Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Thoughts from the Summer Institute on Disability #SITD15

Welcome to Atlanta!

This week I am attending the Summer Institute on Theology and Disability #STID15.  This annual conference brings together an international array of theologians, educators, thinkers, writers, activists, and advocates from around the world.  Every habitable continent is represented. The attendees range from many diverse denomination, religious, and secular traditions.  One goal of the week is to find out our where interests overlap so we can advance change in our society.

This year, the first day was set aside for local area clergy and other representatives to get a taste of the upcoming week and attend practical workshops.  It fascinates me that the many of the local people I interacted with were from conservative evangelical traditions, seeking to further their knowledge of disability ministry; yet notably absent this year were the voices of many of the conservative evangelical American leaders and writers.  I know they had been invited, but many opt not to have their seat at this table, to our mutual detriment.

Several intriguing discussions arose during the day.  As theologians are prone to do, words are re-purposed to fit a category of thought.  Catchy phrases, which I live tweeted through the event, do not necessarily have the same weight in different parts of the country.  I’m finding that our uncommon language among regions and disciplines make for great journal articles but have little impact on local ministries.  At the heart of this issue is that no matter how we term it, before full inclusion, belonging, or becoming can ever take fully hold (past mere access and integration), mutual relationships must be formed with the other.  This is the true hospitality – which by definition should pull even the most progressive one of us into uncomfortable situations.

As a Christian, I desire to be challenged in my faith formation – it furthers my development towards the full image of Christ.  As an outgrowth of my personal faith, I am unable to comprehend disability ministry as anything but originating from the heart of Christ – that is what drives me.

As a Classical Pentecostal who acknowledges that occasional abuses occur by mortal humans attempting to find their place within the economy of faith, I am not quite as willing to throw away the doctrine of healing.  I will confess, however, that my doctrine of healing does not begin nor end with it being defined solely as a cure – yet I am willing to allow the gap in time and space (Reinders) to have a place for the miraculous.  Furthermore, as a Pentecostal who hears the critiques of others, I fully understand the cry to pray for the gift of ears for JUST listening, over that of tongues.  But I have never found them mutually exclusive.  In fact, in my Pentecostal tradition, the gift of the Holy Spirit and the often accompanying glossolalia allows me to be even more attune to the lament of God’s people.

I look forward to another day of stretching, growing, and thinking!

I invite you to help me grow!

Rev. Marvin J. Miller, D.Min (cand)
T: @MarvinMiller