Churches challenged to embrace people with disabilities

Churches in the UK have been accused of "questioning God's creativity within people with disabilities".

The claim comes from Aman Lee, who is autistic and suffers from a speech impediment. He is to be the keynote speaker at a unique conference in Manchester next weekend on how churches can and must become fully inclusive of people with learning disabilities.

Organised by Prospects for People with Learning Disabilities (Prospects), a national Christian charity specialising in the support and spiritual development of people with learning disabilities, the 'Creative God, Creative People' event in Manchester on October 18 is the start of a nationwide campaign by the charity help change attitudes within churches to the gifts and value of disabled people.

In his address, Mr Lee will tell church leaders gathered from across the country that, "We see that God created the universe yet we question his creativity within people with disabilities, it is like killing part of God. Killing the very being that created in the first place.

"We need to challenge some of our churches to take the veils off. God despairs when he sees part of his body, destined to be givers, shut out of His house. Opportunities to people to be givers not just receivers should be found. We tend to underestimate people with disabilities. Our bodies may be different but our spirits are intact."

Whilst recognising that churches are starting to be aware of the issues related to learning difficulties, he will add: "The kindness of people who see us as poor souls only isolates us from each other, tearing apart the heart of God and dampening creativity.

"I don't think the church realises that sitting in its pews is a work force of prayer and an expression of the unbelievable uniqueness of God."

Event organiser, David Bendor-Samuel said: "There are between 1.4 and 1.5 million people in the UK with learning disabilities and yet very few are to be found in our churches.

"In recent years, the Disabilities Act has driven churches to make their church buildings physically more accessible to people with physical disabilities. This conference is about moving the agenda onwards and helping churches to value people with learning disabilities and to give them opportunities for service within the church.

"We recognise that for many this is an area of church life (and indeed society) which they may have reservations about, perhaps feel ignorant of, and may need considerable help.

"Through this conference, and our nationwide resources, we hope to offer partnership-based support until we reach a stage where people of all and any ability are welcomed and valued equally in our churches."

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