The following is an excerpt from the talk that I’m giving in Cleveland tomorrow for the Values and Faith Alliance event, “Changing Perspectives: Spirituality and Service.”
This can become experientially real for us in the sacraments. I sit on my local District Committee on Ordained Ministry and conference Board of Ordained Ministry, and every candidate who comes before us for ordination is asked about the sacraments. This can be a frustrating exercise because so many of our candidates have a decidedly un-Wesleyan view of the sacraments. Too often, they think of them as remembrances or memorials. In fact, the sacraments are first and foremost neither of these. Sacraments are means of grace. They are ports of entry into the life of the Trinity. The primary agent in baptism and holy communion is God–not the pastor, not the laity, but God. Should we then baptize people with profound cognitive disabilities? Absolutely. God’s grace will be poured out on that person as well. Should we give communion to people who lack the cognitive ability to grasp its basic meaning? Absolutely. God’s grace is not dependent upon the ability of the recipient to comprehend what is happening. The full effects of this grace for each of us, regardless of ability, will only be realized in the age to come. God is making all things new, including people with profound cognitive disabilities.