RCA, CRC Call for Full Inclusion of People with Disabilities

Date Posted: 
Thursday, July 23, 2015

In anticipation of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church in North America are making known their continuing commitment to equality and inclusion in all congregations.

In a joint statement issued this week, RCA general secretary Tom De Vries and CRC executive director Steven Timmermans declared that they will work toward “full ADA compliance in our communities and toward accessible, welcoming congregations and ministries, where everybody belongs and everybody serves.”

This resolution celebrates progress that has already been made, and also recommits both denominations “to establish congregations and communities in which people with disabilities are full, contributing members and citizens.”

The ADA was a groundbreaking piece of legislation when it was passed on July 26, 1990, ensuring the civil rights of people with disabilities. (Canadian churches and businesses in Ontario are required to comply with a similar piece of legislation, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, and every province in Canada prohibits disability discrimination.)  While religious organizations are exempt from some sections of the ADA, both the RCA and CRC have voluntarily committed to full compliance.

“Throughout North America, churches that fail to offer an accessible welcome of respectful hospitality or engage the one-fifth of the population that lives with a disability will fall short and continually limit their effectiveness in following Christ in mission,” says Terry DeYoung, the RCA coordinator for disability concerns, who works in partnership with CRC Disability Concerns.

“I am grateful for the ADA’s important strides toward access and inclusion in our communities. In many ways, those accommodations have opened the eyes of churches to recognize the barriers that—in sometimes obvious and often subtle ways—exclude people with disabilities and limit their participation in God’s kingdom.”

DeYoung says the 25-year anniversary of the ADA should serve as a wake-up call for the church—a reminder that an entire generation has grown up in a world that promises full participation, equal opportunity, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency.

“More and more, people see accessibility and accommodations as essential elements of an inclusive society, and not special treatment for a narrow population,” he says.

On Sunday, RCA and CRC Disability Concerns will celebrate the first 25 years of these efforts, while acknowledging there is much work to be done. Together, the two ministries will continue to help 2,000 congregations engage people with disabilities in a variety of ways: identifying and equipping congregational and regional disability advocates, sponsoring various training events, producing both print and web resources, and consulting with church leaders on ministry with specific individuals.

Read the full RCA-CRC resolution here.

Find tools here to help your church offer a greater sense of belonging to people with disabilities.

Become an advocate for people with disabilities in your congregation or region. Contact Terry DeYoung for details: disabilityconcerns@rca.org.