UMC Bishop Peggy Johnson bridges the gap between disabilities and faith in a JanTerm course.

Bishop Peggy Johnson served a congregation of hearing-impaired members before rising to the UMC’s top post in the Philadelphia region.

From Jan. 14-18, the Theological School will continue its tradition of preparing students for inclusive ministries by offering a course on how mental and physical disabilities can act as a barrier to church involvement. Taught by United Methodist Bishop Peggy Johnson, a leading advocate for the handicapped, the one-week intensive seminar reinforces Drew’s commitment to serving the disabled while training future graduates to do the same, says Associate Dean Virginia Samuel-Cetuk.

“Approaching disabilities from a theological perspective requires reflection on issues of wholeness and humanity,” says Samuel-Cetuk. “It also challenges students to discover new ways of advancing social justice. Bishop Johnson is the perfect person to lead this conversation at Drew.”

Johnson is well aware of the deterrents that keep the disabled from active engagement with faith communities, from buildings that aren’t handicapped accessible to sermons that aren’t offered in sign language.

“My course will consist of broad brushstrokes, touching upon these issues and the larger themes of awareness, access and advocacy,” she says. “It’s the clarion call of the church to open its doors to all—and where the disabled are concerned, my message is we need to do better.”—Michael Bressman