Monday, June 16, 2014

SITD - 2014 Dallas - Day 1

This week I am attending the Fifth Annual Summer Institute on Theology and Disability at Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.  I am posting my highlights, thoughts and pictures from this first day.

First, it’s always great to meet new people from around the world—Canada, Germany, The Netherlands, Australia, Scotland, and Iran.  The Texan hospitality is overwhelming – never had shrimp and grits before!

Dr. Yong is my D.Min Project advisor
Dr. Amos Yong (Professor of Missiology, Fuller Theological Seminary) began the morning by challenging us to develop a Redemptive Pastoral Praxis that begins to move beyond the perceptions of suffering and disability which Temporarily Able Bodied (TAB) – tend to assign persons with disability.  By changing the focus of the disability conversation from causality to eschatology, themes of theological hope emerge.  Yong also hinted at the possibility of looking beyond the crucified narrative towards Pentecost to see the fullness of God’s redemptive story.  Of course, these theological paradigms must be grounded in pastoral practice. The lingering narrative of Pentecost empowers all people to become ministers with – not just ministers to.  People with disabilities are not passive recipients of ministry, but agents empowered to minister to others.

Dr. Jeremy Schipper (Hebrew Bible Scholar, Temple University) and Dr. Jaime Clark Soles (Professor of NT, Perkins) presented an excellent Biblical study of Leviticus 15 as it relates to the Mark and Matthew passage of the woman with the issue of blood.  Their reframed narrative moves the story from an isolated episode of faith healing into the redemptive story of Christ emptying himself and becoming weak, even unto the cross.

Not all the sessions focus on theology or Biblical study, other sessions I missed today included innovative ways to empower the special needs community through worship, and learning to practice presence during pastoral care – and this is only the first day of five!

TX Chaplains Paul & Jim
Of course, often the best parts of conferences are the conversations during lunch and in between sessions. Russell, a minister from St Louis; Peggy, a speech pathologist from Grand Rapids,  Jenna, a social worker from Chicago, Sunil, a medical doctor from Texas, Keith – a Canadian who found me on Twitter.  I met 3 of the 11 chaplains (there’s a 4th one here!) in the Texas state supported living system.  All of them talked of regularly working with 300+ persons with disabilities as being the highlight of their pastoral career.  During the course of the week, I will be chatting with more people and featuring them here.  The collective wisdom they hold will benefit us all.

In the next couple days I hope to introduce a few more people -- Devan, currently working on the bioethics of the human genome project; Lorna, who has created a great parent support model; Sam, reaching into the Hispanic community; and Ben, part of the Joni and Friends Christian Institute of Disability.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.  Amen!  (Eph. 3.20-21 ESV)

#SITD #TheologyDisability