The Elizabeth M. Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities (NJ UCEDD) Sponsors (or Co-Sponsors) 2nd Institute on Theology and Disability in Pennsylvania

July 27, 2011

Photos: Office of Communication, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg
Photos: Office of Communication, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg

 More than eighty people from Pennsylvania, other states, and five other countries attended all or parts of the second Institute on Theology and Disability, which was held July 18-22 at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It was part of the Faith Community Leadership Project funded by the Pennsylvania Council on Developmental Disabilities through a grant to The Elizabeth M. Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities.

The first day of the Institute was designed to attract clergy, laypersons, family members and people with disabilities in addition to the people registering for the week. It featured six short presentations in the morning by Institute faculty, followed by afternoon discussion groups. Faculty for the Institute included Hans Reinders, John Swinton, Erik Carter, Jeremy Schipper, Thomas Graves, Deborah Creamer, Bill Gaventa, and Sam Kabue. Dr. Kabue is from Kenya, where he coordinates the worldwide Ecumenical Disability Advocacy Network of the World Council of Churches.

The remaining four days were attended primarily by faculty and students from a number of seminaries in Pennsylvania, clergy and others working in inclusive ministries with people with disabilities and their families. Each day featured morning keynote lectures, followed by discussion areas following up keynotes or around topics where interest was indicated by the participants. Evening sessions featured shorter presentations by some of the attendees. Each day had a focus: Tuesday on Biblical Studies, Wednesday on Systematic Theology, Thursday on Theological Education, and Friday on Preaching and Liturgy. Morning chapel services were led by Lutheran Bishop Wolfgang Herz-Lane and his son, Josef, who has cerebral palsy.

The Thursday session on theological education focused on the Disability Policy that has been adopted by the Association of Theological Schools. An increasing number of seminaries in North America are beginning to explore the inclusion and infusion of disability issues in their curriculum opportunities. A number of those are being done in collaboration with a UCEDD. For more information, contact Bill Gaventa at bill.gaventa@umdnj.edu

The Institute received rave reviews from participants, even in the heat wave of July 20-22. One unusual form of evaluation was used on Monday with all of the participants writing a haiku poem about their experience of the day. A CD with mp3 audio-files of the presentations will be produced this fall as well as put on the website for The Boggs Center. For titles of the presentations, and more information about the Institute, go to http://rwjms.umdnj.edu/boggscenter/projects/Pennsylvania_Faith.html. The audio-files from the 2010 Institute can be downloaded or ordered in full on a CD.