After I wrote my post last week about special needs, I began a class on Presbyterian Polity. Even in reading through the first few chapters of the Book of Order, it was striking to me how the thoughts in my post played out on the pages so to speak. Here I will highlight two portions but please be assured there are many more instances I could cite.
This portion comes from chapter 4 of the Book of Order which is entitled "The Church and Its Unity."
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) shall give full expression to the rich diversity within its membership and shall provide means which will assure a greater inclusiveness leading to wholeness in its emerging life. Persons of all racial ethnic groups, different ages, both sexes, various disabilities, diverse geographical areas, different theological positions consistent with the Reformed tradition, as well as different marital conditions (married, single, widowed, or divorced) shall be guaranteed full participation and access to representation in the decision making of the church. (G-9.0104ff)
Book of Order G-4.0403 (italics mine)
I am thankful for the phrase "full participation" here as rationalizing the ways and degree to which people who have special needs or disabilities participate might seem legitimate enough on the surface, but are they really?
This next portion comes from chapter 5 which is entitled "The Church and Its Members."
The congregation shall welcome all persons who respond in trust and obedience to God’s grace in Jesus Christ and desire to become part of the membership and ministry of his Church. No persons shall be denied membership because of race, ethnic origin, worldly condition, or any other reason not related to profession of faith. Each member must seek the grace of openness in extending the fellowship of Christ to all persons. (G-9.0104) Failure to do so constitutes a rejection of Christ himself and causes a scandal to the gospel.
Book of Order G-5.0103
It is true that "disability" is not explicitly mentioned in this passage, but the catch all phrase "or any other reason not related to profession of faith" leaves lots of room for that. The last sentence of this passage is quite sobering. In what ways do I cause a scandal to the gospel by rejecting Christ as manifested in others? How are the limitations I place on others representative of the limitations I put on God?
Gracious and loving God, help us see past the limitations of cognitive and physical abilities. Let us remember that you do not look at people the way we do for whereas we often look at the appearance, you O God, look at the heart. Help us see as you do Lord. Amen