Orthodox Christians, by virtue of their communion with fellow members of the Body of Christ (the Orthodox Church), under the guidance of their spiritual fathers and bishops, have unique resources by which to discern truth from whatever quarter it comes from, according to the fullness of the apostolic tradition of our undivided Church.
And so, when others, including non-Orthodox Christians, develop resources for the support and enablement of persons with disability, we can feel free to listen, discern, and digest these resources according to “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints,” (Jude 1:3b) confident that, with the Holy Spirit’s guidance, we can keep these resources in proper perspective, and proceed to utilize the wheat and lay aside the chaff. As we are careful, we can be generous.
Resources such as:
World Association of Persons with disAbilities http://www.wapd.org/index.php
Disabled Christianity http://disabledchristianity.blogspot.com/
I Lift Up My Voice Ministries http://www.psalm121.ca/
Dimensions of Faith and Congregational Ministries with Persons with Developmental Disabilities and their Families http://rwjms.umdnj.edu/boggscenter/products/pdf/Dimensions%20final%20August%202005.pdf
Ragged Edge Online: Inclusion Daily Express http://www.raggededgemagazine.com/
The Museum of disABILITY History: http://www.museumofdisability.org/html/exhibits/index.html
Of course, the attitudes inherent in the secular resources will not always reflect our sense that Christ’s self-sacrificial way is our ultimate treasure; issues will be addressed in terms that hold forth other values, such as individual fulfillment as the ultimate goal. And the non-Orthodox Christian resources will hold forth values and priorities which must be evaluated in light of Orthodox Christian priorities, such as salvation as an increasing participation- a sharing- in Divine Life (eternal growth!) rather than mere admittance into heaven.
Wolf Wolfensperger, for instance, a Roman Catholic Christian considered to be a giant in the field of developmental disability, who coined the phrase “social role valorization, ” (seeing that all find their way to valued social roles) has come to see small groups as the ideal setting for the flowering of persons with developmental disability, and while there may be something to this, we must also uphold the reality that our life together flows from our liturgical worship. Here (again) are some websites on his work: http://www.srvip.org/about_wolfensberger.php http://www.uow.edu.au/arts/sts/bmartin/CAN/policies/WolfCAassumptions.pdf
And here is the 179 page pdf file “Dimensions of Faith and Congregational Ministries with Persons with Developmental Disabilities and their Families:” (it takes a few moments to download) http://rwjms.umdnj.edu/boggscenter/products/pdf/Dimensions%20final%20August%202005.pdf I’ve not found any Orthodox presentations on this subject that even approaches the comprehensiveness of this work.
(Of course this relates to our experiential focus on “the whole” of our life in Christ, rather than on the exhaustive analysis of any one aspect of it, as well as regarding “being” as more the heart of the matter than “doing.” However true this approach, we of the laity can trust our shepherds, the priests and the bishops, to keep things in balance as we contribute our gifts to the Church, even thorough analyses and applications of each of the various aspects of our Life together.)
Careful discernment is needed. This is why the only way an Orthodox Christian can enter into these resources and find their value is in conjunction with a wholehearted effort in relating them to living Orthodoxy, i.e., involvement in parish life and “right worship.” This center will illumine all that is true, as well as all that is false, to our Lord, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit leads sincere Protestant Christians beyond the limitations of reductionistic Protestant thinking so that they press forward toward the goal of embracing life- wholeness of life- in Christ. The “salvation by faith alone without works” mindset is then transcended by the “faith working through love” model (Galatians 5:6b).
But when the substance of our life in Christ as expressed throught the Mysteries (Sacraments)- Baptism, Chrismation, the Eucharist, Confession, Holy Anointing of oil, etc.- is reduced to mere signs, the power of God’s grace- His life-giving energies- is reduced in these churches to expression only in mere words of various sorts. The full sacramental implications of Christ’s incarnation expressed in our Orthodox Christian heritage is the fullness of the Faith, sadly jettisoned by some on the basis of a logic that simply limits God.
Again, though, non-Orthodox Christian practice can, at times- thanks be to God- step beyond their theological strictures in this as well, in their practices of tangible gestures of worship and love. These then become, if only subconsciously, expressions of reverence for the sacramentals that permeate all of God’s creation, showing forth His glory.
And so, all in all, the love and concern for persons with disabilities which exists in these non-Orthodox sites makes them useful for discerning appropriation. Give them a look, over at
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