DEAF PERSPECTIVES II
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The papers in this booklet originated as presentations given at a conference entitled ‘Deaf Perspectives II: Empowering Deaf People in Your Church’, organised by Go! Sign (the working name of Christian Deaf Link UK) at the Telford Campus of Wolverhampton University on 13th July 2013. All seven presenters were deaf Christian leaders from various denominations, who gave their presentations in British Sign Language (BSL). Since then the presenters have been given the opportunity to amend and expand their original material into a form suitable for publication as English texts, as they appear in this booklet.
This conference followed an earlier one entitled ‘Deaf Perspectives: Challenging Dominant Christian Thought’, organised by Christian Deaf Link UK and London Bible College (LBC) (now London School of Theology) at LBC on 23rd November 2003. The inspiration for this conference was a growing awareness that deaf Christians often had quite different theological perspectives from those of hearing Christians, arising from a culture where seeing rather than hearing is the means by which knowledge is acquired, information shared and the environment explored, all mediated through a visual language – sign. Other cultures have given rise to similar movements. For example, Feminist, Black and Liberation theologies have all drawn attention to previously ignored biblical perspectives.
‘Dominant Christian Thought’ tends to believe that it understands deafness and the needs of deaf people. This gives rise to assumptions like: deaf people must want to hear, and the provision of BSL/English Interpreters is sufficient for the inclusion of deaf people in the church. These assumptions do not arise out of arrogance or indifference, but rather from ignorance, and so need to be challenged. The frustration, hurt and anger of deaf people as a result of misunderstanding and condescension, even within the church, need to be accepted and recognised by hearing people. I believe that this needs to be a two-way process whereby deaf and hearing Christians meet and work together to create a better understanding and awareness of each other. Hopefully, the presentations included here will help in that process.
In the years between the two conferences, as more deaf Christians became leaders in the churches, the deaf perspectives became more widely recognised. One emphasis was on empowering deaf people to take their rightful place in the church, and this was the main theme of the 2013 conference. The presentations gathered here represent a range of genres, from academic papers to personal reflections and autobiography, all providing insights into recent deaf thinking, about theology and the Bible, the Christian Life and the church.
Bob Shrine (Editor) October 2016
The views expressed on these pages are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Go! Sign.