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Autistic Thinking in the Life of the Church

Autistic Thinking in the Life of the Church

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Publisher: SCM Press
ISBN: 9780334060871
Number of Pages: 192
Published: 31/08/2021
Width: 13.5 cm
Height: 21.6 cm

Autism was only identified and recognised relatively recently, but even so one might have expected the church to have moved further in its thinking about how autistic thinking can contribute to the life of the church. At a time when churches exhibit a heightened awareness of 'inclusion' and recognition of difference in all manner of ways, it is startling how little attention is given to those who have autism.

Drawn from extensive research amongst autistic worshippers, Autistic Thinking in the Life of the Church develops and explores a model in which churches can strengthen and retain the cognitive engagement of those worshippers in their congregations who are on the autistic spectrum.

Acknowledgements ix

Foreword xiii

1. Introduction 1

Part 1 Building an Understanding

2. How Can We Think Christianly About Autism? 13

3. A Distinctive Concept of God 45

4. A Distinctive Way of Handling the Bible 64

5. A Distinctive Understanding of Prayer 82

6. A Distinctive Response to Supporting Texts 97

7. Maintaining Engagement Through Adaptation 108

Part 2 Reaching Out to Help

8. Modelling Cognitive Engagement 121

9. Designing and Running a Pilot Study 128

10. Implementing the Engagement Model 150

11. Passing on the Baton 158

Appendix: Summary of Church Support Resources 165

Bibliography 172

Index of Names and Subjects 175

Stewart Rapley

Stewart Rapley has been actively involved in christian discipleship and ministry for over forty years and has an MA from Nazarene Theological College. He was diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum in his mid fifties and is a trustee of the National Autistic Society.

"All churches, locally and institutionally, should take note of this pastorally and theologically perceptive book. Putting into practice its findings will help churches develop communities of faith that are tolerant, generous, and inclusive. It will also help make a place in church life for those who, whether they know it or not, are on the autistic spectrum - or just "a bit different". -- Anthony Bash, Honorary Fellow, Durham University, UK

"This is an important book. For too long, research into autism-including theological research-has been shaped by the values of people who are not themselves autistic. It has been dominated by models that represent autism as a deficit, rather than as a difference. By contrast, this is the work of an autistic researcher, engaging in qualitative reflection with other autistic people. Together, they consider how autistic ways of thinking bring distinctive resources to the life of the church and think honestly about the challenges created by the expectations of non-autistic people. As an autistic Christian, and an autistic academic, I regard this as a vital contribution." -- Grant Macaskill, University of Aberdeen, UK

"…an important and insightful book…[It] will be helpful for church leaders who want to ensure they are providing a welcoming and inclusive environment which truly values everyone’s contribution as well as for autistic people themselves, their family and friends to help to navigate some of the big issues and questions of faith and Christianity.’" -- Carol Povey, National Autistic Society, UK