Presbyterian General Assembly 2023: Church needs to repent on disability says former moderator
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Rev Dr David Bruce was speaking at the church's general assembly in Belfast today, as chair of the Membership and People with a Disability Task Group.
Several members of the group are parents of children and young people with an intellectual disability, and as their report said, it was made aware from its first meeting of the "family pain and gospel challenge before the Church" in the lives of people with intellectual disability.
The Task Group had listed some principles to address the issue, which the General Assembly adopted;- that a person with intellectual disability who is able to articulate their own faith should be allowed to express it in an accessible manner and that a person who is non-verbal may be welcomed into membership on the basis of the normal vows taken on their behalf by their parents at their baptism.
Dr Bruce said: “The report concludes with probably the most challenging aspect of its message – which is that while we can debate the place of vows and the processes by which we welcome new members... we as a people have a blind spot when we think of those with an intellectual disability.
“We may not in our attitudes and practice fully accept them as part of the body of Christ. The Task Group believes that we need to repent of this attitude...".
The General Assembly accepted the recommendations of the report, which will now result in drafting new vows in accessible language.