Sunday, 2 July 2017

I'm running a one man campaign to stop what I see as a misappropriation of words associated with blindness being used in negative, phrases such as "he's blind to", "turn a blind eye" etc. Such phrases have far more to do with a conscious refusal to see something rather than actual blindness. 

Please don't misunderstand me here, I have a very thick skin and in no way do such phrases hurt me, I'm a rough tough Geordie lad and it would take far more than that I just feel that to use such phrases perpetuates a perception in people's minds that to be blind must be far more terrible than it really is. 

This theory of mine also has a lot to do with our collective misunderstanding of the difference between healing and cure, two words that many have come to regard as somehow interchangeable where as I see them as radically different. To understand what the gospel has to teach us about healing and cure we must first realise that we are talking about two completely separate things.

When I was first given the news of my sight loss back in 1987 I was angry, confused, hurt and as a result spent years in what I can only now describe as a rage, lashing out, hurting others, blaming others, wanting others to experience some of the pain I was feeling. 

It took me until the year 2000 to calm down sufficiently to even contemplate that I was going blind and that I should begin to explore what help might be out there, until that point my response had simply been to tell the whole world to F off!

Eventually in 2001 I was matched with my first guide dog Abbot.                       

Abbot was a very special being, in a very short space of time he took away all the anger, the bitterness, the sense of unfairness, to this day I still don't really know how he did it but I remain totally convinced that he did. This for me was a healing. It made what had been previously unbearable, bearable. More than that my blindness became part of my identity that I embraced, my blindness informs who I am, it causes me to place my faith and trust in a God that leads me who knows where in complete safety and love, it took Abbot to teach me that.

So now some 30yrs on I can say to people my blindness has been healed, not cured but healed. It is no longer the monster that rules my life, fills me with rage and sets me running. My blindness is now something that informs my faith, it helps me relate to others, it causes me to trust. It is by far more than just a negative. So much so that I don't believe in a Disney heaven where my sight will be fully restored, I'll be a guide dog owner in heaven too, it is part of who I am.

So back to this idea of banning the use of blindness related terms in every day conversation. I believe that such use contributed to the view I used to have of blindness before it actually happened to me. Everyday expressions had taught me to believe that to be blind was failure, was ignorance, was a refusal to see. I now know this to be far from the truth, so if you can see this too please join me in my campaign.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

The Rules Of The Game

So for those wishing to be part of our plan for a project on a theology of the marginalised let me try and set out some guidelines. 

  1. If Disability and Jesus are the ones to sponsor, host and co-ordinate then it must be done according to the standards we set for equality and inclusion.
  2. The marginalised groups we will be seeking input from are as follows, the disabled community, the BAME community, the LGBT community and the refugee community. People who have issues with any of these groups have no place here.
  3. Whilst we welcome input from the purely academic it must be understood from the outset that it is the voice of marginalised people themselves in their own words that will hold sway.
  4. Anything we produce will have to be done in ways that are accessible to all groups so we will have to be able to produce things in a range of languages, to produce a signed copy for deaf and hard of hearing people and braille and large print for visually impaired people.
  5. Nothing will be released for publication until we are able to produce all of those in point 4 simultaneously, anything else is simply not equality.
  6. We feel that there is a cry from UK society for such a project that has a sense of immediacy and urgency. So because we will be working hopefully with many of you we will work out a schedule. If that schedule does not work for some we sadly will carry on without them. If we wait to try and fit in with everyone's diaries it simply won't happen.
  7. Whilst we do not seek to be party political please be in no doubt that this is a work that carries serious political implications. We believe that this is a gospel imperative and will not shy away from it. If this is daunting to anyone then this will not be the project for you.
  8. We welcome and indeed encourage from national church leaders as we feel whatever is produced will only be affective if it reaches maximum exposure on a national level. 
We shall promote the idea for the next 10 days. In that time please send expressions of interest if you wish to be involved giving a little of your background, your area of interest and wether or not you consider yourself to be part of one of the marginalised groups mentioned, by sending an email to

At the end of that 10 day period Dave will collate all that information, then seek to find an accessible venue close to a mainline rail station in a city or town that is as near equidistant to all interested parties as possible. 

We want to act on this quickly as a response to a mood that we sense in the nation right now. 

We look forward to hearing from you.

Every blessing
Dave & guide dog Jarvis, on behalf of Disability and Jesus.
Sun 18th June, 2017

A Theology Of The Margins

Last night there was a conversation going on on our Twitter feed about various marginalised groups such as the disabled, LGBT, BAME and others working together to produce a book on the theology of marginalisation. 

Radical Hospitality demands that the implications of our theology be played out in wider society as well as within the church. It implies that God the Householder, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit call us to distributive justice not only of resources, but also of respect, leadership, healing and dignity. The need then is to create a diverse movement in the church who demand justice, reject privilege, and seek what is fair for all people regardless of ability, wealth, status, IQ or social standing. 

Implied in this call for Theological Consequentiality is the presumption that the way in which we usually respond to the message of Jesus Christ is somehow lacking or disingenuous. This presumption is made not as a judgment on the church but as recognition of how easy it is to be apathetic. 

So far much of what has been written on the marginal theologies has been written from an observational view point, not from someone living within life on the margins, struggling with the day to day of all that that can bring. We need to give people living on the margins licence to tell their stories, no matter how shitty, no matter how difficult we may find them to listen to and we need to be prepared to actually listen, no matter how uncomfortable or challenged we may feel, to withhold judgement until we are fully conversant with these stories. Let me also say here and now if you are so offended by the word “shitty”, simply step away now.  We will never get to grips with the heart of the matter if we are not prepared to get real.

In this time when “mutual flourishing” is the phrase of the moment within the church, we must begin to realise that for any group to be left feeling they don’t belong can not indeed be called “mutual flourishing”. 

These communities are not just of disabled people but are made up of many who feel themselves to be on the margins of the church, the poor, the homeless, the LGBT community, refugees, the traveling community and others. In days when there is so much talk in the west of declining church numbers we are beginning to see that it is within such communities that the Holy Spirit is working and it is these communities that are on the rise, breaking new ground, exploring new theologies. We see these groups as having the power, drive, openness and creativity to revive the broader church if only the church will let them in. 

What is evident is that God is working within these communities and if the church does not let them in we should not be surprised when it seems as if God has moved out of our churches to be with them.

We find it sad that the church spends so much time trying to restock the pews when there is such an obvious movement of the Holy Spirit on the margins. Just as Jesus did, if we gravitate to the margins then church growth will begin from the outside in. 

Our re-evaluation to embrace life on the margins should begin with our theology, as theology provides the framework by which the church bases her engagement. Therefore, we must ask, is it possible to revive theologia gloria for a postmodern society or must the Church be seeking an alternative theology.

Two crucial questions are answered in Matthew 16: 13-28. First, who is Jesus? And second, who are we before God? To be a follower of Jesus we must daily encounter God through the cross, that means both his and our own, a journey which will inevitably take us down that road to the margins yet still many churches are preaching a prosperity gospel, offering the Disney Jesus.

My most fundamental thoughts are that we have many in our society who feel themselves to be on the outside, shut outs, noses pressed to the glass, looking in on a society that does not seem to let them in. 

Disability and Jesus have a book almost ready for publication on the theology of disability and it is during the writing of that that I have begun to realise that disabled people share this feeling of being on the outside with so many other groups in our society. 

Then in the last few weeks of terror attacks and the London fire I have begun to see that the pain of many marginal groups is very similar and shares much in common with my own. 

I feel a need to try and respond to this, at this stage I am thinking of a book, a book collaboratively written by people living within the margins, maybe we need academics to help in the process but the actual voices of marginalised people need to be heard.

So where do we go from here?

Well I'm thinking that first of all I need to organise a meeting of like minded parties. So what I'm looking for at this stage are expressions of interest from like minded parties with a view to setting up an initial meeting sometime in the very near future, I do not think this is something to be kicked in to the long grass, I feel it is an issue that would very much resound with many in our society in the here and now.

So if these vague thoughts are something you'd like to explore further, could you please declare your interest by email to me at

Dave( and Jarvis the guide dog of course)

Monday, 12 June 2017

It's not just all about the kids!

I keep a close eye on what is going on in the world of faith and disability and it worries me that the majority of what we see seems to be about families with disabled kids, books are written training days are hosted etc by either parents of disabled children or on behalf of the parents of disabled children , all of which focus on disability from a parental view point.

Let me tell you a little of my own journey from my own perspective, a perspective that focuses on coming to terms with my disability. My version of events is very different from the version my parents would tell you. Does that mean my parents version is not true? No, of course not it simply means they were walking that journey in their own shoes. There was a constant tension throughout my childhood as my parents, out of the best possible motivation, wanted to wrap me in cotton wool and keep me safe and as I grew I was left simply feeling stifled by that cosseting and wanting to break out, to push the boundaries of what the medical profession were saying I would be capable of.

I remember as a child of around 8, I had just come home from hospital from one of many operations, my mates were outside playing football and I was not being allowed to join them. I remember standing in the kitchen overhearing a conversation between my mum and gran in the sitting room, my gran was telling my mum that if she clung on too tightly she would lose me. As I reached my late teens my gran was to be proved right, my parents worried about me and that the life choices I was making might be beyond my abilities, the more they forbid me, the more I rebelled against them.

My late teens and early twenties saw a period of estrangement between myself and my parents, happily that is long since resolved but I can't help but wonder if it could have been avoided.

Back in my childhood my grandad perfectly understood and tried to intervene. Grandad was a very practical, stoic Geordie, a train driver in the age of steam.

One winters day, again having just come out of hospital, I was not being allowed out to play in the snow with my friends. Grandad waited till gran had gone out, he put a stool next to the kitchen bench, stood me on it and told me too watch out the kitchen window. I watched as he brought 4 sheets of plywood from his shed and laid them on the kitchen floor, he went back outside and wheeled in to the kitchen four barrow loads of snow, placing them on the plywood, he then came back in and made me a snowman right there on my grans kitchen floor. He passed away very shortly after that some 50yrs ago but that memory has sustained me through so much.

So please can we have a more balanced approach to disability in the church we need to hear far more from disabled adults who have lived with their disabilities from childhood, people who have had to fight to achieve their full potential when very well meaning adults have tried to wrap them up in cotton wool.

Remember that wrapping disabled children too tightly might simply be storing up trouble for the future, please can we have a more balanced approach, yes let's ;listen to the concerns of the parents of disabled children but when looking for advice it is important that we hear from disabled adults themselves.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

What Can We Learn From The Election
Time and again since the election I have read comments about how invested the younger generation were in the vote, how social media has been so important and most importantly of all what a principled generation this young generation are.

I find myself agreeing whole heartedly with all of the above and I fear all those comments are things the church has failed to grasp.

This generation is the most highly principled generation for a long, long time. 

When we ask why this generation is not so engaged with church we need to keep these things in mind. This generation has no issue with God, their issues are with the church, a church that is failing the LGBT community, the disabled community, the poor etc. 

Yes there will be those who can tell us all about food banks, credit unions etc and they are of course good things, however, this generation want to see a church that uses the gospel to ask the questions why we still have so many people who feel excluded because of disability, sexuality, poverty etc. It's fine to pull these people out of the river but this generation wants to know who is pushing them in in the first place? Not only do they want to know who is doing the pushing but they also want to see those people challenged by a church that truly lives to it's gospel imperatives.

Many times I hear the same people who ask "how do we reach such groups"? We see clearly from the election that such groups are vigorous users of social media and yet time and again we hear church leaders proudly boast "oh I don't do that Facebook and Twitter stuff". 

It is time for us to live up to our principals, speak truth to power unafraid and to stop waiting for those on the margins to come to us, we need to go and live among them, before evangelism needs to come real relationships of friendship and trust, it is precisely those spaces that Jesus will occupy.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Evening all. 

I Tweeted yesterday asking if people unable to read or understand the Bible could still have a relationship with Jesus. 

This happens to be a view that I have long held. I have long held the view that even if it were completely possible to disprove much of the New Testament this is no threat to my faith as my faith is based elsewhere. 

Rightly or wrongly (and I'm sure there are many who would believe me to be wrong) my faith stands on the relationship I have with Jesus, I communicate with him and he with me, not through weird voices in my head but through the very journey he takes me on. 

So when it comes to people who can neither read nor understand the Bible, I believe it is perfectly possible that they can have that very same relationship with Jesus. 

But for me that is simply not enough. If these people are in relationship with Jesus, as I believe they are, then surely it follows that through that relationship they are discovering things about Jesus that as yet we may not have experienced, things that indeed they could teach us.

Therefore is it not beholden on us to help such people find ways that they could share what they know with the rest of us.

Surely it is our job to open ourselves up and allowing these people to minister to us far more than kit is our job to minister to them. 

It seems to me that they have a far more direct and uncluttered relationship with Jesus and surely that is something we all need to learn about, to lay aside our IQ and expand our hearts. 

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Evening all, Dave here. I am speaking here entirely for my self. Certain events today based on my thoughts on a podcast from New Wine have made me very cross. It seems that some people feel I have been wrong and perhaps I should apologise. I feel in no mood to do so, I shall simply lay out my thoughts and feelings here and let you decide, but first a link to said podcast.

I am now 57 years old, I was diagnosed with sight loss as far back as 1987. I was registered blind in 2000, became a guide dog owner in 2001.

I trained for priesthood from 1980 - 1983 with the RC Church, was ordained a deacon and was only weeks away from full ordination when I blew the whistle on a priest abusing children and was ordered to leave. 

I have a BA in Theology and Philosophy, I have a BEd In Education and an MA in Access Audit. 

I have had two books published on visual impairment and have been commissioned by Guide Dogs, The RNIB and Action For Blind People in the past to do work on their behalf. I have made a movie on visual impairment and written countless articles and help guides. 

If all of this does not give me the right to speak with some authority on issues of faith and visual impairment, then quite frankly I'm buggered if I know what does.  

In the early days of Disability and Jesus I was dropped and blocked as a friend by the north east regional director of New Wine because I dared to ask disabled people for their thoughts on how accessible their summer camp was, a simple question I have asked many organisations, in no way was New Wine being singled out for unfair treatment. 

I have requested information about the qualifications and experience of their speakers on disability and been studiously ignored. We have often explained the principal of "nothing about us without us" and again have been studiously ignored. 

Please listen to the above podcast, I believe the tone implies that "what else could a blind person do but beg". As you can see from my qualifications and experience, quite a bit actually. 

The subsequent hoo ha on Twitter has been very hurtful to me and I consider it arrogant and unacceptable from such an organisation as New Wine.

I shall not be apologising for my response and would respectfully request that in future they use actual disabled people to speak on such matters.

I am aware that even Bill & Katie may not agree, I don't know as I have not asked them, I'm speaking for myself alone but seldom have I felt like this in response to anything written by a fellow Christian. 

Maybe I am being overly sensitive, only you can decide but my blindness is far too emotive a subject for me to simply back down.