'the goal is not abouttelling people off, or criticising the work they do. Every one ofus has, at some point in our lives, been excluded from something wewished to be a part of, and all of us have the power to excludeothers. By recognising that, we can all understand how to standtogether to overcome the misinformation, prejudice and stereotypesthat can otherwise divide us.'