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.