In Spirit and Truth is the blog of the General Assembly Committee on Representation of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). It will feature content written by the sixteen members of the committee, who are teaching and ruling elders from across the country, and our staff person in the Office of the General Assembly, as well as links and articles of particular interest. These blog entries are intended to prompt reflection and dialogue on aspects of expanding representation and supporting full participation in the PCUSA, especially at the assembly level. The ministries of advising, consulting, advocating, reviewing and recommending are vital to the life of the whole Body of Christ. Committees on Representation and/or their functions exists at all councils above session so from time to time we may highlight activities and insights from our sister committees on representation at smaller councils throughout the church. From time to time, guest contributors will provide content. Any views or opinions presented in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Presbyterian Church USA or the General Assembly Committee on Representation.
Author/Facilitator Molly Casteel is an Assistant Stated Clerk and the Coordinator for Representation and Inclusiveness Services. She is a teaching elder (a.k.a. Minister of Word and Sacrament) in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary.
The most recent social witness policy for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) was adopted by the 217th General Assembly in 2006 Living Into the Body Of Christ may be found here.
In 2000, the church celebrated the passage of That All May Enter (Minutes, UPCUSA, 1977, Part I, pp. 99–108). That resolution may be found here.
In 2008 the 218th General Assembly adopted Comfort My People: A Policy Statement on Serious Mental Illness with Study Guide. That resource is found here.
The General Assembly Committee on Representation relies on good partners in the ministries of representation, diversity and wider participation. We highly recommend the good work of the Presbyterians for Disability Concerns (PDC), a member network of the Presbyterian Health, Education and Welfare Association (PHEWA). They do great work and prepare a congregational packet each year to support disability access/inclusion Sunday in the PCUSA. Check out their ministries and resources.
We join in the choruses of folks singing "Happy Birthday" to the ADA. We rejoice at the increased access and reduced barriers to fuller community that your implementation has made possible. We acknowledge that we have a long way to go as a church and as a country to reach full inclusion.
The 220th General Assembly (2012) just affirmed ministries with persons with disabilities in their actions taken on Item 21-02, to further implement Living into the Body of Christ: Towards Full Inclusion of People with Disabilities, the policy approved by the 217th General Assembly (2006) (Minutes, 2006, Part I, p. 919ff). Stay tuned for how this work will continue to be supported and equip the church going forward and learn about the Disability Consultants available through PHEWA and the Compassion, Peace and Justice Ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency (formerly the General Assembly Mission Council).
The history of disability rights work in the United States is a long and complicated one. We encourage you to learn more about the struggles that assisted the ADA in becoming a reality. Here's the trailer for the documenatry film, Lives Worth Living (2:36)
And several clips:
Clip 1: Recalling an invigorating act of civil disobedience. (1:27)
Clip 2: Scaling the Capitol Steps for Disability Rights. (2:59)
Clip 3: Razing the shameful wall of exclusion. (2:06)
And this video extra from the documentary (web exclusive from Independent Lens): Fred (Fay) and Trish shared a passion for the Celtics, Hill Street Blues, and each other. (4:28)
Fred died August 20, 2011. He was a dedicated advocate for persons with disabilities and he is missed. The film was originally aired on October 27, 2011 by PBS stations in its series Independent Lens. The website of the film describes it well.
Lives Worth Living is both an historical documentary about the Disability Rights Movement and a biography about one man's struggle to survive.
Charismatic leaders of the movement narrate the story of a long, hard, and successful drive for civil rights — a drive that brought together a once fragmented population into a powerful coalition that created some of the most far reaching civil rights legislation in our nation's history.
People with disabilities are one of the largest of any minority within our nation, and this is the first television history on the subject. It is a window into a world inhabited by people with an unwavering determination to live their lives like anyone else, and a passage into the past where millions of people lived without access to schools, apartment buildings, public transportation, etc. — a status quo today's generation cannot imagine.