The view of the church on intellectual disabled people must change




The disarmed community

J.F.R. Greig

dr. J.S. Reinders, prof.dr. F. Enns

Faculty of Religion and Theology


PhD conferral

L'Arche - an International Federation dedicated to the creation and growth of homes, programs, and support networks with people who have intellectual disabilities - and the writings of founder Jean Vanier have something to say to the broader social world.  The emphasis that L'Arche puts on time, the acceptance of difference and disability, and the need to put the person first in implementing social solutions could contribute greatly to a more peaceful world. Vanier's call to decelerate to a more human pace of life speaks to a tacit experience of many in late modern societies of the acceleration of social life, and its potentially destructive impacts on personal, social, and natural life. This is an important result of the PhD research by Jason Greig.

The Church must include impaired persons
The history of L'Arche and the writings of Jean Vanier show how they point to a place for those with intellectual disabilities that moves "beyond inclusion."  The habits and practices of peace advocated by Vanier and communities dedicated to his theological vision see persons labelled as intellectually disabled as “core members” in the communal commitment to be/become peace cultures. Jason Greig wrote this because he sees a lacuna in the place of persons labelled as intellectually disabled within the church's peace witness.  Rather than to see impaired persons as marginalized persons the church must “include,” L’Arche communities understand the cognitively impaired as persons often gifted with the dispositions which help in transforming others’ value systems.

Conception of time
L'Arche's conception and experience of time strikes me as perhaps the most important discovery to come from my research. Grieg sees L'Arche's understanding of time as gift given for peace to contrast with a temporality dominant in capitalist socieites, which puts an emphasis on speed and "time management."  This view of time coheres with a theological vision of the church as the community which witnesses to the peace of God throughout history, calling to believers and the world the possibility of a world where there is always enough time to work for peace.

About L’Arche
L'Arche is an International Federation dedicated to the creation and growth of homes, programs, and support networks with people who have intellectual disabilities. It was founded in 1964 when Jean Vanier, the son of Canadian Governor General Georges Vanier and Pauline Vanier, welcomed two men with disabilities into his home in the town of Trosly-Breuil, France. Today, it is an international organisation operating 147 communities in 35 countries, and on five continents.

Worldwide, L’Arche is organized into regional and national groupings of independent, locally operated networks which it calls “communities." Each L'Arche community normally comprises a number of homes and, in many cases, apartments and day programs as well. L'Arche is rooted in Christianity, but is open to people of any faith and people with no religious affiliation.

More information about the thesis in DARE