Mission Studies

United Methodist Women Receives Award at Disabilities Conference

Recognition for publication of "The Church and People with Disabilities."

United Methodist Women Receives Award at Disabilities Conference
United Methodist Women President Yvette Richards.

Some powerful advocates for people with disabilities recently spoke at The United Methodist Church’s North Texas Annual Conference. Bishop Peggy Johnson, episcopal leader of both the Eastern Pennsylvania and the Peninsula-Delaware Annual Conferences, and Yvette Richards, United Methodist Women president, brought focus and energy to the topic of our denomination’s response to people with disabilities. The DisAbility Committee of The United Methodist Church and the United Methodist Association of Ministers with Disabilities held their annual meeting at Lovers Lane United Methodist Church July 31-August 1.

Bishop Johnson preached passionately in a morning sermon, urging the audience to take on a Barnabas spirit, based on Barnabas the encourager found in the New Testament book of Acts. “Barnabas took the side of the underdog. He cared about the unlovely ones. Come alongside someone with a challenge and give them a chance. It is not enough to get a ramp and large print Bibles,” she said. “We need to reach out to the people in the margins. Reach out to deaf and blind people; reach out to deaf immigrants, and mentally ill deaf people. Go to the margins,” urged Johnson, who began her ministry as a campus minister at Gallaudet University (a university for the education of the deaf and hard of hearing located in Washington, D.C.) and as pastor of The Christ United Methodist Church of the Deaf for 20 years. These experiences led her beyond the deaf and deaf-blind communities and on to ministry with those who have mobility, intellectual and mental health challenges.

The Church and People with Disabilities

Later that evening, United Methodist Women was lauded at the Robert M. Pitzer award dinner, also held at Lovers Lane United Methodist Church. United Methodist Women was recognized for its study of ministry with people with disabilities with the publication of its book The Church and People with Disabilities. Written by Bishop Johnson, the study builds awareness in the church regarding issues of disability and calls on the church to provide full accessibility to services and opportunities. It also promotes advocacy for justice for people with disabilities. The book was utilized around the world at United Methodist Women’s summer programs, known as Mission u. Throughout the dinner, photos of women learning more about people with disabilities flashed on the screens.

United Methodist Women President Yvette Richards accepted the award and forcefully told those assembled for the dinner, “This book has changed our denomination. We thank you, Bishop Peggy Johnson, for writing the book. This study is important to the lives of women, children and the world.” She continued, “If you have ever walked in the shoes of a person with a disability, you know that they are human. We are breaking barriers with Mission u. We all matter; we all have value because we are children of God.”

Dr. Sheron C. Patterson is Communications Officer for The United Methodists of North Texas.

Posted or updated: 8/15/2015 11:00:00 PM