Making Disability Normative and Transformative Through a Biblical Lens
“But in fact, God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.”
-1 Corinthians 12:18 (NIV)
Our Vision and Mission
The vision and mission of the Wheaton Center for Faith and Disability is to promote disciple-making to and with people impacted by disability and to enrich communities, helping them more fully reflect the Kingdom of God. The Center exists to equip schools, congregations, and para-church ministries in the biblical, transformational work of becoming communities of belonging and flourishing for all.
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Disability History: Sustainability for Change
For centuries, people with disabilities have faced everything from stigmatization and segregation to institutionalization, abuse, and even genocide. Both inside and outside Christian communities, those rendered unable to contribute to socio-economic growth due to disability or mental illness have typically been ascribed lesser value. During his time on earth, Jesus modeled an altogether different approach to disability, as he honored the Imago Dei (Image of God) reflected in every human being and actually prioritized those who were vulnerable and marginalized.
- People with disabilities make up 19% of any community.
- In a study of more than 400 parents of children with disabilities, 56% said they kept their children from participating in religious activities because support was not provided.
- In the largest study of flourishing in Christian schools, alumni had a greater likelihood of continuing to walk with God if the school was responsive to the special needs of students.
"The excuses were numerous, 'we don't have the training,' 'we don't have the resources,' etc. so they kicked him out and the senior pastor told us 'some people just shouldn't go to church.'" - Wheaton College alumna '85 , mom of son with autism
Our Goals to Support the Mission
- TRANSFORM: The Center will transform how leaders—within schools, congregations, camps, and para-church ministries—understand disability thus freeing them to fully embrace all people—regardless of ability—in worship, education, and life. As Jesus makes himself known and worshipped in communities of belonging and flourishing for all, his worth is magnified above all.
- DISCIPLE: The Center will make Jesus known and magnify God’s Good News by disciple-making to and with those impacted by disability.
- CONNECT: The Center will foster connections between scholars, practitioners, ministry leaders, educators, Wheaton students and alumni, and families touched by disability to faithfully reflect God's kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. We will foster relationships of transparency and vulnerability to equip the Church and engage the world.
- EDUCATE: The Center will help train up the next generations of teachers, scholars, and ministry leaders who put a biblical theology of disability into practice in ways that foster belonging and flourishing for all. We will help resource the body of Christ by disseminating best practices for schools, congregations, camps, and para-church ministries.
- RESEARCH: Our growing team of faculty, students, and volunteers will pioneer research to improve inclusive practices within schools and congregations to help every individual reach their potential and every family improve their quality of life.
"My time at Wheaton in the Education Department, and in the special education program has retrained my eyes to see the world differently, and in ways that I believe are in line with the way God sees us." - Wheaton College Special Education Endorsement Program Alumnus '20
Our Financial Goals for Mission Sustainability
The Impact of Your Investment
YOUR INVESTMENT in the Center for Faith and Disability in the next three years will:
- Extend Wheaton College’s leadership into a new area of disability advocacy, innovation, and transformational engagement for future generations.
- Prioritize the inward facing work of helping Wheaton College “walk its talk” regarding accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities.
- Advance a comprehensive and concise Theology of Disability that identifies the biblical boundaries of disability and offers counter-cultural clarity on God’s “upside-down” kingdom economy where weakness and suffering become avenues for soul-satisfying glory through abiding intimacy with Jesus.
- Equip congregations, schools and camps to excel in their reach with and to those impacted by disability to flourish in friendship, discipleship, purpose, and academic potential.
- Conduct innovative research for school-based and congregation-based applications and help promote and disseminate best-practices around the globe.