Who is Preaching to the Choir? Disability Content in Mainline Protestant Master of Divinity Curriculum
thesisposted on 01.08.2020, 00:00 by Catherine E Webb
People with disabilities often face barriers to participation in religious communities. Due to the unique position of leaders in Christian communities, which are the religious majority in the United States, providing specific, disability-related training during their formal education period may help reduce the barriers faced by disabled people. However, little currently is known about the presence and integration of disability-related content in these training programs. As such, this work addresses the broad question: how do the curricula at accredited Master of Divinity (M.Div.) programs in the United States, at Mainline Protestant institutions, prepare religious leaders to work with individuals with disabilities and their families? To answer this question, the curricula of accredited Mainline Protestant M.Div. programs in the U.S. (n=92) were systematically analyzed for the presence and integration of disability-related content. Publicly available data was collected and analyzed both quantitatively (e.g. comparisons across programs, number of keywords present in course descriptions) and through content analysis (e.g., syllabi analysis to determine the depth and breadth of content) to enhance what is known about how students pursuing M.Div. degrees are introduced to and trained in disability-related content. This research clarifies how Mainline Protestant religious leaders currently are being trained by analyzing themes into which offered courses fall and discussing implications these themes have for disabled congregants. Finally, this work provides practical suggestions for M.Div. programs on how to integrate disability into their curriculum.