Paul Presents | Church and Disability with Rev. Katie Tupling

In a humorous and candid way The Revd Katie Tupling describes the challenges she and others in the church face as people with disabilities. Katie, who was born with cerebral palsy, says the Church of England must do more to support and enable those with disabilities to discover and pursue their vocations – particularly in leadership roles. Katie is the new Disability and Deaf People Advisor for the Oxford Diocese. The role in Oxford is something of a blank canvas, but it is the role Katie feels she could have written the job description for personally.
Disability and The Church

Deaf and disabled people are an essential part of the Church, and the Church of England is committed to ensuring the welcome, inclusion, and participation of all as one of its major goals. The Archbishops’ Council which sets the strategic goals for the Church of England includes disability as one of the key areas in which it wants to improve so that people of all abilities can be full members of the Church.

Many of the people who put together these pages have lived experience of disability and are involved either nationally or at a local level. Did you know that there is a network of disability advisers who work in the Dioceses of the Church of England to train, advise and encourage the Church to become more aware, accessible, and inclusive of those with disabilities? Some are trained auditors and give advice when a Church wishes to change it buildings and do so to ensure that the building will be accessible for disabled people.

Access is not just a matter of ramps and buildings though, it’s about challenging the negative assumptions and attitudes that disabled people often face, and showing that disability is not about deficiency but diversity.

There are lots of national groups who focus on the work of the Church on disability. The Deaf Ministry Task Group brings together those people who are involved in ministry CMDDP’s work with the Deaf community is carried out, largely, by the Deaf Ministry Task Group (DMTG).  This is a small group that draws together Deaf and hearing people with expertise and experience in Deaf Ministry. All are fluent or native BSL users.  The work may involve research, making information available, and monitoring the situation with regard to Deaf ministry across the Church of England and making recommendations. The group is facilitated by Gill Behenna, the National Deaf Ministry Adviser, who also acts as contact for this group.

Deaf people who use British Sign Language (BSL) as their first or preferred language belong to a community with a rich and varied culture.  Their worship, liturgy, teaching, and evangelism is all carried out in BSL.  In many parts of the country there are active Deaf Churches and a national organisation, Deaf Anglicans Together, (DAT) keeps in touch with Deaf Christians across the UK.  DAT also sends three representatives to the General Synod.

Many Deaf Christians who use BSL attend both their local church, with BSL/English interpreters, and their own Deaf Church where they can worship in their own language.

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