Early ADN Visionaries: Mary Graber, Sherry Wenger, Cindy Baker, Paul Leichty, Joyce Pankratz, Sheila Yoder, Karen Bender, Phyllis Smith, John Heyerley, Jim Smith, and Wilfred Martens are pictured in this photo from a 2005 board meeting.
Anabaptist Disabilities Network (ADN) was organized after a committee including Sheila Yoder, Paul Leichty, Cindy Baker, and Sherry Wenger, later joined by Joyce Pankratz, began meeting in Goshen, Indiana. Their goal was to start a new networking organization to provide vital resources and advocacy from an Anabaptist Christian perspective to families and persons living with mental illness and other disabilities.
ADN incorporated in the state of Indiana and received recognition from the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(3) charitable corporation.
A board of directors met for the first time in Goshen, Indiana, with Jim Smith serving as president. Paul Leichty was hired as the part-time ADN administrator. College Mennonite Church in Goshen began sharing its Peace Center with ADN as donated office space. ADN's website, www.adnetonline.org, began sharing resources with the public.
ADN launched the Associates program, which draws on the gifts of volunteers to expand ADN's offerings of speakers and written resources. Christine Guth became ADN's first Associate.
ADN collaborated with MennoMedia to publish updated editions of the classic books
Supportive Care in the Congregation and
After We're Gone, originally published in the 1980s by Mennonite Central Committee. ADN bid farewell to Paul Leichty with appreciation for his vision and years of service to the organization. Christine Guth was named program director and carried the staff leadership role single-handedly for two years.
Timothy J. Burkholder began as executive director in February. ADN moved from the now-overcrowded office in College Mennonite Church to the new Mennonite Church USA office building in Elkhart, Indiana.
A new partnership was established with Congregational Life Ministries (now Discipleship Ministries) of the Church of the Brethren. The ADN board of directors expanded to include an ex-officio board member appointed by the Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren.
After collecting stories of congregations that had implemented a vision like that described in
Supportive Care in the Congregation, ADN staff and volunteers wrote
Circles of Love and published the book through MennoMedia. Kathleen Nofziger Yeakey was hired as executive director, following Tim Burkholder's retirement.
Christine Guth announced her retirement from ADN in order to pursue new ventures. Denise Reesor was hired as the new program director, working quarter-time while studying full-time in grad school.
ADN began providing disability support at MennoCon.
ADN's 15th anniversary year
Denise left ADN to use her new degree in school psychology and Jeanne Davies took over the Program Resources Manager role.
Kathy Nofziger Yeakey resigned as Executive Director and Eldon Stoltfus was hired to replace her. Jeanne Davies became Program Director. Emily Hunsberger was hired as Office Administrator. ADN began the Barrier-Free Grant program to assist congregations in becoming more accessible.
Eldon Stoltzfus resigned for health reasons and Jeanne Davies became Executive Director. ADN published a Mental Health Resource for Congregations in PDF form and launched it first webinar.
Mennonite Disability Advocacy before 2003
When ADN formed in 2003, it followed after the pioneering disability advocacy efforts begun in previous decades by other Mennonite organizations. “Mennonite Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities
,” an article by Paul D. Leichty, tells the story of earlier efforts among Mennonites to welcome persons with disabilities that eventually led to the formation of Anabaptist Disabilities Network. Published in the
Journal of Religion, Disability, and Health
and in the book
Disability Advocacy Among Religious Organizations: Histories and Reflections
, edited by Albert A. Herzog.
Denominational Statements on Disability
Among our constituent denominations, two groups have passed resolutions related to disability inclusion:
- The 2006 Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren passed a Commitment of Accessibility and Inclusion, pledging “to work to ensure that all may worship, serve, be served, learn and grow,” to examine and rectify barriers to persons with disabilities, and to commit to making all denominational office sites accessible.
General Conference Mennonite Church 1983 resolution (one of the groups that merged to form Mennonite Church USA). A resolution to give greater attention to the needs of people with various disabilities was approved without discussion at the delegate sessions of the General Conference Mennonite Church at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in 1983. Included was a pledge to pay “special attention to the needs of the minority groups in our midst, including the physically, sensory and mentally disabled,” and “to break down the barriers that have hindered their participation,” with a focus on accessible meetings and conferences.
- In May of 2022, the delegate body of the Mennonite Church USA passed an Accessibility Resolution. It states,
"The purpose of this resolution is to help all members of Mennonite Church USA (MC USA), including congregations, area conferences, agencies and constituency groups recognize and seek to remove the barriers to belonging in architecture, communications and attitudes that prevent individuals with disabilities from participating in church life; and to bring wholeness to the Body of Christ as those barriers are removed, and all people are fully integrated into the community of faith." See the full text of the resolution here: https://www.mennoniteusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/MC-USA-Accessibility-Resolution-FINAL-7-20-21.pdf