Approximately 160 people from seven countries and multiple faith traditions recently attended the 2016 Summer Institute on Theology and Disability in Holland, MI hosted by Hope College and Western Theological Seminary.

Under the leadership of Rev. Bill Gaventa, the vision of the annual Summer Institute is to “expand the depth and breadth of theological inquiry and resources that address and include the contributions of people with disabilities and their families to theological learning and religious practice.” In 2013, Gaventa retired as director of Community and Congregational Supports and Associate Professor at the Elizabeth M. Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities, Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

The core faculty for the Summer Institute includes Bill Gaventa, Hans Reinders, (Free University, Netherlands), John Swinton (University of Aberdeen, Scotland), Erik Carter (Vanderbilt University, Tennessee), Tom Reynolds (University of Toronto), Amos Yong (Fuller Seminary, California), Julia Watts Belser (Georgetown University, DC) and Darla Schumm (Hollins University, Virginia). They serve as advisers, speakers, and mentors/faculty to the participants during the week to create a community of learning, with input from new speakers each year.

Bill Gaventa and Erik Carter also serve as Chair and Vice Chair respectively of the Collaborative on Faith and Disability that now includes 16 UCEDDs, including the University of Maine Center for Community Inclusion and Disability Studies, as collaborative partners.

Several core faculty members delivered 30-minute “TED Talks” to launch the 2016 Summer Institute on May 23, 2016:

Erik Carter: On Belonging: Lessons Learned About What Matters Most.
Bill Gaventa: An Inclusive Liturgy, All Week Long.
Hans Reinders: Quality of Life and Human Flourishing.
Tom Reynolds: Disability, Faith and Community: The Vulnerable Artistry of Relation.
Darla Schumm: Learning from our Neighbors Near and Far: World Religions and Disability.
John Swinton: Walking with the Three Mile-an-Hour God: Why Disability Looks Different in God’s Time.

Selected presentations and photographs from the 2016 Summer Institute on Theology and Disability are now available online. Please also visit the Twitter hashtag #SITD2016 for quotes and photos posted during last week’s event.

Video presentations and other materials from previous Summer Institutes are now available on the Collaborative on Faith and Disability website.

In addition to plenary sessions and workshops, Summer Institute participants were given the opportunity to visit one of three disability ministries in the Holland, MI area: Benjamin’s Hope; Renew Therapeutic Riding Center; and Compassionate Heart Ministry. Participants shared a picnic lunch with residents of Friendship House, a sustainable housing model on the Western Theological Seminary campus, where persons with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities live independently in community with seminarians.

Sponsors of the Summer Institute include the David & Carol Myers Foundation, the Ruderman Family Foundation, the Developmental Disabilities Institute at Wayne State University, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, and Friendship House Partners USA. The Institute also included a concurrent meeting of the Christian Faith-Based Leadership Roundtable, with two of their members, Mosaic and Christian Horizons, also serving as sponsors for the event.

The 2017 Summer Institute on Theology and Disability will be held June 5-8, 2017 at Azuza Pacific University in Azuza, California. For more information, please email Bill Gaventa at