By Rev. Betty McManus
Bethesda Lutheran Communities
Bethesda Lutheran Communities supports people of a variety of faith backgrounds. Honoring each person as an individual child of God requires the openness of ensuring religious choice is honored. Interestingly, in a state-wide census of all the group homes throughout Wisconsin, it was discovered 30% of the people Bethesda supports have a Catholic faith background – yet Bethesda was only in partnership with three Catholic churches.
To meet its goal of honoring religious choice, Bethesda actively engaged in the creation of an ecumenical partnership with Works of Mercy, a Catholic disability ministry led by the Capuchin Order.
Often the biggest challenge in creating ministry partnerships between denominations is moving beyond the differences in theology. Yet ministry partnerships are absolutely necessary if we are to successfully provide the spiritual support needs of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
I believe partnerships can easily be created if we recognize that we are all one in the Body of Christ regardless of our denominational labels.
“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6 NRSV)
All Christians are called to do God’s work and we are all given different gifts with which to do that work. Honoring each other’s gifts and respecting theological differences while remaining solid in our own faith opens doors for ministry partnerships that can cross Christian, and even non-Christian, denominational lines.
While we all have different gifts to bring to the work, we have also been given the gift of oneness as a human family. Paul uses the concept of the human body to project the image of the Body of Christ and says, “If one member suffers, all suffer with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.” (1 Cor. 12:26, NRSV)
This oneness cuts across our differences and encourages us to respect religious and cultural differences rather than oppose them. If one suffers, we all suffer; if one is honored, we are all honored. It leads us to the story of the Good Samaritan that teaches us that our neighbor could be anyone – anywhere – from any cultural or religious faith background. We are asked to love our neighbor as ourselves… and everyone is our neighbor according to Christ.
With that understanding, ministry partnerships become more than possible – they become blessings to everyone involved.
We can then, as Rev. Werth indicates in his position paper, work alongside each other with love and respect. We also must love and respect the people we support; honoring their religious choices is paramount to that love and respect. That means engaging in ministry partnerships with other denominations to provide spiritual support.
The saying “One for all, all for one” is a slogan attributed to the Three Musketeers. Yet it could be a mantra for Christians from all denominational backgrounds. And if embraced, imagine what all could be done!
Filed under: BethesdaBlog 2012, Spiritual Life Tagged: | body of christ, capuchin order, catholic, Christian, developmental disabilities, disability ministry, faith, I/DD, intellectual, interfaith, Ministry, works of mercy