Benjamin Connor: Our Iconic Witness

Benjamin Connor  begin this talk with an explanation of icons from an Orthodox Christian perspective as a foundation for discussing the “missio dei” (the mission of God) with a focus on the role of persons with disabilites. It is an academic talk, with many terms specific to the academic disability community and the Protestant Christian academic missions community. But there are some gems in his talk which are in line with Orthodox Christian understandings of the matter.

Connor believes that the emphasis in mission must be placed on growth toward the fullness of Christ by the Body of Christ rather than simply on geographical expansion or growth in numbers. And a key aspect to this is the inclusion of the cultural perspectives of all peoples, including disabled peoples. He proclaims, “the incarnation is the divine manifestation of contextualization.” (God the Word became what we are- human- that we may participate in divine life.) Going further with this incarnational understanding, Connor speaks on how our body participates in the image of God.

He relates how at a camp for young people with disabilities he had sought to comfort a young man with down syndrome who had been crying for two days, but without success. Then another young man with cerebral palsy named Craig came up to them, right between them, and the result was that the crying stopped and the first young man laid his head on Craig’s shoulder. Here we see the disabled person’s ability to comfort in this situation where the professional could not.

He sums up his talk by returning to his theme of iconic witness; the witness of people with disabilities is a necessary and essential aspect to the fullness of the Church’s iconic witness to Christ. As St. Paul writes,

 “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable, [. . .] God has so composed the body [. . .] that there be no discord in the body, but that the members have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” (1 Corinthians 12:21-22, 24-26, RSV)

Books by Benjamin Connor:


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