Disability work fuels UCC delegate during WCC Assembly

Disability work fuels UCC delegate during WCC Assembly

November 03, 2013
Written by Steven Liechty

One of the draws to the World Council of Churches 10th Assembly for United Church of Christ pastor the Rev. Kelli Parish Lucas was an opportunity to learn more about the global work around disability ministries and disabilities rights. Parrish Lucas is part of the UCC Disabilities Ministries, and as she represents the denomination as a delegate to the WCC Assembly in South Korea, she's figuring out what more the ministry can do to effect change around the world.

"The United Church of Christ Disabilities Ministries does a lot of ecumenical work, so this is another way in which the UCC-DM can do ecumenical work in the realm of disabilities, and it seems important to do that because the UCC is a leader in that," said Parrish Lucas, a member of Community Congregational Church of Pacific Beach in San Diego.

Through her role as a member of the UCC Disabilities Ministries and participant in the Ecumenical Disability Advocacy Network, Parrish Lucas is also gathering ideas to take back to the United States for consideration.

"Can the disability community collaborate more with the HIV/AIDS community? That's one thing I'm wondering," Parrish Lucas said. "Our board wants to do a theological reflection on disability, certainly in the UCC context. And how can the UCC be a leader on disabilities as a human rights issue – how can we as a board support that?"

Parrish Lucas currently serves as a hospice chaplain, a Board Member-Secretary-and Web Worker for United Church of Christ Disability Ministries, Board Member of UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries, and a participant in Ecumenical Disability Advocacy Network of North America – a program of the World Council of Churches.

"Because I was at the EDAN-North America consultation with many others from the UCC, and EDAN made a request to the UCC to nominate me as a delegate to the assembly," Parrish Lucas said. "And the UCC was very supportive of accommodating that request."

As a person willing to explore the topics related to disabilities ministries – Parrish Lucas was born with disabilities and lives with acquired disabilities – she was an ideal representative to an assembly pre-event that focused on disability advocacy within the WCC.

"It was interesting to get a history of disability in Asia, and it made me realize how far we are in America. But other parts of the world have begun the work of theological discussion on disability," Parrish Lucas said. The pre-event also examined the issue of women and violence in disabilities, an issue shared by representatives from all regions of the world.

Parrish Lucas was ordained in May 2011 by the Southern Association of the Southern California Nevada Conference of the UCC, and earned her masters of divinity from Claremont School of Theology and bachelor's degree from Mills College.

Parrish Lucas, who lives in San Diego County with her husband, Ed Lucas, and their dog, is joined at the WCC Assembly by three other UCC delegates. They are:

  • The Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, UCC general minister and president
  • The Rev. Sarah Campbell, pastor of Mayflower UCC in Minneapolis
  • Haley Knapp, a member of Church of the Isles in Indian Rocks Beach, Fla.

Three of the UCC's four delegates are women, which Parrish Lucas found interesting given that women only make up 37 percent of the delegates. The WCC hoped for an even 50-50 split by member churches.

The UCC is one of the 345 members of the WCC, with a team of almost two dozen representatives from across the life of the church at this gathering. The WCC assembly, which occurs once every seven years, takes place from Oct. 30 through Nov. 8 in Busan, South Korea. The assembly is the highest governing body of the WCC, and is a moment when member churches come together for prayer, celebration and to set the future agenda for the council. There are more than 4,000 delegates, visitors, event staff and media members from more than 100 countries in South Korea for the assembly.

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