“As a church committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is called to welcome all people in all its congregations and ministries into full participation as baptized members of the body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:14-26).
“People Living with Disabilities” social message, page 1
The ELCA social message “People Living with Disabilities” clearly states the hope that we as part of the body of Christ would work together across our various ministries, as well as in our personal lives.
All of us are disabled in some way as we stand before God. Thanks be to God, we are a church that believes God is calling us into the world — together. We don’t have to do it alone and we don’t have to do everything. We can connect with brothers and sisters to help us invite all into full participation in this church and in the world. The Disability Ministry Resource page proposes ways to connect, invite and participate. For more information, please email.
Together we can:
- Welcome all people warmly and without hesitation. We are a church that belongs to Christ. There is a place for you here.
- Use language that honors and respects the individual person, language that always puts the person first — “person with a disability.”
- Get to know people as people — not as labels, problems or diagnoses. Find out about a person’s interests and gifts.
- Ask if a person needs help before offering assistance.
- Encourage all people to grow in their faith and their spiritual practices, and to use their gifts for the good of the church.
The ELCA relates several areas of ministry with the work of Disability Ministries. The ministries described below include:
- Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Ministries
- Mental Illness Ministries
- Deaf Ministries
- Blindness and Visual Impairment Ministries.
Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Ministries
“The question is not how can we help people with disabilities, but a more important question is, how can people with disabilities give their spiritual gifts to us and call us to love?” — Henri Nouwen
People with intellectual and developmental disabilities have faith needs and desires similar to anyone else. They have Spirit-given gifts to offer, and they are individuals who want to worship God and use their gifts to build up the body of Christ. Like all Christians, they want to be included in the kingdom of God.
The ELCA ministers with and among people with intellectual and developmental disabilities through its affiliation with organizations like Lutheran Services in America-Disability Network. There are many wonderful organizations serving in the community of intellectually and developmentally disabled people. Mosaic is one such organization, presently celebrating 100 years of providing a wealth of possibility through individualized services and partnering with faith communities to integrate people with disabilities into faith communities. Visit the Disability Ministry Resource page for a list of helpful organizations, useful resources and ideas for congregations and individuals.
Intellectual disability is an ongoing disability characterized by limitations in both intellectual (cognitive) ability (e.g., thinking, reasoning, problem-solving) and adaptive (functional) ability (e.g., dressing, eating, social skills, communication, etc.). The degree of limitations varies from person to person. The disability begins before the age of 18.
Developmental disability is a broader category of a variety of disabilities that are apparent by age 21. Developmental disabilities are chronic in nature and can be physical (e.g., cerebral palsy), intellectual, or a combination of both.
Mental Illness Ministries
“When people with mental illness are present as full members, as their true selves, the church as the body of Christ is both wounded and authentic. Their willingness to be present as vulnerable is a gift and is itself a form of service, and a reminder to the church that true freedom is found in service … Individually and collectively, ELCA members have the power to proclaim God’s love, fight for justice, give care, and change the way people with mental illness are treated.”
This statement from the social message on mental illness poses a challenge to the church. The ELCA seeks to answer the call of this message concerning mental illness in partnership with Pathways to Promise, which produces many excellent resources for leaders, congregations and families. Please visit the Disability Ministry Resource page to find other organizations which can provide training and speakers. On that page there is also a link to a study guide for the ELCA mental illness social message.
“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (1 Corinthians 12:4-7)
The Evangelical Lutheran Deaf Association, affiliated with the ELCA, tracks deaf ministries and provides links between ministries. The association holds a biennial conference and publishes a newsletter three times a year. The association is also on Facebook.
To find a deaf congregation or locate an American Sign Language interpreter, contact us here.
Blindness and Visual Impairment Ministries
The 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly passed a resolution to provide worship and education materials in Braille, large print and audio. The ELCA continues to work on the recommendations of this resolution, including the present work on the Braille edition of “Evangelical Lutheran Worship.”
You can find other resources on the Disability Ministry Resource page.
For general questions about the ELCA’s Disability Ministry, email us.