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Pastoral Care and Intellectual Disability
A Person-Centered Approach

By Anna Katherine Shurley

Pastoral Care and Intellectual Disability
Paperback, 157 pages $29.95
Published: 15th September 2017
ISBN: 9781481301695
Format: 8.5in x 5.5in

Subjects: All Ethics , All Theology, Social & Economic Ethics, Spiritual Formation

Every Christian is called to and gifted for ministry. The church can—and must—engage all of its members if it is to flourish fully. Far too often, persons with intellectual disabilities are excluded. While members with disability are often recipients of the church’s ministry, they are seldom given the opportunity to reciprocate: persons with disability are not always fully empowered to minister.  

In Pastoral Care and Intellectual Disability, Anna Katherine Shurley asserts the church’s need for mutuality in pastoral care. While the shape of each person’s vocation is unique, all members of the body of Christ are created for ministry with one another as partners in spiritual care. In a quest for pastoral care that is fundamentally collaborative and fully inclusive, Shurley turns to the psychology of D. W. Winnicott and to Karl Barth’s theology of Christian vocation. From this combination, she crafts person-centered pastoral care for the body of Christ and all its members, with or without intellectual disabilities.  

Person-centered pastoral care recognizes that people with intellectual disabilities can and must participate as partners in the church. Faith communities, Shurley suggests, can foster collaborative ministry by nurturing pastoral friendships among its membership. These sacred friendships are spaces in which people share their lives with one another as a truly collaborative practice of care. Through these pastoral friendships mediated by the presence of the Holy Spirit, all of God’s children can live their particular vocations. By engaging person-centered practices of pastoral care, the church strengthens its witness and truly becomes a place of belonging for all people. 


1. Collaborating: A Person-Centered Approach to Pastoral Care

2. Empowering: The Psychological Architecture of Person-Centered Pastoral Care

3. Calling: The Theology of Person-Centered Pastoral Care

4. Playing: Person-Centered Pastoral Care in Practice

5. Witnessing: Person-Centered Pastoral Care and the Church

"Anna Katherine Shurley points the Church toward postures and practices that enable people with developmental disabilities to flourish in caring communities, and she invites these communities to flourish as well because everyone belongs."

—Erik Carter, Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Special Education, Vanderbilt University

"Pastoral Care and Intellectual Disability advocates for typical relationships with persons with intellectual disabilities. The person-focused approach to these mutually beneficial relationships, particularly between pastors and persons with disabilities, makes the book unique and radically countercultural. May this work contribute to these relationships becoming much more common."

—Jeff McNair, Professor of Education and Director of the M.A. in Disability Studies, California Baptist University

"Proclaiming that ‘all Christians are called to give care to and receive care from one another as a reflection of who they are as the Body of Christ,’ Anna Kate Shurley summons people with and without intellectual disability to faithful discipleship and mutual care. Within the theological commitment that the triune God alone calls and enables obedience, regardless of human capacity, Shurley offers an experience-borne vision of person-centered support and ‘pastoral friendship’ in which disciples with disability and disciples without disability explore together what it means to be loved and called by God. Anyone seeking to welcome people with and without disabilities into Christian life together would benefit from reading this wise, joyful, and practical book."

—Warren Kinghorn, Associate Research Professor of Psychiatry and Pastoral and Moral Theology, Duke University Medical Center and Duke Divinity School

"In Pastoral Care and Intellectual Disability, Shurley invites ministers and pastoral theologians to participate in the ‘dream work and soul work’ of imagining a prophetic and creative church: a church in which disabled people are supported and encouraged in their calls to ministry. Shurley offers a hopeful vision of mutual care as sacred practice and an incisive critique of how models of care that move in only one direction can deny the dreams and desires of people with intellectual disabilities. Pastoral Care and Intellectual Disability is a valuable addition to conversations about pastoral imagination and the arts of relationships that contribute to human flourishing."

—Rebecca F. Spurrier, Associate Dean for Worship Life and Assistant Professor of Worship, Columbia Theological Seminary

Anna Katherine Shurley is a Baptist minister who has served as a chaplain for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She lives with her family in Gulfport, Mississippi, where she currently serves as Director of Youth and Family Ministries at Westminster Presbyterian Church.

Publication Details:

 Paperback , 157 pages
 8.5in x 5.5in

  REL067000, REL109000, SOC029000
 Baylor University Press

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