Skin color is not a disability

From time to time statements surface that illuminate how far the United Methodist Church is from truly living out its tenets of concern for equality, and racial and social justice. The Dec. 14 Reporter article on Speaking Out, a book by UM clergy with disabilities, disclosed an alarming reality. One of the contributors to the book shared a “light bulb” moment. His seemingly sincere comparison of a black person’s skin to a physical disability is just short of unbelievable. Does this suggest that any skin color other than that of the majority United Methodist member is also a disability, or is this just an assessment of black people?

I shudder to think what it would be like to be a member of such a pastor’s congregation, though I am certain throughout my many years and experiences as a United Methodist that his light bulb revelation is not his alone. I still hope that we can come to an understanding and acceptance of our differences without categorizing an entire race of people as disabled because of their skin color.

Without disparaging physical or mental disabilities of anyone, as an African American woman, I have never wished to be any race other than my own and am thankful that I am without disabilities.

Lynda R. Byrd
Lay member, Northwest Hills UMC
San Antonio, Texas

Editor’s note: Ms. Byrd refers to the Rev. Robert L. Walker, a retired UM pastor who edited Speaking Out and is one of its contributors. Shown Ms. Byrd’s letter, he said that he by no means meant to suggest that skin color is a disability. He notes that his “light bulb” moment occurred in conversation with a Black Panther member. Mr. Walker said: “In the course of our one or more hours of conversation the leader reminded us that far too many Caucasians saw their blackness as a problem, to which the leader rightly told us that it is not a problem to them, but a problem to us white people who do not challenge the heinous prejudices that inevitably lead to discriminations against them due to their color. . . . In some of my former parishes I lost members because of my stance against prejudices and discriminations against people of color; add to the list women, other ethnic groups, homosexual persons, and people coping with disabilities.”

Special Contributor to UMR

Special Contributor

This story was written by a special contributor to The United Methodist Reporter. You may send your article submissions to

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
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