ACCESS LEADERSHIP NETWORK
In mid-2020, several people individually approached the Rev. Dr. Jessica Jones, Provincial Canon for Next Generation Leadership Initiative (NGLI), about ministries for those affected by disabilities. Jessica gathered this core group of leaders to prayerfully enter a discernment process to see how God would guide them to better integrate individuals and families impacted by disabilities into the Church.
After much discussion, this gathering of individuals from different dioceses united under a shared vision. Collectively the group developed a document outlining their mission, vision, and guiding principles as well as an emerging organizational structure. Ephesians 2:17-22 was selected to guide the process:
“And [Jesus] came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God….” (emphasis added)
In this process, a consensus was reached that ministry with those affected by disability needs to occur with a new perspective and framework. We considered the research of Erik Carter which points to a growing recognition that “the language of inclusion does not fully capture the depth of connection and mutuality people with disabilities desire.” Belonging is a human need sought by those who engage with a community of people. Churches want to welcome those affected by disabilities, but sometimes find it difficult to navigate the challenges which arise.
In 2021, Access Leadership Network became a reality. AcLN includes a leadership team, prayer team, and four ministry teams: Advocacy, Research, Resources, and Training. These teams will come alongside individuals and churches within the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) to help them overcome obstacles with thoughtful creativity and engage those with disabilities as valued and indispensable members of their congregations. Access Leadership Network desires a broad base of stakeholders in leadership. We invite individuals and churches to work together in removing barriers and creating communities of belonging to the glory of God. Contact Network Director Kathy Ayres to share your story and learn more.