Rob Nicholls

15.  Mr Rob Nicholls, Church Engagement, Luke 14, CBM Australia

The Luke14 initiative:  addressing exclusion in faith communities

Why would it be even necessary to convince church communities that including people with disabilities is a good idea? Wouldn’t it be a natural consequence of their beliefs? CBM, through its Luke14 initiative, has been partnering with churches around Australia for the last 7 years to address the issue of exclusion of people with disabilities in the Australian church. Responses have ranged from an open-hearted welcome with a realization that unintended exclusion has occurred to a claim that “all people are welcome here” or outright rejection on the basis that “this isn’t our priority here”. This paper attempts to open up the deeper issues behind exclusion in faith communities and clear the way for a more honest address of our attitudes towards people who live with disabilities and their families. The reality is that there are some parts of the Hebrew Bible that are troublesome for people with disabilities and inclusion. We can explain them away or simply reject them but does a trace remain that impedes our efforts to be truly inclusive? Similarly, we have considered various mistaken beliefs about sin and disability or faith and healing, for example, but do those beliefs continue to inhabit the unconsciousness of the Australian church providing impediments.

In the implementation of the Luke14 initiative with Australian, we have experienced challenges related to the above barriers but also changes in attitudes. This paper uses experiences in Luke14 and interviews with people living with a disability, families and church leaders to go beyond the surface to examine the reasons.